So how do you break into the miniature helicopter business? - RC Groups
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Jan 30, 2006, 11:30 PM
Hold my beer.....
sharky47's Avatar

So how do you break into the miniature helicopter business?

Let me start off with a little background about myself. I am 22 years old, and have been going to airshows before I could walk. My dad has been an FAA IA for over 30 years, and an A&P for longer than that, I put myself through college (IT degree) working full-time as an A&P apprentice - had plenty of training from my dad. Him and I used to perform the maint. on the channel 42 news heli based in Austin, Tx (Enstrom 280), I have helped take care of a DC-3, Convair 340, T-28, L-39, I even honest-to-god have performed sheet metal repair on a MiL-24D Hind gunship! And then there's all the little Cessna's and Pipers, even rebuilt a Cub.

I am currently working as a CNC machinist, I make parts for any industry you could possible imagine, even for some rc aircraft/heli manufacturers. I do enjoy what I do, but I am only truly happy when I am designing/prototyping something - especially helicopter stuff. Most of you know that I am currently developing a 4-bladed, flybarless rotorhead for the Trex - to be used as a small portable AP platform. I plan on applying this design to larger helis such as the Swift.

I find myself at work working extra fast to get my normal duties finished so I can sit down with Solidworks or even just a pencil and paper to design my newest component or figure out a problem. I have been reading books, studying other's designs, and even examining full-size helis - I live and breath this stuff!

So what this all boils down to is that I know I probably won't make a million dollars - but what I really want to do is make a living doing something I love. There's the old saying: "The surefire way to make a small fortune in to start with a big one". I just have no clue how to even go about finding a career in the rc heli world - how would that resume read? I have no formal engineering education, but I am a very technical person and do have a college degree and aviation background.

To the guys doing this for real (Chris S, etc.) - where do I start?
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Jan 31, 2006, 12:05 AM
Registered User
jdbercic's Avatar
If your really serious.... Go to

This is an asian source that will set you up with muliple sources wholesale prices in China. The only thing is that these guys play hardball and you will have to be ready to put up alot of money in order to get the pricing down. I looked into it all already but soon realized that the profit becaues of ebay is slim. Probably $20-40 per heli. If you live in USA you will have a good advantage in that shipping costs are far less to you there. Don't bother if you are in Canada.
The freight costs is everything when it comes to these things as shipping them by boat will take long and should be pallet mounted. (This means you will have to order alot of units.)

Goog luck though.

Oh yeah.... You better be good at negotiating as the prices will vary.


This is provided you are looking at selling them.... Sorry if I am wrong though.
Jan 31, 2006, 12:14 AM
Hold my beer.....
sharky47's Avatar
No, I DO NOT want a hobby shop - I want to get paid to design them!
Jan 31, 2006, 12:26 AM
Suspended Account
Actually i saw this thing on the megatech website their looking for engineers.
Last edited by heliman13; Jan 31, 2006 at 12:48 AM.
Jan 31, 2006, 12:52 AM
Destroyer of G-10
askman's Avatar
only advice is this. start small, take care of customers, and be patient. there are way too many hobbiest/part time manufacturers to make a living. some side income, definitely, but full time is very hard without luck, hardwork, experience and persistence. in fact, Jeff is right, in that it probably is easier to make a living in retail end. I've known few who has made a transistion to full time work that way, but not as a designer/manufacturer. the problem is lack of time and resource. it might be better to find the job in the industry, at least it will be easier to make a living that way. and if you really want to design them, finish your 4 year degree in mechanical engineering. I work in R&D as engineer, and most companies will not look at you unless you have 4 year degrees. (sad but true)

anyway, good luck. oh yes, don't sell yourself short. if you have a good product, charge what is fair. it does no good to undersell yourself. get a business license and liability insurance, especially if you make rotor heads. and good website, and prepare not to sleep too much anymore. you will never have enough time in the day. and don't quit your day job. but it can be fun and rewarding experience, even part time.
Jan 31, 2006, 02:11 AM
Master of the Skies
I read this, and HAD to reply, I think what everyone is thinking is the obvious, from the the manufactures, to guys doing arials for money (RC heli's on live feed), you will find its a very "mom & pop" business still.
This is still a niche hobby as far as corporations go, the facade that this is a mutli billion dollar idustry is just that, its a million dollar industry.....

Magazines would have you believe that theres gold in them hills, but in reality, its a lot of small SMALL companies that design, manufacture, and distribute these heli parts, planes, whatever.

Theres very few large RC companies I can even think of one in the USA. In Japan however, Kyosho, Thunder Tiger and TAMIYA are the big "houses". In the USA however, I don't think theres a lot of large corporations involoved, and its not at the knock on your door heres my resume caliber business world........yet (perhaps in ten years with population growth/interest).

Yellow Aircraft is small, so is Xcell, and many others. Only big names like Thunder Tiger and such are LARGE corporations that have even front offices and oh my, secretaries! LOL. You better believe there is STIFF competition in that market, and let me tell you how many OVERQUALIFIED people ask them for jobs, everyday, in their OWN country.

Don't get em wrong, I hope you start your own business, but you will come to the realiztaion, that you will have to pitch everytign yourself to a company, (not a good idea these days, as without lawyers, they will just "redesign" YOUR idea , then sell it)
and most likely if you really want to design you will have to create your own firm where you can design helis on the side, or manufacture all your own ideas.

At any rate, most of these businesses started small, did everytign themselves, and barely servive untill th next quarter. I know this from experience. I know Skymaster here in Hawaii, they are a fabulous company, dong very well....but let me tell you, there is over 8 guys here that contribute, A LOT, and simply do it for the love.

If you want to make money in this hobby, start fyling helis, make your own business, or if you want money, become a realtor.
Jan 31, 2006, 02:25 AM
Destroyer of G-10
askman's Avatar
true enough eibo. true enough. there are lot easier way to make money than this business. I am glad I have decent full time job. that is for sure. I can honestly say I spent more than I made in my business. mostly reinvesting though.
Jan 31, 2006, 08:39 AM
I can tell you, the profit margin is very small indeed. This is due to the huge investment in time and money related to R&D. I am STILL not at this full time. It was (and is) my dream to do heli R&D full time. But, it has not happened yet. In fact, after 3 years, I finally have a shop, and that I am only at 2 days a week (sometimes only 1). I see alot of money come in and almost all of it go right back out to support outsourcing, prototyping materials, updated this and that, more machining equipment, taxes, you name it.

My situation is much like yours. I do not have an engineering degree and I love R&D. So, there is no chance in ---- that I will ever get hired by an RC company PERIOD. So, I had to start my own business. The only way I could get into the industry would be to sell my business with an employment contract to work for the firm that bought it. However, the odds of that are slim too.

I can tell you that this is fun, but ALOT of work. It takes alot of time to develop (properly develop) parts, aquire a name in the industry, earn respect, learn business, and mature in all areas. I was totally thrilled when I got that first paypal payment! Wow! Then after a while I had so many orders I had to shut my web site down because I had no time to fill them. But, I did the math and I would have needed 3 times the orders I had to work at it full time. So, I was stuck. Now, I do it part time with a friend (pseudo partner) to help me. The business grosses quite a bit, but we take very small paychecks (many months we don't take any pay) and the rest goes right back into the company. People say my stuff is expensive. Hmm, there sure isn't much profit in it. We rarely make over $10 an hour at this right now.

The bottom line is this, do it for the love of the industry and if you make a living at it, FANTASTIC! But, if not, be content to make it your avocation rather than your vocation.

Sorry to be so long winded. If you want to talk more, I can PM you my number.

Jan 31, 2006, 11:03 AM
Rsetiegerd Uesr
CyberJay's Avatar
Just to echo the themes already brought up in this thread...

My passion is cycling. I've been very serious about it for the last 10-11 years. I always dreamed of openning my own bicycle store. In 2002 I got laid off from my IT position and had the opportunity to take a manager position at the local bike shop. This shop also happens to be one of the best shops in the state. Pay was 1/2 what I made in IT, but very good for a bike shop.

It was an extreme amount of work. On your feet and moving from open to close. At first I thoroughly enjoyed it, but in time I got more and more worn out. I started riding less and less. Due to my work schedule I lost touch with the cycling club I was involved with. And while I made enough to pay the bills, I couldn't go on cycling trips the way I used to. Long story short: I worked for the bike shop for 3 years. I started in the best shape I've EVER been in and loving riding. I left last summer, totally burned out on riding and in the worst shape I've been in in the last 8 years.

Now I'm back in IT, making good money and (starting to) enjoy cycling again and I learned a valuable lesson... If you get a job following your passion, then your passion becomes WORK. I'm not saying it can't be done, but for my personality, I need to get AWAY from work with my bicycles and now my helicopters. I really value the time I spent at the bike shop, but there's no way I could have stayed there, and deffinitely no way I could make it as a bike shop owner. I could probably get by financially, but it wouldn't be fun the way I wanted it to be.

I laughed at your one statement there, I've heard "The fastest way to make a million dollars in the cycling industry is to start with two million." from many people.

Good luck whatever you decide to do. Personally I think a side business would be the best way to go.

Jan 31, 2006, 11:14 AM
Destroyer of G-10
askman's Avatar
Originally Posted by CyberJay
I laughed at your one statement there, I've heard "The fastest way to make a million dollars in the cycling industry is to start with two million." from many people.


that is true for most startup business. that is why bank won't lend you money to a start up in most cases. also, if you make your first million, it is much easier to get financing.

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