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Have Heli's Improved in the last 10 years?


Active member
After about 30 years of trying I have finally been able to fly rc planes and now quads. I'm still learning but 90% of the time I can fly what I build. Thank you Flite Test. Now about 10-12 years ago I tried my hand at electric heli's and unfortnately I chose walkera products from ebay. Not sure how the quality of walkera is now but back then it was pretty bad. I wasted a lot of money on electric heli's and never even got one to hover. With the advance of programmed flight controllers I'm wondering if they are any easier to fly. I built a versacopter and I actually flew it quite a few times until I crashed the hell out of it and broke a bunch of stuff. I'm still working on rebuilding it. So how are heli's these days?


Winter is coming
I would say it depends but in general, yes, helis and multirotors have influenced each other for the better. Staying with the flybarless helis which used to have super pricey flight controllers which have gotten cheaper and better. Heck even blheli started as an open source project to improve the mcpx helicopter. The main motor and tail motor versions of the software also shows how they have gotten mechanically simpler by using a separate tail motor. Some of the blade cphelis also have self leveling as an emergency "safe" function that can automatically right itself even from an inverted orientation.
Helis have come a looong way since you last tried. Like you I owned some Walkera helis back in the day and they were pretty bad. If you want to dip your toe back in here is a good option:


You could also go over to helifeak.com, it is a helis dedicated forum. There is plenty of information available and plenty of people willing to help point you in the right direction. There is a section dedicated to the heli above if you want to glean some first hand info on it.
I don't have any experience with the newer flybarless heli's with a 3 or 6-axis gyro. But I find the traditional flybar heli's to be pretty stable and fun to fly. A helicopter is still a helicopter and the typical quadrotor pilot with no heli experience will crash one within 5 seconds of takeoff with lots of wild manuveurs - unless it's one of the newer flybarless designs with a gyro or controller. But you don't really learn how to fly a helcopter with those. A computer flies it and the pilot only makes requests to the computer. If you really want to learn how to fly a heli, the best is to pick up a used flybar machine, and go get some instruction from an experienced pilot. You will find the experience much more rewarding with fewer crashes and broken parts.

The other thing with heli's is that the focus these days is on sport aerobatics and 3D. Forget all that. It actually takes a LOT more practice to become an accomplished scale pilot than it does full-stick 3D flying. I've seen lots of 3D pilots that, when taking off and landing, simply slam in full collective and launch like an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, fly like they're drunk for 5 minutes, then simply plop it back on the ground. They never learned how to fly a helicopter and 99% are flying heli's with 3 or 6-axis gyro's/stabilizers.

Here is a YouTube example of an exceptional scale pilot flying a turbine Trex with just a flybar and no gyro's doing any "hand holding". It takes a lot, and I mean a LOT, of practice to get this good. But when you get there, the rewards are huge because you know you're good, it took a lot of practice and time to get there, and that makes it all worthwhile. IMO if you just go buy an electronic stabilized helicopter, or don't get any flight instruction, you're not going to get the same experience and satisfaction with it. Even myself, as a fairly experienced heli pilot, when I bought my used Trex 500 I had questions on how to set it up. I'd never flown anything that small, and never flown an electric before. I didn't get any satisfaction asking on forums, so I went and sought out the advice of an experienced pilot in the RC club who had flown that model, knows what it's capable of, and how to set it up. That "hands on" makes all the difference.

The 3 and 6 axis controllers don't fly the bird for you. Even the Trex 700 in the video above has a tail gyro on it so there is already a controller involved. The modern flybarless controllers give a wonderful flight experience, however, you can still wad the bird up in about half a second.

I was a flybar holdout for a while until I wanted to see what the fuss was about. Shortly thereafter the flybar and rotorhead became a decoration on my workbench!
Oh sure. But I would have to disagree to a certain extent on the FBL controller not flying the heli for you. Take it off a FBL or DFC helicopter. Even put a good old tail lock gyro on it if you want. Hook the head servos direct to the receiver. Then go try to fly it. It can be done. It's how we all learned how to fly heli's 30 years ago. And it's not pleasant. In fact, it's downright hair-raising (if I had any hair left to raise).


Obsession, not hobby
I second the Blade 230 S. I've been subscribed to that thread on RCG for a while now and many say it's one of the best beginner helis, of course after some fixed pitch experience. I have the mSR, mCPX V2 and Walkera V450D01. I've been wanting to get the 230 S but at the moment, quads and FPV are distracting me. The only thing that scares me with the helis, which has happened a lot, is they become discontinued before I really get into a particular model.


Winter is coming
Yes, I would add that most FBL controllers are programmed so that they're close to what a traditional fly-bar equipped heli with only a tail gyro with adjustable gain/hold strength. That basically means, in multirotor terms, they only have a rate/acro mode, and high rates/sensitivity. You'll still feel like it's similar to balancing a marble... on top of a pool/billiards ball.

Some of the manufacturers, like blade have started adding a "beginner" self-level mode in addition to the traditional rate/acro mode, since it's really mostly just software.

Heli's still are pretty fiddly and are probably even more so now with those FBL controllers. Leveling the swash, getting your pitch rates and motor speeds working well, etc... if you thought multirotor PID tuning is tedious... well, you add all that along with some FBL controllers also having PID adjustments... sheesh!


Well-known member
I would definitely say that Helis have advanced quite a bit. As others mentioned, the auto level "panic button" features are fantastic for beginners, and will save you a lot of pain. One of the fantastic things that has happened is big advances in scale Helis. Flybarless controllers have made multiblade heads much more practical, and have made tuning much easier in some cases. My 500 AH-6 Little Bird uses an ikon FBL that can be programmed over Bluetooth from a phone. This way, all of those finicky adjustments can be done in 15 min at the field, rather than being plugged into a computer for every change in settings.


Hi tread

I just joined and thought I would share a fun build I've been working on.

I used to fly gas helis. I took my old Concept 30 frame and canopy and turned it into a quad.

I'm still experimenting with props and weight capability but so far it's showing good results.

Eliminating the tail rotor all together I thought would just look funny so I just shortened it and use it to hold the Vtx.

Obviously this will not do 3D but it could be an FPV machine. Not sure what I'll do with it yet.