RC hobby products, are powered by either model fuel or batteries.
With recent advances in battery technology, many of today's RC
hobby, as well as toy products, are powered by "Lithium Polymer
rechargeable batteries". These have become a standard and preferred
choice by many RC hobby enthusiasts. Lithium batteries require
chargers designed for such. There are many companies that offer
both, so the choices are broad.
20 Inches or Under
One of the parameters that defines the model helicopter size is
"rotor diameter". Typically a helicopter model having an approximate
rotor diameter of 20 inches, has become a good starting point for
many people entering this hobby. These helicopters, know as "Micro
Helis", are typically powered by 280 and 300 size electric motors.
Some helicopter models that are powered by smaller 180 and 150 size
motors, are typically in the "Sub-Micro" range and normally have
rotor diameters of 16 inches and under. The MIA Bumble Bee, for
instance, is one such helicopter, which some people favor for its
more compact size.
Simplicity vs. Complexity
This guide focuses on the more
simpler, 4-Channel, Fixed-Pitch selection.
Helicopters fall into two basic
areas "Fixed-Pitch" or "Collective -Pitch". While
collective-pitch helicopters are more efficient, their required
level of sophistication in mechanics and set up, can be an
unnecessary headache for beginner pilots or even experienced pilots,
looking for a fun simpler helicopter to fly around.
While collective-pitch helicopters also offer the ability for an
experienced pilot to fly it sustain hover inverted, a fixe-pitch
helicopter will not. However, depending on the design, a fixed-pitch
helicopter is capable of many simpler aerobatic maneuvers like loops
Note: Helicopters that use plastic "cambered"
blades, such as those found on a high percentage of mass-produced,
Ready-to-FLY, micro helis, typically, will not loop or roll, have a
difficult time entering fast-forward-flight (FFF), and coping with
slight wind conditions. On the other hand, helicopters that come
with narrow, long, "flat bottom or symmetrical blades",
typically made from wood, are much better suited for more
advanced flight maneuvers and also allows for a smoother and more
Is the helicopter able to
withstand hard crashes with minimal damage?
If you look around the RC hobby industry, you will find most better
products are made from "glass, carbon fiber composites and
metal components". Models made from such materials are
highly desirable, for the ultimate in durability and low weight,
many demanding RC pilots seek models made form these materials.
These materials are, particularly, a great choice for RC
helicopters, since they provide higher structural rigidity to keep
up with the higher mechanical and dynamic loads associated with
helicopter. Helicopters can also go through a lot more abuse than
airplanes. A dead helicopter will drop hard, where as a dead
airplane can be made to glide to a safe landing.
There is absolutely no comparison between a plastic made product to
one that is made from "composite materials and metal components".
Most mass-manufactured, "almost-ready-to-fly" (ARF)
and "ready-to-fly" (RTF) products, typically have a
high level of maintenance and part replacement, because these
products are mainly made from inexpensive plastic materials, that
have a higher probability of breaking in a crash and requiring
To the user that wants instant gratification, plastic made ARF or
RTF products are OK, but when parts break, too often, it can
be frustrating, and in some cases, expensive beyond what you would
have paid for a better product made from Composites and metal, in
the first place.
Composite and metal parts can also get damaged, due to mechanical
fatigue, or if a crash is considerably beyond the limits of these
material's durability, tensile strength, but in comparison with
plastics, they are far superior and are one of the reasons, some
better products and upgrades are made from such.
One of the most important
components on an RC helicopter is the "rotor head".
The rotor head must be designed with "proper dampening"
, not only for good stable hovering (Beginner pilots) but also for
fast forward flight and aerobatics (Intermediate and Advanced
Think of this, similar to how stable you sit and ride in a car, that
has good springs and shock absorbers. Without either one of these
items, your ride will feel every road bump and you will be
constantly compensating your steering for road irregularities.
In a perfect world, roads would be perfectly flat and air would be
perfectly still, but we all know this is not case, therefore a good
RC or real helicopter rotor head design, needs to, sort of,
automatically compensate for such, so there is less effort on the
Putting this into the RC rotor head stability perspective, ARF and
RTF models made from plastics depend on the flexibility of the
plastic blade or rotor head, itself, to provide some level of
"dampening", where the blades themselves can act as both the
"spring and shock absorber". Depending how these are
designed and what actual plastic materials are used, they can have a
positive or negative effect on the stability and control of the
What you want to look for in an good RC helicopter rotor head, is
the same things you would look for in a good car. Good springs and
Shock Absorbers for a smooth ride.
A good rotor head design allows the rotor head to "pivot and
return" to the horizontal rotor axis, anytime the rotor head
is disturbed by dynamic or wind forces (this would be the shock
absorber), while allowing the rotor head to provide some level of
"spring tension", or dampening.
Most ARF and RTF cheaper RC helicopters offer only spring tension,
and accomplish this with plastic blades which are also cambered, not
rigid flat bottom. This allows hovering and limited forward flight.
An effect called "ballooning" where the helicopter
doesn't want to go fast forward, in flight, but instead wants to go
up and slightly backwards, is the result of these types of plastic
head, plastic camber blade designs.
A sample of "Proper Rotor Head Dampening" for
This following head
design is one of various ways to introduce the proper degree of
"dampening" (shock absorber and spring tension) and it is done, very
simply, by introducing the "shock absorber" action on
the design of a tough copolymer part called the see-saw, where the
fly-bar steering paddles, as well as the main rotor, is supported
from, and the "spring tension" introduced on the
design of the composite made rotor head itself, the part that
supports the main blades. The blades are made from light wood and
have no flex on them, at all.
As per the features described above, the MIA Bumble Bee Sub-Micro
Helicopter, handles very well, both indoors, as well as outdoors,
for its Sub-Micro size, something not found on similar or even
larger size, plastic made fixed-pitch helicopters.
A combination of the proper shock absorption by the see-saw, the
part supporting the composite rotor head, and the spring tension of
the rotor head itself, is what allows, in great part, the MIA Bumble
Bee Sub-Micro helicopter's complete rotor to be "smooth and stable",
requiring "minimal pilot steering".
This explanation in action can be better seen in the MIA Bumble Bee
product flight videos.
Most ARF and RTF products
come with an attractive price tag, as combo packages, but are
designed to be used with their own brand components, which, in some
cases, are of less quality than some better stand-alone components,
known as "separates".
Radio Equipment components such as the Receiver, Speed Control,
Gyro, Mixer, are part of these separate components, although one can
also choose a combination of these, in small, 3 in 1, or 4 in 1
compact controller packages.
A product that uses "industry standard inexpensive RC components",
in our opinion, allows the user better selection choice of the RC
equipment and set up, for his particular model. In many instances,
the extra step you take in selecting better well known RC
components, to install in your model, will pay off quickly.
One of the often heard statements, at flying fields and RC clubs,
regarding ARF and RTF models is "I am upgrading my model with better
RC equipment, or parts, because the ones that came with my model
wore out or are not as good".
For this reason, MIA Micro-FLIGHT RC Helicopter Products are
designed to work with ANY Industry Standard RC Equipment.
have to equate this, to what you are actually getting for the price
of the product.
Consider that most ARF and RTF products use cheap injection molded
plastics, for increased output and mass distribution, at attractive
prices. Where KITS made from Composites and Metal components, not
aimed at mass distribution, may have a slightly higher price tag, for
their unique design, high level of durability, as well as, perhaps,
long term collectivity.
Consider also, the rotor head "dampening" feature, which, in
opinion, is, by far, the most important detail, besides durability,
when selecting a good basic RC helicopter, and this is where most plastic ARF/RTF combo products fail.
Also, keep in mind that a good design doesn't need to be fancy or
sophisticated to fly well, but all models do require some
understanding of assembly and operation in order to have better
success with them.