Walking into a store for the first time is not devoid of its pitfalls. You can very easily be tempted into buying the biggest and the meanest looking hobby grade copter and find out soon that you cannot even lift it off the ground without crashing it a few times.
RC helicopters can have a steep learning curve attached to it. And you have to go through the drill to gain some expertise and confidence. There are no two ways about this and you must keep this in mind when you go shopping. Else, you will end up blowing a hole in your wallet and having a crashed helicopter to show for it. Not a pretty sight.
If I were you, this is what I would consider before buying:
Your flying skills: Which one of the following three words best describes your skill and experience level? Novice, Expert, Professional. If you are a novice, then do not even think of anything other than a coaxial 2 channel or a fixed pitch 3 channel at the most. Experts and Professionals can go for more advanced varieties. You will eventually outgrow your beginner helicopter. But it will teach you the fundamental skills that will be crucial as you progress to bigger and more powerful hobby grade copters.
Indoors vs. Outdoors: A lot of people do not consider this while buying their first helicopter. There are some people who prefer flying indoor helicopters and maneuver it around obstacles. They rarely venture outdoors with their copters. On the other hand, there are some who will rarely fly indoors. They love to soar their helicopters to the maximum height and make daring nosedives and maneuvers. Your preference will greatly affect your choice.
Power Source: Most helicopters are powered either by electric batteries or by glow fuel (nitromethane and methanol). There are some models that are powered by gasoline and turbine fuel, but those are only a handful. Batteries are silent, can provide up to 12 minutes of flight time on a single charge and are less expensive as compared to glow fuel. The advantage of glow fuel is that there is no limit to the altitude that you can take your chopper to. Some users are reported to have flown their glow fuel powered helicopters a mile above the ground. Having said that, they are extremely noisy.
Replacement Parts: Irrespective of whether you are a beginner who’s crashing his way to RC glory or someone who’s looking to custom-build their own RC copter, finding replacement parts is crucial to extending the lifespan of your RC helicopter. Most RC helicopter manufacturers are well aware of this fact and you will find a plethora of aftermarket parts that are universally compatible among similar helicopters. Some of the parts that you can expect to be looking for in the first few weeks or months are, the landing skids, the canopy, the batteries, the main shaft and the wash plate.
Construction: Beginner RC helicopters are usually made of durable plastic polymers that can sustain a few crashes without getting bent or warped. These helicopters are extremely lightweight and hence are not the easiest to control. Other than plastic, some of the other materials that are used to manufacture RC helicopters include aluminum and carbon fiber. The rule of thumb is that the heavier the copter, the easier it is to control. But this also translates into more expensive.
Price: RC helicopters can be an expensive hobby. The chances of you throwing your money down the drain amplifies if you don’t consider the price of the helicopter before buying it. Never go purely on bling value or on the price tag. Cheapest is not always the best. While the price of the RC helicopter should not be considered as a deal breaker, it is important to be comfortable with the price tag. After all, helicopters tend to get damaged pretty soon. If you are new to flying it, then it can get damaged sooner than you’d expect it to.
Now that you are armed with enough information to navigate through the world of RC helicopters, here’s a little dough to help you understand what features to look for when you are out shopping.
RC Helicopter Reviews of 2018
|#1 - E-Flite mCX2|
|#2 - Protocol Predator SB|
|#3 - Blade 230s RTF|
|#4 - Lutema Heligram|
|#5 - UDI U13A|
#1 – E-flite’s New Blade mCX2
E-flite’s Blade mCX2 is the step-up in E-Flite’s legendary MCX range of RC helicopters which bridged the gap between micro coaxial helicopters and higher priced hobby grade helicopters. It greets you with a new design and a few new features, but stays true to the range, with its easy-to-fly controls.
The newly designed E-flite Blade mCX2 draws inspiration from some of the more popular models like the Blade MSR (miniscule grommets attached to the body) and CX2 (full sized body). The result is a larger-than-normal form factor that will command attention as it soars to the air.
The body has also been divided into two havles which allows you to easily remove the back half for adding custom parts or for replacing damaged ones.
The optional boom attachment with the weight can replace the tail part and allows you to change the characteristics of the MCX2.
The LED lights on the MCX2 take it to a completely new level in the redesign. At the forefront is the flashing navigation lights in red and green and the new tail light in red, which combine to add a stylish and authentic look to it that was clearly lacking in earlier models.
Switch off the lights in the room and take this to the air. It looks achingly cool and you will instantly love the new styling.
How it Performs:
But the redesign is not all cosmetic. There are some very robust changes in the components which make the MCX2, a powerful entrant in our list.
At the heart of the MCX2 is a newer and stronger motor which adds a zing to its performance. It is noticeably faster, especially with the optional POD attachment.
A new 5 in 1 control board replaces the old one in MCX and the battery is upgraded to a 120 mAh 14C single cell LiPo. Another neat little addition to the MCX2 is the flyer selectable dual position swashplate. Modify this to get better cyclic pitch and make this go even faster.
The MCX2 comes in two versions. The first one is an RTF (Ready to Fly) version while the second one is a Bind and Fly version which does not include a radio in the package. You can pair it with any Spektrum radio to fly it.
This is one stable chopper that is extremely easy to control. It is ready to fly out of the box and does not need any trimming. The controls are so easy that make this almost impossible to crash unless you are flying blindfolded. Once you do get a hang of it, you can tinker the settings to increase the forward speed and the maneuvers are easy. It is responsive, but not overly too, making it the perfect choice for newbies looking for more than a small toy to fly around.
Our Favorite Features:
- Stunning new design with a larger appearance
- Stylish new graphics with the BLADE logo on the tail
- An array of new LED lights including navigation lights
- Stronger motor for enhanced performance
- Precision swashplate with user-selectable control settings
- Optional POD attachment with weight
- Stable and easy to fly
- 15 minutes of flight time
- No trimming required
The MCX2 is a worthy successor to the MCX. It is bigger, more stable and extremely stylish. Irrespective of whether you are upgrading from a smaller coaxial or looking for your first coaxial, the E-Flite MCX2 is the best.
#2 – Protocol – Predator SB
Why would you want to settle for anything lesser and smaller in size when you can get one of the biggest RC helicopters for the same price? Enter the Predator SB from Protocol. This is a big outdoorsy helicopter that is incredibly stable and easy to fly.
The Protocol Predator SB will surprise you with its size. This is not a typical micro helicopter which you can fly indoors. It is 21 inches in length and boasts of a durable metal frame that can take a few bumps without even getting scratched.
The design is incredibly stylish. The Green and silver color scheme with the sporty graphics (The Protocol logo on the fuselage and the tail) and the silver skid landings make it look hobby-grade. To top it off, there are a few LED lights that add to the appeal.
The Protocol Predator is designed for the outdoors. This remote helicopter features a servo-driven single blade system that stays steady as a rock when it lifts off the ground. There is minimal strafing and very little yaw. It hovers in place without you touching any of the controls.
How it Performs:
To ensure that you get precise directional movement, the Predator SG features an electronic gyro stabilizer.
If you are new to RC helicopters, then ensure that you take some time to read the instructions about pairing it and keeping the gyroscope steady before pairing. These are seemingly simple tips that can make a difference in your ability to control it.
Also, never attempt to fly this outdoors on a windy day. Even the slightest draught of wind can send it off-track. We attempted to fly outside when the wind speed was at least 15 mph and it flew at least 50 feet into the air before finally landing on the roof.
However, the Protocol Predator SG features a high speed mode which can be activated to gain better control on a windy day.
Our Favorite Features!
- Large and stylish!
- 21 inches in length
- Durable metallic frame
- 5 channels with 2.4 GHZ remote control
- Fast charging (1 hour) for up to 15 minutes of flight time
- Electronic gyro stabilizer
- Servo driven single blade system
Oh, it’s also the best under $100!
The Protocol Predator is the perfect choice for so many reasons. It is larger than a typical micro helicopter, it is perfect to take outdoors, it is easier to control and has a gyro for stable directional movement. At 3.5 channels, you are not overwhelmed with the directional controls either. Go for it.
#3 – Blade 230s RTF
A rule of thumb for beginners is to stick to coaxial helicopters that are easy to fly and control. But what if you can get a collective pitch helicopter with all the swanky moves that is equally easy to fly? That’s what the Blade 230s brings to the table.
The Blade 230s RTF is a fully assembled ready-to-fly helicopter that is stable, sturdy and will introduce you to some of the best moves that you can make.
The Blade 230s RTF is what the pros like to fly. But it will not intimidate you with its controls.
Rather, it has a very easy air about it and you will take a liking to it in minutes.
This is a size 230 helicopter with a very stylish and vivid design.
How it Performs:
The airframe is extremely durable but lightweight which enhances the control and stability. The ABS blades are impact resistant and a few crashes, which are inevitable if it’s the first time you are flying a collective pitch, will do nothing to damage the helicopter.
Flying this is ridiculously easy. You may have to run the trimming routine if you find it spinning out of control or are unable to control it. Features like the SAFE® technology and the stability mode allow precise directional movement even when you are banking or making deft turns.
One of the best features of the Blade 230s is the Panic mode which allows you to stabilize the helicopter if a crash is imminent. The helicopter responds fast and you can minimize the damage considerably. The brushless motors (both main and the tail) give it an additional boost in power, which can be felt the moment you take this helicopter to the air.
The metal gear cyclic servos take the precision to a different level. To ensure that you maximize the flight time and you have enough power for the advanced moves, the Blade 230s features a 800mAh 3S Li-Po flight battery. It lasts long and has plenty of juice left after a normal flight.
Our Favorite Features:
- Ready to Fly
- Lightweight airframe with vivid design and sporty graphics
- SAFE technology and stability mode for stable take offs and maneuvers
- Progressive flight mode for beginners to get adapted to the controls
- Panic mode for quick recovery and minimizing damage during an out-of-control flight
- Brushless motors (main and tail)
- Metal gear cyclic servos unlike the plastic servos on earlier models
- E-flite® 800mAh 3S Li-Po battery for longer flight time and fast charging
If it’s your first collective pitch helicopter, then go for the Blade 230s. It will introduce you to the fun of CP flying with some really cool moves without intimidating you with uncontrollable responsiveness. A fun ride that will last long.
#4 – Lutema 2.4GHz Heligram
Lutema takes the excitement to another level with the new 2.4GHz Heligram that allows you to project your own custom messages in bright LED lights.
The Lutema 2.4GHz Heligram is a fantastic new addition to a hobby that was clearly lacking innovation. By bringing in a new LED technology that displays custom messages under the rotor blades, it takes the excitement to new levels and children just love watching this one take to the air.
How it Performs:
Lutema calls it SkyText technology. And the custom message needs to be entered in a software program that syncs with the helicopter. Once you begin to fly, the message is then displayed under the rotor blades.
The perks of owning this helicopter go beyond the LED message though. The Lutema Heligram is beautifully designed with a durable all-plastic frame that is perfect for beginner crashes. At 8.5 inches length, it is perfect for flying indoors. But with features like the Gyro 360 for enhanced stability and a 100 feet range, you will be tempted to take this outside.
Unlike most helicopters, the Lutema Heligram doesn’t get blown off with the slightest gust of wind. It is pretty stable even on a mildly windy day. However, do not attempt to fly it if the wind is strong.
One of the best features is the HOTAS (Hands on Throttle and stick) Designed Remote which gives you a realistic look and feel. It has a simulated force feedback that feels extremely cool as the Lutema makes turns and maneuvers.
Our Favorite Features:
- Beautifully designed 3.5 channel coaxial helicopter
- HOTAS (Hands on throttle and stick) remote control for realistic flying
- Throttle feedback and in flight sound simulates a real flight
- Custom LED message that can be displayed under the rotor blades
- 360 degree gyro for stability in flight
- 100 feet range
With a pocket-friendly price tag, the Lutema Heligram is one of the best for beginners. The features make it a fun ride and a great gift for the upcoming holiday season.
#5 – UDI U13A 3 Channel 2.4GHz
The UDI U13A is perfect for movie buffs who dream of stunning aerial visuals but cannot afford a high priced drone. It has a built-in camera and a 500 feet range that allow you to capture some great pictures and videos from the air.
With an all-black matte metallic body, the UDI U13A looks very similar to a Black Hawk MH-60. There are minimal graphics too which make it look like a perfect professional stealth copter out on a mission.
The Metal alloy frame is perfectly complemented with a flexible flybar and elastic blades that will endure any crashes or bumps.
How it Performs:
The UDI U13A is very responsive to controls. So, it will take off in a flash as you move the throttle upwards. Along with the turns in both directions, it has four basic movements. This allows you to customize the videos and pictures you shoot. Once you get a hang of the controls, it is possible to create some really amazing videos with the UD1 U13A.
The directional movements are steady and there is minimal side drift, which is a common problem. Also, the YAW is controlled allowing you to make turns without the helicopter spinning rapidly.
It hovers steadily and does not require any trimming, making it ready to fly out of the box.
Powering the UDI U13A is a 3.7V 580mah Lipo battery which increases the flight time to 15 minutes which is amazing at this price point. To ensure that you don’t end up frying the battery, it features an overcharge protection. This also prolongs the lifespan of the battery.
The videos and images captured by the UDI U13A are recorded on a Micro SD Card and a card reader is included in the package for easy transfers.
Our Favorite Features:
- All-black metallic frame design
- Built-in camera to capture videos and images
- Easy to control and exceptionally stable
- 3 channel helicopter with 4 directional movements in addition to the turns
- 3 axis gyro and flybar
- 7V 580mah Lipo battery for enhanced flight time
- Over charging protection
- Replacement parts easily available
Buy it for the camera or even otherwise, the UDI U13A is a great helicopter. For experienced flyers, it offers a pocket-friendly drone alternative to take some cool pictures and videos. Your child will love this.
All You Need To Know!
Tips for Flying
If you have some hands-on expertise with other RC toys, like cars or planes, then you must have some idea about how to work the radio controller. But that’s about where the similarity ends. RC helicopters are the trickiest of the lot to master. They take off vertically, are responsive to the slightest of change in controls and even an overzealous air conditioner can veer it off-track and send it crashing.
Irrespective of whether it is your first RC helicopter or whether you have crashed a few already, here are a few tips to help you have a safe first flight.
Learn the basics: Assuming that you have bought a ready-to-fly kit that comes pre-charged, start by learning the basic controls. Read the instruction manual that comes with the kit. Practice by making small and controlled lifts and getting the chopper to land back safely. If you are bothered about crashing it one time too many, then practice indoors on a carpeted floor. This helps you understand the responsiveness of the helicopter.
The Directional Controls: Depending on whether you have a two, three or four channel helicopter, it can move in four different directions, besides hovering on place. The two channel helicopter will only move up and down and make turns. The Three channel one will move forward and backward, while the four channel will move sideways as well. The more the channels, more the moves that the helicopter can perform.
Rest after a crash: It is a common mistake to pick up the helicopter after a severe crash and try to fly it again straight away. Not recommended. Check the condition of the chopper. Are any parts broken or dented? If yes, then the rc helicopter may spin out of control if you try to fly it again. Give it some rest before you attempt to fly it again.
Cooling the battery: Making back to back flights is a much desired feature among RC fans. But it’s not the ideal one if you wish to maximize your flight time. Making repeated flights will only reduce the maximum flight time that the battery provides. If the normal flight time is 7-8 minutes, you may find that a hot battery only gives you three to four minutes at best. So, after a flight, let the battery cool down before you make another one.
The Crash: There are two ways in which you may end up crashing your helicopter. The first is when it spins out of control due to the Yaw and ends up crashing on a wall or furniture, if you are flying it indoors. The second is when you descend too fast and make a crash landing. Start off by practicing how to lower the throttle without letting it get out of control. If you still find that the helicopter is about to crash, then disengage the throttle immediately. If the rotor is still spinning while it hits the ground, it amplifies the chances of the helicopter breaking.
There is no definitive answer to this question because there are a lot of variables at play here. How old is your child? What type of did you buy? Where does the child intend to fly the helicopter? How big is the helicopter? The answer depends on a combination of all these factors.
Toy helicopters are small and generally considered to be safe as long as your child does not end up flying it into someone’s face at a high speed. These helicopters have lightweight plastic bodies that do not cause serious injuries and may be the best choice for you if you are concerned about the possibility of injury.
The risk of injury with these toys is only as much as with any other toy if misused. It is best if you do not buy some of the bigger and more advanced RC helicopters until your child gets a hand on the basic skills needed to fly and can control the helicopter.
Many-a-time, children do not have the patience and the skill involved to take up RC flying as a hobby. They just get bored after trying a few times to fly an RC helicopter and watching it crash repeatedly. In this scenario, a micro helicopter will be a cost effective purchase that will also give you an idea if you child is indeed interested in pursuing it as a hobby.