What is a RC Quadcopter?

A RC quadcopter is an aircraft that falls into the category of multi-rotor (or rotor-craft that has more than two blades) and is very similar to a RC helicopter. The main difference (and its most noticeable feature) is that the quadcopter has, as the name suggests, four rotors. The helicopter traditionally has a single main rotor, with an anti-torque tail rotor (the quadcopter does not have a tail rotor).

RC Quadcopter

Quadcopter + Bear (Photo credit: John Biehler)

It seems that the RC quadcopter is now becoming more popular than its helicopter counterpart and there are several reasons for this. Firstly, the quadcopter usually has fewer moving parts and has a much less complex operation than the helicopter. Another thing is that the quadcopter is generally easier to fly than a helicopter: The helicopter often struggles in high wind and is tricky to land where, in contrast, the quadcopter is somewhat insensitive to wind and lands with relative ease. The quadcopter is also very stable due to the four rotors and a sensitive, modern electronics system which gives greater control of the quadcopter. Another important factor is that quadcopters are simpler to build and they are easier (and cheaper) to repair.


RC quadcopter ESC

quadcopter 2013 (Photo credit: eok.gnah)

The RC Quadcopter consists of three main mechanical components which are the frame (the integral core which joins the other parts of the quadcopter together), four motors and propellers (one on each motor). As well as mechanical there are also electrical components and these are the Electronic Speed Control (ESC), controller board, battery and of course, the remote control. An interesting twist in some of the newer quadcopters is that they are controlled via a smart-phone or a tablet.

RC Quadcopter Features and Uses

RC Quadcopter Camera

keycam with gopro compatible mount on quadcopter (Photo credit: eok.gnah)

Modern technology ensures that additional features and functions are constantly being added to quadcopters, such as a mount for a GoPro camera and integrated GPS systems.

The RC quadcopter is able to fly in all directions, can hover and take off vertically. Two of the quadcopter’s rotors move in an anti-clockwise position, while the other two move clockwise. All four rotors are set to spin at different speeds and this allows the aircraft to complete all kinds of movements (rolling, tilting, turning and hovering). Control over the quadcopter’s motion is attained by changing and altering the pitch and rotation or one (or more) of the rotors.

As we have already ascertained, these are exciting times for RC quadcopters, so it stands to reason that they are becoming increasingly popular with the hobbyist community. However, the increased interest and use of quadcopters is not limited to enthusiasts: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (also known as UAVs) are aircraft that do not have a human pilot on board, such as the quadcopter. These are regulaly used for research, surveillance and military work. They are presently conducting extensive research into possibly being able to use quadcopters (that are capable of autonomous flight) to  substitute humans in dangerous scenarios. For example, being used in the emergency services such as the police or fire-brigade, perhaps even preventing the loss of human life.