“How many channels does my RC helicopter need?”
This is one of the first questions folks looking to buy their a RC chopper will often ask. The answer is both simple and complex: that all depends on what you want your helicopter to do. Not the answer you were looking for? No worries- let me break it down for you:
When shopping for an RC helicopter, you need to also choose a helicopter radio to control it, and with this, you must decide how many channels you will need. Each channel will be in charge of one surface or one component on your chopper. In a nutshell, the more complex of a chopper you want, the more channels you will require.
This set-up is the most basic type of radio, used mostly with basic toy-grade choppers. It has one channel each for the following:
- to control the main rotor’s velocity
- to control the velocity of the tail rotor, which allows the chopper to turn/yaw to the right or left
Several toy-grades RC choppers that are coaxial (which means that the main rotors are counter-rotating) have this set-up. Each channel controls one of the following:
- main rotors’ velocity
- turning and yawing (thru changing the velocity of the counter-rotation
- the velocity and direction of another motor found on the tail boom, which controls pitch
Most toy-grade RC helicopters with only two or three channels normally come with the radio included. However, this is not so for the following:
Radios with four channels are needed for RC copters which cyclic control. Each channel controls one of the following:
- Velocity of main rotors
- yaw movement (via changing of counter-rotation speed)
- forward/backward pitch
- lef/right roll (by controlling the swash plate)
If you want to fly a RC chopper with collective pitch, you will need to purchase a radio with AT LEAST five channels:
- The first four channels control the same features as mentioned above. The fifth channel controls the collective pitch of the main rotor.
The difference between having five or six channels is that you will need the sixth channel to select various gyro settings/modes.
7+ Channel Radios
More channels gives you access and control to more features, besides basic flight:
- landing gear
- fuel mixture (for nitro- and gas-powered copters)
- GPS and/or return home mode activation
- smoke systems
- lighting for night flying
- realistic accessories: rocket launchers, gun turrets, windshield wipers, etc.
- camera/ video
So, How many channels?
The required number of channels that your RC helicopter will need is restricted to nothing more than the number of accessories and tricks that you want to do with you chopper. If you are just starting out and want to keep it simple with a toy-grade RC copter, you will have the 1- or 2-channel radio already included in the box. If you want a more advanced helicopter, you’ll most likely need to shop separately for the RC radio that is best for your chopper.