Remote Control Airplanes
Remote Control Airplanes
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. In the 1920s, the Royal Aircraft Establishment of Britain built and tested the pilotless Larynx, a monoplane with a 100-mile (160 km) range. It was not until the 1930s that the British came up with the Queen Bee, a gunnery target version of the de Havilland Tiger Moth, and similar target aircraft. Radio control systems for model aircraft were developed in the late 1940s and early 1950s by English enthusiasts such as Howard Boys, who patented his 'Galloping Ghost' system of proportional control and became a regular contributor to Aeromodeller on the topic.
In the United States, two pioneers in the field of controlling model planes by radio were Ross Hull and Clinton DeSoto, officers of the American Radio Relay League. During 1937, these two men successfully built and flew several large R/C gliders in the first public demonstration of controlled flights, in the course of which their sailplanes made more than 100 flights. A scheduled R/C event at the 1937 National Aeromodeling Championships attracted six entrants: Patrick Sweeney, Walter Good, Elmer Wasman, Chester Lanzo, Leo Weiss and B. Shiffman, Lanzo winning with the lightest (6 pounds) and simplest model plane, although his flight was rather erratic and lasted only several minutes. Sweeney and Wasman both had extremely short (5-second) flights when their aircraft took off, climbed steeply, stalled and crashed. Sweeney, however, had the distinction of being the first person to attempt a R/C flight in a national contest. The other three entrants were not even able to take off, although Good, with his twin brother William, persisted with developing R/C systems, culminating in first placings in the 1940 US Nationals and again after the end of World War II, in 1947. Their historic R/C model airplane, which they named the “Guff,” was presented to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., in May, 1960, where it can be seen today.
There are many types of radio-controlled aircraft. For beginning hobbyists, there are park flyers and trainers. For more advanced 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.
Perhaps the most realistic form of aeromodeling, in its main purpose to replicate full-scale aircraft designs from aviation history, for testing of future aviation designs, or even to realize never-built "proposed" aircraft, is that of radio control scale aeromodeling, as the most practical way to re-create "vintage" full-scale aircraft designs for flight once more, from long ago. RC Scale model aircraft can be of any type of steerable airship lighter-than-air (LTA) aviation craft, or more normally, of the heavier-than-air fixed wing glider/sailplane, fixed-wing single or multi-engine aircraft, or rotary-wing aircraft such as autogyros or helicopters.
Full-scale aircraft designs from every era of aviation, from the "Pioneer Era" and World War I's start, through to the 21st century, have been modeled as radio control scale model aircraft. Builders of RC Scale aircraft can enjoy the challenge of creating a controllable, miniature aircraft that merely "looks" like the full scale original in the air with no "fine details", such as a detailed cockpit, or seriously replicate many operable features of a selected full scale aircraft design, even down to having operable cable-connected flight control surfaces, illuminated navigation lighting on the aircraft's exterior, realistically retracting landing gear, etc. if the full-sized aircraft possessed such features as part of its design.
Various scale sizes of RC scale aircraft have been built in the decades since modern digital-proportional, miniaturized RC gear came on the market in the 1960s, and everything from indoor-flyable electric powered RC Scale models, to "giant scale" RC Scale models, in scale size ranges that usually run from 20% to 25%, and upwards to 30 to 50% size of some smaller full scale aircraft designs, that can replicate some of the actual flight characteristics of the full scale aircraft they are based on, have been enjoyed, and continue to be built and flown, in sanctioned competition and for personal pleasure, as part of the RC scale aeromodeling hobby.
Gliders are planes that do not typically have any type of propulsion. Unpowered glider flight must be sustained through exploitation of the natural lift produced from thermals or wind hitting a slope. Dynamic soaring is another popular way of providing energy to gliders that is becoming more and more common. However, even conventional slope soaring gliders are capable of achieving speeds comparable with similar sized powered craft. Gliders are typically partial to slow flying and have high aspect ratio, as well as very low wing loading (weight to wing area ratio). 3-channel gliders which use only rudder control for steering and dihedral or polyhedral wing shape to automatically counteract rolling are popular as training craft, due to their ability to fly very slowly and high tolerance to error.
Powered gliders have recently seen an increase in popularity. By combining the efficient wing size and wide speed envelope of a glider airframe with an electric motor, it is possible to achieve long flight times and high carrying capacity, as well as glide in any suitable location regardless of thermals or lift. A common method of maximising flight duration is to quickly fly a powered glider upwards to a chosen altitude and descending in an unpowered glide. Folding propellers which reduce drag (as well as the risk of breaking the propellor) are standard. Powered gliders built with stability in mind and capable of aerobatics, high speed flight and sustained vertical flight are classified as 'Hot-liners'. 'Warm-liners' are powered craft with similar abilities but less extreme thrust capability. Many powered beginner craft are based upon or considered borderline gliders.
To avoid ambiguity, unpowered gliders are typically referred to as 'slope soarers' or 'thermal soarers' respectively.