Our Top Pick for 2018: Syma S102G 3.5 Channel RC Helicopter with Gyro
Read our full review.
With the advent of drone technology and the controversy that comes with such nascent tech, there has been a renewed interest in radio-controlled flying. Mankind has had the desire to enter the skyways for millennia and doing so today is a cinch for hobbyists; simply purchase a RC helicopter or plane and take off! With model helicopters and airplanes, the realm of the high-flying is open for anyone. The market has a plethora of great radio-controlled options that will give you a sense of aerial adventure, but which model is best for you? For your consideration, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the three best radio-controlled helicopters on the market as well as a model that is perfect if you’re planning to work under a tighter budget.
Let’s Have a Quick Look of Our Top 4 Picks:
|Syma S102G 3.5 Channel RC Helicopter with Gyro||399 Reviews||$19.90||Buy on Amazon|
|Haktoys HAK303 Infrared Control 3.5 Channel 9'' RC Helicopter with Gyroscope Stabilization & LED...||91 Reviews||$29.95||Buy on Amazon|
|Hero RC H911 2.4GHZ iRocket 4 Channel Fixed Pitch Ready to Fly Helicopter with Battery, Balance Bar,...||375 Reviews||Currently not available||Buy on Amazon|
|Syma S107G 3 Channel RC Helicopter with Gyro, Blue||13,353 Reviews||from $19.99||Buy on Amazon|
#1. Syma S102G 3.5 Channel RC Helicopter with Gyro
One of the two Syma RC helicopters on our list, the S102G 3.5 Channel RC is a great radio-controlled aircraft for almost any level of hobbyist. Its manufacturer, Syma is well known for a plethora of radio-controlled devices that range from racing cars to a variety of civilian drones. As always, our Gold Pick experiences renown from both critics and consumers; each love this model’s accessibility and rich feature set.
The first thing that pops out at you when you look at Syma’s S102G, is that it utilizes two sets of rotors for this model of radio-controlled copter’s lift. The result of this four rotor system is that you’ll be able to achieve a near perfect hover and moving the copter backwards and forwards will be an absolute cinch. From an appearance perspective, this radio-controlled copter utilizes the form factor of the Vietnam era Blackhawk copters. Its durable plastic chassis is colored army green and the rotor blades are hued similarly. To give you a perspective on the dimensionality of this copter, it’s size is 8.7 inches in length, 1.5 inches in width, and 3.9 inches in height. The whole copter weighs about 14 ounces and is quite easy to heft.
Positioned along the undercarriage of this item are the three key components that will ensure years of usage and fun. First, is the on and off switch and its usage is very self-explanatory. Secondly, you’ll also find the infrared transmitter that broadcasts radio data to and from the included control unit. Finally, the third feature in this undercarriage area is the charger port. This radio-controlled device charges through a USB port that connects directly to your computer. You can also use the style of USB charging adapter that comes with a Smartphone or tablet to charge this device directly through a wall outlet.
Since it uses a LiPo battery that utilizes cells that hold a voltage of 3.7 volts each, you can expect about five minutes of flight time per 30 minute charging session. This RC unit utilizes blue LED lights for illumination and style, sports numerous decals that help add a bit of personality to the unit, and has uniform dimensions to ensure a stable flight. Also on the flight stability front, Syma included a built-in gyroscope for more stable flight characteristics.
This helicopter uses a 3.5 channel system for its AB infrared controller. The left joystick throttles the copter up and down and the right helps you adjust more finely tuned flight characteristics. With this stick you can rotate left and right, pitch forward and backwards, and use a combination of rotation and forward pitch. Nestled between these sticks is a rotatable knob that adjusts your helicopter’s trim, this helps you set your helicopter on a straight trajectory.
Simply put, this is one of the best radio-controlled helicopters on the market for beginners. It’s stability coupled with its movement options make it an absolute joy to operate. It’s durable and many of its parts are very easily replaced. In case of breakage, Syma was also kind enough to package in a replacement rear rotor.
As a Gold Pick product, you can expect superb reviews. Of the 788 reviews on Amazon, a clean 84 percent reported positive experiences with this radio-controlled heli. One five star rated review really summed up the flight experience: “The Syma S102g is a 5 star mini helicopter. This helicopter is slow enough for any beginner learning how to fly. This is a 3.5 channel, not a 3 channel. The difference is a 3.5 channel gyro will correct itself and will yaw in flight. A more realistic flight operation. The detail of 102g is realistic and the forward red and blue flashing lights look great.”
#2. Haktoys HAK303 Mini 3.5 Channel Easy & Ready to Fly RC Helicopter
Our Silver Pick is from another company that specializes in crafting responsive, quality-engineered radio-controlled devices for hobbyists. The Haktoys HAK303 has all of the features that make it a hit for anyone looking to take to the air.
When it comes to aesthetics, our Silver Pick varies greatly from our winner radio-controlled helicopter. Both possess a four blade main rotor system that will boost your aerial maneuverability by a sizeable degree, but that is where the design similarities end. The HAK303 sports a much more futuristic design that completely counters the classic design of the military-styled Blackhawk unit. Its size is also slightly larger than the Gold Pick; this device measure in at 8.9 inches long, two inches in width, and 4 inches in height. The entire unit weighs in at 12.8 ounces.
To start, this RC device has metal components for the undercarriage that look almost skeletal. Most noteworthy of these metal components is the tail, which is comprised of two metal beams that attach to the rear rotor assembly. Positioned alongside this metal chassis is an AC adapter plug for charging. This copter utilizes a LiPo battery for providing a steady charge to the helicopter. With 30 minutes of in-wall charging, you can expect around six to eight minutes of continuous flight time.
Also positioned on the side of the metal body, are two LED lights; one glows a bright red, and the other shines blue. During flight, these LEDs can flash intermittently; a function that’s particularly striking during low light situations. To complete the lighting profile, there is also a singular white LED on the front of the vehicle. Haktoys doesn’t recommend this device for the outdoors, though its lighting system does make it easily locatable at night, as long as it has a charge.
The cockpit area of this model sports a two toned coloring system that can either be blue and dark grey or green and dark grey. This part of the copter is comprised of a durable plastic that’s just flexible enough to take a few crashes with relative gusto. The rotors are a dark grey and have a diameter of 7.3 inches. They are durable and composed of a different style of plastic that is more pliable than the cockpit area of this device. The servo controlled blades, in addition to the built in gyroscope, allow for “true pitch” and a great since of stabilized flight.
As a RC device that communicates through infrared, this copter has a 50 foot range and utilizes a 3.5 channel infrared controller. The left stick controls throttle and the right manages more precision adjustments like pitching the copter forward or spinning it 360 degrees. Haktoys was also sure to include a control for trim, so that this RC device can move as straight as possible. This is a great copter for learning fine-tuned controls. Pilots can minutely adjust the speed via three settings on this unit by manipulating the switch that’s positioned in the top-middle of the infrared controller.
88 percent of the Amazon reviewers who purchased this unit felt that this radio-controlled helicopter was worth at least a four star rating. One five star reviewer thought that this unit deserved this testimonial: “This helicopter is great. It is very easy to fly once you’ve gotten some practice. I was a little worried that I would crash like crazy and it would bread right away, but it flies very well and it is very sturdy. The construction seems very good as well for those times I do end up crashing. It doesn’t feel all plasticy and cheap.”
#3. Hero RC H911 2.4GHZ iRocket Ready to Fly Helicopter
The first RC copter on our list with a single set of rotors, the H911 is produced by Hero and is an absolute excellent flier. The first thing that you might notice at first glance is the discontinuity in the design of this RC helicopter. The canopy is stylish and sleek; utilizing a modern helicopter design that looks great while flying. Directly contrasting this aesthetic is a WW II warbird-style nose art that makes the whole unit look scads more ferocious. While these two design features would seemingly oppose one another, the overall aesthetic works very well, especially when the helicopter is airborne. The coloration of this copter is a battlefield grey that looks great with the overall aesthetic.
The remainder of the RC helicopter utilizes a metallic wireframe-like design that extends from the landing skids to the single bar tail. The tail rotor is set just ahead of a rear fin that adds a somewhat shark-like profile to the entire device; a feature that works well with the jagged tooth design sported on the canopy. Insofar as materials, the undercarriage area is comprised of a sturdy metal piping, while the canopy and rotors are composed of a flexible, yet durable plastic.
This is the first RC heli on our list that the manufacturer has approved for outdoor flight, and towards this purpose, the H911 features two flight modes. The first, called learning mode, goes at a steady clip that has great control and maneuverability. The second mode, entitled experienced mode, is much faster and has a tight control scheme that might be a little too responsive for inexperienced pilots. This is a perfect setup because when learning the ins and outs of a new heli a boredom can set in that will make you become more restless and cause you to push the limits of your RC aircraft. This variable mode setting will help you unlock a brand new level of control and speed when you feel confident enough to try it.
In flight, this RC heli is very stables as it employs gyroscopes to stay upright and maintain its balance. Since it uses a single-tilting rotor, you can expect supreme maneuverability from this copter. The H911 uses a servo cyclic control scheme to tilt the single main rotor blade in one direction or another. This movement allows the heli to change direction rapidly and when combined with the copter’s variable swash plate, you’ll have some of the best movement available on a RC helicopter in this price range.
This RC helicopter’s controller is infrared-based like our previous picks but it also employs a LCD screen that adds a vast amount of functionality to the control experience. The LCD accurately displays distance to the copter, battery level, throttle level, and displays a great trim indicator.
75 percent of the reviews on Amazon are positive to at least a four or five star rating’s degree of positivity. One reviewer who felt this is a five star level product said, “After reading some forums, there were nothing but rave reviews for the WL Toys V911 (a single bladed fixed pitch heli) as the next step from three channel coax helis…so I bought one. After receiving it I was literally wow’d by its speed, agility, and stability. It was as stable as a coax but could tear across the room with just a slight push of the stick. What an amazing heli! I’ve flown the V911 at least once a day for the last few weeks and am still amazed with it.”
#4. Syma S107G 3 Channel RC Helicopter with Gyro
RC flight doesn’t have to be something that you have to pay a lot of money for. When you are ballin’ on a budget but want to explore the great blue yonder, your amateur avionic dreams don’t have to be crushed. Our final budget pick is a great little flyer produced by the same company who manufactures our Gold Pick: Syma.
Sporting four dragonfly-like rotors, the S107G is a pretty machine. The entire machine is crafted of a lightweight, glossy metal that is colored a combination of white and blue. Its overall design is somewhat reminiscent of our Silver Pick, with metal piping comprising the tail and skid sections of the heli. The blue paint on the canopy is actually very textured-looking and adds to the overall aesthetic of the copter.
To charge this Syma RC helicopter, simply plug the yellow-colored USB wire to either your computer or a wall adapter. As a visual cue, once the heli is charged, the USB side of the wire will glow brightly. The infrared controller is virtually indistinguishable from the one included in our Gold Pick; and as a result, you’ll find that all of the controls on this copter are firm and responsive when you need them to be. With a charging time of 40 minutes, you can expect around seven minutes of continuous flight.
This is a well liked product. On Amazon, 79 percent of an amazing 4,326 reviewers felt that this is a great item that’s worth at least a four star rating. One of the more useful reviews for this product is actually a four star review that extols its ease-of-control: “The Syma S107 is so easy to control that on my first flight I had it tour my whole apartment, zooming in and out of closets and never touching an obstacle until I deliberately landed it. If you’ve never flown a good RC heli before, you might need to practice a bit. It might be your second or third flight before you get that good.”
The sheer amount of variability in the world of radio-controlled helicopters can stagger the mind. Each type of RC helicopter functions somewhat differently from the others, but all will provide high-flying fun for yourself and your loved ones. Here are the different types:
• Toy Style – The kind that many might remember being hawked by street vendors. These can be cheaply constructed yet yield hours of aerial memories for children; at least until they invariably fall apart or cease to function. There isn’t much control for this type but their inexpensive nature makes them the flight simulation device of choice for children and beginner RC flyers.
• Hobby Style – This type is a little more serious than the toy style helicopter. Generally, they are larger than their toy counterparts, and you can typically replace parts with much more ease. They also have a wider range of movement due to a twin rotor construction.
• Quadrocopter Style – An even more advanced type of RC helicopter. These types can take off vertically, execute hovers, and turn on a dime. This is accomplished by the usage of four propellers.
• Micro Single Rotor Style – A great RC helicopter type for entry level hobbyists, the micro single rotor type of RC helicopter bridges the gap between toy and hobby style with a slightly more difficult flying experience coupled with more overall stability.
All of these styles encompass every skill level, so learning to fly one of these devices can be a task done on a progressive scale. When looking for a new RC helicopter, be sure to find one that fits your skill level. Are you new to the hobby? Don’t be embarrassed to grab a toy style that will help you earn your wings. Are you of a more intermediate skill level? Then, try out a Quadrocopter for size.
For those RC helicopters that rely on an electric power source, charge is a major factor that you should consider when looking to purchase one of these machines. The types of electric batteries that are utilized in these types of helicopters are nickel-metal hydride (NiMH), nickel-cadmium (NiCAd), and lithium polymer (LiPo). All of these types utilize a cell structure, with each squeezing a certain voltage into each cell. As a rule, nickel-based batteries such as NiMH and NiCAd batteries deliver around 1.2 volts per cell and LiPo can deliver around 3.7 volts per cell. Flying time will intrinsically depend on the amount of cells and thusly the full voltage of your copter’s battery; as a result of this, you’ll get more charge and thusly more flying time when you use a copter with a LiPo system of electrical charge.
In any situation, flying time will vary, though many RC helicopters can accomplish up to 15 minutes of aerial performance. It’s a great rule of thumb to bring extra rechargeable batteries for your device if it can accommodate them. This isn’t as much of a major consideration if you are planning to do the majority of your flying indoors.
Fuel Power Sources
The most common chemical power source for RC helicopters is glow fuel. Glow fuel is a combination of nitromethane and methanol that can provide up to ten minutes of flight time, dependent on your engine. Despite the name, this type of fuel does not actually glow but is actually in reference to the ignition source which is called a glow plug. Copters that use this type of fuel are sometimes called nitro RC helicopters. Chemically powered RC helicopters tend to be a lot louder than batter powered types because of the movement of their internal motors. When looking to purchase this type, be sure to consider if you’ll be flying it in a residential neighborhood where the loud engine noise might annoy residents.
Number of Channels
The number of channels that a helicopter receives will greatly affect the complexity of flying. More complex helicopters will have more channels, each radio frequency sending commands to different parts of the model’s components. Typically, most models utilize a two channel system; one channel controls the turning or the yaw of the copter, while the second channel directly affects the model’s speed. Those copters with a third channel can add additional movements to your RC helicopter, including backwards flying. Finally, copters with even more channels will give you control over tilting the rotor for pitch adjustments and moving wing flaps for greater control.
Another highly variable trait of RC helicopters, composition can change from model to model. Some common materials that are used to create these types of radio-controlled entertainment are carbon fiber, aluminum, glass-reinforced plastic, and standard plastic. A RC copter’s composition will greatly affect it’s durability, flight characteristics, and even its overall charge. Composition is something that you should definitely consider when buying one of these items as it will affect your ease of carrying and flight time.
Conclusion (Wrapping it up)
Tackling the ever-mysterious and fun to explore skies is made much easier when you have a quality craft to adventure with. The RC helicopters on our list are all excellent machines that won’t cost a ton of money to pick up and fly with. Each is unique with its own flying style and features and each will satisfy your innate desire to explore, so take a look at the models we’ve presented here, get to know what you need to look for by consulting our pre-purchase considerations, and find the radio-controlled craft that will fulfill your aerial wanderlust.