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RC Helicopters and Air Vehicles: Sky High Adventure

Have you ever watched videos of hummingbirds – or, even better, seen one with your own eyes – and marveled at their incredible ability to hover and fly in almost any direction? You can enjoy this miracle of omnidirectional flight yourself by picking up an RC helicopter or quadcopter. When it comes to having fun with these cool products, the sky really is the limit. 

What Are the Different Types of RC Air Vehicles? 

When it comes to RC (which stands for remote control or radio control, depending on who you ask) aircraft, there are three main types: 

RC Helicopters 

You probably already know what a helicopter (or "chopper") looks like, so a remote control helicopter should look pretty familiar, just smaller. Most RC helicopters feature one or two main rotors on top, and many models have a smaller anti-torque rotor near the back. 

RC Quadcopters 

As the name suggests, quadcopters are remote control air vehicles that feature 4 rotors ("quad" = 4). When you think of a "drone," like the ones flown by hobbyists and videographers, this is the design that's most likely to pop up in your mind's eye.  

"Multicopter" is another name for these air vehicles, since you can get models that have more than 4 rotors. Some have up to 16, and maybe even more in the near future. 

RC Airplanes 

Just like RC helicopters, RC planes are smaller, remote control versions of airplanes. Remote control planes are generally pretty easy to fly, although there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to takeoffs and landings. 

What Are the Main Differences Between an RC Helicopter and Quadcopter? 

Aside from the number of rotors, as we mentioned above, there are noticeable differences between RC helicopters and quadcopters in terms of how easy they are to fly. 

Most quadcopters feature technology that helps keep them stable, which reduces the amount of time and effort it takes to learn to fly them. Since quadcopters are designed to fly smoothly and easily, it's no wonder many videographers use them to capture stunning aerial footage. 

You generally won't find the same stability features in RC helicopters, which creates a steeper learning curve but also allows RC choppers to perform a wider variety of manoeuvers when guided by an experienced hand. 

How Are RC Helicopters and Quadcopters Able to Fly? 

Without going too deeply into the science behind rotor-based flight, both RC helicopters and quadcopters use spinning rotors to generate lift and thrust. This allows them to lift up into the air and buzz around like, well, mechanical hummingbirds. 

The main difference between these two types of RC air vehicles is that RC choppers, like their full-sized cousins, include some rather complicated engineering in the design of the rotors. The rotors spin around, but they also need to be able to tilt in order to help the helicopter fly around in different directions. 

In contrast, quadcopters rotors aren't designed to tilt. All they do is spin around, and so advanced electronic systems are required to make the multiple rotors work together and create the quadcopter's ability to fly around in all directions.