Product Tips & Tutorials: RC Helicopters
RC Helicopter Engines - Pros and Cons
Posted by on 31 August 2012 10:48 AM

Electric Engines

Pros:

  • Easiest to start with for beginners. Does not require tuning. 
  • Will not cut out in mid flight due to fuel vs air mixture or have ignition problems.
  • Almost vibration free. There are no pistons moving in the motor, giving the helicopter a more stable flight pattern.
  • Best Power/Weight Ratio.
  • Low long-term operational cost. (Does not require the purchase of fuel)
  • Flying weight and Center of Gravity does not change throughout the flight due to consumption of fuel.
  • No Oil Residue
  • EASY TO START AND STOP. Does not require special start-up equipment. 
  • Can be flown indoors.
  • Less maintenance than fuel powered engines.

Cons:

  • Extra Batteries Needed

    Electric Engines usually run on LiPo Batteries, and with constant use, the batteries get heated, which can be prove to be a hazardous problem if not well maintained. As I have posted in the LiPo Battery section of the Knowledgebase: heat and LiPo batteries do not mix well together. You need to let your batteries cool down before you recharge them. Don't do it right after. This is why extra LiPo batteries are needed if you want to be able to fly continually.
  • If you fly aggressively with your RC Helicopter, you will need to let your Eletric Motor and ESC (Electronic Speed Controller) cool down. This is really dependent on the motor and ESC you buy. You may have to wait 15minutes before your next flight to make sure that the electronics don't fry.

Nitro Engines

Pros

  • No wait time between flights. Does not need to wait for batteries to charge. Just refuel and you're good to go.
  • Long life expectancy and a proven design that will last.
  • The most "Crash Proof" out of all the engine models out there.

Cons

  • Nitro fuel is roughly 20% oil, and that oil will mist out through the exhaust and it WILL get everywhere. Cleaning and mantaining the helicopter will become a chore, but if you're really into your hobby, it won't be. This is subjective from person to person. I for one HATE cleaning.
  • The placement of the fuel tank and how it will affect the center of gravity becomes important. A little bit of forethought and planning will be needed.
  • Tuning and set up is a task in itself, especially if you have no past experience. If your fuel mixture is not correct, the engine can stop running mid-flight. You also have to be careful of fuel contamination, or if the vents get blocked, or if the glow plug fails. Again... maintenance.
  • High long-term operational cost. Nitro engines need a lot of fuel and nitro glow fuel costs much more than gasoline or JET A fuel.
  • Additional starting equipment needed. i.e. glow plugs, glow drivers, power panels, etc.

Gas Engines

Pros

  • Not as messy as a Nitro Engine because of the low oil to fuel ration. Most of the oil gets burned in the process of combustion. 
  • Runs at a lower RPM. Is not as noisy as a Nitro Engine. Also will not create high frequency vibrations.
  • Will take oridinary gasoline and 2-cycle engine oil. This can be purchased at any gas station.
  • Long life expectancy.
  • Easier to start.

Cons

  • Lowest power to weight ratio of all engine options.
  • Limited selection of Gas type Helicopters.
  • Higher price range. This is usually due to the fact that Gas Engine helicopters are larger than their respective counterparts.
  • Large bodies means heavier helicopter. That in turns equals to a more damages when you crash. Weight + Gravity = Force of Impact.

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