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Which radio system?

In my opinion, it is highly important to have good quality electronics for your helicopter. You can make a sub-standard helicopter fly well with good electronics, but it's difficult to make a good helicopter fly well with sub-standard electronics.

It's my opinion that you should buy the best quality electronics you can afford, then buy the helicopter afterwards. If this means settling for a slightly lesser helicopter in order to get good electronics, then so be it. I myself tried to save money on electronics and then ended up paying twice when I finally relented and purchased good electronics.

Good electronics will transform your flying. They did for me. Today's R/C systems allow huge amounts of fine tuning that allow you to get on with the business of flying enjoyably. If you're fighting with sub-standard electronics you won't enjoy your flying as much.

Plus, in the end, buying good electronics from the outset ends up cheaper as you don't have to buy good stuff later on. If I were to do it all over again, that's what I'd do.

When you're looking to buy a radio set, you've got to take into account a number of things. Some of these are:

  • How much it costs.
    Obviously important in any purchasing decision.
  • Local knowledge.
    While these systems may look complicated (and they are!), they're not too hard to use. However, if you know someone who already uses the system you are thinking of buying and can help you set it up, it's much easier.

Anyway, I'll step down from my soapbox now and explain some of the electronic wizardry that these little heli's need to fly.


Transmitter
The transmitter is the control box that you use to command the helicopter. Nowadays these have become very comprehensive computer controlled devices.
You set up a lot of how your helicopter performs via the transmitter.
Ideally, you want a minimum of 8 channels for your transmitter, but you can use 6 channels if need be. I recommend getting at least an 8 channel radio, not so much for the number of channels, but for the extra added features you get with these radios.
There is a lot of debate about what kind of transmitting system is best, either PCM, or PPM. My opinion is that you should get the PCM system because you can always use PPM on it if need be. You can't do it the other way around. Plus, some helicopters, like gassers, require PCM modulation. Remember you're planning for the future here, you never know, you might wanna get a gasser later on!

 


Futaba 9Z Transmitter. Top of the line.

The more popular makes are JR and Futaba. Both make excellent quality products. I recommend getting either the JR 3810 (or 8103 if you live in the US), or the Futaba Super 8. If you really want to splash out, get the JR PCM10x, or the Futaba 9Z. Those things will pretty much cook your breakfast for you.

There are two popular types of control layouts with transmitters. They are Mode One and Mode Two. This refers to which sticks look after the various controls of the helicopter.
Mode one is when the left stick controls the fore/aft cyclic and the rudder controls. The right stick controls the collective/throttle and left/right cyclic.
Mode two is when the left stick controls the collective/throttle and rudder controls. The right stick controls the left/right cyclic and the fore/aft cyclic.
In New Zealand, Mode Two is the more popular layout. However, it is important to get the same layout that the people who will be teaching you use. That way they can fly your machine if need be.


Receiver
If you purchase a new radio set, you'll most likely get the corresponding receiver with it too. The receiver just act's upon the signals the transmitter produces and commands the appropriate servos/gyro etc accordingly.

There's not really much more to say about receivers.


JR PCM 10 Receiver.

Servos
Servos are the little gadgets that actually do the work in the helicopter. They move the little arms that make your helicopter move.
You can get all types of different servos. The difference is mainly in the speed of the servo (transit time) and the amount of power it produces (torque).
When you're first beginning to learn and you're not thrashing the helicopter round, basic servos that come with your radio kit (such as Futaba 3001's etc) will be fine cause you're not putting them under large loads. However, when you start throwing your machine in around, or if you upgrade to a larger machine such as a 60 or a gasser, you'll want to upgrade your servos to a higher torque.
There are also two types of servo, the Digital servo and the non-digital. Digital's are designed to center more accurately and also come to full power from stop. Non-digitals are less expensive, but some do not center as accurately, and also don't have full strength in minute movements.


Futaba S9252 Digital Servo.

Batteries
Your radio set will often come with a battery for the electronics in the helicopter. A lot of them are around 1000mah. These are fine, but you might want to consider upgrading to a larger capacity in the future. Some gyros and servos really chew up battery time. 1700+mah batteries are good, allowing you to fly pretty much all day with high capacity servos and gyros without having to recharge.


JR Battery.

My own personal experience
Get the absolute BEST radio system you can afford. If it means going with a lesser heli than you were wanting so be it. Helicopters come and go, but your radio gear can be transferred between them. I can't emphasise enough how much a good radio will help your flying.

Featured Link!
Ace Hobby (Thunder Tiger)
Ace are the US distributers of Thunder Tiger models such as the very popular Raptor series....

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