Best RC Helicopter Buying Guide
Children love remote control toys. But remote control helicopters have the added fun of being able to fly, which makes it a very popular gift for children. Your own child might have gestured a couple of times towards a remote control helicopter during your trips to the toy store and you might have had some doubts as to whether you should buy one for your child.
You might have envisioned helicopter crashes that send your priceless heirloom pieces to the ground, or worse, you might have imagined it hurting your precious young one. But while your misgivings regarding RC helicopters are not completely unfounded, there are some advantages to giving your child his first flying machine. First, they could be very educational as they can introduce your kid to the science of flight; second, it can provide hours of indoor fun if the weather won’t allow them to play outdoors; and third, it is a toy that you can share with your children and bond over as you both learn to fly.
Is your child old enough to play with an RC helicopter?
When it comes to RC helicopters, there is such a thing as too young. If your child is under 7 years old, you might want to get them a battery operated bump and go helicopter instead. These toys do not fly and have very little loose parts so that the likelihood of a part to come off and present as a choking hazard is much lower. Rather, they run on the ground and when they crash against a wall, they do not stop. Instead, they turn around and keep going. The best part is, they can be entertaining for very young children. Kids 7 and up, though, are going to want an RC flying machine!
What are the features should you consider in buying a RC helicopter?
Many RC helicopters are for children aged 10 and up. However, there are a lot of kids aged 7 and 8 who have sufficient maturity to own one and can even fly (under direct supervision of course) better than their parents. If you think your child is ready, you will want to buy one with the following features.
● Small and Light
We assume that this is going to be your child’s first flying toy, this means that he or she will have to get the hang of controlling the toy while it is in flight. This is when most crashes happen, so you will want to buy one that is small and light. This is an important feature for three reasons. First, a small and lightweight machine is unlikely to break when it hits the ground. Nothing is more disappointing to a child than seeing a toy break seconds after unboxing it with excitement. Second, should the little propellers snag your child as it comes crashing down, a small and lightweight helicopter is unlikely to hurt them too much. And finally, your child will most probably be playing indoors as he begins learning the basics of flight, so a smaller model is less likely to break your most loved pieces.
Even though the bigger helicopters look closer to the real thing, you will want to purchase a micro RC helicopter – the size typically recommended for children and beginners. These come between 15 and 30 centimeters in length and weigh just a few ounces.
● Simple Controls
Advanced helicopters can have as much as 6 channels of control. These sophisticated machines can do more than fly – they roll and can do stunts in the air! However, this might confuse your little helicopter enthusiast and the complicated controls can send his helicopter crashing down faster than he can say, “woohoo!” And we know that nothing is more heartbreaking for parent or child than the disappointment of a well-loved toy that broke too soon. To save your child from the heartbreak, you will want to give them a model with just 3 or 4 channels. A helicopter with simple controls is much easier to handle and will let your child enjoy his toy right away. Further, early success will build his confidence and will allow him improve his skills faster.
When it comes to choosing the remote control, you have a choice between infrared or radio remote controls. Infrared remote controls are cheaper, however they have a limited range. This doesn’t pose much of a problem since beginner helicopters are mostly flown indoors. However, a disadvantage is that daylight entering a room, fluorescent lights, and TV remote controls can all interfere with the signal and send the helicopter crashing to the ground. We recommend purchasing a helicopter with a radio remote control that is at least 2.4 GHz. They tend to be more powerful, have a wider range, and are resistant to other signals around the house. This means you can even fly two or more helicopters without interfering with each other’s signals.
● Right Out of the Box
For now, your little beginner is probably more intrigued by actual flight than the different parts of a helicopter. So you will want to buy a unit that can be used with minimal building. If you can use it right out of the box, it’s even better. The rationale behind picking a ready to fly model is three-fold. First, having to assemble a helicopter can take some time, which could put a damper on your child’s enthusiasm. Second, after you have taken the time and effort to build the little aircraft, it is entirely possible for your child to crash it within a few seconds. Or, your child might decide after all that he doesn’t even like flying helicopters. This could put a damper on your enthusiasm. And third, this is more for practicality and safety, a toy that requires very little to no assembly means that there are much less parts that could fall out and pose as a choking hazard if your RC pilot has little baby siblings who tend to put everything in their mouths.
● Co-axial or Quadrotor Model
Co-axial helicopters are relatively new in the RC helicopter world. Unlike older models that feature one main rotor and one tail rotor, the co-axial has two main rotors. This adds stability to the machine by adding rotor mass – a must especially for micro-sized models. Further, its own motor powers each rotor so that changing their individual speeds makes a co-axial very agile or easy to control. As you might guess, the responsiveness of the miniature aircraft to remote control commands will enhance your child’s enjoyment of their little aircraft.
On the other hand, quadrotor helicopters are becoming increasingly popular. These devices are more commonly known as drones (although RC helicopter enthusiasts will say this is a misnomer), and are responsible for so much of the beautiful aerial videos that we see these days. For the purposes of our children, there are toy forms that do not have a camera that they might enjoy flying. The four rotors offer stability and the sophisticated electronics allow the machine to continue carrying out one command until it is given another one. This feature makes it relatively easy for a beginner to fly.
In choosing between a co-axial or quadrotor, it might be a good idea to consult your child. Both models would make an excellent gift to them but a co-axial looks more like a conventional helicopter, which might be more appealing to your young one.
● Battery Operated
Some helicopters run on nitro fuel, otherwise known as glow gas. And while it is true that they run for longer, they also emit fumes that might not be a good for your little youngsters, especially if they fly indoors. Moreover, they tend to be a lot noisier – which might not be good for you. For this reason, a battery operated model is the recommended choice. They are simple and quiet in spite of their not running as long as those with a fuel engine.
How to Buy RC Helicopter?
- Your child’s skill level is the most important thing to factor in when buying a model helicopter for him. If he is an absolute beginner, look for the features above since they are the features most desirable for the entry level “pilot.” As he gains mastery and grows in interest, you can start considering more advanced models with him.
- If he is an older child, is he interested in the helicopter itself or does he just want to fly one? If he likes to learn more about the machine, your older child might enjoy an entry-level hobby aircraft instead. Hobby grade RC helicopters are more customizable and have replacement parts that your child might be interested in if he likes building.
- Think about where you and your child will fly the helicopter. Do you mainly want to use it indoors? Outdoors? A little bit of both? Where you will fly the model will affect the weight and size of your purchase. In general, you might want a model that is heavier and has the ability to withstand some wind when outside. Likewise, you will want to avoid an infrared control outdoors because of its limited range and the likelihood that the sunlight will interfere with the signal.
- Will your child be flying in your backyard or in a park with other model helicopters? If your child will be flying his helicopter with other kids, go for a model with a radio remote control of at least 2.4 GHz. This signal is very stable and unlikely to be interrupted by obstacles and frequencies from other model helicopters.
- Consider your child’s preferences. After all, the prime authority in all things that he wants is your child himself. Does he want the modern look of a quadcopter or does he want the traditional look of a co-axial helicopter. Also, letting him in on the process of buying a RC helicopter will add to his enthusiasm of flying it later.
Tips for Flying Your RC Helicopter
- It is important that your maiden flight be indoors. There is less wind to interfere while you are learning to control your helicopter.
- Before flying, clear some space in the room. Even though your child’s model helicopter is small and unlikely to break anything in the house, you still won’t want to have a lot of obstacles. Make sure any ceiling fans are turned off and windows are closed.
- Advice your children to start slowly and concentrate on precision. It is best to fly your model helicopter near you before testing how far your remote can reach it.
- Allow your batteries to cool down before you charge it. It preserves battery life. Additionally, cool batteries tend to charge faster.
- If your model helicopter crashes, be sure to check if some parts have come loose. It is always a good idea to check its condition before sending it up again.
- Try flying your helicopter 2 to 3 feet above ground. This reduces a condition called ground effect where the wind from the rotors bounces from the ground and sends your model toppling over. It is said that it is easier for a helicopter to fly higher than the length of its rotor.
- Learn how to hover. It uses all channels and will quickly improve your child’s skills. Learning how to land and how to crash are equally important skills to keep your toy from breaking if you lose control.
If you and your kids are ready to go shopping for a RC helicopter, visit our Top 5 picks for the best RC remote control helicopters. After considering different features and putting them to the test, we have found that the Blade Scout CX RTF-3 Channel Heli is the best. This co-axial model is small at just 9 inches long and very lightweight at just 16g. It has a 2.4GHz 3 channel remote control making it very easy to control for your youngster. It is a battery operated model that flies indoors and is quiet. Perfect for the child who wants to fly. Let the fun begin!