One of the many decisions you’ll have to make when purchasing your first remote control helicopter is whether to choose an electric, gas or nitro-powered model. There are advantages and disadvantages associated with each, but seasoned hobbyists often prefer nitro RC helicopters for their superior speed and performance.
What is Nitro Fuel?
It’s a common assumption that nitro fuel is nothing more than standard unleaded gasoline, but this isn’t entirely true. Nitro, or Nitromethane, is an organic polar liquid that’s used in a wide variety of applications. It can be found in cleaning products, solvents, fibers, pesticides, medicine, and of course, remote controlled vehicles. When used in RC vehicles, it’s able to burn using much less oxygen than standard gasoline, resulting in greater combustion and subsequently more power.
In order for a standard gas-powered RC helicopter to burn 1kg of gasoline, the engine must receive 14.7kg of oxygen. With a nitro-powered model, however, it only needs 1.7kg of oxygen to burn 1kg of nitro fuel. Keep in mind that gasoline delivers a higher specific energy, yet the gross power produced by nitro tends to be higher.
Purchasing Nitro Fuel
If you’re going to invest in a nitro-powered RC helicopter, you’ll need to find a supplier who is willing to sell you hobby-grade nitro fuel. You won’t be able to buy nitro fuel from your local gas station, meaning you’ll have to find other ways to acquire the fuel. The good news is that most RC hobby stores sell nitro fuel, so this is usually a good place to start. If you are unable to find any, ask some other RC hobbyists in your area. Word of mouth can be an effective tool in sourcing nitro fuel, as well as other parts and components for your RC helicopter.
Maintaining and Caring for a Nitro RC Helicopter
Like all RC vehicles, nitro-powered helicopters must be cleaned on a regular basis. If left unchecked, a think gunk-like substance will form in the engine, inhibiting its ability to generate combustion. The components of a nitro RC helicopter should be cleaned on a regular basis to prevent this from happening. You can clean it using one of the many products sold at RC hobby stores, or you can clean your helicopter using some left over nitro fuel. The nitro fuel should eat away at stubborn gunk, leaving your engine nice and clean afterwards.
Is a Nitro RC Helicopter Right for Me?
Everyone has their own opinions regarding which type of RC helicopter is the best. However, there’s really no way to tell whether or not a nitro model is the right choice without trying it for yourself. We recommend performing a test flight using a nitro, gas, and electric model, to see which one is best suited for your preference.