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Buying Your First Helicoptor

Radio controlled helicopters are one of the hardest R/C disciplines. To master they are not just difficult to control but require experienced help to ‘set up‘ the helicopter for flight. They are not toys and require a degree of commitment to their use. With anything that is difficult comes the greater reward once mastered and the satisfaction from maintaining your first hover is one that will push you through the learning curve of R/C helicopters. It is this challenge that makes more and more people take up R/C helicopters. Remember, the sky is the limit!
Whether small or large, outdoor or indoors, beginners R/C helicopters can be split into two types, electric powered and I.C powered (internal combustion). Both have advantages and disadvantages and the following article aims to explain the train of thought behind making the right choice of R/C helicopter.
    At this stage we are going to assume you have no or little radio control aircraft experience (but perhaps you have had electric R/C cars in the past). You may have seen the large I.C powered helicopters and thought that's what I want. It may be the right choice for you but there are a couple of things you should know first. A complete I.C helicopter will cost between £500 and £700! This may be more than you wished to spend, especially on something you're not sure about.
With this type of helicopter you will have to join a local model flying club to gain insurance, a safe place to fly and experienced help. The majority of clubs in the UK are members of the British Model Flying Association (BMFA) they are the governing body for model aircraft in the UK www.bmfa.org. This is essential for large I.C powered helicopters. If you have researched R/C helicopters and feel this is a hobby that you will be committed to this would be the best route to go. The larger
the helicopter the more stable and easier it is to fly. The I.C powered route is the traditional way into flying R/C helicopters.

So what will you get for your hard earned money? A Typical I.C helicopter package will include the following.
A helicopter in kit form or ARTF (Almost Ready To Fly)
An engine – A miniature two stroke engine that will provide power to the rotor blades via gearing and a clutch to create lift.

A 6ch computerised radio control system – The On board electronics that provide control of the helicopters functions allowing control from a distance via the transmitter that you operate.
A gyro – An electronic device that helps stabilise the Tail Rotor command of the helicopter.

Starting equipment consisting of a Flight box, 12v battery, 12 v charger, power panel, pump, starter motor and glow lead – These items are required to start the engine.

Training under carriage - A must for all beginners!!
Provides a large stable base preventing the helicopter from tipping over when learning to hover.
These are the basic components of any I.C helicopter package. The price will depend on the make and quality of the item you choose. For example an O.S engines can be more expensive than other brands of engine. But you will be paying for an engine that is reliable, easy to start, and will last years with the proper care.
Ok so you don't want to part with £700 or join a club just yet, there are other options so read on!

Electric powered helicopters.
In recent years electric helicopters have come on leaps and bounds, due to new technology such as Lithium Polymer cells (Lipo). Top-level Electric helicopters now have good duration and the same power for aerobatics as I.C equivalents and have the advantages of being clean, quiet and ease of use. The development of electric helicopters started with simple micro helicopters that can be flown indoors and are only approximately 40cms in length (compared to a small I.C helicopters length of around 1200cms!)
Twister Helicopter   
The development of small electric helicopters has opened a cost effective and simple route for bringing new people to R/C helicopters.
    The benefits of small electric helicopters are the price; the requirements for only a small amount of space to fly in (some indoors!) they are quiet, and easy to use. The main advantage is that most come ready to fly out of the box, everything is normally included. Charge the batteries up and you are ready to fly. This means the helicopter is pre ‘set up‘ and you get to have a go at the good bit, flying!! So what do you get with an electric helicopter?
On opening the box you will find a RTF (Ready To Fly) helicopter, Transmitter (the box you hold to control the helicopter) a Lithium Polymer battery, special Lithium battery charger and Instructions for use. The contents will very from different manufactures, you may find some contain training undercarriage, flight simulators for your PC and even some spare parts.
    This type of helicopter will allow you to learn to hover in the comfort of your own home or back garden. An electric helicopter is much safer to use due to the smaller rotor span and use of plastic rotor blades. With that said an electric motor can deliver instant torque and caution should be adhered to at all times. The only disadvantage of this type of electric helicopter is that with it being small in size, means they are not as stable as a larger model. But if you can learn to hover a small electric helicopters you will find other helicopter (as you progress to larger machines) much easier to fly, so it can only get easier!

Counter rotating electric helicopters.
Esky8 lamaWith the development of small electric helicopters has come the counter-rotating helicopter. A standard electric helicopter has a set of main rotor blades to provide lift and a smaller tail rotor at a 90-degree orientation to the main blades to counteract the torque effect.
A counter-rotating helicopter has two sets of main blades. One pair rotates clockwise and the other directly above counter clockwise. This counters the torque reaction of the first set of main blades and therefore has no use for a tail rotor. This use of counter rotating blades produces a remarkably stable helicopter to fly. These have become also an excellent route to flying R/C helicopters for the first time. The advantage as stated are they are very stable. So stable it's possible to fly the model into your own hands and catch it! The disadvantage is that whilst providing a great initial introduction to R/C helicopters they do not give the pilot the full challenge of a proper R/C helicopter. Picoo Z Helicopter
If you are attempting to fly a standard R/C electric helicopter and are struggling they are a useful step back to gain confidence and Transmitter hand to eye skills before continuing with a conventional helicopter. Or they can be just great fun for the experienced pilot too!!

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