How to Operate a Radio-Control Helicopter

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How to Operate a Radio-Control Helicopter

Radio-Controlled Helicopters are considered the ultimate pastime when it comes to Radio-Controlled Toys.. There are thousands of different Radio-Controlled helicopters and the type bought can dictate how testing it is to fly.

The following guide outlines the different types of Radio-Controlled Helicopters available and gives minute details on how you to master flying one.

Origins of Radio-Controlled Helicopters

Around 50 years ago the first Radio-Controlled Helicopters started to appear on the shelves of specialist model shops. From the outset, they were powered by nitro fuel and very much the preserve of enthusiasts. That was until Electric models came onto the scene.

Radio-Controlled Helicopters started to become more mainstream in the mid-1990s when electric-powered models first started to appear. Since then the build-quality and speed are such that both beginners and enthusiasts covet Electric Radio-Controlled Helicopters..

Power Source

Before exploring how to control a Radio-Controlled Helicopter, the following table looks at the two power sources mentioned and the key characteristics of each:

Power Source



Powered solely by battery and require charging when out of power.

Usually come in one piece and require little initial assembly.

Tend to be more affordable than other Radio-Controlled Helicopters

Engine is quiet and gives off no fumes. Therefore can be used indoors and in residential areas.


Powered by fuel that is a mix of nitro methane and methanol.

Percentage mix varies and the higher it is the faster the helicopter will go.

Using higher percentage nitro fuel can have a detrimental effect on the engine’s lifetime.

Engines come in preset sizes with the six classes as follows: 1/2A Class, 15 Class, 40 Class, 50 Class, 60 Class, and 90 Class.

The number refers to the cubic inch size of the engine, for example 40 Class is a .40 cubic inch engine.

Flying time is longer for nitro-powered Helicopters.

Experience is a lot closer to the real thing.

Pitch Type

The component that will have the biggest effect on how a helicopter flies is the Pitch Type. Pitch refers to the position of the rotor-blades that keep the helicopter in the air and how it moves. The table below explains the two different pitch types in more detail:

Pitch Type


Fixed Pitch (FP)

Rotor-blades are fixed in one position and the angle of them cannot be changed.

Simpler to fix than other types of rotor-blade.

Design is less complex and helicopter becomes a more affordable proposition as a result.

Easier to fly and recommended for beginners.

Collective Pitch (CP)

Angle of the rotor-blades can be adjusted and this in turn gives the user a greater level of control.

Helicopter can fly in three different dimensions.

Makes helicopters very agile.

Flying is more of a challenge and use is limited to advanced radio-controlled helicopter owners.

Response time from control panel to helicopter is fast.

Controls of the Helicopter

When it comes to controlling a Radio-Controlled Helicopter, depending on the model bought there will be a huge variation in the set-up. Pitch, fuel type and the size of the helicopter will affect the complexity of the controls.

First, we’ll look at the different types of control panel available and the specific helicopters they control.

Controller Types

Radio-Controlled Helicopters will come with a device that lets the user control how it travels. Most control panels will have at least four controls and the table below explains what they are:

Control Type


Roll – Cyclic Pitch

Concerns back and forth movement.


Influences up and down movement.


Responsible for the tail of the craft.


Controls the speed of the craft.

Some models, namely those with Collective Pitch rotor-blades, will have five channels and as many as six depending on the model. The additional controls are as follows:

Control Type


Collective Pitch

Alters the angle of the rotor blades to achieve different variations in lift

Gyro Gain

Makes flying easier by detecting any left to right movement and correcting it.

Correction occurs by sending a command to the tail rotor to limit movement.

At it’s most basic level Radio-Controlled Helicopter flight can be split into three basic areas that are:

  • Lift and Collective Control
  • Direction and Cyclic Control
  • Torque and Tail Rotor Control

The following headings will explain in more detail what each of these covers and how to control them successfully

Lift and Collective Control

Before Radio-Controlled Helicopter pilots worry about anything else, lift is the most important of all the controls. After all, if the helicopter doesn’t lift off the ground then it only has limited use.

  • Lift is controlled by the helicopter’s rotor-blades that act in the same way that wings do on an aircraft. The rotors move through the air and the result is that lower pressure will be on top of the blades. The faster they move the higher the helicopter will move upwards.
  • Pitch also comes in when talking about lift and it concerns the angle at which the rotor blades are positioned.
  • Foils, positioned on the bottom of the rotor blades, are equally responsible for lift and control.
  • Moving the left stick of the control panel up and down usually controls Lift and Pitch.

Direction and Cyclic Control

In order to take full advantage of the helicopter’s rotor blades, one of the elements required is Cyclic Control. Sometimes referred to as Cyclic Pitch Control this changes the angle of pitch of each rotor blade and thus allow the helicopter to move in different directions.

The right stick controls cyclic movement and the following table explains the effect that changes in control have on the helicopter:

Cyclic Movement

Helicopter Movement


Tilts forwards.


Pitches backwards.


Rolls to the right.


Tilts to the left.

Torque and Tail Rotor Control

Torque is automatically produced by a Radio-Controlled Helicopter’s rotor-blades and this Reactive Torque must be controlled to help the helicopter to move in the correct direction.

  • A Tail Rotor is one way in which it’s controlled and that is done by fitting a small rotor to the back end of the helicopter.
  • It works by providing thrust in the opposing direction to the Reactive Torque produced by the rotor.
  • Flicking the left stick to the left or right controls the Tail Rotor and this helps to balance the helicopter while in the air.
  • Getting the correct mix of the three basic control types is what makes Radio-Controlled Helicopter flight such a challenge. Those that master the basic controls will move onto a more advanced skill set and Collective Pitch models are more suitable for when that is the case. Otherwise a Fixed Pitch Helicopter is the most appropriate

Other Factors

There is only so much controls can influence and there are other things that can affect the movement of a Radio-Controlled Helicopter. These include the following factors:

  • Gyroscopic Precession – A force that affects the rotor blades and makes the movement happen at a different time to the command being sent from the controller.
  • Ground Effect – This is the influence the ground has on an aircraft when it’s flying close to the ground. Caused by downward air being pushed towards the ground by the rotor blades and having no place to go. The result is a build up of air pressure and it means less power needed to hover.

Buying a Radio-Controlled Helicopter and Parts on eBay.

When coming to buy your first Radio-Controlled Helicopter, eBay is a marketplace that lists thousands of different models and spare parts.

To search for Radio-Controlled Helicopters, visit the Toys & Games category. From there scroll down to the Radio-Controlled sub-category and under that choose Helicopters..

  • When reaching this page it will give a number of different parameters to choose from on the left hand side of the page. These include searching for Electric or Nitro Helicopters, Parts & Accessories, and Used Radio-Controlled Helicopters.
  • Alternatively, you can utilise the search box at the head of any page to search for a specific type of Radio-Controlled Helicopter. By doing this it narrows things down even further and can be the difference when finding exactly what is required.
  • When going through the thousands of items available it’s important to check the seller’s reputation. This can be done by scrutinising their transaction history and checking for any negative or neutral feedback.
  • Before buying, be sure to Ask the Seller any questions the item description doesn’t answer. The Buying Tips page can also be of assistance when purchasing any item on eBay.
  • Once ready to Buy, place a Bid, click the Buy it Now button or place your Best Offer. Using PayPal will make sure the transaction is secure and goes through as smoothly as possible.


Learning to fly a Radio-Controlled Helicopter can be an extremely rewarding experience for beginners and experts alike. As challenging as it may be, the eventual outcome will be one of joy when you finally master the art of flying a Radio-Controlled Helicopter.

Getting out there and experimenting is more important than anything and this guide will have helped to set you along the way. eBay has one of the most extensive collections of Radio-Controlled Helicopters for sale and finding one is safe, secure and easy.

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