Remote controlled helicopters have been around for sometime now but over the past year or so the quadcopter seems to have taken over the market. These were huge selling products last year and it seems that this trend is set to continue this year. But which is really the best option when it comes to kids? Here is some comparisons of quadcopter vs helicopter when considering the purchase of these products.
Today rc helicopters come in various different sizes. They range from the small entry level indoor models to the very big and expensive scale models that are for outdoor use only. I will not be covering the latter as they are definitely not recommended for kids and are designed more for model aircraft experts. The shear size and power of the rotor blades make them extremely dangerous to both people and property!
Rather, I am going to be covering the less expensive electric models that I believe can be a great deal of fun for both kids and adults. They are a great way to start learning about the hobby when it starts to become an obsession!
Very basically explained, there are three main types of RC helicopters:
Coaxial Electric Helicopters
These are entry level models for the beginner. They have two main rotors which rotate in opposite directions. This counterbalances the torque and provides excellent stability in the air without the need for a tail rotor. It makes them very easy to fly and they require little to no experience at all. In fact my four year old is pretty handy at controlling one of these!
They normally operate on a 3 channel remote which can control up/down, left/right and forward/backward. This is limited compared with the other types but it still provides a great flying experience, especially for kids!
The price is very reasonable at anything between $20 and $80 depending on the size. I would recommend the smallest versions as they are lighter and are unlikely to cause any injury to smaller kids. These smaller ones are also perfect for indoor use so no need to worry about weather conditions. Good examples are the Syma S107G 3.5 channel RC helicopter and the Blade Scout CX.
Fixed Pitch Electric Helicopters
The fixed pitch (FP) heli is a little more advanced and so requires more experience to control. It uses one main rotor and so also requires a tail rotor to counter balance the torque (to stop the helicopter spinning around with the rotor).
This means that the remote control requires an extra channel to control the tail rotor. Although this requires more co-ordination, the user has a much better flying experience as these types of helicopters can perform realistic banking turns which is not possible with the coxial type above.
The main rotor blade has a fixed pitch so the altitude is controlled by the speed of the spinning blades. To go up, power must be increased to make the blades spin faster and visa versa to bring the helicopter down. The disadvantage to this is the delayed response time from the remote control to the helicopter. It takes a few moments for the rotor blades to change speed making it a little more challenging to perform air acrobatics.
The FP helicopter is more expensive than the coxial type but I definitely recommend upgrading to one of these after learning the basics with a coxial heli. You are not likely to find a decent fixed pitch helicopter for less than a hundred bucks though so I suggest that younger kids have had a lot of practice with a cheaper coxial type first.
Check out the Blade 120 SR RTF for a good example. It is small enough to fly indoors but heavy enough to fly outdoors in a light breeze. It is also safe for kids to enjoy if you are confident that they are not going to crash it too hard and cost you money!!
Collective Pitch Electric Helicopters
Similar to the FP models explained above, these collective pitch (CP) models have a man single rotor and a tail rotor. The big difference is that the pitch of the main rotor is fully adjustable on the remote control. This controls altitude and, unlike the FP helicopters, there is an instant response making them awesome for air acrobatics!
However, these CP models have more moving parts and are the most expensive to buy. They also require more channels to control (normally 6) on the remote so are rather challenging to fly too! I am not going to be reviewing many in this class as I think they they are way too tricky for most kids to master! Most are also bigger in size and can cause injury to people and damage to property. A collective pitch helicopter can be destroyed within seconds in the wrong hands and cost you dearly to replace.
If you are still interested in one of these though, have a look at the Blade Nano CP S. This is a very small and safe model. Although still very tricky to fly, it has a panic button on the remote which stabilises flight if you lose control.
I am sure you have heard of these! Another common name for them are “Drones”. They have become hugely popular over the past year or so. They now come in all shapes and sizes and because they have four rotors, they are much more stable and easier to control than a rc helicopter. However, they can be rather noisy and some of them can be quite expensive because they have many more moving parts. The following are some examples:
Most quadcopters now come standard with a camera attached. These are able to take pictures and video of their flight path and of course amazing aerial shots of the landscape. Some of the bigger models even allow you to attach a GoPro camera for amazing HD footage!
Controlling these quadcopters is normally very simple with very little practice or experience required. Some models even allow you to use your very own smart phone as the controller by just downloading a simple app. Some are equipped with safety features like automatic homing for instance. You can choose a safe area for the “drone” to land by itself if a certain button is pressed on the remote or if the battery is critically low.
Standard quadcopters can offer a great deal of entertainment for the whole family and are generally safe fun for kids. However, many people find them rather noisy and intrusive because of the camera. In fact, these days in the western world there are governing bodies that require registration of most drones. Please read more about this before you make a purchase.
Standard quadcopters can cost anything from $50 up to $500. A good starter version is the Syma X5C Explorer. At around $60 it provides everything a standard “drone” should have. It can also be flown both indoors and outdoors. Kids will love this one!!
There are also much more advanced models on the market that are much more expensive. I would not recommend these for younger kids because although easy to fly, they are not invisible!! Trust me on this because I have crashed mine a few times myself. If you are looking for something like this then check out the DJI Phantom 3 Standard Quadcopter here. It provides many more features but of course is much more expensive at around $500. I won’t be reviewing this model as I think that it is a little too advanced and too expensive in the hands of any children under the age of 16. However, it is an awesome product for older teenagers and highly recommended.
Mini RC Quadcopters
If the idea of a “drone” is a little daunting, especially for your kids, then an excellent alternative is now available. They are called mini quadcopters or “nano drones”. They are much smaller in size and can literally fit in the palm of your hand. They are much cheaper in price to a standard quadcopter but have pretty much exactly the same functionality. These are fantastic fun for kids
A little more tricky to fly though! Their small size and weight makes them a less stable in the air. Younger children may crash a number of times before they get the hang of it. However, most of them do come with a spare set of blades and replacements parts are also readily available and inexpensive.
The advantages are that they are so small that they can do very little harm to anything or anyone around the property. Also, no license is required to fly these little guys. My recommendation is the Cheerson CX-10c which costs around $25 and is equipped with a fully functional camera. It’s a little gem and will provide hours of fun for everyone!! You can also get the version without the camera (Cheerson CX-10) which only costs around $15.
So Quadcopter vs Helicopter? The verdict!
This is a tough one to call because both can be excellent amusement for both kids and adults. Hobby enthusiasts generally don’t like quadcopters because they are so easy to fly and spoil the skill aspect of remote controlled products. However, for the purpose of this website, I would recommend quadcopters for the very reason that most models are easy to fly and are versatile for both indoor and outdoor flight.
Coaxial helicopters on the other hand are fantastic safe fun but they are limited in many ways and can become a little boring after some hours of flying time. If you find that happens, then I would recommend upgrading to a middle of the range RC fixed pitch helicopter. Tricky to fly but so realistic in flight, and with just a little practice, the kids will be loving it!! A few crashes here and there are part of the fun and you will find that most spare parts are readily available and very reasonably priced.
So the bottom line for me when it comes to quadcopter vs helicopter and which is best for kids. I would have to say quadcopter! They are more versatile and provide a decent flight experience with hours of safe fun for the whole family. Your kids are not likely to get bored with these.
Things to be aware of!
Quadcopter vs helicopter, whichever you choose, these eectric models are all battery operated. Batteries don’t last forever! Flying time varies considerably between the different models. It is also important to note that it always takes a lot longer to charge a battery than it does to flatten it in flight!!
For this reason, I strongly suggest buying spare battery packs when purchasing your product. This will allow you to always have at least one spare battery charged up and ready to go. There is nothing more disappointing than just getting the hang of flying and then having to stop for an hours break whilst your battery charges up again.
Both rc quadcopters and rc helicopters have blades that are spinning with tremendous speed and power. The smaller models are generally ok and are not likely to harm any children. However, the bigger ones can be very dangerous. All the models that I have mentioned above have plastic blades with safety features installed so they are not likely to cause any serious harm.
Watch out too for your ornaments whilst flying indoors. They could be knocked for a six either by the flying object or by a flying kid running after it!!
Please be aware of other peoples privacy. Some models can be noisy and irritate neighbours. If you are thinking of buying one of the bigger models go and fly it in a field where you won’t disturb anyone.
Quadcopters with cameras can also be a huge invasion of privacy! Avoid filming anyone or anyone’s property unless you have their permission.
This brings me to the new governing bodies that have been set up for this very reason. Please do yourself a big favour and read up on the following guidelines before you purchase your product. This is applicable for the USA. If you live somewhere else, please research the laws in your country before operating your unmanned aircraft system (UAS). Click on the picture below for more info.
Thanks for taking the time to read this quadcopter vs helicopter page. Don’t forget to check out my reviews section which will cover the products that I have recommended above. I trust that this information will be of assistance to you. Please leave a comment if you have any queries at all or if you would just like to leave some feedback. I would love to hear from you.