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Radio-controlled aircraft


A radio-controlled aircraft (often called RC aircraft or RC plane) is a small flying machine that is controlled remotely by an operator on the ground using a hand-held radio transmitter. The transmitter communicates with a receiver within the craft that sends signals to servomechanisms (servos) which move the control surfaces based on the position of joysticks on the transmitter. The control surfaces, in turn, affect the orientation of the plane.

Flying RC aircraft as a hobby grew substantially from the 2000s with improvements in the cost, weight, performance and capabilities of motors, batteries and electronics. A wide variety of models and styles is available.

Scientific, government and military organizations are also using RC aircraft for experiments, gathering weather readings, aerodynamic modeling and testing, and even using them as drones or spy planes.

The earliest examples of electronically guided model aircraft were hydrogen-filled model airships of the late 19th century. They were flown as a music hall act around theater auditoriums using a basic form of spark-emitted radio signal.

During World War II, the U.S. Army and Navy used radio controlled planes called Radioplanes as artillery target drones.

There are many types of radio-controlled aircraft. For beginning hobbyists, there are park flyers and trainers. For more experienced pilots there are glow plug engine, electric powered and sailplane aircraft. For expert flyers, jets, pylon racers, helicopters, autogyros, 3D aircraft, and other high-end competition aircraft provide adequate challenge. Some models are made to look and operate like a bird instead. Replicating historic and little known types and makes of full-size aircraft as "flying scale" models, which are also possible with control line and free flight types of model aircraft, actually reach their maximum realism and behavior when built for radio-control flying.



  • Proportional (vs. "on-off") throttle control which is critical for preventing the excitation of phugoid oscillation ("porpoising") whenever a throttle change is made. It also allows for manageable and steady altitude control and reduction of altitude loss in turns.
  • LiPo batteries for light weight and long flight time.
  • EPP (Expanded Polypropylene) foam construction making them virtually indestructible in normal use.
  • Low flying speed and typically rear-mounted propeller(s) make them less harmful when crashing into people and property.
  • Stable spiral mode resulting in simple turning control where "rudder" input results in a steady bank angle rather than a steady roll rate.
  • Ailerons – controls roll.
  • Elevator – controls pitch (up and down).
  • Throttle or, if electric, motor speed.
  • Rudder (or vertical stabilizer) - controls yaw (left and right).
  • Gear/retracts – controls retractable landing gear (usually in conjunction with gear doors).
  • Flaps – Increase lift, but also increase drag. Using flaps, an aircraft can fly slower before stalling. Flaps are often used to steepen the landing approach angle and let the plane land at a slower touchdown speed (as well as letting the aircraft lift off at a slower takeoff speed). In both cases, flaps enable using a shorter runway than would otherwise be required.
  • Auxiliary control – Additional channels can control additional servos for propeller pitch (such as on 3D planes), or control surfaces such as spoilerons, flaperons, or elevons.
  • Misc – bomb bay doors, lights, remote camera shutter can be assigned to extra channels. Additionally, if there is a flight assist or autopilot module on the craft (more common on the multi-rotor copters), features such as gyro-based stabilization, GPS location hold, height hold, return home, etc., can be controlled.
  • 72 MHz: aircraft only (France also uses US/Canada channels 21 through 35).
  • 75 MHz: surface vehicles.
  • 53 MHz: all vehicles, only for older equipment on 100 kHz spacing, with the operator holding a valid amateur radio (FCC in the USA) license. The 53 MHz band began to become vulnerable to amateur radio repeater stations operating on the 53 MHz area of the 6-meter band during the early 1980s. The 53 MHz bands can still be used with relative safety for ground-based (cars, boats/ships) powered modeling activities.
  • 50.8 to 51 MHz: on the 6-meter band for all vehicles at 20 kHz spacing, with the operator holding a valid amateur radio (FCC in the USA) license. Added in the 1980s as the amateur radio repeater interference problem on the earlier 53 MHz bands in the United States began to manifest itself.
  • 27 MHz: first band opened for RC use in the United States and shared with CB radio users: as with 53 MHz for Hams, nowadays preferable for use on ground-based RC models only — also used for older RC toys before 1991.
  • 2.400-2.485 GHz: Spread Spectrum band for general use (amateur radio license holders have 2.39-2.45 GHz licensed for their general use in the USA) and using both frequency-hopping spread spectrum and direct-sequence spread spectrum RF technology to maximize the number of available frequencies on this band, especially at organized events in North America.
  • 35 MHz: aircraft only.
  • 40 MHz: surface vehicles or aircraft.
  • 27 MHz: general use, toys, citizens band radio.
  • 2.4 GHz UHF spread spectrum: surface vehicles, boats and aircraft.
  • 458.5-459.5 MHz: surface vehicles or aircraft.
  • 72 MHz: aircraft only
  • 2.4 GHz: aircraft only
  • 36 MHz: aircraft and water-craft (odd channels for aircraft only)
  • 29 MHz: general use
  • 27 MHz: light electric aircraft, general use
  • 2.400-2.485 GHz: UHF Spread Spectrum band for general use (ACMA references available at [5])
  • 35 MHz: aircraft only
  • 40 MHz: aircraft only
  • 27 MHz: general use
  • 29 MHz: general use
  • 36 MHz: general use
  • 72 MHz: general use (US 72 MHz "even-numbered" channels 12 through 56, at 40 kHz spacing)
  • 2.400-2.4835 GHz: UHF-band general use
  • 50 and 53 MHz in the USA and Canada (American amateurs allowed up to one watt [30 dBm] of output power)
  • 433–434 MHz Formerly used low-UHF band in Germany until the end of 2008, but is still permitted in Switzerland, the USA and Canada.
  • Any commercial use (i.e. any form of payment or benefit) of an unmanned aircraft results in the operations falling under the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Operations Section, CASR 101-1. This section requires formal licensing, training and documentation procedures to be approved and followed. These requirements will typically require an outlay in the order of thousands of dollars which places commercial operations beyond the reach of most hobbyists. This is one area currently under review by CASA with initial reports indicating a potential option of simpler registration for light-weight UAV's without requiring formal certification.
  • Non-commercial use is governed by section 101-3 which includes requirements that:
    • No commercial benefit is to be obtained from operating the model – to be flown only for sport or recreational purposes
    • Maximum weight of 150 kg (models over 25 kg must be operated within a club setting under additional conditions)
    • Models under 100 grams are exempt from regulation
    • Only to be flown in daylight unless under written procedures of an authorised organisation (such as the MAAA)
    • The model must remain within continuous direct sight of the operator
    • When within 3 nautical miles of an aerodrome or when within controlled airspace, flight is limited to 400 ft above ground level
  • No commercial benefit is to be obtained from operating the model – to be flown only for sport or recreational purposes
  • Maximum weight of 150 kg (models over 25 kg must be operated within a club setting under additional conditions)
  • Models under 100 grams are exempt from regulation
  • Only to be flown in daylight unless under written procedures of an authorised organisation (such as the MAAA)
  • The model must remain within continuous direct sight of the operator
  • When within 3 nautical miles of an aerodrome or when within controlled airspace, flight is limited to 400 ft above ground level
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Wikipedia

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