Drone vs RC Helicopter

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Updated June 27, 2022

If you are new to the world of personal flight vehicles, you may wonder about the difference between a drone and an RC helicopter. Some of the best drones, after all, feature helicopter-adjacent designs, but how do actual RC helicopters differ from drones? Keep reading to find out.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • RC helicopters are made to resemble actual helicopters, while most drones feature four rotors and a quadcopter design.
  • RC copters tend to be much cheaper than drones, though drones are more durable and long-lasting even at lower price ranges.
  • Drones are considered easier to control, offering complete control, with more robust battery life and advanced features, including excelling with aerial photography.

Differences Between Drones and RC Helicopters

The main difference between drones and RC copters falls down to the design, as RC units are usually built to resemble actual helicopters, whereas drones feature four rotors and more or less do their own thing. The differences here are fairly stark, which is not the case when comparing a drone vs a quadcopter.

Insider Tip

If you are unsure about buying a drone, start with a cheap RC copter as an experiment.

Here are more differences between the two so you can find reasons for why drones are good and purchase accordingly.

Price

RC copters are an older technology than modern drones, so they tend to cost much less. As a matter of fact, a standard RC copter can cost a fraction of the price of the leading DJI drone, among other brands. If you are looking to get in the air but are on a strict budget, give RC helicopters a whirl. After that, compare the DJI Phantom 4 Advanced vs the Pro model and look at the price tags.

Speed

The top-rated FPV racing drone may not actually be a drone at all, as some RC helicopters can go blazingly fast, up to 80 miles per hour or even more in some cases. Of course, many drones are also fast, especially expensive models with high-grade engines, though RC copters are, on average, faster. One thing to note, though, is that RC models do not feature any automated controls, so you’ll always have to keep an eye on them as you fly.

Controls

Drones tend to offer a simplified and more robust control scheme when compared to RC helicopters. RC helicopters are not for being especially steady, with many models leaning to the side during flights and requiring constant adjustments. Drones may have a steeper learning curve for some, but things clear up nicely once you get the hang of it.

Battery Life

Modern drones tend to have a more robust battery life than RC helicopters, with many newer models advertising an hour or more of flight time before needing a recharge. Toy helicopters, on the other hand, last for just 10 to 20 minutes before requiring juice.

F.A.Q.S

Which UAV has more benefits?

This really depends on personal preference, as a standard aerial drone may be perfect for one drone enthusiast, while a remote control helicopter will be perfect for others.


Which device will do better in the rain?

This really depends on the make and model of your unmanned aircraft, as some feature superior water resistance and others do not, such as cheaper models.


Which device is safer to use?

Both devices are safe when used for recreational purposes, though it depends on the model, the flight modes available, and your local fly zones, among other potential issues.


STAT: The Exception for Limited Operation of Unmanned Aircraft (USC 44809) is the law that describes how, when, and where you can fly drones for recreational purposes. (source)

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