RC Helicopter HISTORY

So, where did it all really begin, who was first, why, how????  Through the pages of this section I will try to answer these questions and lead you through the years of development in the world of RC helicopters.

Before that a quick history of 'full size' is at the following link highlighting the tortuous path in achieving a 'manned' helicopter;

Moving on, this section gives an overview on the history of RC helicopters in a year by year format.  Each page will provide reports from old articles, competitions, Fun Fly's, and as much information as I can glean in order to give an idea of how RC helicopters developed and the trends over the years.  Additionally, where better to get a 'feel' for RC Helicopter history than examples of what was being offered for sale throughout the years as highlighted by including 'Adverts'.

Many articles are from magazines of the era and also personal input from a number of enthusiasts though unfortunately (at this time at least) with a bias towards Europe (UK in particular) as that is where the majority of information has been sourced.  Many thanks therefore go to all companies, publishers and individuals without whom this ongoing project would not be possible.  Of special note is Dieter Schlüter who has allowed use 'verbatim' of his recollections which makes the earlier years easier to chronicle (See Acknowledgements). 

Model by Year - full listing of RC helicopter indexed by year of introduction.

Pre 70  - This period highlights the many approach's to the problems of achieving a practical radio control model of a helicopter.

1970  -  Finally a 'successful' model Radio controlled helicopter from Dieter Schlüter though a number of others were closely on his heels.  First commercial kit of a RC helicopter with a redesigned Cobra from Dieter Schlüter.

1971  -  Consolidation year for Dieter Schlüter with displays in the US plus a development year for others trying to catch up though only Kalt brought out a helicopter; the Cobra 450.

1972  -  First demonstration in the UK and USA of Dieters RC 'Cobra' Helicopter plus the first US nationals helicopter competition.  Dub-Ro (USA) brings out the Whirlybird 505 designed by Dave Gray and Kalt bring out a second helicopter and a portent of things to come from Japan.

1973  -  First UK Helicopter design competition resulting in the first UK manufacturer plus three more German manufacturers producing their first kits and a successful 'home' manufacture of a kit from Switzerland.  Helicopters competitions becoming more frequent and better attended / organised.

1974  -  UK manufacturer Micro-Mold brought out the Lark; first of the small 'affordable' helicopters; 'Pod and Boom' layout with the single side frame that was to become the standard for the more 'basic' trainers.  First production gyro brought out by Kavan though it was expensive and did require to be soldered into the tail rotor servo internal wiring.  First RC helicopter controlled from a 'full size' machine followed by the first cross channel flight of an RC helicopter.

1975  -  Consolidation year for many; introduction of the Heli-Baby which was to become the 'standard' Pod and Boom layout with twin parallel metal frames for the next 25 years and the Graupner Bell 47 of plastic construction though it was to be many years before this became common.

1976  -  A year of technical upgrade for existing models plus many more manufacturers bring out their own versions of 'trainers'; many with quite advanced features for the time.  Also the first, but definitely not the last, helicopter clone.

1977  -  Hirobo introduce another four models including a trainer indicating they were serious in pursuing RC helicopter development and production.  For most others it had been another consolidation year with new models being developed in the background.

1978  -  "Rigid Rotor" i.e. Flybarless machine from American RC Inc introduced and would be followed by a number of others in the next couple of years.  The Schlüter Bell_222/Heli-Boy pod and boom machine proves the 'must have' model and wins nearly everything at competition level.  After market fuselage bodies now being provided from a number of sources for helicopter versions that manufacturer's have not yet covered such as Westland Lynx, Agusta 109, Sea King, etc.

1979  -  First commercial un-tethered electric helicopter .  Commercially available multi-blade heads.  Japanese companies finally making a move for global sales of their helicopters.  Futaba bring out a high specification eight channel FM radio with mixers specifically for helicopters and the year of inverted flight with 'true' i.e. non-switched continuous inverted flight.

1987  -  Scale models in the majority for competitions.

1988  -  Model Helicopter world started as a bi-monthly production.  Historic flights of a RC Helicopter piloted from a full size Helicopter.

1989  -  Another example of controlling helicopters from a full size in flight but this time two at once.

1990  -  pending