RC Helicopter or Plane Recommendation
November 19, 2013 6:03 AM   Subscribe

Looking to purchase an indoor Remote Control (RC) helicopter or place.

I have always wanted a small indoor remote control (RC) indoor helicopter (or even airplane) that I could use in my house (living room) or at the office. I always thought it would be fun to bring it in on a late Friday afternoon and buzz people before we knock off for the weekend!

Anyway, I know there are a lot of them available on eBay and other sites, so I am looking for some recommendations from the people here. Does anyone have any suggestions of what I should buy or what I should avoid?

Again, indoor use is what I am aiming at. IF it can fly outside....bonus. But I can't seem myself going to the park at this stage (maybe I would work up to that). I am a beginner (pure novice) at this, so ease of use would be a bonus. Budget is my biggest concern. The lower price, the better, as I was hoping to spend certainly less than $100 on it. This could be a gateway into a hobby (who knows), but I don't want to spend any more on it at first, in case I don't take to it and it just sits there on my desk.

Does anyone have any recommendations of helicopters? Planes? Bimps, etc that would suit my needs. Just curious. Thanks,

P.S. I know there have been a couple of older posts on ask before, but I figured that since they are 5+ years old, there might be some new products or developments since then?
posted by dbirchum to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I have this exact helicopter - it works pretty well indoors and can be controller fairly well. Not tried it outside.

I'm no RC hobbyist but the reviews there seem to say it's pretty good for an indoor copter.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:08 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, you charge it via a USB cable which is handy as you can plug it into your PC/laptop.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:09 AM on November 19, 2013

Best answer: I bought this one. It's a little more difficult to fly than the twin-rotor designs, but it has more degrees of freedom. It's rated to fly outside in calm winds, but it's incredibly light and I've found it to be really finicky outside. One complaint I have about it is that the trim goes out of whack as the battery dies, so it can be a little tricky to fly with the two joysticks and press buttons to retrim at the same time.

It comes with a ton of spare parts, too, in case you smash it up badly. I think this platform must have a small hobbyist movement behind it, because you can find individual parts for sale all over, also, if you feel like tinkering with it.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:23 AM on November 19, 2013

Oh, I should also mention that I've owned a bunch of tiny indoor RC helicopters over the past five or so years and this is by far the sturdiest one I've had. Battery technology seems to have really improved, too.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:26 AM on November 19, 2013

Best answer: I can vouch for the Syma 107s. They fly well inside and can do OK outside if the sun's not too bright (the remote control is IR). My kids have taken theirs outside at night and they look pretty cool flying around. And the price is right.

Buy some replacement rotors at the same time. You can get little parts kits that have everything you need to replace the rotors after you've run into the walls a few times. We had to order our parts from Hong Kong, but maybe there are more vendors now selling them.

My only observation is that your flying time is pretty limited - around 5 minutes. Charging takes longer than 5 minutes, and the advice we saw awhile back was to buy a few of them and rotate through them.
posted by jquinby at 6:30 AM on November 19, 2013

The $40 Hubsan quads are enormous fun and surprisingly easy to fly. get spares.
posted by scruss at 7:48 AM on November 19, 2013

Don't go too cheap, and you should be fine. I've been playing with the little helicopters since they came out, and they're a lot better and easier to control these days. I don't think you'll find a workable RC airplane for office use--they just fly too fast to easily control.

Quadcopter is the way to go, but it'll be a lot more than $40. I'm getting one, though!
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:55 AM on November 19, 2013

Best answer: My suggestion is the Syma X1 quadcopter. I've bought three in the last couple months because they are so incredible. Durable like you would not believe, I crash as much as I fly. Indoor, outdoor, no problem! Cheap! $30-35 at the big online store... Comes with everything you need, although you might be inclined to search for extra batteries at some point. A good forum thread (completely)covering the Syma X1.
posted by Nosmot at 8:10 AM on November 19, 2013

Upon non-preview--I don't want to look like I'm contradicting scruss. I didn't know quads had dropped that low. My Amazon wishlist is getting a few additions today.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:27 AM on November 19, 2013

I've had a blast with this ardrone, but it costs around $300. It can be controlled from any smartphone, or computer if you can tinker with free code. Fly it indoors or out. It has a built-in camera for photos or video capture. It is controlled with wifi. My model is now 4 years old so they might have better models out now.
posted by nogero at 9:42 AM on November 19, 2013

Do you have a hobby shop locally? Do they have a brand of micro helicopters they sell? You will eventually crash the thing and need to buy a new part or a new battery. If there's a local store to pop down to it's much easier to get back in to the air quickly. Whatever they sell would be a big determining factor in my purchase decision.

I'd shy away from anything with an IR controller. They're not terribly reliable and the range is much shorter than RF.

Helicopters are hard to fly starting out. I'd recommend you pick something with a co-axial rotor head for maximum stability.

Take a look at the Blade mCX from Horizon Hobby. They make a Ready-to-Fly kit that comes with everything you need for around eighty bucks. They can really take a beating and keep flying (important while you're learning), you can replace parts when they break, and if you decide you'd like to persue RC as a hobby they're a good gateway in, as you'll have a controller that'll work with many, many of the other models Horizon makes (including the Blade mQR if you want to try out a quad rotor or the ParkZone Vapor slow-flyer if you want to try a plane instead of a heli).
posted by word_virus at 11:22 AM on November 19, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks all -

I was at a local mall today and there was a kiosk selling RC toys. Skyline rc toys.

Anyone heard of them? The guy showed me the smallest one - $50. He flew it for a little while - looked super easy. He crashed it for me a couple of times (on purpose) and it suffered NO damage. He said they also sell spare parts.

Not sure of any of the specs. Anyone familiar with this company?
posted by dbirchum at 11:35 AM on November 19, 2013

Best answer: Check out Xheli.com, they have videos, tech support, and very good prices. I've ordered a few from them.
posted by Sophont at 5:54 PM on November 19, 2013

I just bought a Hubsan X4 107L (the L is important, it's slightly improved) for my girlfriend, and it was so much fun to fly that I ended up buying a second one for myself, even though I have a stable of larger custom-built quadrotors to fly outdoors.

Make sure you buy spare rotor blades (they damage easily in crashes), spare batteries (you only get about 5 minutes on a charge, and they take 30+ minutes to recharge), and the little plastic blade guard (adds 3 grams, but makes props last longer and also reduces the odds of damaging other peoples' faces.
posted by Alterscape at 8:23 AM on November 22, 2013

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