The terms ‘helicopter’ and ‘quadcopter’ sound quite similar. In fact, RC helicopters and RC Quadcopters look alike at first glance. However, the differences start to magnify themselves as we dig deeper into their features and abilities. In this article, we will once and for all, clear the confusion between these two types of flying machines. If you need some enlightenment on the difference between a RC Quadcopter vs Helicopter, you might want to keep reading until the end.
What are Quadcopters?
First, let us take a look at some overview of the first type of RC flying vehicle – the Quadcopter.
The quadcopter is an unmanned flying device that consists of at least four motors on its body. There are several high-end units that even come with a higher number of rotors, and these models are also known as multi-rotors.
Years ago, flying this type of vehicle was quite difficult; however, advances in technology have helped recent models to have more stability and easy control.
In order to fly a quadcopter properly, it requires a control of the rotor blade’s angles as well as its speed. Also, these two elements allow all sorts of aerobatics stunts and tricks.
RC Quadcopters have become one of the popular RC flying devices quite recently. Also known more commonly as “drones,” many users fly them with the intention of capturing amazing aerial photographs and videos.
Photography is ideal for this type of device because it can handle the command of the radio control in a very stable way, unlike RC helicopters that can be a bit wobbly. Therefore, the pictures are much more clear and picturesque.
Quadcopters like the DJI Phantom are a sign of complex engineering where there is a bunch of electronics that are being installed inside the device and it takes a high-level programming to control it smoothly.
Thanks to the support of the programming, it can provide easy and automatic controls.
These days, you can get quadcopters at a very reasonable price, thanks to the miniaturization of electronics and the overall availability of the parts and components.
What are RC Helicopters?
Just like a quadcopter, an RC helicopter is another type of unmanned flying vehicle. However, the similarity stops here.
Quadcopters have four motors while a helicopter only has one motor and a small tail rotor. They come in various types such as toy-grade and hobby grade.
Toy-grade RC helicopters normally have basic features and limited control. Hobby grade RC helicopters allow users to upgrade some of their parts and they also come with a higher number of rotors that support more flying movements.
These kinds of RC Helicopters can hover, soar, twist and turn at your command!
RC helicopters typically feature a single-rotor construction whereby the single blade is responsible for hoisting the helicopter into the air. With this engineering design, they are much harder to fly and easier to crash!
The main purpose of RC helicopters is to provide flying experience, rather than provide photography elements. Even the most basic models require some flying skills.
Therefore, this type of radio-controlled vehicle is suitable for the hobbyists who would love to brush up their flying and maneuvering skills.
If the DJI Phantom is one of the crème of the crop in quadcopter category, the Walkera Super CP and Hero iRocket are some of the best RC helicopters currently available out there.
RC Helicopters vs. RC Quadcopters
Handling & Stability
From an engineering perspective, RC quadcopters receive a lot more electronic assistance. Because of this, they can remain stable in the air with no trouble, unlike a helicopter.
RC helicopters require a much greater amount of flying skills. While they have a higher learning curve, today’s technology has helped flying helicopters to be a bit smoother than years ago. For example, you can find a model with a degree control setting that aids to increase its stability.
For those who are adventurous at heart, they can give The Goblins 380 and Gaui R5 a try. You can tweak them by installing extra electronics components to increase their stability level.
However, for people that are new to flying, they will find flying an RC quadcopter to be much easier.
Since quadcopters are wider in size and much more stable than helicopters, they are more functional when it comes to more than just flying.
For example, if you need a vehicle that can hold something, say a camera, the quad is the best option. The design of the device allows you to connect the camera right to the center of its big body.
Can you imagine attaching a camera to your helicopter? It might lose its balance and get lopsided to one of its side, which makes flying harder than it already is!
However, there are still some helicopters with camera options out there. The UDI U13A is one of them.
3D Flight Ability
Now, you might wonder what 3D flight is. Well, 3D flight is a form of flying that features advanced and challenging aerobatics actions. When we compared the two flying machines, it turned out that helicopters have a higher capability of performing 3D flying, especially for the models with more than three channels.
RC helicopters come with a tilted blade which results in complicated stunt actions like looping, swooping, rolling, reversing, and upside down flying.
With the design of the RC quadcopter, the 3D tricks can be quite limited – only certain models have this kind of aerobatics capability.
Required Flying Expertise
For the beginner flyer, RC quadcopters are much easy to handle. Even though they typically come with a higher set of control channels such as Up/Down, Left/Right, Forward/Back and Roll, the quad takes advantage of its electronic programming aids.
This is why you see many new users prefer to fly a quad. They can fly the quad smoothly on their first try.
For example, you can simply lift DJI Phantom 3 Pro with a flick of your finger on the controller. It comes complete with GPS support and wind gust autocorrect.
Besides having great stability, it also provides precision. To return it to the take-off spot, you can easily hit another button and off it goes to the original place.
The helicopter, on the other hand, contains fewer channels – normally three. They are Up/Down, Left/Right, and Back/Forward. Even with this limited axis controls, it still requires some flying expertise because there is less electronic assistance.
With limited aids, helicopters demand an extensive flying expertise.
Price is a subjective element to compare as it depends on the models of the helicopters and quad that you choose.
You may choose the high-end model to enjoy more features and flying support, but it comes with a high price tag. The basic ones can be quite cheap, less than a hundred dollars, but the body might be fragile and offers little features.
Besides the device, there is also spare parts cost for you to consider. Purchasing a model without considering the cost of the spare parts can make your hobby expensive in the long run.
One of the best RC helicopters is the Align T-Rex 450. It is fairly expensive – priced at $700 and above – as it comes with its own set of bells and whistles and has been the top option for helicopter enthusiasts.
For RC quadcopters, DJI Phantom 4 is the best choice. It has 4K Ultra HD camera, stabilization technology, built-in GPS – all that at a premium price of more than $1,000!
Helicopters require lots of setup and maintenance. Quads, on the other hand, are great for new users as they are ready to fly right out of the box and easy to maintain.
When looking at crash recovery aspect, quadcopters are much more resilient. Crash a Syma X5C Quadcopter, and you might just need to replace a part or two.
It is quite the opposite for RC helicopters. It can take hours to repair a broken Syma S107 Helicopter to get it back to its original state and performance.
Which One is the Best? The Verdict is…
As you can see from the comparison sections above, both RC helicopters and quadcopters present their pros and cons.
Even though flying a helicopter can be quite a demanding task, what with the required flying skills and high level of maintenance, the experience is far more rewarding and exciting.
RC Quadcopters focus more on the photography and videography aspect while helicopters are truly about the flying and 3D aerobatics experience.
At the end of the day, it all depends on your interests and needs. What do you need most from your RC vehicles? Would you like to fly it and enjoy many stunt actions or would you like to experience easy flying and capture great photos while at that?
As stated by many wise and advanced users, the right question is not “which one is the best?”, but rather, “which one is the best for me?” The answer lies in you!