Not so long ago anyone who wanted to get involved in the hobby of flying remote control helicopters needed a degree in mechanical engineering. Because the models were so expensive and complicated they were inaccessible to most people. As with all items of consumer electronics the increased functionality and ease of use has transformed the hobby over recent years.
No only are model helicopters more advanced, they are also easier to use, a lot more stable and most importantly, cheaper. It is now possible to get an entry level helicopter for less than $150. There is a model helicopter to suit all budgets.
Toy helicopters are even cheaper, usually less than $30, but because they are only toys we will exclude them from our beginners guide to the hobby of flying remote control helicopters.
If you are thinking of purchasing a model heli there can be a tendency to rush out to the nearest model shop and buy the shiniest and what you think the best helicopter. Anytime we are asked, we strongly advise against such action. It is vital that you take time to consider exactly what you need. There is a huge variety of models available. Taking time to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each type is the approach we recommend.
Factors that you need to consider include, access to a suitable flying area, cost, time to practice and level of enthusiasm. If you have only a passing interest in the hobby and are just looking for a bit of fun then purchasing an advanced 3D model helicopter capable of serious aerobatics is not something you should do. It can be very easy to get carried away with a good sales pitch in a shop and you could end up with something that is not suited to your needs.
In this article we have limited our explanation of the types of model helicopters to electrically powered ones. These are most suited to beginners and it is only the more advanced versions that use other power options, such as nitro helicopters.
Coaxial Helicopters: These helicopters are very well balanced and will be ready to fly straight out of the box. They are perfect for learning the basics of flying a helicopter. On inspection there is an obvious difference to other helicopters. Coaxial models have two sets of main rotor blades, one mounted above the other. They spin in opposite directions which ensures the heli remains stable in the air. There is no tail rotor.
Fixed Pitch helicopters (FP): Unlike coaxial models, fixed pitch helicopters are configured as you would expect. There is one set of main rotor blades and a tail rotor to prevent the tail spinning as power is applied. They are not suitable for advanced, precision flying. Because the pitch of the rotor blades is fixed the only way of controlling the height of the helicopter is through the use of the throttle (power). This can be a rather "blunt" control and can take some time to master. Having said that they are definitely a step up from coaxial models and will be an enjoyable challenge.
Collective Pitch Models: These helicopters are great fun, powerful and not for those who just want to fly a model now and then. Don't waste your money if you are not going to practice regularly and get the most from the helicopter. They have a full set of controls similar to what you would expect to find on a real helicopter and can be flown at speed. These helis are better suited to the outdoors or large sports halls.
There is no one helicopter that is right for all beginners. Everyone has different plans for how they want to use the model. Some readers may have already used a micro, indoor helicopter and are hooked, whereas others may just want something to use on a Sunday in the park with the kids. The key to enjoying a model helicopter is getting the most suitable model for what YOU want. Hopefully the paragraphs above will act as a first point of reference in your search for a suitable remote control helicopter.