My RC Helicopters

I've always had an interest in RC Helicopters as far back as I can remember.  They were always so interesting, but always out of my budget.  I tried a few bigger heli's over the years.  Expensive crashes and rebuilds kept me from ever doing much with it.  Fortunately, a few years back small electric helicopters made it to the market and my interest and wallet were ready!

My Micro Heli collection
 The Heli's to the right are all "E-Flight Blade" Nano and Micro series helis.  They can be purchased from $99 - $169 depending on if you need the battery, charger, and radio, or if you already have them from another model.  "Bind-N-Fly" is a common type of model now.  They contain the radio receiver but need to be programed to match your transmitter.  Matching or "Binding" them is a simple process that takes seconds.

Models from right to left (Most difficult to fly to easiest to fly) are: nano CPx (Yellow), MSRx (red and white), and MCX2 (Red, White, and Black)

I picked this lineup because they all share the same $6 batteries and chargers, so it was very affordable to get a lot of flight time and each time I purchase the next one in the series, I wasn't starting over with the equipment.

My attempt to learn to fly RC Helicopters was much more successful this time around and I credit a large portion of that to 2 things:  Low cost for lots of batteries, and constancy.  Due to their small size, I was always able to fly at least 3 or 4 batteries per night, more on the weekends regardless of rain or shine, Freezing weather or scorching heat.

 I felt like the first battery is used just getting back to where you left off the last time.  The next 2 or 3 were learning new skills and building your comfort and abilities.
My Micro Helis

More about each model ( In the order in which you should learn to fly them )

Blade MCX2

 The MCX2 is a "Coaxial rotor" heli.  This means that there are 2 sets of rotor blades rotating in opposite directions on the same axis.  By rotating each rotor in opposite directions on the same axis, the torque of the rotors cancel each other out, making for a stable, almost hands off flying hell.  Sound boring?  Don't worry, it's still a blast and is an important step in learning some difficult fundamentals.

Lots of people think that flying a helicopter is easier then flying a plane or just as easy as driving a model car.  They couldn't be more wrong.  The helicopter doesn't have a tail to keep it flying strait in the direction of the thrust.  It doesn't have the fixed direction tires dragging behind the car that keeps the front always moving in the direction of travel.  The helicopter flys equally well in any direction!  That means YOU have to think and reverse the controls in your head as it moves!.

Think about if the helicopter is sitting with it's tail facing you.  This is called "Tail In".  From this position, forward stick makes the hell go away (forward from the pilots point of view) from you. This is where you will start.  Now turn the helicopter so that you are facing the right side of the helicopter.   Forward stick now makes the hell go to the right, Left stick makes it go away from you, etc, etc..  

Learning this is a fundamental you must have to progress very far with the helicopter.  Practicing flying it around a small room with the nose always pointing at you is a great challenge to getting your hand/eye coordination ready for the next step.  

Because this is Coaxial, it is very stable and things happen slowly.  The next steps up get a lot more difficult.  Read on to see why.

Blade MSRx
 What heli likes flying around fast, buzzing the kitchen table and chairs a blast?  This Heli!

This heli has a single set of rotor blades, so it is less stable, but able to go faster and will behave more like a normal helicopter.  When the throttle increases, the lift increases, but the torque makes the heli want to spin.  The Gyro does a decent job of fighting this, but there's still some work for you to do.

This helicopter is a "Fixed Pitch" Heli.  What does that mean?  It's rotor blades are set at 1 angle and the speed of the motor changes how much lift the rotor generates.  This unfortunately also means that when you want to lower the heli or slow down, you loose some control because the rotors (effectively your control surfaces) slow down and less air goes across them. More input is required at a slower speed then a high speed. 

This heli can not fly upside down or roll because you need to be able to have negative pitch when you are upside down.  Otherwise, that big fan (rotor) on the top sucks it to the ground like a rocket propelled rock!  I learned this lesson the hard way, and unfortunately with a large gas heli. :(

Blade Nano CPx
 This heli has it all.  It's a "CP" or "Collective Pitch" heli.  This works the same way a full size helicopter works.  It's still a bit unstable because of it's single rotor, but it's a normal helicopter thing and you just need to get used to it.

A Collective Pitch heli maintains a nearly constant rotor speed.  This means the controls maintain the same sensitivity even when descending.  This also means that you can do aerobatics!  

Most model collective pitch helis require a Helicopter radio.  The helicopter radio mixes the Throttle and the blade pitch to maintain constant rotor RPM.  These radios also have a "Stunt Mode".  The Stunt mode must be activated after takeoff but before you want to perform a stunt which requires the helicopter to be inverted.  This makes the throttle stick no longer linear from no throttle to Max throttle.  It changes the pitch and throttle curves so that the lowest stick position is Full throttle and a healthy amount of NEGATIVE pitch (The helicopter is blowing air UPWARD if it were sitting on level ground), center throttle is Zero pitch and somewhere around 50% throttle, and the stick all the way ups if full throttle and a healthy amount of positive (normal) Pitch.

This type of helicopter was the normal starting point in the 80's with a few exceptions, however, the revolution of small electric helicopters and Micro helis (Starting with the LMH 100, a .049 powered fixed pitch heli) has made the hobby easier to less expensive to progress and enjoy.  

Could you start here?  Yes.  SHOULD you start here?  NO.  The cost of 1 crash with a CP is more then 1 smaller heli's.
Blade Nano CPx

Next up, Larger then Micro/Nano Heli's

The next size up in Small Helicopters (E-Flight Blade Brand anyway)  is the 130 series.  These are helicopters that are about 40% larger then the Micro/Nano series.  There are 2 great things about this size.  It's big enough that it's easier to see in fast forward flight, and it has a gear driven tail rotor.
 A word about the Red Bull edition

The 130 Size helicopters are big enough that you start to see some scale bodies such as the Red Bull 130x edition.  This particular edition has a scale 4 bladed rotor head (With Counter Clockwise rotation rather then Clockwise like the other Blade heli's) and the tail rotor is on the opposite side of the helicopter!  It's amazing detail in such as small machine.  

Unfortunately this one has some issues.  The tail has a few extra gears and if the tail rotor so much as smells grass or anything that could bind it up, your going to be replacing some parts!  

In addition, the body is very thin but ridged plastic.  It has a point in the spin up of the rotor where it vibrates and throws off the gyro causing the helicopter to want to violently tip over on takeoff.  The way around this is get the rotor RPM up enough to straiten out the blades then punch it into a hover at about 3 feet.  Hang out at 3 feet till the rotor RPM comes up, then go on about your flight.  The 130x (Blue and Green next to the red bull) has some of these tendencies as well, but not as pronounced and violent as the Red Bull edition.

These are all things you can get over, but the Red Bull is fragile and a bit under powered.  When you do need to repair it, tearing it down requires removing the scale body and all 23 micro screws (yes, 23 screws smaller then the screws in your eye glasses) then snap the body apart and replace parts.  It's a pain, but a small price to pay for a really cool looking helicopter.

The 130x

The 130x has quickly become my second most favorite Helicopter (my Nano CPx is my favorite).  It's size makes it easy to see and the gear driven tail is much more effective if you are flying fast forward, get in trouble, and need to swing the tail around quickly.  With the Nano and Micro size helicopters, the tail rotor is a separate motor.  When you command a large tail movement, it has to spin the tail motor faster and it starves the rotor head and radio of some power.  This is usually not a big deal, but you will notice it on occasion.

The 130x is also enough bigger that it is less effected by the wind.  We have had some pretty windy days recently and I have still been able to fly this outside.  I did find that taking off from the garage and then venturing quickly out the door was helpful when it's really gusty.  This is too big to fly indoors at most peoples house.  It would be fine in a gym or indoor soccer field.  If you have underground power lines and not many trees on your street, your front yard just became the best flying field there is!

 Oddly, the 130x is still pretty durable for it's size and power, but it's still not as durable as the Nano CPx.  This runs on a 2S 300mAh battery which cost about $15 each.  It feels a lot more powerful then the Nano CPx when you put it in stunt mode.  Don't know what a 2S battery is?  Don't worry, my writeup on LiPo Batteries will be coming soon!

If you are interested in the 130x or RedBull 130, It comes with an extra set of gears.  Do your self a favor and pick up a few more sets at the hobby shop when you get the helicopter.  Your going to need them!  

They make a few Metal gears for the tail rotor system.  I eventually stripped those too in a minor crash.  If your not familiar wit this helicopter or just moving up to it, I would recommend dealing with the plastic gears until you feel confident with it, then go for the metal gears.