If you haven’t been to a mall recently, you may not be aware that remote control helicopters are the hot new item for 2011. They are showing up everywhere these days, and there is good reason for it. The technology that they use has finally graduated to the mainstream.
Let’s take a quick look at what's available out there and what the differences are between a $25 helicopter and a $200 helicopter.
Micro Helicopters are the least expensive of the bunch. They are remote controlled via infra red and are very forgiving for any new pilot. They are of the co-axial style, which means that they have two counter rotating main rotor assemblies to make them very stable in flight. The micro heli is also very forgiving with crashes and what are called blade strikes. (when the blade hits something that won’t give) If you are buying for an 8 or 10 year old, this is the way to go. The micros usually recharge through a cable from the controller to the unit and can be flown indoors without too much worry for damage to anyone or anything.
For those wanting a little more precision, there is another coaxial class, these are the mid size coaxial choppers. As the name implies these still use two main rotor blades turning opposite to each other to aid in stability, but they certainly offer more adventure and require a bit more concentration. The wildly popular HJ2281 can be found in most malls for $60 but with some decent web hunting you can save more online. This class of chopper uses RF (radio frequency) remotes for a more direct link of your desires to the helicopter. Usually about 15 inches long and sporting a lithium polymer battery you can expect a good 7 to 9 minutes of excitement out of each charge.
Altitude is controlled by motor speed which is the left stick on the remote. The right stick of the remote controls which direction you fly. Left, right, forward and reverse. There are also some MEGA sized choppers in this class, for those that want to make an impression, this author has seen units that are almost 3 feet long. Everything on these large scale units operate the same as the smaller units. They are much larger and of course require a larger open area to fly. In general you will get the best performance from your coaxial helicopter (either mid size or jumbo) indoors or on a day without much breeze outside. Yours truly has even velcro’ed a spy cam that records on SD-Cards to his coaxial and made quite the interesting video flying it well over 100 feet up on a windless morning. The enjoyment and addiction of these helicopters is difficult to explain. Once you try one for a few minutes it will certainly become something that you look forward to flying again and again.
Now for the final class of these helicopters, the single rotor advanced helicopter. This class of helicopter, often referred to as 6 Channel, are single rotor units that are demanding of your respect. The biggest difference is that these use a vertical tail rotor to control yaw (left and right) just like full size choppers do. Additionally, the rotor head actually tilts in the direction you point it with the right stick to direct the thrust of the main rotors. The controls are different than on the lower end models. The left sticks up and down motion still controls throttle, but is now mixed with pitch changes also (fortunately, this is electronically mixed so you don’t have to think too much about that) – when moving the left stick to the left and right (yes it moves in an X and Y axis like the right stick) you are controlling the yaw (which way the heli is pointing). The right stick on the remote now controls what they call cyclic, which is basically tilting the thrust of the blades, this class of helicopter can ‘tilt’ left and right and much further forward and aft. And some of this classes leaders like the Exceed G2 can even fly 3D. 3D is a fancy way of saying you can do rolls, loops and even fly upside down. All of this is made a bit easier by an electronic gyroscope that attempts to help you keep it steady, especially while you are just getting the hang of hovering and mellow forward flight. These 6 channel single bladed helicopters are really for those that want a challenge. The transmitters for this class now come only in 2.4GHZ to avoid any interference from other sources. Flight time from a fully charged Lithium Polymer battery can run up to 8 minutes. (usually they charge in 60-100 minutes) This class of helicopter can be flown outside even when it’s a bit breezy as the cyclic control really aids you staying in a position.
Whether you want to just fly around in the living room with a micro chopper, or make a commitment to learning how to handle the single rotor units, there are hours and hours of fun to be had with a remote control helicopter.
Enjoy ‘beating the air into submission! ’