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Design and fabrication of radio controlled airplanes

Written by Jack Brown RC planes have proven to be quite the fascinating device for young flyers and flying enthusiasts. This is true for both amateurs and experienced flyers. However today, we are going to learn how to make an RC plane from scratch which can be exciting for the DIY kind of flyers. The first thing that you are required to do here is finding the right equipment.

There are quite a few considerations you need to make while selecting the right parts for the device like the type of motors you need, or the frame that will hold the aircraft together. What do you need to make an RC plane? The design and fabrication of radio controlled airplanes Arguably, the most important part of the entire RC plane has to be the frame. When it comes to making an RC aircraft, choosing the right frame is the first hurdle you need to cross.

In the early days of RC devices, people used wood for the frame. Of course, times changed and so did the primary ingredient of the product. Nowadays, one of the more favored materials for this purpose is carbon fiber. In many planes, you will see that carbon fiber has been used and it actually gives a better shape to the plane as a whole.


The only issue that comes along with carbon fiber is its high cost. There is no doubt that cost does have an important role in choosing materials and parts for the plane, but if you are willing to spend a little more, then carbon fiber is the best choice. For instance, some of the most commonly used materials for creating the airframe of RC planes are: These are easily available materials and, of course, they are affordable.

Moreover, Depron is another material that is in demand for making the airframe of the plane. The reason most of the RC plane enthusiasts are opting for this material is its ability to mix flexibility along with rigidity which is not something that you get in common airframe materials.

In addition, this particular feature of the product allows the RC plane to absorb a lot of stress that it might encounter whilst in air. If you are building an aircraft for a beginner, then using expanded polypropylene would be a wise idea.

We say this because this product is known to support any kind of abuse — and this will definitely happen if the plane goes to a beginner. The tail One of the things you absolutely need to build an RC plane is the tail.

For starters, the tail is used to give the flying machine proper direction while in flight.

It is also responsible for making sure that the plane has the necessary stability. One of the reasons why people tend to choose the V-tails is the simple fact that they create lesser drag and they are lighter. However, you will also find another type of tail in the market. Given the importance of these parts, it would not be a bad idea to look carefully while deciding what kind of parts you are going to use. Lastly, you must remember that these tails are controlled with the help of an external product such as remote controls and a transmitter which is why you must make sure that the tails are functioning and are in sync with the transmitter.

The receiver The transmitter and receiver are of the utmost importance for your plane. So, if you want to be able to fly it correctly, you must make sure the products you choose are of the highest quality. Moreover, if you are using a radio transmitter for this purpose, then make sure to check the number of channels it offers.

These channels control the movement of the RC plane. Usually, radio transmitters are known to provide at least 2 different channels. Still, if you are looking for a good transmitter, then try to find one with 4 channels as they are known to provide better control over the plane.

The usual job of the 4 channels is to control the throttle, rudder, elevator and ailerons. How you power your receiver depends on the power system of the aircraft you are building.

The situation is a little different for electrically powered planes. In this case, since there is already a source of battery power in the device, you could just make use of the batteries that power the propellers.

This connection can be done via a battery eliminitor circuit. Some of the well-known brands for receivers we can recommend are: HiTech,Futaba, Airttronics and the likes. If you are going to fly multiple planes, you can just get one radio transmitter and programme your receiver to have n number of memories. In this way, you can switch from one aircraft to another, working on the same transmitter. It saves a lot of money since with every new plane, you would just be buying a new receiver!

The servos No matter what kind of RC plane you are trying to build, you will need good servos for the purpose. This is perhaps the most important part of the airplanes as they are solely responsible for proper functioning of the device. This is actually the motor which controls and helps the movement of rudders, throttle and flaps, all of which are necessary for the flight.

Also, more importantly, these elements come in all shapes and sizes which means that no matter design and fabrication of radio controlled airplanes size your RC plane is, you will always find a servo for your device. One thing to be noted here is that the torque generated by the servo depends on the size of the servo you choose. Again, you have a different type of servos for electric powered and gas powered RC planes, which is why choosing compatible elements is an absolute must.

What do you need to make an RC plane?

The controller Let us now take a look at that element in any RC plane that makes its movement possible from point A to point Design and fabrication of radio controlled airplanes. One of the most crucial features you need to look for in your controller is the number of functions it offers.

More functions would give you better control. Also, it would be a good idea to give your aircraft and controller a trial run to identify whether they are compatible or not. Some of the controllers you have in the market include the likes of Futaba, Laser, etc.

Make sure the stick on the controller is not very rigid as it might unnecessarily restrict the movement of the plane. The Power source Before even starting, you need to decide what kind power source is required by the device you are making. For example, if you want to build an electric powered RC aircraft, then you will see that they work or fly very quietly. Usually, you will see that RC planes using electricity are smaller in size and faster by nature. Moreover, these types of planes are known to use batteries, especially rechargeable ones.

For this purpose, it would be prudent to use Li-Po batteries as they have a proven track record in this field. To get much more familiar with this topic, we suggest checking out our article about drone batteries. This is necessary to drive your RC plane, so keeping an eye out for the best powerplants is not a bad idea. Some of the most common powerplants used by these devices include electric motors, internal combustion engines, and the likes.

Designing the plane Now that we know some of the key components we should have before we start building our first ever RC plane, let us look into some of the basic steps to be followed. Having a design with the different dimensions will help you construct the plane perfectly. But, in order to build the design, you first have to go through several steps. What is the purpose of your RC plane? This is the first question you should be asking yourself in order to build the perfect device.

Why are you making the plane? It could be just as a hobby for having some fun flying. In other situations, you could also add a camera to the plane and use it for getting a view of the world from above or even for aerial photography.

The purpose will help you decide how you want your aircraft to be built. The huge collection of electronics. What comes with the RC plane is an array of electronics that will be included in the structure.

This would include the batteries, servos, receiver and the likes. The more electronics you include, the more it will increase the weight of your aircraft. In general, it would be advisable to select the motor and battery in design and fabrication of radio controlled airplanes way that your device gets the right thrust and yet gives you long enough flight times.

Designing the plane

Collect all the electronic components you need and keep them ready. The total list of electronics would include electric motors, ESCs, battery eliminator circuit, channel receiver, and servos. Make an idea of the total weight of your RC plane. Making an RC plane is not a very simple task.

Thus, at this point, you need to analyze the weight of your device. This is especially important since you have all the electronics ready now. You can weigh each of these parts individually and add it to the weight. Also, make sure that you add the weight of the model or framework itself.

The total weight of the device should be around 2 to 4 times the weight of all the electronics put together. The next step includes analyzing the structure in order to get the total wing area.

There are a number of online calculators that can help make an idea of the area.

How to Make An RC Plane: A Step by Step Guide

For this, you can insert the weight of your device in the making and try out different wing areas. The idea is to have a low wing cubed loading as that helps you in your flight movements.

One interesting tip here would be to first consider your aircraft to be a glider device. This is helpful because after it is built, the plane is usually heavier than what it was actually measured to be. The total wing area, calculated in the previous step, leads us to the wingspan and wing cord. The key here is to find a suitable combination of wingspan and wing cord such that the product of these two aspects together can give us the total wing area.

For instance, if your device has a total area of 900 square inches, you could make a wingspan of 75 inches and a wing cord of 12. Apart from this, you also need to keep in mind the aspect ratio. This will be given by a ratio of the wing cord and the wing span. If you want to make a glider or trainer plane, having a high aspect ratio would be ideal.