RC Helicopters vs Drones: Clearing up the Confusion

RC Helicopters vs Drones: Clearing up the Confusion

RC helicopters and drones are highly popular among hobbyists and enthusiasts. These remote-controlled aircraft devices are often associated with each other, and people often use the terms interchangeably. Both models can fly in the sky and be controlled by an operator on the ground. However, RC helicopters and drones have key differences, such as their design, capabilities, and intended purposes. While drones have become a buzzword recently due to their increasingly common application in various fields, including agriculture, surveillance, and photography, RC helicopters are better known as a classic toy or a hobby device for aerial enthusiasts. In this article, we will explore the difference between RC helicopters and drones, whether or not RC helicopters should be considered drones, and why understanding the difference matters.

What Is a Drone?

A drone is a type of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that is remotely controlled, either by a human operator on the ground or an onboard computer system. Drones are generally more advanced than RC helicopters due to their sophisticated components and capabilities, including:

  • GPS navigation systems
  • High-quality cameras and sensors
  • Autonomous flight
  • Obstacle avoidance technology
  • Long-distance range and flying time

What Is an RC Helicopter?

Unlike drones, RC helicopters are primarily designed for recreational purposes, and they come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and designs. As a general rule, RC helicopters are smaller than drones and have lower flight capabilities. There are two main types of RC helicopters: coaxial and single-rotor. Coaxial helicopters have two rotors that counter-rotate, while single-rotor helicopters have one main rotor and a tail rotor to help with stability and control.

While drones are mainly marketed towards professionals, RC helicopters are a popular toy for kids, teenagers, and hobbyists. There are many RC helicopter brands on the market, such as Blade, Walkera, and Syma, and numerous websites offer information and resources for those interested in purchasing and operating an RC helicopter.

What is a drone a type of?

Drones are a type of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which are used for various purposes such as photography, videography, delivery, agriculture, and mapping. They are controlled remotely or autonomously and are equipped with cameras, sensors, and GPS technology for precision flying. Drones have become increasingly popular in recent years and are available for purchase from various websites such as DJI, Amazon, and Best Buy.

Why RC Helicopters Are Not Considered Drones

While RC helicopters are remotely controlled flying devices, they are not classified as drones, primarily due to their differences in capabilities and intended use. Here are some key factors that differentiate RC helicopters from drones:

Factor RC Helicopters Drones
Flight Time Shorter Longer
Range Shorter Longer
Control Manually Controlled Autonomous or Remote-Controlled
Capabilities Basic Cameras, Lights, or Sound Effects Advanced Cameras, Sensors, GPS, and Obstacle Avoidance Systems

In addition to these key differences, drones have advanced technology that enables them to perform a range of tasks that are not possible with RC helicopters, such as autonomous flight, long-range surveillance, and delivery services. While some RC helicopters may have cameras, these are usually basic and not designed for professional photography or filming.

Despite these differences, RC helicopters can still be a lot of fun and are ideal for newcomers to the hobby. There are plenty of websites and forums that provide advice and support for those interested in purchasing and operating an RC helicopter, and many enthusiasts enjoy competing in aerial races and other events. You can get a great selection of RC helicopters at horizonhobby.com.

Can a helicopter be remotely controlled?

Yes, helicopters can be remotely controlled. Here are some quick facts about remotely controlled helicopters:

  • Remotely controlled helicopters are also known as drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
  • They can be controlled using a remote controller, a computer, or even a smartphone app.
  • Most remotely controlled helicopters have a camera attached to them, which allows the operator to see from the helicopter’s perspective.
  • Remotely controlled helicopters have a variety of uses, including aerial photography, survey and inspection, and search and rescue operations.

If you’re interested in learning more about remotely controlled helicopters or drones, you may want to check out websites like DJI or Parrot, which offer a range of products for different skill levels and purposes.

Types of RC Helicopters

RC helicopters come in different types and sizes, each with its own unique features and capabilities. Here are the main types of RC helicopters:

Coaxial RC Helicopters

  • Have two counter-rotating blades
  • Easier to control and more stable in flight
  • Suitable for beginners and indoor flight

Single Rotor RC Helicopters

  • Have one main blade and one tail rotor
  • More maneuverable and faster
  • Requires more skill to fly and can be challenging for beginners

Micro RC Helicopters

  • Smaller and more portable
  • Designed for indoor use
  • Less expensive, but limited in features and capabilities

Giant RC Helicopters

  • Larger and more powerful
  • Can carry more weight and have longer flight times
  • Expensive and require more advanced skills to operate

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced hobbyist, there is an RC helicopter to suit your needs and preferences. Many popular brands offer a range of models and styles, including Blade, Align, and Syma. You can find RC helicopters for sale at hobby shops or online at websites like Amazon, Horizon Hobby, and RC Planet.

What are the different types of helicopters?

  • Single-Engine Helicopters: These helicopters are mainly used for personal travel and small businesses.
  • Multi-Engine Helicopters: These helicopters can carry more passengers and cargo, and are commonly used for offshore oil rig transportation and military operations.
  • Heavy-Lift Helicopters: These helicopters are designed to lift and transport heavy payloads such as construction equipment, industrial materials, and even vehicles.
  • Search and Rescue Helicopters: These helicopters are equipped with specialized equipment for locating and rescuing individuals in distress, often used by law enforcement and emergency response teams.
  • Attack Helicopters: These helicopters are specifically designed for military operations, such as providing direct and accurate air support to ground troops.

For more information on helicopter types and their uses, visit Vertical Magazine’s Helicopter Buyer’s Guide.


RC helicopters and drones are not the same things. Although they may look similar, they differ in terms of capabilities, features, and purpose. RC helicopters are designed for hobby purposes, while drones are equipped with advanced technology and have multiple uses. Understanding the difference between the two devices is important to ensure public safety and avoid confusion. With different types and models of RC helicopters available in the market, there is something for everyone who wants to experience the thrill of flying.

If you are interested in RC helicopters, it is important to learn how to operate and maintain them properly. Always follow the guidelines provided by the manufacturer and the regulations set by your local aviation authority. When purchasing an RC helicopter, make sure to choose a model that suits your skill level and flying goals. With proper training and practice, you can enjoy the fun and excitement that comes with piloting an RC helicopter.