RC helicopters are helicopters that fly under remote control. Their flight is remotely controlled by a radio device. Thus, they are called “remote-controlled helicopters” or “radio-controlled helicopters,” which is the source of the “RC” designation. If they are the toy models, they can range from small, plastic battery-powered toys to larger, gas-powered models that can be quite powerful.
RC helicopters are capable of taking off and landing vertically, hovering, flying forwards and backwards and laterally. However, successfully making the RC helicopter perform such maneuvers and operate safely takes training and experience. In the hands of an inexperienced operator, an RC helicopter does pose risks.
They range in price from $60 for a toy model to $1700 for a model that is fully assembled and equipped. They can weigh more than six pounds and have a frame made of carbon fiber and metal. The rotor blades can be as much as 700 mm long each. This puts its full spinning diameter at almost 1.5 meters, or 5 feet. On larger, more sophisticated models, the blades can spin at approximately 1,650 revolutions per minute when hovering. The helicopters can reach speeds of between 45 and 100 miles per hour, depending on how it is equipped and operated.
Whatever their size, RC helicopters can present various dangers to users and to observers in an area in which these toys or models are being flown. However, larger models present more significant dangers than the smaller, toy models. The Internet is rife with videos of RC helicopter crashes.
As with standard, full-sized helicopters, the rotors of toy and model RC helicopters operate at high speeds. In September of 2013, a young person in New York who was reportedly experienced in flying larger RC helicopters suffered fatal injury when the blades of his RC helicopter struck his head. So, this shows that the larger models are capable of killing a person.
Miniature helicopters are RC helicopters that range in weight from a few grams to one hundred grams, which is less than half a pound. Most miniature RC helicopters are toys aimed at hobbyists and enthusiasts. In addition, companies make them for possible military and security applications. Miniature helicopters are popular for use as demonstration models for the latest miniaturization technologies.
Flying RC helicopters is a popular hobby in the U.S. and internationally. There is a large model RC helicopter organization, the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), which claims a membership of more than 195,000 people representing every walk of life in the U.S. It reportedly sponsors more than 2,500 AMA model airplane clubs throughout the U.S. The national organization offers its chartered local clubs sanctioning for official contests, insurance, and assistance in finding and maintaining flying sites.
There are also flying competitions. RC helicopters are classified by size and the type of power that fuels them and they complete maneuvers that the “pilots,” or operators must master. Judges grade each maneuver. Among the maneuvers are hovering-type maneuvers, forward flight, including a loop and stall turns and then aerobatic maneuvers, including a “power-off autorotation landing”. The helicopters also have a scale competition.
Common RC helicopter injuries include:
- Injuries caused by the rotating propellers. These propellers can rotate at high speeds and do not have always have a protective barrier around them;
- Injuries can be caused by the helicopter falling onto a person from heights;
- The helicopter colliding with a person can lead to head or eye injuries;
- Accidents caused by explosions or fires are possible. Fires and explosions can happen with both gas-powered or battery-powered models. Batteries can explode when overheated;
- Accidents involving other RC helicopters or vehicles, for example, a collision between a car and an RC helicopter;
- Various other types of injuries.