Helicopters are used for both military and civil purposes in a wide range of capacities.

While some helicopters are used to fulfill very specific functions like transporting troops or rescuing trapped people, others are used for more general purposes, especially when it comes to civilian helicopters.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular types of helicopters, what they are used for, as well as some popular models.

Civilian Helicopters

Civilian helicopters are smaller, lighter, and less sophisticated than their military counterparts.

If we look at the data, we can see that there are 38,536 civil helicopters worldwide compared to 31,192 military helicopters.

Civil helicopters can be very expensive to buy and maintenance costs are also very high, which are a couple of the main reasons why the ownership and use of civil helicopters is nowhere near as high when compared to general aviation airplanes.

What Civilian Helicopters Are Used For

Since helicopters can fly to impressive heights and hover in place, they are great for transportation to inaccessible areas and providing vantage points.

Civil helicopters have the following uses:


Civil helicopters can transport people and cargo over long distances and to difficult-to-reach heights.

For instance, a helicopter could be used to transport a maintenance worker to the top of a tall tower that’s otherwise too difficult to reach by climbing.

Due to their purpose, transport helicopters can weigh a lot.

Helicopters are also ideal for transporting lightweight sensitive materials that would otherwise be risky to transport by road or sea.

For instance, they are used to transport equipment to offshore oil rig workers.

Flight Training

Civil helicopters are often used to train new helicopter pilots, both civilian and military.

While simulations are useful, there is no alternative to getting in the cockpit of a real helicopter and testing a pilot’s skills in real-time and real-world conditions.

News and Broadcasting

The world’s largest news channels routinely use news helicopters to record events from the air.

Typically, they’re used to record dangerous events like natural disasters and car chases.

News helicopters offer both safety and a unique vantage point for news and media people.

Emergency and Hospital Services

Helicopters are used for different emergency situations.

They can combat fires by spraying water on them from a hose while in the air.

Helicopters are also used to deliver emergency supplies to people in regions inaccessible by road, and they can also rescue people in dangerous situations.

For example, a rescue helicopter could be used to rescue people trapped on a tall mountain during an avalanche that made it inaccessible by road.

Some helicopters are even designed to be able to land on water.

Examples of Civilian Helicopters

These are three of the most impressive civilian helicopters in the world:

  • Airbus H155

Known as one of the world’s fastest helicopters, the Airbus H155 is a long-range medium-lift aircraft that has room for 13 passengers and up to two crew members.

The Airbus H155 is used as a luxury aircraft by the world’s business elite, as an emergency aerial vehicle, and in law enforcement as well.

  • Mil Mi-26 Halo 

The Mil Mi-26 Halo is a Soviet/Russian origin helicopter that’s used for transporting large amounts of cargo, upwards of 13-tonnes, in fact.

It has been used for both civilian and military purposes, but nowadays, it’s mostly used by civilians.

Although it first took flight in 1977, it’s still regarded as one of the largest helicopters to have ever gone into serial production, and it continues to be used to this day.

  • Eurocopter EC225 Super Puma

The EC225 Super Puma is currently one of the world’s most expensive helicopters, costing in excess of $20 million.

It can carry up to 24 passengers and can fly for an impressive five-and-a-half hours without refueling.

The CC225 is used as both a luxury helicopter and for transporting workers to and from offshore oil and gas facilities.

Its long flight time makes it ideal for transporting workers from the city to facilities like oil and gas rigs that are far away.

Military Helicopters

Military helicopters are armed with an arsenal of lethal weapons ranging from missiles to machine guns and bombs.

Military helicopters are usually much larger and more advanced than civilian ones.

What Military Helicopters Are Used For

Military helicopters are used for everything from troop and equipment transportation to medical search and rescue, aerial reconnaissance, and engaging in wartime combat.

Troop and Equipment Transport

Military helicopters are often used to transport troops across difficult-to-traverse terrain such as mountain tops.

They’re also often used by special forces, and they’re occasionally used for troop evacuation from battlefields.

Airborne Command

Helicopters can serve as mobile aerial command posts for military leaders.

These aircraft hover far above the battlefield, providing military leaders with a safe position from which to distribute orders, but they can also provide unique vantage points of battlefields.

Medical Evacuation and first aid

Helicopters are routinely used to transport wounded troops from the battlefield along with transporting medical professionals, supplies, and equipment to wounded troops when needed.

They have been extensively used to provide medical aid during many recent wars, including those in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Related: How Fast Do Medical Helicopters Fly?

Military Engagement

Military helicopters can be used to attack enemy bases, fixed positions, and enemy soldiers.

Helicopters are relatively difficult to take down from the ground because of their thick armor.

Aerial assault by helicopters can be devastating.


Helicopters can scout an area and obtain mapping data before military units on the ground move in.

Scouting helicopters are often outfitted with stealth technology to reduce their chances of being detected.

Examples of Military Helicopters

Some commonly used military helicopters include:

  • Eurocopter Tiger

The Eurocopter Tiger is of European origins. It has a vast arsenal of weapons, and it’s been extensively used for combat in countries like Afghanistan, Libya, and Mali.

It’s a very capable aircraft that’s performed impressively in real-life combat.

  • Bell AH-1Z Viper

The Viper has strong armor and is often deployed for air-to-air combat.

It’s a true military chopper that’s used extensively for offensive combat, aerial reconnaissance, and escorting other aircraft.

It can even be deployed from aircraft carriers, so it’s a very versatile aircraft with a lot of military potential.

  • Kamov Ka 50

Dubbed ‘the Alligator’ for its unique appearance, this chopper is operated by the Russian air force, and it’s famous for being an all-weather aircraft that can perform under even the most dangerous weather conditions.

It’s also outfitted with a deadly arsenal of weapons, and it’s primarily used for combat.

In conclusion, there are many types of helicopters used for both civilian and military purposes.

These aircraft do everything from transporting men and materials to providing emergency services and engaging in combat and offering good vantage points.

Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.

Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.

Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.