Deciding between an RC helicopter kit and building it, or purchasing a pre-built / ready to fly kit, is one of the first choices you are faced with when purchasing an RC Helicopter. Other factors include looking for the best kit helicopter, kit helicopter manufacturers, 4 seat helicopter kit, scorpion helicopter kit and how to build your own helicopter 3000.
Once again this is a choice that was not available several years ago. All RC helicopters were sold in kit form and you had to spend hours putting them together.
Recognizing that people’s time is at a premium these days, some manufacturers started introducing pre-built or ready to fly (RTF) helicopter kits.
Helicopter Kit For Sale
I should point out again, this article is geared toward larger size collective pitch RC helicopters. Toy, and micro sized RC helicopters are all sold as pre-build/ready to fly.
Typical Ready To Fly RC Helicopter Package
Typical Ready To Fly RC Helicopter Package
Larger helicopters are still mostly in kit form; however some manufacturers offer pre-built versions that have even been flight tested.
That said, you will almost always get a higher quality RC helicopter when it comes in kit form for the simple reason, most kit builds are targeted to intermediate and advanced hobbyist’s that want higher end quality.
It is for example very rare that any experienced RC helicopter pilot would even consider getting a RTF model over a kit version. I know personally, I just wouldn’t trust the build quality as I know for a fact I can do a better job for the simple reason I can take my time and focus on every little detail during the building & setup process. You will never get that same attention to detail on any RTF model!
Most kit builds also allow you to pair/choose your own electronic components to install. Radio, servos, flybarless controller, ESC, motors, engines, batteries, etc. Once again, these components will usually be of much better quality and specifically suited to your needs, than what you get in a pre-built or RTF package.
RC Helicopter Components
For those out there that have built their own PC’s or gaming computers, you likely already have a very good understanding of the difference between off the shelf computers and ones you can custom build to suit your exact specific requirements. Well, the same basic principles of RC component selection hold true when building an RC helicopter kit.
What you decide is the best RC helicopter (kit or RTF) is really a matter of individual preference and your particular skill set when it comes to putting things together and following instructions.
Before you can know if a kit or pre-built is right for you, it’s necessary to understand “what building an RC helicopter is all about”.
I actually get that exact question often when I am out flying and my answer is always the same – “building an RC helicopter is just like putting together a Meccano set.”
There can be for example hundreds of parts (on larger RC helicopters), and each one is important. Because of all the rotating parts, things have to be balanced correctly; helicopters always have some vibration so using thread locker on bolts and set screws is essential.
If you are curious just what is involved in a typical RC helicopter kit build, the video above outlines the basic assembly process on a typical collective pitch RC helicopter.
Most RC helicopter kits will go together in several hours depending on the builder’s experience level; but getting the electronics and the heli setup correctly adds to that time. It can take just as much time, sometimes even more to get all that stuff installed and working correctly.
Helicopters are potentially the most dangerous of all RC models. “Serious injury or death” seems to be the legal buzz phrase lately and it certainly is true with larger RC helicopters. Not building one correctly will add to that danger substantially.
kit helicopter manufacturers
RC helicopter kits are not difficult to build, you just have to keep your wits about you and follow the instructions to the letter. None of this “I think this bolt goes here to hold the rotor blade on” and hope you are right. Finding out you were wrong as a razor sharp carbon fiber rotor blade flies off your helicopter at over 300 kph towards you or a spectator isn’t the kind of confirmation feedback you want to experience – trust me!
You also have to realize, even if you do get a pre-built kit, you will still have to perform maintenance on your helicopter or repair it after a crash. One way or another you will have to eventually pull up your sleeves and dive in as the video below demonstrates during a typical crash repair.
This can be intimidating if you don’t have the confidence to put it all back together correctly. If you already built the kit in the first place, you’ll fully understand how to take it apart, repair it, and put it back together as good as new! That is the biggest benefit to building an RC helicopter from kit form.
In fact, most of the questions I get from people when it comes to repairs or maintenance are all related to pre-built models. I rarely get such questions from those who built the heli from kit form – makes perfect sense.
Oops – Repair Time!
Well, have I just scared the *#@! out of you? That certainly was not my intent, but did want to express that this hobby is not for everyone.
If you really dislike anything mechanical or working on stuff, this hobby is probably not going to be your cup of tea. That is not to say you won’t enjoy flying an RC helicopter, but just like real helicopters, for every hour or so you are up in the air, there is required shop time to keep everything running 100%.
Best RC Helicopter Kit Recommendation
My personal recommendation for your best RC helicopter kit is to get a RTF if you don’t like building. If you do like building however (for example are mechanically inclined or have RC truck/car experience), or are getting help from an instructor/experienced RC heli hobbyist, purchase a kit.
This is the best way to familiarize yourself with each component and how every component works in relationship with the next. As I also mentioned, you will almost always get a better quality machine when you get a kit version & put it together yourself, or with the help of an experienced builder.
As that video above shows, building an RC helicopter is an immensely rewarding experience, especially your first. You learn so much and when you see your heli flying with all those parts that you hand assembled – that is a very powerful feeling of accomplishment.
Building a heli from kit form also really gets you passionate about the hobby since you have invested your own sweat equity into the process. All this ready to fly stuff as great as it is for beginners, is also preventing a good number of people from truly taking up the hobby, getting excited about it, and sticking with it. It’s one of the biggest problems I currently see for the hobby of RC aviation in general these days. With no time investment or learning curve involved, there is really nothing to keep people engaged anymore.
For me, building and performing maintenance on RC helicopters is actually more enjoyable than flying. I build and maintain to relax and have fun. The rewards come when I fly. It’s a perfect balance.
Building A 700 Size RC Helicopter Kit – So Much Fun!
Building A 700 Size Heli Kit… So Much Fun!
I recognize not everyone is the same. Many of you might be like me, but there are just as many if not more in this hobby who live to fly, building and maintenance are nothing more than necessary chores.
This is where pre-built kits make sense. If you are stretched for time, don’t like building, or are just not confident enough in your abilities at this early stage in your RC heli career; than an RTF or pre-built heli does make good & logical sense.
I actually fall into this category when it comes to RC airplanes which I also fly (very occasionally). I really don’t enjoy building them. I don’t like gluing all the balsa together, I don’t like covering them – basically I just want to fly. For these reasons, I only purchase RTF plane kits now. The problem is they don’t excite me like helicopters. Largely because I have zero time investment in their construction; it really is a double edged sword.
I wanted to point that out in case you are like me and dislike the fussy building process when it comes to planes; you might actually really enjoy building helicopters. They are completely different. They are similar to RC cars and trucks in this respect so if you like building up RC cars and trucks, I can almost guarantee you will enjoy putting an RC helicopter kit together.
Time in the shop or at the field – as long as you’re having fun… who cares!
Let’s finish this RC helicopter kit article off with a typical RC helicopter kit build summary video to give you a better idea of the steps involved and how fun this can be.
Do you want an easy to fly RC Heli with more or less instant fun & gratification out of the box, or are you ready to dive in head first by getting into the more challenging world of single rotor collective pitch and all the rewards that go along with it?
Not sure of the differences between these two avenues? My Getting Started With Radio Controlled Helicopters page covers all that so if you are a little foggy between the basic types of RC helicopters on the market – that page explains the differences in depth.
best kit helicopter
As a quick recap & overview from that page…
Micro Coaxial & FP Single Rotor May Be The Best RC Helicopters To Start With
I mention first getting your feet slightly damp with an entry level Toy RC Helicopter or Micro Coaxial RC Helicopter (links take you to my pages discussing both types in detail).
Micro hobby grade fixed pitch RC helicopters are another consideration if you want a bit more of a challenge and not get bored as fast. My current top recommendations are the Blade 70 S or Esky 150 V2 (links to reviews on both).
The popular & very affordable Hubsan H107 Quadcopter
The popular & affordable Hubsan H107 Quadcopter.
Another completely different avenue to take is the quadcopter, also known as quadrocopter, quadrotor, multi-rotor, and incorrectly drone.
Quads are electronically sophisticated, mechanically simple, yet easy to fly.
Click here to learn more about them and to find out if this might be a good match for you.
RC quad copter
These are all very good radio controlled helicopters for your first introduction into the hobby. They are lower in cost, pretty easy to master in a short amount of time, and offer more or less instant fun.
The down side as I already touched on is they will get boring after a while or at least limiting in what you can do with them (especially the toy variety). They don’t have the same rock solid fast flight characteristics that collective pitch helis have, nor do they have the ability to fly inverted and they are all rather small making it hard to see them when flying at any distance outdoors.
I should point out however, that quads / multi-rotor from micro to large generally don’t get too boring. Even basic ones can perform simple aerobatic flips and rolls, and of course there is the exciting world of quad-copter racing.
Of course, none of these “quads” are “true” helicopters.
After all, for many of us “rotor heads”, we get into this hobby for our love & fascination of full size helicopters, and could really care less what the latest RC fad is.
A Day Out At The Flying Field With RC Helicopters – This is the BEST!
This is where the more complex, interesting, and performance minded collective pitch birds (CP) come into the mix, such as those pictured above.
If you are the sort of person looking for an immensely rewarding hobby, want the type of control that real full size helicopters have, don’t mind learning all about the complexities associated with single rotor collective pitch RC helis, and are willing to put in the time required; collective pitch is for you!
In other words, you can already appreciate that getting into collective pitch is more about the journey, than the destination. It’s a never ending learning curve in other words.
Still with me? Now we really start diving deep into best RC helicopter rabbit hole.
“Don’t I have to learn on a fixed pitch micro or quadrotor first?”
That depends on you…
I for one don’t prescribe to the regurgitated statement that you must learn on a small easier to fly micro FP or quadrotor heli first before getting into collective pitch.
I know many people who started out with larger collective pitch machines out of the gate and did so (and continue to do so) with great success because they did their homework.
They knew exactly what to expect, or got the priceless one on one help that only an experienced RC helicopter instructor can provide.
This is where I hopefully can help to give you some of that experience and knowledge if you can’t get it locally from a good instructor or experienced RC heli pilot.
Lets first determine what exactly separates a good first collective pitch heli from a bad one.
You won’t outgrow a quality collective pitch heli in a few weeks or months or have to spend a small fortune on upgrades to convert it into a decent machine; which incidentally ALWAYS costs more than getting a good collective pitch bird to start with.
This of course means you will save both time and money.
That is one of the nicest benefits with the RC helicopters.
With most other RC vehicles, you generally start with slow and simple, then move up to fast and furious. Good collective pitch RC helicopters are different.
You can get a fairly high performance helicopter and set it up for learning on turning it into a perfect trainer. Once you have mastered basic flight, you can make changes to your initial set-up to ring out as much performance as possible or keep things relatively tamed down for general or scale type flying – that is all up to you.
The real benefit…
You will have much more enjoyment and fun with a good quality collective pitch heli and equipment because you can tailor the way it flies and responds exactly to your ability and how you like to fly. As you improve, your helicopter has equal potential. You won’t quickly “outgrow” it in other words.
WATCH OUT FOR THE MONEY PIT!
This hobby is expensive enough as it is. Throwing your money down the drain on poor quality or flashy eye candy that doesn’t fly, has no practical value, or is next to impossible to control is so frustrating – so many have given up by going for lowest price or lured into a purchase by the bling alone.
Remember looks don’t equal good flight performance, good quality, or even what’s practical or efficient.
Multi Blade Heads Are Not Best To Start With
One such example of this we are seeing more and more of these days is multi-bladed rotor heads (more than two rotor blades) on entry level/low cost CP machines – pure marketing wank & hype.
For the scale crowd and for some specific areas of aerobatics, and after you know exactly what you are doing and are experienced, do GOOD QUALITY multi bladed heads have some merit, but that’s it. Why?
They are mechanically more complex
Parts count is up
Weight is up
They are not as efficient *(increased drag & the tail rotor has to work harder because there is more reactive torque generated)
They are harder to balance correctly
Setting the blade tracking is harder
Some require setting the phase angle of the rotor head in relation to the swashplate – complicated if you don’t understand this process
They cost more (initially & for repairs)
Some are harder to transport
- Assuming same blade size/profiles.
In short, many of the advantages flybarless technology gives us, are lost with multi bladed heads. This is truly where bad RC helicopter marketing BS is trying to sucker in the uniformed.
Collective pitch RC helicopters are complicated enough as it is, and I STRONGLY recommend beginners keep things as practical and as mechanically simple as possible when starting out.
There is an old adage in engineering:
“Complexity Compromises Reliability”
This holds so true in our hobby.
Fixed Pitch Motorized Tail Rotors Don’t Work Well & Burn Out Constantly.
Beware. If you see a motor and gear like this on a tailrotor – WALK AWAY.
Another IMPORTANT thing to stay away from larger single rotor collective pitch birds with fixed pitch, brushed electric motor tail rotors.
They are simply rotten to fly & learn on!
You need a belt driven or shaft driven tail rotor with variable pitch to react fast enough to correct for the ever changing (at times violent) reactive torque loads from the the main rotor.
Yes even more so when you’re first learning to hover so you’re not constantly fighting the tail.
A gear driven fixed pitch brushed motor driven tail rotor simply can’t respond fast enough (accelerate & decelerate) to keep the tail steady.
The tail holding and control is vague and twitchy at best causing constant tail blow out. On top of that, brushed tail motors are under enormous strain and usually burn out quickly. Yep, I harp on this point constantly because I’ve wasted too much of my own time & money on them.
There are exceptions to this rule and that is with the newer class of micro sized collective pitch helis that have small direct drive coreless or better yet, brushless tail motors such as the Blade 230S, Align T-Rex 150X, Blade Nano, or the XK K110.
These things are small and light enough that the fast accelerating and decelerating tiny coreless & brushless tail motors can keep up to the ever changing rotor torque reasonably well, give a reasonable tail hold, and don’t burn out on a monthly basis.
Brushless tail motors really are the superior/best option if you are looking at any heli with a motorized tail. They work well from about 120 size up to 250’s or so. Anything much bigger than a 250-300 size machine however, I highly recommend using a proper variable pitch tail rotor.
Much of this likely doesn’t make much sense to you right now, but it will. If you want to understand tail rotors more, please see my torque & yaw page.
The RC Controller (Radio) Is Just As Important As The Helicopter
The Computerized RC Radio Is Just As Importanant As The Collective Pitch Helicopter
The Computerized RC Radio Is Just As Importanant As The Collective Pitch Helicopter
Don’t forget about the radio (transmitter) either.
Once up to the level of single rotor collective pitch, especially in this day and age with electronic swash mixing, electric powered helicopters, flybarless systems with remote gains, flight & stabilization mode selections, and rescue features, the radio is just as important as the helicopter; much more so as far as I’m concerned. This applies to micro size CP’s right up to the big beasts.
My page on RC Radios goes into why computerized radios are so important as well as some suggestions of what to get/look for.
Too many people don’t follow this simple advice and are lured into a collective pitch RC heli purchase by low pricing, marketing hype, slick packaging, and eye candy (flashy colored anodized parts or multi-bladed rotor heads). On top of all the glitz you are then stuck with a toy like radio (transmitter) that will not allow you to set the helicopter up correctly and EVERYTHING about collective pitch success is in the setup.
Welcome to the money pit… Parts start failing and/or are completely inadequate and you find yourself spending way more on up-grades in parts and a computerized radio over getting what a decent quality collective pitch heli and computerized radio would have cost in the first place – please don’t make that same mistake.
What’s the best size collective pitch RC helicopter to learn on?
450 Size CP Helicopter – Best RC Helicopter Pick For Those Self Learning Collective Pitch
450 Size Collective Pitch RC Helicopters Rock!
Yes – I’m totally biased towards 450/325 size electrics (using apx. 300 to 380mm long rotor blades). This is due mainly to cost (both up front, for parts, & batteries) and the fact that the good ones work very well for beginner fliers right up to pros.
In short, one heli will follow you from your first one inch hop off the ground to your first loop, roll, or even scale fuselage if scale is your ultimate goal. 450’s are big enough to see in the sky, but small enough not to be overly intimidating/dangerous to learn/start on. Crashes won’t bankrupt you either.
450’s for the most part give you the most rotor size per dollar ratio of all collective pitch RC helicopter sizes ranging from micro up to monster. 450’s also give fairly long flight times per battery pack/charge. 450’s are the size of helicopter I recommend to my friends who don’t want to spend too much, but still want a decent & reliable size CP helicopter.
These to me are all very important benefits and why I personally consider 450’s the best collective pitch RC helicopter to start with and learn on. That of course doesn’t mean you will as well.
I know if I was just starting out in the RC heli hobby again and was looking for the best RC helicopter to learn and progress on – getting a name brand RTF 450 is the way I would go for all those aforementioned reasons.
450 Ready To Fly Packages = Best Overall Value
The Align Trex 450LP ARTF is a great ready to fly 450 size heli to start and learn on.
The Align Trex 450LP ARTF is a great ready to fly 450 size CP heli to start with and learn on.
To our delight, both Blade and Align have once again provided us with two great 450 size ready to fly (RTF) helicopter packages, perfect for beginners!
The Align Trex 450LP ARTF (links to my full write-up on it).
The Blade 330X (links to my write-up on it).
These two wonderful machines give the collective pitch newbie a couple decent 3S powered 450 size collective pitch heli options to learn on.
Some of us simply don’t want to waste our time or money on smaller micro size collective pitch helis. Hats off to Align & Blade!
One Of The Best RC Helicopter RTF Packages – The Blade 330X
The Blade 330X Ready To Fly 450 Size Helicopter Package. Another great 450 size machine to start with and learn on.
450/325 size RC helicopter kits = Much steeper learning curve, but better quality helicopter.
If I felt a little more ambitious and wanted to build a 450 heli from a kit; again a good name brand or good clone kit would be on my list.
450 size RC helicopter kit
450 Size RC Helicopter Kit
First off, if you don’t really know the difference between a kit build and ready to fly, my page on kits vs. RTF will answer your questions. It’s pretty hard to know if you would rather get a kit over a ready to fly, if you don’t know what’s involved in the building process of a kit.
Kit builds are not for newbies. I know of very few beginners new to the hobby who were successful starting out on a kit by themselves. Almost all needed some to lots of help with the build, setup, or both by myself or another instructor/experienced pilot.
If however you like working with your hands and have RC experience, will be joining a heli club or getting help from an experienced pilot, or are just naturally gifted at this, and want to build a 450 from a kit – you have many more options than you do with RTF! You’ll have a higher quality heli as well.
I still maintain if you are self learning, with this being your first collective pitch heli, a ready to fly package is your best and most economical option.
If you want to entertain the kit build route however, here are a few of my personal favorites on the market right now in the 450 size range (300 mm blades up to about 380mm). Something to think about perhaps for your second collective pitch RC helicopter after you learn to fly.
SAB’s Goblin Fireball (combo kit version)
Align’s 450L (super combo version)
Align’s T-Rex 470LM (super combo version)
Tarot’s 450 Pro (Align 450 clone)
ALZRC’s X360 (super combo version) (Gaui X3 Clone)
ALZRC’s Devil 380 (super combo version) (SAB Goblin 380 clone)
MSH’s Protos 380
Building An RC Helicopter Is Fun, But There Is Lots To Learn.
Building An RC Helicopter Is Fun, But There Is Lots To Learn.
450 Collective Pitch vs. Micro Collective Pitch
450 vs Micro Collective Pitch – Which Is The Best RC Helicopter To Self Learn On?
450 vs Micro Collective Pitch – Which Is The Best RC Helicopter To Self Learn On?
Another solid choice nowadays with the advent of tiny micro collective pitch helicopters like the aforementioned:
Blade Nano S2
The XK K110 Is A Very Good Micro Collective Pitch RC Helicopter To Start On
The XK K110 is a very good micro collective pitch RC helicopter for a very low cost! Best micro value of the bunch!
Micro’s like these are low cost and rather “crash proof” because of their low weight and low energy release when they hit something.
I personally feel the larger 450’s are still better to learn and progress on since you can “grow” into them, they last longer, fly better, have longer flight times per charge, and are way more stable. In fact, even the better quality micro’s I still consider to be somewhat disposable little money pits.
The tiny stuff just wears out much faster and is not built or designed to last; it’s that simple…
That said, many more people are “self learning” collective pitch flying skills these days on micros and doing so very successfully. There is no question, if you can fly a twitchy and reactive micro collective pitch heli, you’ll be able to fly any size. So I certainly do recognize them as excellent options too, and full well know 450’s are not for everyone.
It’s hard after all to justify a $500+ purchase when you don’t even know if you will like the hobby yet. Spending $100-$200 or so on a micro is not as risky.
On the flip side, I also know people who even found 450’s too small and overly twitchy, and only started having collective pitch fun & success when they went to a larger machine.
In short, there is no “best size heli” for everyone to learn on.
If you are intimidated by the size and cost of a 450, micro CP’s are an inexpensive way to be introduced into collective pitch provided you are not expecting too much out of them in terms of longevity.
Over and above the “disposable nature” of micros, they also all have short flight times and are hard to see at any distance. The benefit is they are very convenient for flying & practicing in your own yard, safe, and are not at all intimidating.
Don’t Overlook The Capable Middle Child.
The Blade 230S V2 is one of the best beginner collective pitch RC helicopters on the market.
One of the best beginner collective pitch RC helicopters on the market.
The Blade 230S V2, is one of the best “250 size” collective pitch RC helicopters for beginners on the market right now. I get so much positive feedback on this little helicopter, I have to include it on this page.
It’s spinning 235mm rotor blades and is about 475mm long (19 inches). Making it not much smaller than a 325/450 size heli, but substantially larger than one of the micros. It’s tough, has all the latest electronic stabilization help aids such as auto level, a good brushless tail motor, and decent flight times (upwards of 7 minutes or so). It also won’t break the bank (up front & for parts down the road).
If you feel 450 size it too big/expensive, yet don’t want to waste your money on a micro, the 230S V2 is a great/best option to consider. So many people have successfully learned flying collective pitch on the the previous version of the 230S, and version 2 is even better.
Well worth looking at in my opinion and I now consider it every bit as good as 450’s for beginners to start with – maybe even better 🙂
Parts Availability – The Best RC Helicopter Deal Breaker!
Yes, no matter how careful or good you are, you will need parts; either for repairs or maintenance.
This is something that many people don’t consider when making their first RC helicopter purchase, but you soon find out how important it is. If you can’t get parts or it takes many weeks or months to get parts, your helicopter is nothing more than a static model – very frustrating.
This again (as I have touched on numerous times already), is where getting into popular name brands or clones of name brands pays big dividends. The more hobby shops or online shops that carry your specific brand, the easier it will be getting parts from any source.
More aftermarket parts are available as well with the big name birds, which can be very advantageous for customizing or finding a part that the dealer doesn’t carry anymore.
Resale value & desirability are also going to be much better on most name brand heli gear so that is also something to take into consideration.
I always recommend if you have a decent local hobby shop (LHS), pay them a visit first and find out what brand/s they carry. Being able to run down to the LHS when you need a part or two will save you a lot of time & money over the years in shipping costs if you have to have parts shipped to you. Naturally if you have no LHS, or one that is not RC helicopter knowledgeable, that point is moot.
Collective Pitch RC Helicopter Tips eBook
If you’re self learning collective pitch, my Collective Pitch Setup & Tips eBook really dives head first into what you will need to know when starting out and learning to fly a CP helicopter.
It covers all heli sizes from micro to monster and if you are not really certain what’s involved with collective pitch yet, it’s an inexpensive way to learn about it before spending a bunch of money on a heli. You will also be much better versed in the “terminology” and be in a much better position to make an informed heli purchase decision afterward.
I also love helping my eBook customers! So if you’ve purchased this or any other eBook of mine and have narrowed your list down to a few helicopters, but still not sure which might be the best choice, please feel free to contact me and I’ll give you my friendly 2 cents worth 😉
Beginner’s Guide To Flying RC Helicopters eBook
The Beginner’s Guide To Flying RC Helicopters is another helpful eBook I offer, but is more focused toward true beginners. It covers all the various types of RC helicopters and is more of a general introduction to the hobby, whereas the Setup & Tips eBook is very topic specific on collective pitch