Advice for Parents

When it comes to selecting a present for your son or daughters Christmas or Birthday it can be very difficult to decide what to buy. Choosing which is the best radio controlled model helicopter to buy is no easier task!

If looking around on supermarket, department stores and shops you are presented with lots of gift ideas, especially radio controlled models. One of the more popular items on the shelves is a radio controlled model helicopter. Most seem good value at under £30 and as cheap as £12 but these are just simple toys and far from flying a ‘real’ model helicopter. Their fun factor is short lived as generally they just go up and down and spin around a bit with limited real control. Some costing £50 may provide better control but are too big for indoor use and can only operate outdoors in flat calm conditions, which is not very often here in the UK! Children can pick up the knack of flying radio controlled helicopters much more quickly than adults so starting them out at an early stage is a good idea.

If you want a gift that may well lead to a real lifetime hobby then you need to spend a little more and get a model that has proper controls, not generally one you will find in your local supermarket! My advice is to visit your local radio controlled model shop (if you have one) who will provide help and support. You can locate your local shop by using this link.

But I suggest you try to buy my favourite starter indoor helicopter, the E-flite Blade mCX RTF. This model has a full 4-channel control so you have full control over the model and prepares your child with the skills needed to progress to more difficult to fly and challenging models, such as the E-flite Blade mSR. If you are more adventurous and have enough funds, then you could consider an outdoor quad copter. This have historically been a bit expensive but Blade have just released the 350 QX which even has GPS built in so it can maintain its position automatically and even fly itself back to it take off position if required! For £270 for the complete BNF (Bind And Fly) model with the only the addition of a suitable Spektrum transmitter required (such as the DX6i for about £80) you have a great outdoor model that is ready to accept a GoPro camera for aerial filming duties!

The hobby of radio controlled helicopter flying is not cheap as you progress but few hobbies are these days (with the exception of train spotting) but is no more expensive than a computer game addiction! Once indoor flying has been mastered, then they can progress to larger outdoor models so at least gets them away from the TV.

I do suggest that in most cases your child needs to be 12 or above to get the most from this hobby but younger children will be able to cope with adequate supervision from an adult, as long as you stick with coaxial bladed models or a small quadcopter as they are very stable.

Consider buying a Helicopter RC simulator program for running on a PC (or Mac) if you want them to develop their flying skills safely. It is also cheaper in the long run than repairing expensive broken models! Packages are available that include a remote control dummy transmitter, which plugs into a USB port, to allow simulation of all the controls.

WARNING: In the UK any drone or RC aircraft over 250 grams in weight requires an operators licence and flyer ID (pass a simple online test), obtained via the CAA registration website here. Similar schemes operate throughout Europe and in other parts of the world. Do not fly without following the rules!
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