While the dangers of commercial helicopters are probably obvious with the possibility of debris getting into eyes, not to mention the dangerous blades whirling above the machine, the dangers of recreational or remote control helicopters may not seem as apparent. Even though remote control helicopters are not as dangerous as “real” helicopters, they still call for employing safety procedures and donning safety gear. Unfortunately, some simply view them as toys and fail to do what’s necessary to keep both operators and onlookers safe.
While no one wants to eliminate the fun, we must admit that mom was right when she said, “It’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt.” And there are a lot of ways to get injured by remote control helicopters.
Before reviewing those ways, let’s first understand some of the “forces and velocities involved in a 30-size helicopter with average wood blades at 1800 rpm” as provided by Heliguy. First, each spindle, blade holder and nylon nut screwed to the helicopter must hold 270 pounds (122Kg) to keep the blades from flying away. And second, the tip speed of each blade is about 250 MPH or 413 KPH.
The force that the blades have is like having someone who can throw at about 50mph (81 kph) hit something with the tip of an 8 ft. (2.5m) ruler as hard as possible. If that something is a person, they would be in pain. The point being that the force of these blades, while not likely causing death, can do some serious damage. Heliguy also says to “remember, these statistics are for 30-sized helicopter blades. 60-sized helicopters are much more powerful, and their blades are considerably longer and heavier.”
While the strength of impact varies from one machine to the next, these numbers at least indicate a need to be cautious when operating and simply when near remote control helicopters.
Looking at this in a practical sense, what specific sorts of dangers can these types of forces present?
- Rotor wash: Air turbulence caused by a helicopter’s rotor can send flying debris into the air and likely into the eyes of the operator or nearby spectators. That is, unless eyes are properly protected.
- Inexperience: Quadcopters are very easy to fly for novice fliers, and most Quadcopters can hover automatically. Unfortunately, inexperience often leads to mistakes which lead to injuries. Making sure an operator isn’t flying a machine he isn’t ready for increases safety for both the operator and spectators.
- Location: Quadcopters tend to be closer to the operator than traditional RC aircraft, so the chance of being hit is increased. Also, some aircraft are made for indoor operation, which increases the chance of injuries like corneal abrasions (scratches to the surface of the eye).
- Adverse conditions: Outdoor weather conditions and malfunctions often lead to errors and accidents, especially when not taken into consideration prior to takeoff.
- Maintenance: Every landing, general use and even minor crashes put stress on aircraft that can lead to breakdown. While having a maintenance program makes logical sense and many pilots implement them consistently, they can get neglected as adrenaline from the excitement of the sport flows.
In addition to common sense, taking time to learn how to operate the aircraft, and making sure aircraft is properly maintained, wearing protective eyewear helps ensure that the most likely injuries don’t happen.
What’s the best option that doesn’t compromise style or comfort and take away from the enjoyment of the sport? And what options work best for indoor operation?
Goggles provide whole-eye protection by eliminating any space through which debris can make its way to eyes. Perhaps goggles aren’t your thing as you’d like to wear something a bit more fashionable. Then safety glasses with good wrap-around protection provide a solid alternative. Some are even available with a foam-lined lens, which provides protection from flying debris, similar to a traditional goggle. There are a lot of lens options as well that make wearing protective eyewear just as functional indoors as outdoors.
Taking time to plan for safety can keep the sport of flying remote control helicopters – and most other sports for that matter – safe and fun.