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A Guide for Buying Your First Remote-controlled Helicopter

Remote-controlled helicopters are loads of fun to play around with. If you too are looking to get your hands on one of these, this Buzzle article should come in handy to pick the right one.
Guide to buy remote-controlled helicopter
Quick Tip
Coaxial helicopters are your best bet as they have two counter-rotating blades that help stabilize the flight of the device.
Almost all of us at some point in our lives have had the desire to touch the skies, quite literally so. Now, unless you have a flying suit hidden away in your closet, or are a pilot, chances are, you haven't really taken to the skies just yet.

Flying a remote-controlled helicopter might not be the same as flying through the clouds, but it sure is the next best thing. RC helicopters are tons of fun to fly and tickle the fancy of young and old alike.

Also, these are now available rather cheaply online. There, however, is a problem of plenty as the Internet is flooded with RC choppers in different sizes and functionality. Never fear though, help is at hand. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind as you go heli-shopping.

Build Quality
RC helicopters are available in different sizes, right from micro ones (blade length 6-12 inches) to large ones (blade length 60 inches+). For a beginner, a small ready-to-fly chopper should do just fine. Do not, however, go in for mini choppers that are just about the size of your palm. These wear out quickly and their batteries too don't last long. Instead, go in for one that is about twice the size of your palm. These are just about the perfect size for beginners as they are great to use indoors, although, we strongly recommend you to fly it in an open area. Most RC choppers are made of metal, with a few plastic parts on top. Ensure that there are no loose parts and all the screws are in place. Also, make sure that the blades of the helicopter are smooth and aren't broken. Even a minor flaw in the blades can affect the flight of the chopper. Speaking of blades, opt for a helicopter with coaxial blades. These are usually a lot more stable than their single-rotor counterparts. A basic RC helicopter would cost you around 30 USD.

Controls
Most RC helicopters have a simple 3-channel controller. Some controllers also have the option to switch between two choppers. The standard controller has two joysticks (Throttle, Navigation). In addition to these, it may also have a charging chord which can help charge the chopper. Some may have switches to control other options like LED and camera on the chopper. For better control of your machine, make sure that the joysticks are not too hard or too loose either.

Features
The standard RC choppers come with a very minimalistic feature set, that is mainly restricted to an LED light. Other more advanced machines come with a camera, Bluetooth connectivity, Wi-Fi connectivity, etc. You might, however, want to remember that more the features, more is the load on the battery, and of course, higher the cost. Some even have the option to charge the helicopter via USB. Make sure that your flying machine comes with an in-built gyroscope as it will ensure better stability of the chopper.

Range
Advanced helicopters can have a range of about 100 feet. For beginners, however, a basic chopper with a range of about 15 - 20 feet should be sufficient, especially if you intend to fly it in an enclosed space.

Battery
Most RC helicopters use an on board Li-Po battery to power them. The small helicopters usually have a charging time of 1 - 2 hours, and a flight time of 5 - 15 minutes. Their controllers are usually powered by standard removable batteries. Some controllers also let you charge your chopper using a cable attached to it. A machine with a flying time of about 5 - 10 minutes should be just enough for beginners. Some manufacturers ship their helicopters with spare batteries as these tend to have a short lifespan. Apart from the usual battery-powered ones, choppers also come with nitro, gas, and turbine engines. These, however, are also significantly more expensive than the regular RC helicopters.

Remember, there is no point over-spending on features that you are never going to use; instead, buy yourself a basic chopper to get a hands-on feel of flying. Some of the best of the best choppers for beginners in the market today are:

Syma S107G 3-Channel RC Helicopter
Hero RC H911 iRocket
Walkera Genius CP V2

It would be a wise to read the user manual before trying out your helicopter. The machine itself should be able to withstand a little crash or two, but a hard hit might damage the delicate parts inside which control the movement of the rotors. The controls are very easy to use once you get a hang of it. The whole point of RC helicopters is to give you instant gratification right out of the box, provided you know how to handle your chopper. As a simple rule of thumb, remember to give the chopper just enough throttle before you try to navigate it. Try to steer the helicopter a little too soon, and you'll have your own version of 'Black Hawk Down'!
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Published: December 26, 2013
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