RC quadcopters are becoming an increasingly popular type of RC vehicle. It’s important to note that they are not the same as helicopters or other types of radio-controlled aircraft. They look and fly very differently from other airborne RC vehicles. So, what exactly is an RC quadcopter, and how does it work, and why should you be flying one?
An RC quadcopter is a radio-controlled aircraft that is powered by four rotors. Two of the rotors spin in one direction, and the other two spin in the opposite direction to counterbalance the aircraft. This makes for a highly controllable, highly manoeuvrable aircraft that is easy and fun to fly.
RC quadcopters have taken off in the RC community and have become more accessible over the years. They are huge amounts of fun to fly and are a great way to get into radio-controlled aircraft. Quadcopters are easy to fly and even have commercial, law enforcement, and military applications, but for most people, they are just a great way to enjoy flying a radio-controlled aircraft!
What Does Quadcopter Mean?
Most people know what a helicopter is and have a basic idea of how it works, but not many people may be familiar with the term quadcopter.
The word is a hybrid of the word quad which means 4, and copter from the word helicopter. The combination of the words for quadcopter may lead people to believe that the quadcopter has characteristics in common with a helicopter.
A quadcopter actually has very little in common with a helicopter, both in looks and in the way it flies. A quadcopter is also known by other names such as quadrotor, multirotor, quadrocopter, or quadracopter.
Essentially, it is a radio-controlled aircraft that is powered by 4 rotors or propellers that are mounted in a horizontal position. It has a central body, which is usually made of lightweight but durable plastic, which houses the electronics of the aircraft and sometimes a camera.
The body of the quadcopter has four rotor arms the extend from the main body of the aircraft on four sides. The end of each rotor arm houses a motor to which the propellers are fitted.
What Is The Principle Of A Quadcopter?
If a quadcopter does not work like a fixed-wing aircraft or a helicopter, what principles does it use to fly and maneuver? In a fixed-wing aircraft, the engines and propellers are designed to produce the forward momentum of the aircraft, and the lift is produced by the shape of the wings.
A quadcopter does not have wings to provide it with lift but rather uses the rotors to generate the necessary lift required for the aircraft. So how does a quadcopter achieve forward motion and maneuverability if the rotors are supplying the lift, and isn’t this the same as a helicopter?
With a helicopter, there are only two rotors, and only one rotor provides lift and direction. The tail rotor is there simply to counter the cyclic rotational force of the main rotor, preventing the helicopter from spinning.
The main rotor on a helicopter can pitch forwards, backward, and from side to side, giving the helicopter directional movement.
The 4 Rotor Advantage On A Quadcopter
The rotors on a quadcopter do not pitch but are fixed on their axis of rotation. The maneuverability of the quadcopter is achieved by varying the speed of the 4 rotors or propellers to achieve directional movement.
On a quadcopter, two rotors spin in one direction, and two rotors spin in the opposite direction. Two rotors on the same axis spin in one direction while the other two spin in the opposite direction. The opposite spinning rotors counteract the torque of each other, which is why there is no need for a tail rotor as in a helicopter.
When all the rotors are spinning at the same speed, the quadcopter will be in balance, and it will hover. To gain forward momentum or movement in any direction, the speed of individual rotors or pairs of rotors is increased or reduced to move the aircraft in the desired direction.
With the 4 rotors, it is possible to move the quadcopter in any direction, forward, backward, left, right, or even to perform flips. This rotor configuration makes the quadcopter extremely maneuverable but also easy to fly.
The advantage that the 4 rotors bring to the aircraft is very stable flight and a high degree of maneuverability. These advantages make them the ideal type of RC aircraft to mount a camera to take aerial footage, especially if it is mounted on a gimble.
The stable flight also makes it suitable for carrying small packages or payloads, which is one of the reasons it is often used for commercial applications.
What Is The Difference Between Quadcopter And A Drone?
All this talk about quadcopters and rotorcraft may have you a little confused as to the difference between a quadcopter and a drone.
Many people use the word drone to describe a quadcopter, and essentially, there is no difference between the two craft. A quadcopter can be called a drone, and it is often known by this term. A drone is defined as a machine that is controlled remotely and is usually unmanned, which essentially describes an RC quadcopter.
However, the word drone also has connotations of the military fixed-wing drones that are used for spy missions and to deliver military strikes with their deadly payload. Another term that is often used is UAV which means an unmanned aerial vehicle, which is also a very generic term that has ambiguity.
Thus, when the UAV or drone is powered by 4 rotors, and it is normally referred to as a quadcopter for the purpose of distinction and a more specific description.
Why You Should Get A Quadcopter
Quadcopters are fun and exciting RC aircraft to fly, and they are much easier to fly than an RC helicopter or an RC fixed-wing aircraft. This makes the quadcopter the ideal RC aircraft to begin with and learn how to control an RC aircraft.
Not only are quadcopters easy to fly, but they are a lot of fun, and the activity has developed into a number of sub-activities such as quadcopter racing, aerobatic flying, and even photography.
Many people use quadcopters to film them performing sporting and outdoor activities to achieve awesome video footage of these events.
Another aspect of quadcopters is the range of models available and how they can be used.
Types Of Quadcopters
As with most radio-controlled vehicles, you get models in a wide range that vary in size, weight, power, capability, quality, and price. They also vary greatly in size and purpose and the types of conditions that they can be operated in.
Some quadcopters are large, which requires them to be operated outdoors, but small or miniature quadcopters can be flown indoors. This makes them extremely versatile and useful for both indoor and outdoor fun!
Quadcopters are usually powered by electric motors and batteries, but there are some models that use nitro fuel as well. The nitro-fueled quadcopters generally have a longer flying time than the electric motor versions, but the nitro motors require some experience in their operation and use.
With electric motor-powered quadcopters, you can expect flight times anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes, so it is a good strategy to have multiple batteries for your quadcopter to extend your flying time.
The price of quadcopters can range from $20 to over $1500 for the most advanced models. The more advanced models will also require more skill to fly, so it is best to start off with a mid-range quadcopter of between $150 to $250. The indoor models are smaller and cheaper but usually do not include a camera because they are not powerful enough to carry the weight or the additional electronics.
Quadcopter, drone, rotorcraft, quadrocopter, whatever you like to call them, are tons of fun to fly and operate. As an introduction to the world of RC vehicles, you can’t go wrong with an RC quadcopter!
You can use them to film yourself while you are engaged in outdoor activities such as mountain biking or kayaking, race your quadcopters against other flyers, explore aerial photography, or just fly them for fun!