Table of Contents
You can fly some helicopter with a simple four-channel radio, but you will be limited to the following helicopters:
Piccolo FP and clone with any Piccoboard
Hummingbird with onboard mixer board with any gyro
Corona with heading hold gyro with no remote gain (e.g. GY240)
ECO 8 with mechanical mixing with any gyro
(deprecated - not recommended due to sluggish response)
Ideally, you want a better radio with at least six channels and some or all of the following features:
No throttle detents ("notches")
Most airplane versions of radios have "clickers" which will only allow a fixed number of throttle positions instead of a completely linear throttle position. This is very annoying when flying helis because the perfect throttle position for hovering is usually between two throttle click positions so you wind up fiddling with the throttle and bobbing up and down. Airplane-style radios can be converted to remove the notches by "flipping over" the metal arm which touches the joystick detents, but it's nicer if the radio is already configured for a helicopter.
This will allow you to make the helicopter cyclic less sensitive around the center, which will help you learn hovering more quickly. After you develop a delicate touch, you may want to reduce the amount of exponential.
5 point throttle/pitch curves (or better)
When flying a collective pitch helicopter, you will want a constant headspeed from a little below hovering up to full throttle. This is difficult to do with a three-point throttle pitch curve, and a five point curve is better.
Throttle hold switch
This is a basic safety feature. It will prevent the helicopter from spooling up if a gust of wind pushes your shirt over the throttle stick or you accidentally bump it with your hand.
90 and 120 CCPM swashplate support
Most helicopter nowadays use 90 or 120 CCPM swashplate modes. If your transmitter does not support these modes, then you will not be able to fly them.
Idle-up allows you to change the throttle curve of the helicopter. This is highly desirable for collective pitch helicopters because it allows you to maintain a constant headspeed at all throttle positions in (idle-up mode) after spooling up (in normal mode). This makes a collective pitch helicopter more responsive to the throttle stick and nicer to fly.
Currently, the best price/performance in helicopter radios is the Futaba 7CH (FF7 in Europe). This radio has all of the above features except 5 point throttle/pitch curves and can be purchased for about $170 (without receiver/servos) at various vendors on the Internet (e.g. Servo City and Bruckner Hobbies).
"Futaba 6XHS is similar to the 7CH but has fewer model memories and fewer swashplate types, and will work fine for modelers on a tight budget. The older Futaba 6XH is not recommended because it does not support exponential, swashplate types, and swashplate mixing settings.
The Hitec Optic 6 can also be used, but this transmitter is only available in an airplane configuration, so the throttle will have detents and the idle-up and throttle hold switches will be in a nonstandard location.
The Futaba 9CH is also good. This radio can be purchased for about $300 (without receiver/servos) on the Internet.
Other good choices which are moderately priced (<$500) include:
JR 9303 Heli
JR XP6102 Heli
JR XP8103 Heli (XP3810 in Europe)
Hitec Eclipse 7 Heli (can do 90 CCPM with programmable mixes -explained in Section 7.2.1, “Hitec Eclipse 7 with 90 CCPM”)
Airtronics RD6000 Super Heli (do not buy the SPORT model because the SPORT model has no swash mode)
Airtronics RD8000 Heli
Multiplex Cockpit MM
Multiplex Royal EVO 9
These radios are very nice but are also very expensive:
JR 10X Heli
Multiplex EVO 9
Multiplex EVO 12
Multiplex Profi 4000