RC Multicopters

Radio control aircraft come in many shapes, sizes and types and rc multicopters are a relatively new addition to the ever-growing list.

An evolution of the rc helicopter, multicopters are a unique type of aircraft that feature three or more motors mounted on booms fixed to a central fuselage or hub. The motors are mounted vertically and tilting movements of each motor, along with changes in motor power and hence rotor speed, give the omnidirectional control of the multicopter.

Smaller multicopters, particularly RTF quad copters, will not utilise any motor-tilting feature but rely soley on changes in motor speed, controlled by advanced auto-stabilisation electronic wizardry. So moving a stick on the transmitter won't cause any physical movement of anything on the copter, just a change in speed of the relevant motors.

Regardless of their individual design characteristics, rc multicopters are generally named after how many motors they have; a three-motored multicopter is a tricopter, a four-motored one is a quadcopter (or quadrocopter / quadricopter / quad rotor), a six-motored one is a hexacopter etc. They can vary in size, from palm-size to giants.
Away from the hobby, they are used as drones by the military and police forces etc.

RC multicopters have become very popular projects for scratch-build enthusiasts, but because of their popularity these radio controlled copters are becoming widely available to buy, in Ready To Fly and 'plug and play' versions.
One such example is the Blade mQX pictured below:

The mQX rc multicopter

Many, particularly larger, rc multicopters rely on rc helicopter gyros to achieve their stability in the air, but more sophisticated auto-stabilisation hardware has more recently become available and the Blade mQX uses Horizon Hobby's new AS3X stabilisation system that was developed to make their 'Ultra Micro' planes less twitchy to fly.
Whichever system is used, the end result is impressive and these copters are very stable machines indeed, once they are set up correctly.

Another example of a small ready to fly quad is the Traxxas QR-1 shown below - perfect for buzzing around the house!...

The QR-1 quad copter

This type of rc aircraft is really appealing to many people who don't necessarily want to fly a conventional radio control helicopter or plane. And because of the advanced electronic stability that they feature, you don't need any previous rc helicopter flying experience to have a lot of fun with one!

RC multicopters are very agile aircraft and in the hands of an experienced pilot they can be thrown around the sky in all manner of crazy ways, as the following video shows...

An ever-increasing use of rc multicopters is that of aerial photography and the relatively recent 'FPV' (First Person View) flying, whereby the pilot receives video images from a camera mounted on or inside the aircraft. In effect, the pilot can fly the aircraft as if sitting in the pilot's seat.

Because of the stability of the copters, they make perfect camera platforms and indeed are in use by many organisations and businesses around the world, ranging from military reconnaissance to police surveillance to aerial surveying. Essentially, any information that can be had from getting a bird's eye view of something can be achieved using an rc multicopter.

This does of course bring the issue of people's privacy in to question; in today's paranoid world there have already been complaints that use of these flying drones will invade our privacy one way or another, but personally I think that increased use of them is inevitable as they continue to prove their worth in the world of surveillance.

iPhone controllability

One huge development, not just in the rc multicopter world, but in the general radio control flying hobby, was the invention of the Parrot AR Drone, shown below:

The Parrot AR Drone rc multicopter

What made the Parrot AR Drone so special, and ahead of everything else, was that it uses a wireless connection and is controlled by an iPhone, iPad or similar device that has tilt-response. Also, the AR Drone features a built-in camera so in-flight video is transmitted back to the device for that First Person View experience!

The AR Drone certainly made history in the rc world, but of course since its release other manufacturers have followed suit, and knowing how things go in this hobby it won't be long before the technology is commonplace.

How big??

As previously mentioned, rc multicopters come in all shapes and sizes, but in autumn 2011 the ultimate goal was achieved when Thomas Senkel flew a home built full size multicopter! OK so it's not a radio controlled one, but it's very impressive to say the least...

All this guy needs to do is to build a gigantic transmitter to go with it, and he's got the full set up!

RC multicopters, despite being a relatively recent invention, have caught on very quickly. Their versatility and fun factor has ensured them a secure place in the radio control flying hobby, and their usefulness as air surveillance aircraft has earned them a definite place in the real world too.
Given that they are now available in Ready To Fly versions, they will only become more popular. Perhaps never as popular as rc helicopters, but you just never know!

RC Multicopter shopping.


Related pages

Related pagesFPV flying.

Related pagesElectric rc helicopters.

Related pagesRC aircraft types.

Handy stuff

Site search:

Custom Search

Like this site:

Find me on Facebook.


Best hel-E-books!

Top selling e-books:

Beginner's Guide To Flying RC Helicopters


Setup & Tips For Electric Collective Pitch RC Helicopters


120 and 140 Degree Swashplate Setup & Levelling


Getting the most out of your Blade mSR