One of the many decisions you’ll have to make when choosing a remote control helicopter (RC) is whether to go with an infrared (IR) or radio-controlled model. IR models feature a light-emitting diode (LED) on the control that emits light rules to the helicopter, whereas radio-controlled remotes emit radio waves. While both methods are effective at controlling an RC helicopter, most seasoned hobbyists prefer radio-controlled models since they can transmit through walls and obstacles while boasting a longer range than IR.
But not all radio-controlled RC helicopters are made the same. A newer type of remote-controlled technology that’s taking the RC world by storm is called spread spectrum. To better understand this technology and the benefits it offers, you must first take a step back to look at radio transmissions. When you listen to the radio, you “tune” it into a specific station. The radio must be set on the same frequency that’s transmitted by the radio station. This principle holds true for traditional radio-controlled RC helicopters, as the controller must be tuned into the same frequency as the helicopter.
Most radio-controlled hobby-grade RC helicopters (and other RC vehicles for that matter) operate in the frequency of 72 and 75 mega hertz (MHz). This is a very limited spectrum, which causes problems when multiple hobbyists are flying their RC helicopters at once.
Over time more and more frequencies have been crammed into this limited range. If another person is trying to fly his or her RC helicopter using the same frequency as your helicopter, the two of you may end up controlling each others helicopter unknowingly.
Spread spectrum RC helicopters live up to their namesake by using a band of frequencies rather than a single frequency. This subsequently lowers the risk of interference during flight, allowing you to operate your helicopter without fear of someone else taking control of your helicopter and inadvertently bringing it crashing to the ground.
It’s also important to note that spread spectrum RC helicopters operate at a higher frequency range than traditional radio-controlled RC models. At a frequency of 2.4 GHz, it’s practically immune to outside sources of interference.
Spread spectrum RC copters will also have a much faster response time (just milliseconds) – the time it takes your helicopter to respond to commands from the remote control.
So, is a spread spectrum RC helicopter the right choice for you? It really depends on what you are hoping to achieve with your RC helicopter. You can expect to pay slightly more for a spread spectrum model when compared to a traditional remote-controlled RC helicopter, but most experienced RC hobbyists will agree that it’s well worth the investment. Spread spectrum greatly reduces the risk of interference, allowing you to take full control of your RC helicopter without fear of another hobbyist or electronic device interfering.