Electric Helicopter 101

I’ve been spending some time doing research on RC electric helicopers, and thought I’d share the highlights.

I’ll do this by describing the two that I own and the one that I’m considering getting.

First, there’s the Picoo Z.

Good stuff:

  • Inexpensive ($50 ish)

  • Easy to fly

  • IR control

  • You can fly inside your office

Bad stuff:

  • 2-axis controller. Basically, you control the speed of the main rotor and the tail rotor. You can hover and spin the tail around, but not move forward or backwards (well, you can a bit in the the turns). If you weight the front a little, you can get it to slowly move forward.

  • Eats batteries

  • Hard to get away from your 12-year-old daughter

Blade CX2

Good Stuff:

  • RTF (that means “Ready to Fly”)

  • 2.4 GHz digital controller (a nice upgrade over the old-style radios)

  • 4-axis controller

  • Stable (ie relatively easy to fly (I was going to write “easy to fly”, but it’s really not)

  • Gyro-based heading control. Basically, the electronics automatically attempt to keep the copter pointing in the same direction.

  • Counter-rotating dual rotors (ie not tail rotor to break)

  • Pretty-red color

Bad Stuff:

  • It has heat issues. The electronics and the motors heat up as you work through the charge in a battery, which means that the trim settings change, especially the trim on the yaw control (ie which way the nose is pointing (I’d call this “tail rotor control”, but there’s no tail rotor (on a real copter, you’d call this control the “anti-torque pedals”, but there are no pedals on my controller)).
    Anyway, what it means is that you start with the yaw torque all the way to the right, and then end up with it all the way to the left at the end of the battery.
    The fix is to a) put a heatsink on the motors, b) remove the case on the electronics and c) cut out the top of the canopy so the rotorwash cools the electronics

  • Two motors are twice the complexity

  • Yaw is controlled by slowing down one of the rotors, which means the copter drops if you spin it around quickly.

  • No inverted flying

  • Hard to fly when it’s breezy

Blade CP

The CP is a “real helicopter”, while the CX is a “easy-to-fly toy”.

Or at least that’s what I’ve been told…

There are two big differences from the CX (AFAICT).

The biggest one is the design of the ‘copter. The CP has a single main rotor and a tail rotor, and therefore doesn’t exhibit the bad behavior when spinning around.

 The second is that the CX is designed to be much more agile, so it’s harder to fly.


Neil spoke of not being able to replace batteries. I replaced the battery on my daughter’s air hog last weekend, and it works fine now. The Picoo Z battery is a 50mAH battery – this looks like a nice replacement. One of the disadvantages of the low-end RC models is that they charge their batteries too fast (so that it’s more convenient). In general, you want a charge that takes about an hour to complete, but the Picoo charges in about a third of that (or quicker), which cuts down on the battery life substantially.

There are directions here on how to open the body, and then it’s simply a matter of soldering the new battery. Make sure you get the polarity correct.

Comments (4)

  1. Eric A. Duesing says:

    What about the mosquito?  It’s 3 channel radio and around $70.


  2. Eric F. VIncent says:

    I got the Blade CX2 in February.

    1. The yaw trim changes *slightly* over the charge of the battery. It’s really no big deal. After you get used to it, you probably won’t even adjust the trim any more, you’ll just "fly the tail".

    2. I don’t find that there’s a loss of altitude when you yaw quickly, it increases the speed of the other rotor.

    3. Two rotors less complex than a tail rotor.

    4 & 5 – yea, don’t fly in a breeze at all, and definitely no inverted flying.

    Dual rotor mechanism keeps it from tilting more than 10-15 degrees. Very stable. I highly recommend this for a first chopper.

    My next chopper is an Axe CP. Similar to the Blade CP, but w/ a lower CG so slightly more stable. the Blade CP is a bit twitchier. Both the Axe and Blade CP are "3D" capable, which in the end means symmetrical blades and that you can get negative pitch on cyclic (you can fly upside down).

    Don’t even think about a Axe or Blade CP until you either get a trainer like the Blade CX2 or a simulator. I use the Great Planes Real Flight G3.5 Sim, it’s a great sim, comes w/ a controller that is like a radio, and has the Axe CP (plus many others).

  3. Eric F. VIncent says:


    The Axe CP that I have (and the Blade CP) both use a separate small electric motor for the tail rotor. This means that for left yaw the tail rotor just stops. This limits the manuverability a bit.

    Plus the extra motor is one more thing to break down or wear out.

    Both the Axe and Blade CP have "rate" gyros rather than "heading hold" gyros. For more serious flying you need heading hold, otherwise more "flying the tail".

    They are other quality issues at this level, "Z" bends on linkages (increases "slop" or "play" in controls) and others. Given the opportunity to do it again, I would have gotten a higher quality 2nd machine, like a Heli-Max MX400. You should consider the CX2, then do plenty of research, talk to actual flyers either at your local club or hobby shop, read some magazines, then choose your first "real" chopper when you know the issues.

    Good luck & happy flying!


  4. Neil Dunlop says:

    I got a Picooz for Christmas and it was great fun to fly in the office.  The only real drawback is that the battery is internal and it will eventually get so out of condition that it will no longer charge.  The battery can’t be swapped out of the ‘copter so after a few months you will be left with a dead ‘copter and no way of fixing it.