Typical 2-Stroke Model Helicopter Engine
Model Helicopter engine

All the first model helicopters used an internal combustion engine (IC for short) to power them. At first they were simply taken from model aircraft but later on special versions were produced to better suit model helicopters (fitted with large heat-sinks for example).

There is still nothing like the sight (smoke) sound and smell of a nitro methanol powered model flying! When properly setup it can be very fast to land, re-fuel and get back in the air, but it is not without its issues!

Firstly you need to have suitable starting equipment. These models need a battery to energise a glow plug, which is then disconnected after the engine is running, and an electric starter motor with associated battery, for turning the engine over (like a car started motor) in order to get the engine running until self sustained. Once the engine fires up the starter is remover and the glow plug supply disconnected. (The combustion heat from the fuel keeps the glow plug hot to continue the combustion cycle.)

A typical starter, used to get the engine running.
Engine starter

As can be seen lots of additional items are required to operate an IC model over an electric one. You also need some fuel of course and a means of getting the fuel into (and out of) the model. This is normally achieved by using a fuel pup (hand operated or electric) and some silicone tubing. It can all seem to be very messy but does add to the feeling you are doing some ‘proper’ flying!

Today with the concerns about noise and the improvement in battery technology the use of IC is diminishing and electric has largely taken over.

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