A helicopter's hover ceiling is the maximum height at which it can hover. As the helicopter goes higher, the air becomes thinner, and so it becomes harder for the helicopter to generate sufficient lift to counteract its own weight. Helicopters have two hover ceilings; one in ground effect and one out of ground effect. As it is dependent solely on air density, the height is most usefully given as a density altitude.
Related to this concept is that of the service ceiling, which is the maximum height the helicopter can operate at in forward flight; as the main rotor is more efficient in forward flight due to translational lift, this is much higher than either hover ceiling.
Model helicopters vary rarely operate anywhere near their hover or service ceiling.
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