Chapter 3. First Helicopter Selection Guide

Table of Contents

3.1. Things to consider when selecting your first helicopter
3.2. Clones
3.3. Classification of helis used in this guide
3.4. Overview of selected machines
3.5. Summary of helicopter sizes

3.1. Things to consider when selecting your first helicopter

  • Durability

  • Price of replacement parts

  • Availability of replacement parts

  • Size

The reason for this is: when you are learning to hover, you will crash. This is a given. Everyone crashes. When you crash, you do not want to spend a fortune repairing the helicopter, because everyone has limited funds. When you crash, you do not want to wait forever for replacement parts, because every day you spend waiting for a part is a day you are not flying the helicopter, and learning something.

Size is very important, because larger helis are more stable and easier to hover. They have more inertia, so they move slower and they give more warning of their intent. Micro helis are more difficult to hover because they are very skittish and wander off in a new direction with very little warning of their intent. Larger helis are not any easier to fly, though.

If you live in an area like Seattle where it rains almost continuously for nine months of each year, I would recommend a fixed-pitch Piccolo. Otherwise the Lite Machines Corona is the best electric trainer available today. The Corona is very stable and acts like a much larger helicopter, so it is nearly ideal for learning hovering.

To make a plane analogy, the Corona is basically the Slow Stick of R/C helicopters. It has a simple fixed-pitch rotor design which is very durable, and usually receives very little damage (if any) in most beginner crashes.

You may be tempted to buy an aerobatic 3D helicopter for your first helicopter. This is a bad idea, because aerobatic helicopters are usually much less stable. They are usually designed with a high center of gravity and very sensitive controls so they can roll and flip faster for aerobatic moves.

Think of this plane analogy: if your were an R/C airplane beginner, should you buy a hotliner for your first plane?

Be sure to purchase your helicopter from a shop that carries a full line of replacement parts and can ship replacement parts quickly. When you are learning to hover it's virtually guaranteed that you will crash a few times, and when you do you will want replacement parts ASAP. Any R/C helicopter for which you cannot buy replacement parts is not properly repairable, and is basically a paperweight.

Also, lithium-polymer batteries are fragile and easily damaged in helicopter crashes. For this reason, we do not recommend using lipo batteries on your first helicopter. Some helicopter are not flyable using NiCad and NiMH batteries, and require lipo batteries, and therefore these helicopters are not recommended for beginners.

Also, GET A SIMULATOR. Even a free simulator such as FMS will save you at least 100 dollars or so in replacement parts when learning hovering.

The Walkera helicopters are not recommended for beginner helicopters because the electronics are of very poor quality. Various problems which have been reported include:

  • Transmitters and receivers have very short range and/or interference problems

  • Servos jitter and/or have centering problems

These problems will make learning hovering much more difficult.

3.1.1. Recommended first heli choices

  • Corona (very durable, easier to hover, inexpensive)

  • Logo 10 (durable, easier to hover, expensive)

  • ECO Piccolo / Piccolo Fun (very durable, hard to hover, inexpensive)

  • Century Hummingbird, GWS Dragonfly, Skylark and exact clones (durable, hard to hover, inexpensive)

  • Voyager E (durable, easier to hover, expensive)

  • Hirobo XRB SR (durable, simple to hover, expensive, limited )

3.1.2. Recommended second heli choices

These are not recommended for your first helicopter, but would be good for your second helicopter.

  • Hornet FP/CP (fragile)

  • ECO Lite/8/16 (somewhat fragile)

  • Logo 16/20 (expensive)

  • Joker / Joker CX (expensive)

  • Century Hummingbird Elite FP/CP (high headspeed)

  • Century Hummingbird v3 (fragile)