With so many RC helicopter manufacturers vying for a bigger piece of the pie, the competition is headed for a showdown between giants. While Align and E-flite has dominated the U.S. network of local hobby stores, Walkera has become the prominent brand on websites. Recently, I just completed an extensive research in comparing similarly equipped helicopters and parts. Priced at 30% to 40% below local hobby stores, the extremely competitive nature of web based business are innovating and progressing at a much faster pace.
A prolific developer of RC helicopters, Walkera is constantly churning out new designs and upgrading existing models. Reviewing, buying, flying, maintaining and upgrading my expanding collection of Lama 2-1, 4#3B, 4G3, 5#10, 60#B and most recently the CB100 and the 4G6 have become a full time hobby. I can only imagine how difficult it's for some one who is unfamiliar with Walkera helicopters to sort out all these choices. To structure a model by model review, we shall cover several distinct subjects that will help endusers understand the purpose and value of different options and upgrades.
A brief look at the general history and architecture to determine the model's targetted market. Often a new design is created from a predecessor or in response to a competing model.
A basic list of dimensions and components including how certain qualities affect basic functions and suitability for certain pilots and venues. Dimensions also provide a basis for comparison with other similarly equipped helicopters.
Usually there are not many options available on newly release helicopters. But as improvement and variations are developed, suddenly there are a multitude of choices. Options are specific to preferences, budget constraints applications. For instance, a novice pilot will value stability over agility and a 3D pilot will be willing to pay more for a lighter more powerful motor. Operating with a smaller budget, you may also choose a basic configuration which can be upgraded at a later date.
More often than not, basic helicopters packages are offered at bargain basement prices to attract buyers. If certain options are not included at the time of purchase, the user will have to consider upgrades to improve performance, durability and reliability. Amongst some of the most common upgrades are brushless motors, metal parts, batteries, and misc parts. Some upgrades only involve a few screws to remove and replace a part while more extensive upgrades may involve changing out multiple components.
Researching an upgrade means searching through forums and websites to find a reliable upgrade from a reputable source. Some upgrades are at best conceptual which are not time tested products. If you are getting an upgrade kit, make sure there are detailed instructions. A complex upgrade kit from a reputable vendor are always tested on a helicopter before it's shipped to you to prevent deffects. The lack of quality control will jeopardize the servicibility of your kit because the vendor would have a hard time figuring out if the kit was shipped deffective or damaged by the customer. When dealing with an extensive upgrade you will need to test the helicopter at every stage to ensure the viability of each component. Even if it works, the upgrade may only be good for 5 minutes or the components may fall apart in a minor crash and get destroyed. Needless to say, the upgrades is only as good as the developer, the manufacturer, the vendor and fianlly the integrater.
TUNNING & SETTING
Walkera helicopters in general will fly out of the box but performance will be less than optimum without some fine tunning. Balancing blades and paddles are often a first step. Since there are numerous transmitter radios used on different models, each settings is unique.
Different aspects of performance include stability, power, agility, manuverbility and flight duration. As you might suspect, an advantage in one often leads to a compromise in another. We might suggest certain values are more critical for specific applications depending on the pilot and his or her abilities and goals.
This is a subject that is often overlooked. If each crash ends up costing $100 to repair, many of us would have a hard time keeping that helicopter in flying condition. Many helicopter may look like a winner in performance and specification but falls apart literally in the maintenance aspect.
Opinions vary greatly from pilot to pilot. If a pilot is too commited to one brand, objectivity is often compromised. So it's best to thoroughly research a product from several reliable sources before making a decision.
LOCAL HOBBY STORES VERSUS INTERNET STORES
Many hobbyists prefer the convenience of local hobby stores (LHS). However, you can easily safe 30% to 40% on the same or better helicopter or parts. With much higher expenses in both location, labor and purchasing (middle man costs), LHS are unable to compete on the internet. So many LHS are forced to offer less competitive brands such as Align , E-flite and Heli-Max at higher predetermined prices (price fixing). On the other hand, internet stores are selling comparable helicopters with multiple upgrades at a substantial discount.