A few people asked me what the best quadcopter is to start out with for beginners. I will share with you some good quadcopters options to start out with. If you have no RC flying experience in the past, you might find this post useful.
Article was created in September 2013, revised in May 2016.
What’s the best quadcopter for beginner?
It’s a tricky question because there isn’t really a best quadcopter setup.
The electronics, frame and gear you choose will determine its flight characteristics and capabilities.
Electronics with better hardware may have better capabilities, but without the knowledge and understanding of how to utilise that hardware things can become frustrating very quickly. There’s also toy grade and hobby grade both of which have models great for beginners
Research and Study
When I first got interested in quadcopters I spent weeks reading/watching reviews and guides. Hearing from people’s flying and quad building experience really helped me to understand it better.
You can’t go wrong with doing a lot of research and studying, currently there is an overwhelming amount of very useful write ups and videos online. Ask tons of questions before you spend your hard earned money on a box of stuff you have no idea what to do with. I put together a comprehensive guide explaining how each component works on a quadcopter you may find useful.
A good place to start for anyone learning is a toy grade model, these are easy to fly and learn with but can also be very entertaining as your skills improve. Hobby grade models usually require some knowledge and build skills to assemble and maintain, so be sure to do your homework before buying.
The Best Quadcopter To Start out
As a quadcopter or RC beginner, you are almost guaranteed to have countless crashes with your quad at the beginning. Even just once among those countless crashes can be fatal, expensive and time consuming replacing all those broken parts. Practising with an inexpensive model can be beneficial to learning the ins and outs of these very technical machines.
If you can afford to, I would personally recommend getting a RTF (ready to fly) quadcopter. After you have mastered the flying skills with this mini quad you can move onto some faster/more powerful ones, or start building your own multirotor. It gives you an opportunity to learn the steering control, hand-eye coordination and muscle memory. I got one of those and they are so robust and still flying after many crashes.
Toy grade RTF options are (which I think are good value): Cheerson CX10, and Hubsan X4. Alternatively, you can build your own micro quad, but requires more advanced knowledge and experience in RC. For more powerful Hobby grade mini quad, check out the Emax Nighthawk Pro 280 I reviewed before.
How to Start with Flying Technique?
This is how I learned to fly. It’s important to start your practice by standing behind the quadcopter so you are facing the same direction as the quad. This will allow the movements on your transmitter to make the quadcopter go in the same direction!
Here is another guide on flying tips and rules.
You’ll want to lift your quad off the ground almost instantly to around 1 meter (3 feet). When it’s too close to the ground you might get air disturbance from the motors (ground effect/prop wash). Just try to hover around the same spot with the same height using throttle, pitch and roll.
If Hovering isn’t too difficult for you, you can now try mastering landing. It sounds easy but it’s one of the most important technique beginners seem to forget. The idea here is the throttle control, remember to lower it really slowly and smoothly. Do not cut the power instantly, your quad will free fall and might damage your frame or electronics.
Pitch and Roll Control
Pitch controls forward and reverse, roll controls side to side motion. Pick a location you want the quad to move to, use pitch and roll fly to that spot and land.
Yaw is the 360 degree rotating motion around the quads centre. Much like when you move your head to look right or left, the quad will “yaw” left or right with your control input.
Start by trying to circle around an object or yourself (just don’t get too close). You will only use pitch and a bit of throttle to go forward, use Yaw to turn left and right. You can either practice flying in circle, or in figure 8’s. This control technique is very useful when you start flying FPV, or taking videos in the sky.
Tips for Beginners – Selecting the right multirotor
A lot of people take the hard way and build large quads as their first quad. If you don’t have the spare budget for a mini learning quad, this seems to be the only way to go.
But again, if you crash badly due to lack of control practice, it might cost you more eventually (speaking from personal experience). You might even hurt someone if you lose control.
If you prefer something larger, consider an RTF quad that is similar in size to what you eventually want but is affordable and not too expensive to repair or replace in worst case scenarios. Currently there are many options available to beginners on the market. Many businesses even have RTF kits for a variety of quad sizes and experience levels.
Don’t just buy what everyone else is buying because they said it’s the best. Their preferences and skill sets will vary compared to yours and may not be suitable for you.
As a beginner you want to stay away from machines that are overly complicated. You want something that will allow you to focus on flying. Having all the options and best equipment is great, but doesn’t necessarily means they will make you a better pilot. Learning the basics of multirotor building/flying/repairing should be your first priority, they are all part of the learning curve and shouldn’t be skipped.
For those with some experience, you can fly almost any multicopters, but how well will be determined by your understanding of tuning, and setting up to fly the way you want. Part of being a great pilot is being a great mechanic, and knowing what to do with your quad to maximise its flight characteristics. All this comes down to practise and research. Take advantage of the endless amounts of information out there to make the most informed decision possible.
Something else to remember, things are changing at such a fast pace in this industry that it’s easy to get caught up in the rat race of what’s best or most popular. The most expensive or best gear won’t necessarily make you a better pilot. Once you find something that you like and flies well, stick with it till you’ve mastered it. Once you’ve done that, you’ll know the next step to take.