Welcome to an In-Depth Guide to the Best RC Helicopter For Beginners!
Welcome to an in-depth guide to the best RC helicopter for beginners! Whether you’re new to the RC helicopter community or you just want to touch up on some info, this guide has you covered.
So why did we write this guide?
Sadly, there’s a ton of misleading information online that can confuse those who aren’t familiar with the hobby, and we refuse to let that happen.
We want this guide to be the most valuable RC helicopter resource available, and we hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it.
Get ready for takeoff!
Comparison of the Best RC Helicopters
We provided the table down below in case you didn’t have time to read the entire article. The table includes all the RC helicopters mentioned in this article.
The RC helicopter you choose will be dependent on your skill level and experience.
|Goolsky XK Blast||Blade 230s||Align 470LM|
|WLToys V977||Oxy 3|
We put the helicopters into different categories (beginner, intermediate, advanced) so you know which choice is most applicable to you.
Table of Contents
How we came up with our list
Looking for the best RC helicopters worth buying took up quite a bit of time.
We had to dig through a variety of forums to find people who purchased RC helicopters so that we could get their opinions on them.
We also looked at different online retailers to find more reviews, and to make sure the helicopters were not discontinued.
We got rid of the helicopters that had a ton of bad reviews and kept the ones that were highly rated by the RC helicopter community.
We were looking to find helicopters that were known for their:
Availability of parts
Ease of use
In the end, we curated a list of what we felt were the five best helicopters in today’s market.
In order for you to understand why we chose the helicopters we did, we provided useful information that all RC helicopter pilots should know.
That includes things such as what certain words mean, what the different parts of a helicopter do, and more.
What is an RC Helicopter?
Radio-controlled (RC) helicopters are miniature versions of actual helicopters you might see flying around in the sky. All helicopters create lift with rotors.
There are two types of rotors: main rotors and tail rotors. Main rotors are located on the top of the helicopter, and the tail rotor is located on the tail of the helicopter.
Both of these rotors work together to control the direction a helicopter goes. Here’s a video that describes the rotor and the moving parts involved.
Below is a diagram by HowStuffWorks that should help you visually see the different parts of a helicopter rotor.
The key difference between RC helicopters and real helicopters, other than size, is that RC helicopters are controlled by transmitters such as this one.
The transmitter is sort of like a pilot in a real helicopter. With the transmitter, you can control the speed and direction the helicopter goes without having to be inside of the helicopter.
There are channels on a transmitter that allow you to control the helicopter in different ways. We discuss these different ways in the next section.
A Brief History
One of the earliest radio-controlled helicopters to be recorded was created by the company Lockheed in the late 1950s.
Engineers were looking for a small helicopter that was both easy to fly and could be used every day, so they built it.
Engineers wanted to see whether attaching the rotor blades directly to the hub of a helicopter would improve the stability of the rotor.
There is actually recorded evidence of the process in the video below. Although the entire video is 13 minutes long, we adjusted the start of the documentary so that it begins with the portion related to the RC helicopter.
One of the most important figures in the world of RC is Dieter Schlüter. Schlüter was an engineer from Germany who created the first commercial RC model helicopter.
In 1970 Schlüter flew a kit-model helicopter he made, which flew 11.5km in 28 uninterrupted minutes.
This flight, which set various world records, led to many people being both interested and intrigued in RC helicopter.
Because so many people were interested, Schlüter decided to make hobby model construction his profession.
If you want to learn more about the history of the RC helicopter, Vintage RC does a phenomenal job of covering the timeline.
How Do Channels Work?
Understanding the different channel types are important since they all provide different functions.
2 Channels – This is your most basic channel type, and is pretty much only used for toy helicopters.
One channel controls how fast the helicopter goes, and the second channel controls the left and right motions of the helicopter.
3 Channels – 3 channel RC radios are slightly more advanced than 2 channels but are still pretty basic.
The third channel controls the speed of the motor on the tail, which in turn allows the helicopter to move forward and backward.
4 Channels – This is where things start to get interesting. The fourth channel controls the swashplate’s left and right movements on a coaxial RC helicopter.
On a single rotor fixed pitch helicopter, the fourth channel controls the left and right cyclic.
A swashplate is a circular plate that controls the pitch of the rotor blades. Pitch in this case simply means the blades are able to move from side to side.
This website is a great reference for any flying terminology you might be unfamiliar with. This what the fourth channel controls on a coaxial helicopter.
Using the information above, let’s look at cyclic. Cyclic can be pretty confusing, so we won’t delve too much into it.
Just know that the cyclic changes the pitch angle of the rotor blades. This is what the fourth channel controls on a single rotor fixed pitch helicopter.
5 Channels – 5 Channels is where we start describing hobby-grade helicopters. We would recommend 6+ channels on an RC helicopter, but the minimum number of channels you could have on a hobby-grade is 5.
The fifth channel controls the collective pitch of the main rotor blades. Collective pitch (CP) is angle your blades are set at.
CP allows you to lift the helicopter off the ground, and to land it back on the ground.
Think of it this way: at 0 degrees, the blades are not angled, which means the helicopter will not lift the helicopter off the ground.
Any positive degree will create lift, meaning the helicopter will rise. Any negative degree will lower the helicopter.
6+ Channels – Most people in the hobby will have at least 6 channels on their RC helicopter.
Depending on which helicopter you have, you’ll be able to control additional features such as an FPV camera.
Modes & Controls
One of the most important gadgets in the RC helicopter hobby is the transmitter. You use the buttons and control sticks on the transmitter to get the helicopter to do different actions.
Transmitters will have something called a transmitter mode. The mode of the transmitter determines what the joysticks on the transmitter controls.
Mode 1 – The left joystick controls the elevator and the rudder. The right stick controls the aileron and the collective.
Mode 2 – The left joystick controls the rudder and the collective, and the right joystick controls the aileron and the elevator
There are two other modes, mode 3 and mode 4, but they aren’t very common. You’ll notice that Mode 2 is the most common mode, at least in the United States.
(Example of what the functions might be on your transmitter courtesy of easyrc.com)
The various buttons on your transmitter will control different aspects of the RC helicopter. Down below are some of the common ones you’ll find.
Trim – You adjust the trim to ensure your helicopter can fly in a straight line. Without having the ability to adjust the trim, your helicopter will end up flying slightly to the left or to the right. This can quickly become annoying.
Dual Rates – This affects the sensitivity of your controller. For beginner flyers, the sensitivity will end up being low. As you progress in skill, you’ll want the sensitivity to be higher.
Throttle – How much power your helicopter uses. The higher the throttle, the faster and more aggressive your helicopter will be.
Servo reversing – Changes the direction that the servo moves. The servo converts the electrical commands it receives from the transmitter into movement.
How does each helicopter design work?
The RC helicopters types listed below are ones you should be familiar with. Knowing these types will help you make a better decision in regards to choosing a helicopter that suits your preference and skill level.
Coaxial Helicopter – These helicopters have two main rotors that spin in opposite directions from each other. In other words, one spins clockwise while the other one spins counter-clockwise.
Coaxial helicopters are great for beginners because of how much more stable they are than the RC helicopters that have one main rotor.
The downside to coaxial helicopters is that they tend to be limited in size, and can be difficult to fly outdoors in windy conditions. You won’t be able to do many acrobatic tricks with this helicopter either. Coaxial helicopters generally are 3-4 channels.
Fixed Pitch (FP) Helicopter – Fixed pitch helicopters are single-rotor helicopters that don’t have the ability to adjust the pitch of the main blades.
This is a sort of in-between helicopter. A bit more complex than the coaxial, but less complicated than the collective pitch helicopter. These helicopters are more responsive than coaxial helicopters and are also more realistic. These helicopters have 3-5 channels.
Collective Pitch (CP) Helicopter – Collective pitch helicopters have the ability to adjust the pitch of the main blades to control the amount of lift (as mentioned earlier in the RC Helicopter Channels section.)
Collective pitch helicopters are a bit more challenging to fly since it does not have the same amount of stability a coaxial helicopter has. The benefit of CP helicopters is that you can do all sorts of acrobatics, such as flying upside down.
If you’re a more intermediate RC helicopter flyer, a collective pitch helicopter is worth considering. These helicopters will generally be 5+ channels.
RTF vs BNF vs Kit
Your experience level, budget, and the amount of versatility you want will determine which of these three product types you’ll get.
RTF stands for Ready-To-Fly. This means that when you purchase a helicopter, it will come with everything you need in order to get the helicopter flying.
This includes the transmitter, helicopter, receiver, batteries, etc. RTF is probably the most appealing to beginners. These helicopters require little effort and tend to be simplistic.
BNF stands for Bind-N-Fly. BNF helicopters come with most of the items you’ll need to start flying. What it does not include is a transmitter.
You’ll have to look into which transmitters work with that specific helicopter, but you’ll get some flexibility in getting to choose a transmitter.
Kits give you the most flexibility because you’ll have to buy various parts yourself to put together.
Being able to customize your RC helicopter the way you want is why kits are popular. If you’re a beginner, kits may seem intimidating.
Unless you’re willing to put in the time and research on building a proper RC helicopter, I’d stay away from kits until you get more experience.
Otherwise, you’ll get frustrated with the hobby before you even really start.
Parts to Know
There are a ton of different parts that come together to make an RC helicopter fly. Let’s take a look at some of the more important ones.
Rotor – There are two types of rotors: main rotors and tail rotors. Main rotors are the rotors located at the top of the helicopter. They generate lift, which allows the helicopter to be in the air.
The tail rotor is smaller than the main rotor and is located on the tail of the helicopter. The tail rotor helps direct the helicopter’s nose left or right.
Rotor Blades – These are the blades you’ll see spinning on a helicopter. They help the helicopter create the lift needed to fly.
Mast – This is the part on a helicopter that the main rotor is mounted on.
Tail Belt – A belt that gets the power from the motor and transfers it to the tail rotor.
Landing gear – The part underneath the helicopter that allows the helicopter to land without damaging the body.
Canopy – This is the area of the helicopter that covers where the pilot would be dealing with all of the controls.
A Note On Flybar
The flybar is used to stabilize the main rotor, which helps in windy environments.
Flybarless helicopters are starting to become more popular in the RC community for a variety of reasons.
One reason is that not having a flybar means fewer parts that could potentially be broken, which means you’ll save some money in the long run.
Flybarless helicopters are also better in that the helicopters will take less time to set up.
The benefit of having a flybar is that your flights will be a lot smoother since there is less turbulence and responses are dampened.
Interestingly enough, many people believe that flying flybarless is actually easier. It’s all about personal preference.
How well you take care of your RC helicopter battery will determine how long it will last. Here are some tips that will help increase your battery’s life.
- Don’t overcharge your battery. Make sue you charge your battery no more than 4.2V per cell. For example, if you have a 3S LiPo battery, 12.6 volts would be the maximum limit. Overcharging your battery can cause the LiPo to puff up, smoke, and even cause a fire.
- When charging your LiPo, make sure to use a fireproof bag. It’s better to shell out a little bit of money to prevent a fire, then thousands of dollars to repair damages from a fire. Down below is an example of a good LiPo bag.
- After using a battery, make sure you properly store it. You don’t want to store a LiPo battery that is empty. Make sure it’s 80-85% charged to minimize capacity loss. Fun fact: Storing your battery in the refrigerator can slow down the battery’s aging process, meaning it will last much longer.
- Don’t charge your LiPo battery unless you’re able to keep an eye on it. If anything goes wrong and you’re not in the are to react in time, bad things are likely to happen.
- If you’ve just finished flying your helicopter and the battery is dead, don’t charge it right away. Wait until the battery is cool first.
- If your LiPo battery is puffy, you’ll have to discard it properly since you won’t be able to use it anymore. Here’s our article on LiPo batteries, and how to dispose of them.
Repairing Your Helicopter
From time to time you might experience issues with your RC helicopter. Whether it’s from crashing, or just from using it a lot, you’re likely going to have to repair it.
Some helicopter issues tend to be more common than others, so I’ll describe them briefly below.
One common issue that comes up is that helicopter is spinning in circles instead of flying straight. There are a couple of reasons why the spinning is occurring.
One reason is that a rotor is loose. You’ll know that this is the primary cause if one rotor is moving at a different speed than the other rotor (coaxial).
Look at the gears connected to the rotors as one of them may be faulty. You’ll have to either buy a new gear or try and repair the gear with glue.
Another reason why the helicopter may be spinning is that you burned a connection on your Printer Control Board (PCB).
A PCB is the circuit board of the helicopter and is where the electric signals get sent to the related motor and servo.
You can tell if this is the culprit by looking at the circuit board for any burn marks. If there is, you’ll have to buy a new PCB to have your helicopter running smoothly again.
If you still haven’t figured out why your helicopter is spinning, then it’s probably because one of your motors isn’t working anymore. You’ll have to replace the motor to fix the issue.
Another common issue is experiencing overheating when you fly your helicopter. Flying for shorter periods of time will help combat this problem. You could also remove the canopy to allow improved air circulation, which will help keep everything cool.
Damaged main shaft
Occasionally something will get caught on the shaft of your helicopter (ex: hair, string, etc). You’ll have to remove the shaft and take whatever is that got snagged on the shaft out.
If your shaft is cracked or damaged, you’ll notice the main rotor is much slower than before (It’ll be slow if something was caught on the shaft as well.
You’ll have to replace the damaged shaft to fix the issue.
If you’ve ever asked around about a good helicopter brand, you probably realized that everyone had a different answer. That’s because a “good brand” is pretty subjective.
A brand to one person can be amazing, but to another person, it could be the worst thing ever. There are some factors you can consider when narrowing down the brand.
One thing you can do is look at the part availability of a brand.
If you crash your helicopter and need to replace some parts, your life will be much easier if you can find the parts anywhere.
Otherwise, you might as well consider your helicopter pretty much useless.
Indoor vs Outdoor
A common question that gets asked is whether to get an indoor RC helicopter or an outdoor RC helicopter. It all comes down to personal preference.
Indoor helicopters are smaller than outdoor helicopters and are easily affected by the wind (hence the name). They are also cheaper than outdoor helicopters.
If you’re looking to enjoy flying helicopters without spending too much, indoor helicopters might be a good choice.
Outdoor helicopters can be much larger than indoor helicopters. They have much more power and are more expensive.
If you feel comfortable flying helicopters already, or you’re willing to spend the time, money, and effort in mastering an outdoor helicopter, you should definitely get one.
They are much more fun to fly than indoor helicopters.
Best RC Helicopters Reviewed
The Blade 230S is a Ready To Fly (RTF) RC 6 Channel Helicopter. This copter has a collective pitch rotor system and comes fully assembled. As was mentioned earlier, CP helicopters tend to be the most challenging to fly.
The great thing about the 230S is that it has SAFE technology. SAFE makes flying much easier and reduces the learning curve for beginners.
The way it works is that if you have it on as a beginner, your movements of the helicopter are restricted. For example, you wouldn’t be able to fly upside down, or dive sharply towards the ground. You get to focus on mastering the controls before worrying about doing any form of aerial acrobatics. As you become more skilled, you can reduce the protection and have more freedom in how you control the helicopter.
The battery you receive in the package is an 800mAh 3S Li-Po flight battery.With this battery, you’ll get about 5-6 minutes of flight time before having to charge it again.
The Blade 230S also has 3 different flight modes available to you. These 3 modes are stability mode, agility mode, and 3D mode. It also has a panic mode for when you lose control of your helicopter.
The Oxy 3 is another collective pitch helicopter designed by the people at Oxy Heli and Lynx. This helicopter is about 21 inches long and 7 inches tall. This 300 class helicopter is pretty lightweight at 1.3 pounds and has carbon fiber main blades.
When flying the Oxy 3, you’ll notice that it can handle wind speeds pretty well, and is stable when hovering. Some other benefits of the Oxy 3 are that it has triple main shaft supports, a versatile battery tray (it can fit a variety of different battery packs), and has a wide range of head speeds (head speed just means how fast the main rotors of the helicopter are spinning).
The Oxy 3 is a kit, so this helicopter would be a good choice for those who have at least some experience with RC helicopters. Keep in mind that unlike the Blade 230S, the Oxy 3 does not have a SAFE mode for safer flying.
The V977 is another collective pitch helicopter that has earned a spot on our list. This helicopter is both brushless and flybarless. At a length of about 10.5 inches and a weight of about 2 ounces, the V977 is a bit on the smaller side of RC helicopters. What it lacks in size it makes up in durability. This helicopter should be able to crash multiple times without too many issues.
The battery you receive when you buy this helicopter is 3.7V 450mAh 25C and gives you a run time of about 6-7 minutes per charge.
What’s great about the V977 is that parts are cheap to buy, and are pretty to find as well. This makes repairs much easier to accomplish. Another positive is that you won’t have to make any trim adjustments out of the box, which means you can start flying as soon as your battery is charged.
We listed the XK K110 on this list, even though it has similar qualities to the V977, just because we couldn’t decide between the two. The K110 is similar in size at 10.5 inches in length, and 2 ounces in weight. This helicopter is also collective pitch and flybarless. The battery you receive in the package is just like the one you’d receive if you bought the V977 as well.
What we liked about the XK K110 is that it has great hovering in both 3G and 6G modes, and has a stable in ground effect. This makes taking off and landing much easier.
In terms of overall flying, we would give the edge to the K110 instead of the V977 since the K110 came off as more stable and consistent. Again they are still both great choices for those who want to get started with a slightly challenging but still manageable helicopter. A downside to the K110 is the manual, which is poorly translated.
Last but not least is the Align T-Rex 450 LM. This helicopter has a length of about 30 inches and a weight of 1.9 pounds (without the battery). This is without a doubt the biggest helicopter on this list and is the most advanced. This helicopter does not come pre-assembled, so you’ll have to put in the work yourself before you can actually start using it.
The 470 LM has a main frame made from carbon fiber and has a wide body design in order to fit larger batteries. It also has a belt drive control system design. Building this kit is a smooth process, and we would definitely not recommend this bird if you’re a beginner. It’s expensive, difficult to fly, and has a high learning curve. If you are a more advanced pilot, this is a helicopter that’s definitely worth taking a look at.
That’s the end of our guide. What we like about RC helicopters is that it’s challenging, but rewarding at the same time. You should definitely start with an easier helicopter, like the V977 or the K110, before moving onto the more advanced helicopters.
Hopefully, this guide will help you get started on your journey as well as provide the information needed for you to make a decision on a good helicopter.