Updated September 2022
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Buying guide for Best RC helicopters

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 are 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.

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Some RC helicopters are designed specifically for indoor use, while others are designed for outdoor use.

Key considerations

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.

RC helicopter features

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.

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Did you know?
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.

RC helicopter prices


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 choice for the money 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.


  • 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.

  • Keep your noggin safe: get an RC helicopter with soft blades. Soft blades are a safety feature. If the helicopter unexpectedly falls on you, soft blades will do much less damage than the hard plastic traditional blades.
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Some RC helicopters are made for younger kids and designed to teach them how to fly. Others that are intended for older kids contain sharp or small pieces that can be dangerous for young children.


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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