Southampton Model Aeroplane Club

Established 1932

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Radio controlled single rotor craft with tail rotor stabilisation, helicopters, became viable in the late 1970’s and were very popular in the early 1980’s. Before that date they had been only of interest to specialised builders and experimenters.  

At that time helis (as they began to be called) were exclusively glo-engine powered, mechanically stabilised (with fly-bar), and tail damped with mechanical gyros.  Model designs were largely inspired scale recreations of full-size machines, although aerobatic models were becoming possible. The model shown here is a 1985 Hirobo Lama, using a Fly-bar stabilised rotor head and an OS50H engine, belt started clutch and integral gearbox.  The tail was stabilised by a mechanical Futaba gyro. Very nice

Aerobatic helicopters were largely restricted to positive G manouevres, although it was not long before inverted flight was achieved.   The model shown here is a 1987 Hirobo Falcon 808 with OS50H motor, clutch and CSM solid state gyro.

In the 1990’s electric helis started to appear but were limited by the use of brushed motors, mechanical speed controllers, and ground based (car) batteries so that the heli was tethered, and therefore effectively restricted to indoor use only.

In the 2000’s proper electric helis arrived, at least for indoor use,  with brushless motors, electronic speed controllers, and electronic solid state gyros. This model is an e-flite CX-2 pseudo-scale indoor heli with contra-rotating main rotors and no tail rotor (direction being achieved by differential drive of the two main rotor motors).

More recently fly-bar-less helis have taken over with all stabilisation done electronically.  Modern indoor helis use single rotors and have 3-axis stabilisation.

The pinnacle of modern outdoor helis is the fly-bar-less, pod-and-boom, fully aerobatic model with great power-to-weight ratio using 6s 3200 lipo batteries, such as the Align Trex 500 DFC using BeastX control.

More recent is the arrival of multirotors, such as the DJI Phantom.  This is an early DJI Phantom I with 3-axis stabilisation, GPS location determination and 3 modes of coordinate movement (heli, rectilinear, polar). It can carry a GoPro camera and video downlink to a ground-based display such as hand held screen or virtual reality goggles. When flown from the goggles it is called First-Person-View or FPV. There is a BMFA achievement scheme for drones.