RC Heli Buyer’s Guide
Introduction to Mini RC Helis
If you’re reading this, then you’ve no doubt seen a micro RC helicopter at the mall or at Wal-Mart. The vendor sure does look like he’s having fun as he zips one around the mall. They’ve come down in price and it sure is tempting to pick one up and see what all the fuss is about! Can you really bring them home, flip a switch and be flying around your living room in just a few minutes?
Flying an RC Heli
A helicopter is a complex machine that takes a skilled pilot just to accomplish something as simple as a steady hover above the ground. There is a lot more to flying a heli than just an accelerator, brake and steering wheel, as on a car! The pilot uses pitch, yaw, throttle and a combination of controls to allow the heli to move almost at will through the air. A micro heli simplifies these controls, to make it easier to fly. This means that you might not be able to sweep through your living room, banking left and right as you wind your way through furniture, but it is still a huge amount of fun!
A full frame RC helicopter generally has 6 channels of control. A micro heli starts off with 2, throttle and rudder. This allows you to lift off the ground and spin left and right. Forward flight is only possible by weighting the nose of the aircraft, but this generally makes it unstable when you want to hover and keep it still in the air.
Toy VS Hobby?
The majority of mini and micro helis found at department stores are classified as toys. They are inexpensive, easy to fly, and the perfect fit for the kid (or kid at heart!) with only a casual interest. If you’re even considering taking the interest further and taking up the hobby of Radio Controlled helicopters, then it is best to shy away from the Wal Mart helis and read a little further before you buy!
With a few exceptions, the toy helis tend to use unconventional controls such as a pistol grip or joystick control. Pretty neat stuff, but it will make it more difficult to later grow accustomed to the standard two-stick radio that most hobby kits utilize. Start off with the standard format, and you’re a few steps ahead if and when you take the next step. As addictive as this hobby can be, you might want to go ahead and plan on it!
Even if the $25 toy heli does have a standard two-stick control, it is not likely that replacement parts or upgrades are available for that kit. What goes up, must come down, and when helis crash, they can break. Small, micro helis are super lightweight and are less likely to break in the small impact of a crash, but it does happen. Spending a little bit more on a hobby-grade heli often allows you to buy inexpensive repair parts, or even go wild with trick aluminum and carbon fiber upgrades! Ebay is full of inexpensive upgrade parts that can improve the flight of your heli and make it more robust.