Highly responsive remote control. Built for acrobatics. Panic button allows you to quickly bring the helicopter back to a level altitude. Designed to work for beginners as well as those with advanced flying skills. Can stand up to some dings and crashes.
Some users report that the instructions are confusing for beginners.
Surpasses the rest for all it has to offer, including a rugged build, easy maneuverability, 3-channel remote, brushed motor, and reasonable price. Compact and lightweight.
Battery life could be longer. Some reports of defective components and faulty batteries upon arrival.
It’s got four channels, so it can fly left and right in addition to the standard directions. A kit with replacement parts is only $20.
A full battery will only power an eight-minute flight.
It’s got a gyroscope and built-in LED lights, and it’s incredibly affordable.
It only recharges via USB, and plugging a helicopter into a computer can get awkward.
A popular model with small but sturdy build that makes it suitable for indoor flying. Good choice for kids or beginners. Has one-key landing for a smooth descent every time. We love its bright red details.
Some complained that the short battery life is frustrating for children.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Remote-controlled (RC) vehicles are back in a big way – and no longer just for racing and off-roading! RC helicopters take the fun to the skies, so you can fly them and explore the outdoors or even do aerial tricks. Whether you’re looking for a low-cost solution for taking aerial photography or just curious about RC helicopters, now is the time to buy one. You don’t have to spend a lot to get in on the fun.
The RC helicopter market overlaps with the drone market, since they’re both technically unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), but RC helicopters fill a unique niche for pilots who prefer the form factor of classic helicopters but don’t want all the features – or the price tags – of traditional drones.
Here is everything you need to know to find the right RC helicopter: the use cases to consider, the features to watch for, some top recommendations, and our best advice for snagging a good deal.
Since there are hundreds of different RC helicopter models available, the first step is to rule as many out as possible so you can focus your efforts on finding just those that meet your needs. Here are three key questions to ask yourself that will help you narrow your search.
Do I want to use my RC helicopter at night?
If you do, you’ll need to get an RC helicopter with LED lights or one that’s compatible with aftermarket lighting options. Helicopters with lights bright enough to use in the dark are fairly rare, but they do exist. If lights are a must for you, you might have to search a little more than usual. On the plus side, you’ll easily be able to rule out most other RC helicopters.
Do I want to shoot video with my RC helicopter?
If you do, you’ll want to look for an RC helicopter that can record video, or consider a drone. There are some RC helicopters that exist in a gray area: they look and fly like traditional helicopters but have drone features like onboard video and, most importantly, they’ve got the cheaper price tag of traditional RC helicopters. If you’re OK with basic video quality, look for an RC helicopter that takes video. If video quality is key to you, you’ll be better served by spending a little more and buying a drone. If you don’t want to take any video with your RC helicopter, you can save a lot of money by buying one without the functionality.
Do I want a traditional-looking RC copter or a quadcopter?
Most RC helicopters look like their full-size equivalents and fly by spinning a pair of blades. Some more modern RC helicopters are dubbed “quadcopters” because those models use four separate sets of blades to achieve greater heights and speeds. If your focus is on flying as high or fast as you can, consider a quadcopter, but if you prefer the traditional look, go for an RC helicopter.
Best for beginners
The S017G is the best value in RC helicopters, bar none. It’s got an onboard gyroscope for stabilization, it supports ten-minute flights, it has three channels, and it’s incredibly easy to use. If you’re looking for a great model to start with, you found it.
RC helicopters can be hard to tell apart because so many of them offer the same features, but subtle differences can have a huge impact on the RC helicopter you end up with. Here are the ones to pay the most attention to as you shop:
On-board stabilization: Many RC helicopters have a built-in stabilizer called a gyroscope, so the helicopter is less affected by the wind and easier to fly. Having a gyroscope means you spend a lot less time correcting your mistakes, so it’s definitely a premium feature that’s worth looking for.
Multiple channels: On an RC helicopter, each direction it can go is controlled by a channel on the remote control. To have more precise control over the direction and movement of your RC helicopter, get one with multiple channels. Most owners prefer three-channel RC helicopters.
LED lights: LED lights are perfect for lighting up the night sky or just seeing your RC helicopter while it flies in the dark. If you’ll be doing any night flights, hold out for an RC helicopter with built-in LED lights – they’ll make a huge difference in visibility.
Some RC helicopters are made with “soft” blades, which means the spinning rotors are manufactured with a softer plastic than the hard plastic used for traditional blades.
Some helicopter remote controls have bigger batteries, so they can charge your helicopter as needed. Having your remote control as a backup power option is incredibly convenient because you don’t have to keep track of multiple spare batteries.
Some RC helicopters include GPS, so you can fly one far and wide without losing track of it. These helicopters are great for mapping areas and can be a low-cost alternative to traditional drones.
Most RC helicopters cost between $20 and $50. If you’re looking for one that’s fun to fly and has decent controls and respectable battery life, you don’t have to spend more than this. RC helicopters are pretty easily damaged, so, in general, models in this price range are the best value because they’re the cheapest to replace.
If you’re willing to spend between $50 and $150, you can get an RC helicopter with some fun premium features like toy missiles that can fire, onboard GPS, or even LED lights. Models in this price range have additional stabilization features that make them a lot easier to fly because you spend less time overcorrecting. If you’re an intermediate or pro RC helicopter pilot, you’ll want to look at the models in this price range. If you’re more of a casual enthusiast, you don’t need to spend this much.
If you’re looking for the best RC helicopters available, you’ll need to spend anywhere between $150 and $400. RC helicopters in this price range are often modeled after specific military helicopters and made of high-quality metal parts. If you’re serious about your RC helicopters, it’ll cost you.
Premium features, bargain price
The VATOS RC helicopter is one of the few models under $50 to have LED lighting. It also has an onboard gyroscope, multiple channels, and can charge over USB, all of which are welcome additions, especially at this price point. If you’re looking for premium features without a premium price tag, this is the RC helicopter to pick up.
Make sure you have extra batteries for the remote control and the RC helicopter. Both the remote control and the RC helicopter itself require batteries. RC helicopters usually require lithium-ion batteries that you can recharge via USB, and the controllers usually run on AA batteries. Whatever the battery setup is on the model you buy, plan ahead and keep spare batteries around so the fun never stops.
Look online for videos others have made using RC helicopters. If you’re buying an RC helicopter that records video, once you’ve narrowed your search to a few models, look for videos online. Many RC helicopter and drone owners post videos they’ve taken, so you can see what footage is like under real-life conditions. Search YouTube by model numbers, and make sure you’re satisfied with the video results each one has produced for other consumers.
Contact a hobby shop for pointers. If you encounter difficulty while first learning to fly your RC helicopter, consider contacting a local hobby shop – many offer lessons, too. Operating RC vehicles is a popular hobby, and many shops have programs or clubs to help keep fans connected. Visit your local store or check out its website for advice and tips on getting the most from your RC helicopter.
Buy an RC helicopter that’s suited to the space where you’ll be using it most. Indoor helicopters are generally smaller and quieter and only go moderately fast. Outdoor helicopters have a lot more power on board, so they’re bigger and louder and can go much faster and fly higher.
Pay close attention to the recommended age range for each RC helicopter. If you’re buying one for a young child, make sure the model you get is age appropriate.
The Blade BLH4200 is one of our favorite indoor RC helicopters because it’s made of high-quality materials and super simple to use. While it’s not as inexpensive as other helicopters, it’s got something few others do: it works with generic, third-party batteries, so it’s cheap to buy several to have around. If you’re a beginner, consider starting with this one – it’s a great entry-level RC helicopter. The GearRoot Flying Ball RC Helicopter is also worth checking out because it can be controlled both by remote control as well as induction control, so you can operate it just by putting your hand underneath it. If you’ve got a young one who’s interested in RC flying, this is the ideal model to keep them hooked.
Q. What’s the difference between RC helicopters and drones?
A. RC helicopters use a single set of rotors to fly, while drones typically use more. RC helicopters are built for much shorter flights, around 12 to 15 minutes max, while drones have bigger batteries and can stay airborne longer. Drones typically can record video and send a video signal wirelessly to a smartphone. As a result, drones are much more expensive than RC helicopters.
Q. Why do different RC helicopters say they have different numbers of channels?
A. Every RC helicopter has one or more channels on its remote control – each channel controls a specific functionality. For example, if an RC helicopter says it has three channels, that means it has one to control the height (up and down), one to control turns (left and right), and one to control forward and backward movement. In general, you get a lot more precise control from a multichannel helicopter, but remotes can get complicated quickly, so it’s important to pick an RC helicopter that strikes the right balance between simplicity and functionality for you.
Q. How long can an RC helicopter fly if the batteries are fully charged?
A. It depends on the helicopter, but in general, most are designed for flights of 12 to 15 minutes. Some RC helicopters include spare batteries, so you can keep flying if the first battery runs out. Others work on AA batteries, so you can keep plenty of spares around and never run out of power. As you’re comparing models, keep an eye on how each one is powered. It can make a big difference in your overall experience.
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