R/C Gas Helicopters vs. Battery (Electric)
This question is as old as time itself. Well, not exactly. People have been asking it ever since these two types of R/C helicopters existed. This article will attempt to outline the main differences between the different types of helicopters and which one would be the best for you.
What Do I Need to Know?
You could opt for a gas helicopter if you already have some experience with electric or nitro. Most people who choose gas do so to minimize fuel costs and do away with the hassle of dealing with nitro fuel. Turbine power helicopters are another option, one that comes with very high capacity, but they are relatively expensive and complex. This is another reason to go for a gas R/C.
Electric helicopters are actually not much less expensive than gas because you need a lot of LiPo batteries for them, which can set you back a good sum.
In sum, the cheapest helicopter would be one with a two stroke gas engine. For availability and ease of use, the best option is electric. Advanced pilots will find turbine R/C helicopters perfect.
We’ll proceed to compare the four types of helicopters to give you a better overview.
Nitro R/C Helicopters
Nitro R/C helicopters are emerging as serious contenders to electric ones. Why? They are really solid, more robust, and fly for longer – up to 15 minutes (this is still shorter than gas helis, though – some of the bigger models can fly for 30 minutes).
Nitro fuel is easier to obtain than the huge LiPo packs electric helicopters require.
· Longevity and proven design
· No need to wait for batteries to charge between flights
· Nitro engines are very durable
Like everything in life, nitro helicopters aren’t without their disadvantages. They produce a distinct noise that a lot of people hate. They can be hard to set up right, especially if you don’t have any prior experience with a nitro engine. If the mixture isn’t right, they will stop mid-flight or the fuel supply vent will be blocked. The exhaust is partially comprised of fine oil mist as approximately one-fifth of nitro fuel is oil.
Nitro R/C helicopters run on what is known as glow fuel, which is expensive to ship because it’s considered a hazardous substance. Generally, nitro operating costs are highest compared to gas, electric, and turbine costs. Glow plugs need to be replaced now and then. You need extra starting equipment, like glow plug drivers or inbuilt or external power panels and electric starters.
Gas R/C Helicopters
Gas helicopters are by far less messy than nitro. In the combustion process, most oil gets burnt because of the low oil to fuel ratio. They produce less vibration and noise than nitro helicopters as they run at a lower RPM. The fuel is available everywhere.
· Long life cycle
· Easy to start
· Relatively cheap to operate
· Realistically scaled, big and heavy
· Small fuel tanks and long flying times
Gas R/C helicopters aren’t suitable for 3D aerobatics of any kind because they have a very low power to weight ratio. The selection of models is limited. Gas helis are more expensive than both nitro and electric because they are usually bigger. Bigger size is never an advantage in a crash. There’s always more damage.
Spark plugs and high voltage ignition generate radio interference. However, if you have a 2.4GHz spread spectrum radio, this isn’t an issue.
Electric R/C Helicopters
These devices are easiest to set up – there’s no need to tune exhaust or fuel systems or carburetors. Consequently, the absence of ignition problems makes them less likely to stop running midflight. Electric helicopters practically produce no vibrations at all.
· Best power to weight ratio
· Lower operational costs (normally)
· Same center of gravity and weight throughout flight
· Can even be made at home
· No oil residue
· You can fly it indoors
· Easy to start and stop
· Environmentally friendly
· Less maintenance needed than both gas and nitro
· They need big lithium batteries, which are dangerous if not taken care of properly
· Higher upfront costs over gas and nitro due to high-capacity batteries
· Relatively short flight times, especially if flown extensively
· Several extra batteries are required unless you’re willing to wait hours for them to charge
· Special power supply and equipment are necessary
Users need to plan ahead if they want to have their full pack ready for flying time. They need to take into account the number of battery packs and devices they have as well as the charging power they dispose of.
Turbine R/C Helicopters
Turbine helis are becoming increasingly popular because they’re highly realistic and reliable. A turbine-powered engine will never leave you in a lurch. The computers of these engines keep the helicopters running optimally with very few tuning issues.
· Very little engine vibration, if any
· Realistic flight characteristics due to large size (check out the biggest turbine R/C heli in the world)
· Turbine-powered engines are expensive
· Limited supply – a small number of companies offer turbine engines and kits
· Lack of available parts
· Import fees may be charged
The turbine bearing needs to be replaced every 65 flying hours on average. Normally, this requires sending the device back to the manufacturer so the turbine and compressor are properly assembled following bearing replacement. Turbine R/C helicopters come with very specific and complicated systems. They are high-maintenance and incur higher operating costs in comparison with gas models of equivalent size.
Even a light crash can incur heavy damage costs. The power to weight ratio of this helicopter type is slightly worse than that of gas helicopters. 3D aerobatics are impossible.
Turbine R/C helicopters can catch on fire in a crash. When taking off or landing, they can ignite dry grass.
We hope we’ve helped you narrow down your list and made your R/C helicopter purchase decision simpler. We can’t say which power type is the best because they all have their pluses and minuses. Your needs should determine what you eventually decide to buy.