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Introduction to RC Helicopter Gyros, Rate & Heading Hold

The gyro is an essential component in many rc helicopters. Gyros in rc helicopters are most commonly used to control unwanted movement on the yaw axis. When an rc helicopter rotates on its yaw axis, the direction the nose points (the heading) changes. The yaw gyro’s job is to sense any undesired rotation around the yaw axis (clockwise or counterclockwise rotation when viewed from above), and to automatically correct the orientation of the rc helicopter. Without a yaw gyro, even if the rc helicopter was trimmed out to fly straight initially, it would eventually begin to drift and rotate right or left. Normal maneuvering of the rc helicopter and external forces can result in undesired yaw rotation. When this occurs, the gyroscope senses this change in yaw and corrects it by controlling the thrust generated by the tail rotor to compensate for the rotation. This results in stable flight for the rc helicopter and no undesired changes in yaw.

Old rc helicopter gyros operated by using the inertia of a spinning weighted wheel. The wheel would resist changes in orientation, due to it’s angular momentum. A sensor would monitor the orientation of the spinning wheel and use it as a reference to compare to the rest of the rc helicopter. However, these gyros were heavy and consumed energy to keep the wheel spinning. As technology improved new rc helicopter gyros were developed. The solid state gyro has no moving parts, consumes less electricity than its mechanical counterpart, and is more crash resistant.

There are two important types of rc helicopter gyro. The rate gyro senses changes in yaw, and applies corrective action. When the motion stops, the gyro stops correcting. There are two disadvantages to this type: first, although this gyro stops the motion of the rc helicopter, it does not return it to it’s original heading. In other words, if a force were applied to an rc helicopter in level flight, it would turn and then the gyro would stop this motion. The end result would be that the rc helicopter has been turned to a new heading. A second disadvantage is that since the gyro only corrects after the motion has been detected, and the corrective action is always a little late.

The heading hold gyro operates in the same way as the rate gyro, with the exception being that after yaw movement has been corrected it returns the nose of the rc helicopter to it’s original position. This type of gyro does not stop giving commands to the tail rotor when motion stops, but will continue giving these commands to hold the nose of the rc helcopter in a certain orientation. Even more advanced gyros of this type will interpret the yaw requests that the pilot is sending through the radio control system, and will make whatever corrections are necessary to cause the rc helicopter to yaw at the desired rate. With this type of gyro, an rc helicopter will turn equally even in a crosswind.

Even though the heading hold gyro has many advantages, it places several demands on the rest of the rc helicopter system. It will require a very fast tail rotor servo, and a powerful battery to supply the servo, which will be required to make very fast corrections. This can strain the servo, and consume more power. The rc helicopter battery will need to supply the gyro and servos, so a higher capacity battery is better. However, the larger the battery, the larger the weight. An rc helicopter with a heading hold gyro and fast servos can use significantly more power than a less aggressive rc helicopter with a rate gyro.

Clearly, there are many choices of gyros for the rc helicopter pilot, each with it’s own advantages and disadvantages. When choosing a gyro system for your rc helicopter, be sure to consider battery capacity and weight, how you will be flying, and the type of servos with your radio system.

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Posted in Gyro Stabilization for RC Helicopters

Introduction to RC Helicopter Flight Simulators

Flying your rc helicopter for the first time can be risky, especially if you have not had prior experience. Using a simulator is a good way to see what the hobby is all about and to practice without risking a crash.

There are many simulators available, both commercial products and free software. Any of them can provide a realistic way to try flying an rc helicopter. There are several benefits of using a flight simulator, the most important being you cannot damage a model while learning how to fly. Simulators can provide a good way to improve your flying skills. Many simulators support using your actual rc helicopter transmitter to control the simulated model, further enhancing the realism, while others require the use of a controller specifically designed to connect to your computer and simulate an rc transmitter. RC helicopter simulators will allow you to fly a variety of models, under different conditions. Most simulators will allow you to adjust various flight parameters. This means that you can simulate your own rc helicopter, and even simulate equipment failures. Unlike real flying, the simulator is not dependent on weather or time of day. Some simulators have training systems that will let you control different axis of motion, while the simulator controls the rest. This makes learning easy for the beginner.

Some available simulators include:

  • The Dave Brown Products Ratio Control Flight Simulator 2001
  • The Great Planes RealFlight R/C Flight Simulator G-3
  • The Flying Model Simulator (FMS) – free!

There are many more simulators to be found online. Much of this software is upgradeable, and expansions can be either ordered, or found online. Flight simulators are a great way to learn to fly, without risking your expensive model.

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Posted in RC Helicopter Simulators

Flytech BladeStar RC Helicopter Announced by WowWee

Popular toy manufacturer WowWee has announced the Flytech Bladestar, a totally new type of rc helicopter which should become available this Feburary.

Flytech Bladestar RC Helicopter

The BladeStar rc helicopter uses a single main blade along with small propellers mounted on the ends of two arms or ‘booms’. Sensors incorporated into the Flytech BladeStar allow it to fly autonomously and avoid bumping into walls or objects. In addion to this ‘auto pilot’ mode, it can also be controlled using its 3 channel digital IR remote to control (with beginner and expert level settings).

See a video of the BladeStar on YouTube.

The BladeStar rc helicopter recharges from the remote control and reports indicate that it will fly for 5 to 15 minutes and take about 20 minutes to charge. An optional combat feature which will allow you to shoot other BladeStar rc helicopters out of the air (or get shot out of the air yourself) had been mentioned. The Flytech BladeStar rc helicopter is suitable for indoor flight only, and is constructed from durable crash-resistant materials. Additional information is available on the official web site.

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Posted in Latest RC Helicopter News

Interactive Toy Concepts Announces The World’s Smallest RC Helicopter

Interactive Toy Concepts has announced a remote controlled toy it is billing as the world’s smallest helicopter. It is a smaller version of their Micro Mosquito helicopter, called the Mosquito Micro Aerial Vehicle (MAV). The Mosquito MAV is an indoor RC helicopter measuring only 2.5 inches tall, 4 inches long, with a rotor diameter of 3.5 inches.

The Mosquito MAV features dual counter-rotating rotors geared to a single motor, with a vertical tail rotor for yaw control (steering), much like the Interactive Toy Concepts Black Ghost, but smaller. It has a twenty foot range, and is powered by an internal lithium polymer battery that lasts for 7 minutes. Recharging is said to only take five minutes, which would make it one of the fastest charge times on any rc helicopter. This Mosquito MAV helicopter will be available this year at most major retail and electronic stores for $49.99.

The Mosquito MAV combines the style of the Micro Mosquito with the design and precise flight control of the Black Ghost, all in the smallest helicopter design so far.Mosquito MAV helicopter

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Posted in Latest RC Helicopter News

Draganflyer RC Helicopters in VECPAV Autonomous Control System At Vanderbilt University, NV, USA

Using the Draganflyer electric remote control helicopter (manufactured by Draganfly Innovations Inc) Vanderbilt University has developed the Vanderbilt Embedded Computing Platform for Autonomous Vehicles (VECPAV). This system is able to control an aerial or ground vehicle autonomously (without a pilot).

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (PRWEB) November 20, 2007 — Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN has successfully used the Draganflyer electric rc helicopter for autonomous vehicle research, involving flight by computer control without human input. The project is called VECPAV (Vanderbilt Embedded Computing Platform for Autonomous Vehicles). VECPAV is intended to create and develop autonomous control systems for unmanned aerial and ground vehicles. These control systems eliminate the need for an operator by substituting intelligent control software and electronics. This research is part of a larger project aimed at improving the design of hybrid systems which use embedded electronics and software to control mechanical devices used in performance-critical and safety-critical applications.

Prof. T. John Koo, VECPAV Project, Draganflyer

Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN has successfully used the Draganflyer electric rc helicopter for autonomous vehicle research, involving flight by computer control without human input. The project is called VECPAV (Vanderbilt Embedded Computing Platform for Autonomous Vehicles). VECPAV is intended to create and develop autonomous control systems for unmanned aerial and ground vehicles. These control systems eliminate the need for an operator by substituting intelligent control software and electronics. This research is part of a larger project aimed at improving the design of hybrid systems which use embedded electronics and software to control mechanical devices used in performance-critical and safety-critical applications.

Prof. T. John Koo, VECPAV Project, Draganflyer

Having autonomous control over a vehicle creates many benefits and removes the need for continuous human input. This could be applied to full size vehicles, allowing cars to drive themselves, or allowing automated vehicles to perform tasks in hazardous conditions. This would eliminate the risks normally faced by an on-board operator. By removing the operator and related systems from the vehicle, it also allows for increased payloads, smaller sizes, and increased mobility.

VECPAV Project Configuration

The VECPAV system uses a sensor tracker to monitor the motion and position of a Draganflyer rc helicopter by using identifier points on the helicopter. The system then analyzes this data and sends commands back to the Draganflyer rc helicopter through a radio control transmitter, telling the Draganflyer rc helicopter to maintain position or move through its flight plan. Videos of Draganflyer helicopters flying autonomously can be found on the VECPAV homepage, and This YouTube Video. In addition to being successfully used to control Draganflyer electric rc helicopters, the VECPAV system has also been implemented on ground based scale model vehicles.


As a result of his efforts on the VECPAV project, team leader Prof. T. John Koo has been recognized with an NSF (National Science Foundation) CAREER Award: Computation Platform for the Design of Hybrid Systems. This award is considered a highly prestigious honor. Prof. T. John Koo is now at Shantou University, China, where he plans to build on and extend what he has achieved at Vanderbilt.

The Draganflyer radio control rc helicopter has also been used in similar projects such as the MIT Aerospace Controls Laboratory’s UAV SWARM Health Management Project and the Stanford Testbed of Autonomous Rotorcraft for Multi-Agent Control. The Draganflyer rc helicopter is well suited for these applications because it is a stable aerial platform with fewer moving parts than a standard rc helicopter. The Quad-Rotor Draganflyer rc helicopter manoeuvres by varying the thrust generated from each of its four rotors. With one rotor at each corner, differential thrust causes the airframe to rotate and change direction. This eliminates the need for the linkages and components used on conventional rc helicopters that vary the pitch of the main rotor blades in order to manoeuvre. With fewer moving parts, there are fewer things to wear out, and less maintenance required. Because it is an electric rc helicopter, the Draganflyer is safe to use indoors. Its small size allows it to be used in smaller areas than conventional rc helicopters. The Draganflyer rc helicopter is manufactured and sold by Draganfly Innovations.

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Posted in Electric RC Helicopters - Coaxial Helis, Latest RC Helicopter News, Quad-Rotor RC Helicopter Design, RC Helicopter Unmanned Drones and UAVs

Hiroki Ito Wins Japanese F3C Championship using Thunder Power RC Batteries

Hiroki Ito is one of four Japanese team members to place in the top 10 of the Japanese F3C Competition on October 20-21, 2007 while using Thunder Power RC batteries.

Hiroki Ito - Japanese F3C Champion

Competition Winners:

  • 1st – Ito (EP Thunder Power RC)
  • 2nd – Sensui
  • 3rd – Dobashi
  • 4th – Hashimoto
  • 5th – Sawamura
  • 6th – Kobayashi (EP Thunder Power RC)
  • 7th – Kunii (EP Thunder Power RC)
  • 8th – Iso
  • 9th – Nonogaki
  • 10th – Hutatugi (EP Thunder Power RC)

Thunder Power RC Japanese F3C Team

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Posted in Latest RC Helicopter News

New Books and DVDs for Model RC Helicopter Enthusiasts Released by Traplet Publications

Traplet Publications, has published three new books on rc helicopters and one new rc helicopter DVD.

Three new model rc helicopter books:
R/C Model Helicopters: A Guide for Beginners by Malcolm Messiter (covers electric power as well as internal combustion engines and includes tips and advice on buying, building, flying and maintaining model helicopters – everything the beginner needs to know, from choosing or building the model to installing the components of the radio)
Building Scale Helicopters by Peter Wales (who won the Top Gun Trophy for helicopters in 2001 and went on to win the US Nationals for RC Helicopters for the following three years)
3D Helicopter Flying by Russ Deakin (covers the many skills that are needed in order to take part in 3D helicopter flying)

New rc helicopter DVD:
Small Rotors DVD by Nigel Cartwright (an introduction to the wide range of model helicopters available from low-cost beginner’s models to powerful advanced helicopters, capable of full 3D aerobatics)

About Traplet Publications
Traplet Publications (traplet.com) is based in Malvern, Worcestershire, UK. Traplet publishes a range of magazine titles including Model Helicopter World, R/C Model World, Quiet & Electric Flight International, RC Jet International, Military in Scale, Truck Model World, Radio Race Car International, Marine Modelling International, as well as a wide range of books, DVDs and plans. Traplet also publishes a range of sewing and craft magazines, books and DVDs.

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Posted in Latest RC Helicopter News

Interactive Toy Concepts Introduces the Bladerunner Black Ghost Infrared RC Helicopter

Bladerunner Black Ghost Micro Infrared RC Helicopter

The Bladerunner Black Ghost is the latest invention from Interactive Toy Concepts Ltd. The Black Ghost is a mini co-axial infra-red indoor rc helicopter that is extremely lightweight, simple to fly and great for flying indoors in your home. No previous RC helicopter experience is required to fly the Bladerunner Black Ghost. The Bladerunner Black Ghost RC Helicopters will be available early next month, and should be a popular item this Christmas.

The Bladerunner Black Ghost can fly up, down, turn left, right all while moving forward at a constant rate. The coaxial, contra-rotating rotor blades make the Black Ghost extremely stable and easy to fly. The tail rotor controls left and right rotation.

Bladerunner Black Ghost Micro Infrared RC Helicopter

Like the popular Havoc Heli the Bladerunner Black Ghost IR Helicopter features a micro infrared receiver that allows the Bladerunner Black Ghost to be extremely lightweight; only 16g (0.6 oz). The Black Ghost’s infrared remote control gives the it a range of up to 10m (30ft). The controller also doubles as the charger. The Black Ghost is available on 2 infrared bands so 2 can be flown at once.

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Posted in Electric RC Helicopters - Coaxial Helis, Electric RC Helicopters - IR Indoor Micro Helis, Latest RC Helicopter News

New Heli-Q Infrared Mini Helicopter Announced by Tomy

Billed as the worlds smalled remote control helicopter, the new Heli-Q is scheduled to hit stores in Japan next month. Manufactured by Tomy (know as Takara-Tomy in Japan), this helicopter will compete for market share with the popular infrared helicopters including the Silverlit Picco-Z helicopter (Air Hogs Havoc Heli in North America).

Tomy Heli-Q

Tomy Digi-Q CarIn March 2006 Tomy merged with Takara, the manufacturer of other popular IR (Infra-Red) remote control toys such as the Digi-Q 1/128th scale RC car. Based on the quality and amazing miniaturization shown by the Digi-Q, the Heli-Q should live up to the high expectations of miniature helicopter enthusiasts.

The Heli-Q will fly for 5 minutes on a 20 minute charge. A rechargeable Lithium Polymer battery built into the helicopter will allow it to be charged over and over again. The Heli-Q is incredibly light and designed for indoor use, however it will stay steady and fly well because of the stabilizer bar built into the top of the main rotor. Biased for forward flight, the pilot will have control over altitude and direction. The transparent front dome gives the Heli-Q indoor infrared RC helicopter a realistic look, and the tiny size will allow it to be used even in small rooms.

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Posted in Electric RC Helicopters - IR Indoor Micro Helis, Latest RC Helicopter News

Obtaining a Still Image Using a Wireless Video Cameras

Wireless video cameras mounted on rc helicopters can provide some amazing video footage. But what if you need a still image?

Still cameras will yield the highest resolution images, but if you already have a video camera here is what you can do:

    1. capture the video in a digital format
    2. open up the video in an editor
    3. move the slider so you are displaying the frame you want
    4. copy the frame
    5. paste into a photo editing program
    6. save the image in the format of you choice

    An example of an RC helicopter using aerial video camera is the Draganflyer SAVS.

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      Posted in RC Helicopter Camera Systems

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