General Question

BronxLens's avatar

Best remote control helicopter under $200?

Asked by BronxLens (1539points) December 29th, 2008

Want to get for myself a remote control battery-operated helicopter. What considerations should I keep in mind when choosing one? Do you have a particular model (under $200) you can recommend? Not for competitions but to fly in a nearby park. Is there a good forum to ask more questions about this hobby? When ready to buy, aside from this store I found, is there another reputable one to buy from?

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1 Answer

aaronbeekay's avatar

XHeli can be a bit shady at times—I don’t know why I get that vibe, but I do.

Here’s a quick review of entry-level RC helis for you. There are much better analyses on forums and places, but hopefully this will get you started.

Your basic categories (beginner categories) are coaxial vs. fixed-pitch. Coaxial helis have two pairs of blades on the same axis (hence, coaxial) that rotate in different directions. Because this counter-rotation cancels out yaw (ideally), there’s no tail rotor or tail motor. Control is provided by two servos which give input to the bottom blade pair. The top blade pair is controlled by a weighted flybar, which resists any movement away from a stable hover.
Because of this, coaxes are very good first helicopters if you don’t think you’re going to have any skill. They can be flown indoors—gyms are a good place to start, but once you get the hang of it you can easily fly around your house and living room. Coaxes can be flown outdoors, if you really want, but only in no wind, and not from very far away (you’ll lose sight pretty quickly).

The other option, fixed-pitch, is a heli that looks a lot more like a “real” helicopter, with similar functional elements. (I’m ignoring the Russian Kamov “real” helis here) They have two, large, main rotor blades and one tail rotor, which keeps the tail steady and provides yawing force. Control is provided by two servos and a swashplate, as in coaxials, but there is little to no stabilizing force provided by the flybar.
Fixed-pitch helis can be flown in a gym, but probably not in your living room. They can be flown outside in no wind to light wind. They’re a bit larger, on average, than coaxials, so they can be flown more like a “bigger” RC heli.

The best coax, in my opinion, is the Esky Lama V4. This isn’t necessarily because it’s an astounding piece of kit, but rather because most coaxial helis are pretty much the same, and the Lama is the cheapest, at around $70–80. Parts are plentiful and inexpensive. It’s no powerhouse, but it’s a reasonably durable, stable learning chopper. (Picture)

The standard-recommended fixed-pitch heli is the Esky Honeybee FP. It’s light as a feather, with carbon-rod construction, and durable as all hell. People all over recommend the FP, stock and with mods to make it fly faster/farther/more stable/better/whatever. I’m guessing a starter setup with the FP will run you around $119. (The basic FP comes with NiCd batteries, while the basic Lama comes with lithium-polymer—the lipos are superior and lighter. You can buy HBFP kits with lipos. I would recommend it.)

Some people say that flying coaxial helicopters won’t give you good habits if you later move on to FP or CP helicopters, which are capable of doing much more. I wouldn’t say that’s completely untrue. If you just want to have fun and putt around, don’t worry about it. If you’re looking for an RC helicopter so that you can do Cool Tricks/make a business out of it/whatever, you might want to look at more of a “trainer” setup than a “fun” setup.

For what it’s worth, I started with a Lama V4. I’m now flying this honey, but I wish I was flying this honey.

Sorry about the impossibly long response. Ideally it’s helpful. Ask if you need clarification on anything—obviously, I love to talk about this.

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