A quadcopter is becoming more and more popular these days. One of the reasons for this is that improved technology is making a rc quadcopter more affordable for the average consumer. Because of the advancement in technology, the functioning parts of the aircraft including the frame, propellers, batteries and on-board computer processors have become lighter weight and less expensive. Nowadays, an entry level multi-rotor copter for a beginner enthusiast can be purchased for under $100.

Multi-rotor copters are referred to by many names, including these:

  • quadcopter
  • rc quadcopter
  • quad copter
  • quadricopter
  • quadrocopter
  • multi-rotor helicopter
  • drone
  • quadrotor helicopter
  • UAV – unmanned aerial vehicle
  • UAS – unmanned aircraft system

With technological advancements, the explosion of quadrocopters has overtaken the traditional remote controlled helicopter market. As a result, the quadrocopter market is more popular today than the rc helicopter market. One of the reasons that rc quadcopters have surpassed rc helicopters is due to their design and the fact that quadrocopters are easier to fly. The improvements in the design of these unmanned aerial vehicles has made it easy enough for almost anyone to fly a quadcopter right out the box.

A quadcopter is like a hybrid helicopter because it is a multi-rotor aircraft. The aircraft has 4 rotors or propellers instead of 2 rotors like the helicopter. A helicopter has a single main rotor on top and it has a tail rotor on the back of the helicopter. With 4 rotors, the aircraft has more stability and has more wind resistance than the traditional helicopter.

Two of the rotors on the multi-rotor copter turn clockwise while the other two rotors turn counter-clockwise to enable the aircraft to hover in a stable formation. The stability of the multi-rotor aircraft is enhanced further in higher end models by 3-axis gyro technology provided by an on-board flight controller plus GPS based functions.

Three Basic Categories

Mini Quadcopter

The first category is the mini quadcopter. Usually, a mini quadrocopter is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Mini quadrocopters have a small wingspan, are constructed of molded plastic and employ brushed motors. The mini quadrocopter is normally flown indoors because it is not designed to withstand the effects of wind. Some mini quadcopters come with a built-in camera.

Although a multi-rotor copter is easier to fly than an rc helicopter, if you have never flown an remote controlled aircraft there is a learning curve for flying these machines. During the learning process, you are bound to have many crashes. So a mini quadcopter is a great choice for a beginner enthusiast because many of them cost less than $100 and because of their construction they can survive crashes better than higher end machines.

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Hobby Quadcopter

The second category is the hobby quadcopter. With a larger wingspan, larger propellers and larger frame, the hobby quadrocopter is capable of carrying more weight or payload. With the increased size, most hobby quadcopters are flown outdoors. The hobby quadrocopter has a larger battery that will support longer flight times.

Typically these quadcopters come with a built-in camera or an installed mount that is compatible with the most popular brands of small portable cameras. With a high quality on-board video camera, you will be able to capture aerial footage while in flight. In addition, with the first person view (FPV) function, you can stream a live view of what the quadrocopter is seeing.

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Professional Quadcopter

The third category is the professional quadricopter. A professional quadricopter has an even larger wingspan, longer propellers and larger frame than the hobby aircraft. The professional quadricopter is well suited for taking aerial photography over a longer flight time. Professional quadricopters have many useful, non-combative applications like search and rescue operations. In addition, professional quadricopters are useful in performing aerial surveys of agricultural fields, areas affected by natural disasters and weather-related disasters. Because their use is often discussed in the news and on television, many people refer to the larger aircraft as drones.

However, drones in the news are often referring to unmanned aerial vehicles that are used in military operations and cost a million dollars or more. We are only discussing UAV’s for average consumers that are used in non-military situations.

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It’s Time to Make a Choice

Now that you have learned about the differences between the various types of multi-rotor aircraft, it is time for you to take the plunge. We recommend that you purchase an entry level aircraft to begin with so that you can get your feet wet, so to speak, and learn how to fly one of these machines. It is not hard to learn but there is definitely a special skill to be learned. This skill must be developed so that you can maneuver the aircraft without having to “think”. If you have to think about which controller knob to push or pull, you will crash.

With a little of practice, it won’t be long before you will be a pro with the smaller copters. You will then be ready to step up to the hobby class.