How to Start 

Step by Step Guide

 

In this chapter, we will assume that you just started in this hobby, and that you know about zero, on anything, and still want to do it alone. We will therefore go step by step, trying to understand on the way what does what, to only some limited extent, for now.

 

  1. You got all your plane package, with electrics, cables, and all kinds of weird things.

Let's first review what is what and how things will be connected. First as an overview, and then we will spend some more time on each item.

Overview of a complete package:

  • Plane parts, to build the plane
  • Battery Pack
  • Battery Charger
  • Speed Controller, also called BEC, or ESC
  • Servos
  • Receiver
  • Motor
  • Propeller
  • Horns that you will attach to the moving ailerons, or rudder or elevator
  • Different types of wires, to usually connect the servos to the horns
  • Manual on how to build the plane
  • Radio with crystal
  • Crystal for the receiver
  • Glue
  • Plugs

    Sometimes:

    • Gearbox
    • Landing gear, but most electric planes land without
    • Decoration

Extra Needs: 

  • A complete Soldering toolset to solder all electric parts, cables and plugs
  • Screw drivers
  • Electric Cables, R/C compatible and some basic material to cut these cables
  • Basic Tool Set

 

  1. Let's now get into who does what
  • Radio: First, make sure you'll get a radio, which have enough channels to control the plane you want to fly. A channel can be assimilated to an action, to make it simple. Like if you have 1 action for going up and down, and 1 more action for turning left or right, and 1 action for controlling the speed, this will be a 3 channel plane that will need a radio with a at least 3 channels

 

  • Radio Frequencies and R/C: Radios come with a main frequency they are compatible with. These frequencies are different from a region of the globe to another and they are regulated by the countries administrations, in order to not interfere with local police, military units, wireless devices, etc.... Make sure that if you buy a radio not in your country, it is allowed within your country, and if not, be aware you are off law. As example, you can find the 72 Mhz or 35 Mhz frequencies. For the rest of this example, let's assume you bought a 72 Mhz radio main frequency.

For each main frequency, there is a range a sub-frequencies available to use, and assign to your plane which will need of course, to be set on the same frequency, to be able to receive orders from your radio. The fact is that there are not so many options and this is why when you'll come at the flying field, you'll need to double check that no one else uses the same sub-frequency and if yes, your radios will conflict and eventually both planes will crash.

For each sub-frequency, a name was given, to make it simple to remember, like 72.850 is equivalent to the channel 53 (in the 72 Mhz range). Assuming everyone is using the same main range on your field, which is less and less the case, with people buying over the INTERNET, you'll just need to ask if anyone is using channel 53. Some may ask, what is the real sub-frequency associated with channel 53, and then you'll tell them 850 hz.

To impose a sub-frequency on a radio, they need you to insert a crystal. When done, all your models will need to have the same sub-frequency, in order to communicate with your radio. you will do this by putting a CRYSTAL, into the receiver. The crystal vibrates at a special rate, which will impose on the receiver its reception channel.

To make things easier, some radio have the capability to have a multi-channel selector. Meaning you select with this device which channel the radio will transmit on. This is convenient, for example, if someone else is using your same sub-frequency at the field, as you will just need to change the plane crystal, to an unused sub-frequency, and just select this new frequency on your radio. You could also fly other people's planes with your radio (Of course, with their ok....)

Some frequency ranges

The 27MHz band (Aircraft/Car/Boat)

26.995 MHz --- Chan. 1 --- Brown
27.045 MHz --- Chan. 2 --- Red
27.095 MHz --- Chan. 3 --- Orange
27.145 MHz --- Chan. 4 --- Yellow
27.195 MHz --- Chan. 5 --- Green
27.255 MHz --- Chan. 6 --- Blue

 

50 MHz band (Aircraft/Car/Boat) FCC Amateur license required. 2 and 3 channels not produced on these freqs.
50.800 MHz --- Chan. RC00
50.820 MHz --- Chan. RC01
50.840 MHz --- Chan. RC02
50.860 MHz --- Chan. RC03
50.880 MHz --- Chan. RC04
50.900 MHz --- Chan. RC05
50.920 MHz --- Chan. RC06
50.940 MHz --- Chan. RC07
50.960 MHz --- Chan. RC08
50.980 MHz --- Chan. RC09

 

53 MHz band (Aircraft/Car/Boat) FCC Amateur license required. 2 and 3 channels not produced on these freqs.
 
Note: Although the frequency list for the 53Mhz portion of the 6 Meter band is correct, the governing body for this group of frequencies, The American Radio Relay League, has dropped the 53 MHz portion for R/C use as there are hi powered repeaters operating in that portion of the band. It would be advisable if you are a Ham radio operator to use the 50MHz frequencies for R/C . They recommended migrating to 50Mhz few years ago and no longer list 53 MHz in the band plan.
53.100 MHz --- Black-Brown
53.200 MHz --- Black-Red
53.300 MHz --- Black-Orange
53.400 MHz --- Black-Yellow
53.500 MHz --- Black-Green
53.600 MHz --- Black-Blue
53.700 MHz --- Black-Violet
53.800 MHz --- Black-Gray
72 MHz band (Aircraft Only)
72.010 MHz --- Chan. 11
72.030 MHz --- Chan. 12
72.050 MHz --- Chan. 13
72.070 MHz --- Chan. 14
72.090 MHz --- Chan. 15
72.110 MHz --- Chan. 16
72.130 MHz --- Chan. 17
72.150 MHz --- Chan. 18
72.170 MHz --- Chan. 19
72.190 MHz --- Chan. 20
72.210 MHz --- Chan. 21
72.230 MHz --- Chan. 22
72.250 MHz --- Chan. 23
72.270 MHz --- Chan. 24
72.290 MHz --- Chan. 25
72.310 MHz --- Chan. 26
72.330 MHz --- Chan. 27
72.350 MHz --- Chan. 28
72.370 MHz --- Chan. 29
72.390 MHz --- Chan. 30
72.410 MHz --- Chan. 31
72.430 MHz --- Chan. 32
72.450 MHz --- Chan. 33
72.470 MHz --- Chan. 34
 
72.490 MHz --- Chan. 35
72.510 MHz --- Chan. 36
72.530 MHz --- Chan. 37
72.550 MHz --- Chan. 38
72.570 MHz --- Chan. 39
72.590 MHz --- Chan. 40
72.610 MHz --- Chan. 41
72.630 MHz --- Chan. 42
72.650 MHz --- Chan. 43
72.670 MHz --- Chan. 44
72.690 MHz --- Chan. 45
72.710 MHz --- Chan. 46
72.730 MHz --- Chan. 47
72.750 MHz --- Chan. 48
72.770 MHz --- Chan. 49
72.790 MHz --- Chan. 50
72.810 MHz --- Chan. 51
72.830 MHz --- Chan. 52
72.850 MHz --- Chan. 53
72.870 MHz --- Chan. 54
72.890 MHz --- Chan. 55
72.910 MHz --- Chan. 56
72.930 MHz --- Chan. 57
72.950 MHz --- Chan. 58
72.970 MHz --- Chan. 59
72.990 MHz --- Chan. 60
 
 

 

75 MHz band (Car/Boat Only)
75.410 MHz --- Chan. 61
75.430 MHz --- Chan. 62
75.450 MHz --- Chan. 63
75.470 MHz --- Chan. 64
75.490 MHz --- Chan. 65
75.510 MHz --- Chan. 66
75.530 MHz --- Chan. 67
75.550 MHz --- Chan. 68
75.570 MHz --- Chan. 69
75.590 MHz --- Chan. 70
75.610 MHz --- Chan. 71
75.630 MHz --- Chan. 72
75.650 MHz --- Chan. 73
75.670 MHz --- Chan. 74
75.690 MHz --- Chan. 75
 
75.710 MHz --- Chan. 76
75.730 MHz --- Chan. 77
75.750 MHz --- Chan. 78
75.770 MHz --- Chan. 79
75.790 MHz --- Chan. 80
75.810 MHz --- Chan. 81
75.830 MHz --- Chan. 82
75.850 MHz --- Chan. 83
75.870 MHz --- Chan. 84
75.890 MHz --- Chan. 85
75.910 MHz --- Chan. 86
75.930 MHz --- Chan. 87
75.950 MHz --- Chan. 88
75.970 MHz --- Chan. 89
75.990 MHz --- Chan. 90

 

Radio Systems, from HobbyPeople

Aircraft radio systems consist of a transmitter (or controller), a receiver, one or more servos, and batteries. Servos are the part of the airborne radio system that convey mechanical movement. Each moving part will need a servo to make that part move. Radio systems are available with a wide variety of features. However, they all share similar quality and basic functions.

When you first look at a radio system, you'll see how many channels it has and then what channel it's on. The word channel is used two different ways: firstly, an airplane radio is very often a 4-channel radio. This means that it controls four functions on the plane (ailerons, elevator, rudder, throttle); secondly, it refers to the actual radio frequency the radio transmits. There are several frequencies legal to use for R/C airplanes and each one has been assigned a channel number.

When deciding on a radio, it is important to decide on how many channel functions you want. Most airplanes use four channels. However, some aerobatic, scale, and sport planes use five or six channels (adding flaps and retractable landing gear). So, you may want to think about the future and what plane you want next, and buy a radio that will control all anticipated functions.

Frequencies

The FCC has set aside 50 frequencies in the 72 MHz band (channels 11-60) dedicated to aircraft use only. No license is needed to operate these radios. However, if you have an amateur (ham) radio operator's license you may be able to use a radio in the 50 MHz band. Also, there are six frequencies set aside in the 27 MHz band that are legal for any kind of model use (surface or air). Just remember, whatever channel your radio is on, check the field where you fly for any other radios on the same channel and do not use your radio when theirs are on!

Many fields have a frequency control system. Before you use your radio, be sure you understand the system and are using it correctly.

AM vs FM / PCM vs PPM

This refers to the signal type (or modulation). A radio wave of any frequency can have different signal types.

  • PPM (pulse proportional modulation) is usually an analog system. This is very precise (but not digitized). This equipment is more economical than PCM.
  • PCM (pulse code modulation) signals are digitized and provide the most accurate signal. A dedicated computer in the transmitter and receiver actually use binary code (pulses) in the signal.
  • AM signals are always PPM. AM is more subject to interference than FM and does not allow for the use of a "Buddy" cord.
  • FM signals are either PPM or PCM. Usually, only pilots flying competitively in precision aerobatics or scale use PCM.

Control Features

The following features can be found on many economically priced 4 and 6 channel units:

Servo Reversing
Due to servo rotation and control linkages, control inputs can end up reversed (i.e. moving the transmitter stick to the right, viewed from behind, the rudder moves to the left). To remedy this, the transmitter has servo reversing switches. Just flip this switch and everything moves the right way.
Adjustable Travel Volume (ATV)
ATV limits the amount of total servo movement. This eliminates excessive control travel and stress on the servo.
Dual Rates
These switches, usually found on the TX face, allow two different total travels for ailerons and elevator and can be switched in flight. For some aerobatic maneuvers, planes need increased control movement, but for normal flight they don't, thus dual rate is used.
End Point Adjustment (EPA)
EPA is an advanced feature that allows each direction of movement to have a different travel. For example, if your plane banks too quickly to the left, turn down the left aileron EPA dial. This will not change the amount of bank control to the right.
Exponential
Some planes (especially racers) need more control travel at low speeds and less at high speeds where control response can be overly sensitive. Exponential changes the relationship between transmitter stick motion (linear) and the control servo response (non-linear). This feature can be used to "soften" plane response near the center of stick motion without lessening the overall amount of control at full stick deflection.
Mixing
Many planes benefit from mixing two functions together. In fact, for planes like flying wings or V-Tails, mixing is mandatory. For example, a flying wing's elevators are also its ailerons (these are called elevons). When the radio has mixing, one servo will be installed for each elevon. Mixed together, these servos will respond correctly to both the elevator and aileron inputs.

Computer Radios vs. Standard Radios

A computer radio allows more adjustments and channels to be mixed in a more precise way. Computer radios also have more trims and setup adjustments making the radio installation and flight-trimming process of the plane easier and more precise. Also, the settings can all be saved to memory and settings for more than one plane can be saved. In more advanced computer radios, the mixing is programmable, actually allowing custom combinations of channels and movements (and even control inputs). Competition pilots find this kind of adjustability a must. Many beginners simply find computer radios too complicated.

Standard radios have basic mixing but it is not as precise nor as adjustable as a computer radio. Also, the setting cannot be saved for more than one plane. However, these radios are simpler to use and are less expensive.

Make sure to not mix the term "radio Channel" which relates to a specific sub-frequency, with the channels used to control servos.

 

Batteries: Set of batteries, usually between 6 to 30 batteries. When you start, 1st time flyers are usually with 7 to 10 batteries. The rule is that the more batteries you add, the more speed the motor will deliver. Then, the more speed the motor will deliver, the more Amp the battery will need to give and therefore, flight time will be reduced. As for the plug to a battery, always use a FEMALE plug. This is the standard and this is mainly due as you want to avoid as much as possible the risks for short cuts, when the batteries are in a bag. Also, when installed in the plane, make sure it can't move almost at all, as if not, it will impact your CG while flying and eventually you may  loose control of the plane. Also, try to think who the battery will go, if you will crash the plane (usually on the front), and try to install the battery in the way that it won't destroy your receiver, or ESC or any other part, as much as possible, if a crash happens.

To better understand number of cells (Total Voltage) and Ampere, effects, we can use the common dam analogy. The number of cells will tell you how high and large is the dam. and the Total amp, how much water is waiting behind.

So if 1 cell is equivalent to 10 meters high, 2 cells 20 meters, etc... and let's imagine that you suddenly remove all the wall of the dam. The higher it was, the stronger the water will fall. For how much time the water will fall is a matter of how much water you had initially (Ampere). And also, if the water goes stronger, meaning faster, for the same quantity behind, it will be passing the dam faster too. So if you want to keep the same time, for the water to pass the dam, and you make the wall higher (more cells), you will need to add more water behind (more Amp). Multiple combinations can be deducted from the above picture.

Now, to make things a little more fun (some would say more complicated), our cells don't all have the same constitution and this impact the "fluidity" in our water example. In other words, some cells won't allow the water to drop as physics would normally think, and in fact, it prevents the water to go too fast, and the more you will try to force it, the more the battery will heat instead of delivering any more strength to a point that the battery may be damaged. This means that you'll need to select the battery type, according to how much Amp/minute your motor will need. Example will follow....

You can either buy batteries, per the unit, which means that you will actually need to build packs. It is easy, but needs some little practice. The good side is that you then can repair packs yourself, or build them in any shape you like.

Or decide to build ready packs. A little more expensive, but well done and easy to get.


RX      TX  7cells                              8 cells                                        10 cells         12cells

Each pack has his own advantages and inconvenient. Let's see some weights/size differences for common packs

For 8 Cells

weight in Grams

For 10 Cells For 12 Cells

CP1300            CP1700         1950FAUP       30NiMh
(Weight written in Grams on the top of battery)

CP1700   3000NiMh-HV    RC2400
(Weight written in Grams on the top of battery)

 

ESC: This device is made of 1 plug to hook into the receiver, 2 wires to connect to the plane battery, and on the other side, 2 or 3 wires to connect to your motor. It takes the energy from the battery and split it between the motors and the receivers (and therefore servos). Some ESC have cut the motor when the battery is too low, in order to save some electricity for the servos, and receiver, for landing without the motor. Others cut the motor, is the motor asks for more energy than the ESC is supposed to handle. This can happen is you put some propeller that requires too much work from the motor, to be used. A classic symptom will be that when you push the motor stick, the motor works and then stops as a certain point. This is the point where the motor ask the ESC to deliver more than he can handle. If the ESC doesn't have this feature, and this happens, your ESC may be destroyed if this configuration happens. Also, most ESC don't have polarity protection, if you'll inverse the plugs of the battery. They will just burn some circuits on the spot. Don't put it too close to the receiver box, as it may have some weird reactions if they are too close one to the other.

Brushed ESC-BEC Brushless ESC-BEC


Note the difference that there are 3 cables here
going to the motor

 

As for the connections plugs on an ESC, they are also standards. The battery side of the ESC is ALWAYS Male, as the battery is always FEMALE The motor side can be either directly solder to the motor, or plugedm if the motor was plugged as well. The positive is solder directly is less loss of electricity as plugs are decreasing a little the overall connectivity. The down side of it is that you won't, easily, be able to use this ESC, for different planes.

In some cases, you may need to not have the BEC function. 2 choices are then available.

  1. Add a second battery, dedicated for the receiver (4 cells battery)
  2. Use an external BEC, which uses the same common battery, like the ULTIMATE BEC below

Plugs: simple... always plug the (+) wire on the (+) of each connector. make sure that no wire is left not protected as shortcut are not good.

Servos: It is a device that will help to move the some parts, to make your plane turn or move up or down:Servos are chosen according to the type of plane flew. In electric flying, we select always the lightest possible ones, still keeping in mind how much torque (strength) needed and how good quality they are. The balance is not always a clear cut, so common sense is the rule here. For most low speed Park flyers, the 9gr will do fine. You have different types of servos. Some with stronger torque, some with faster reaction to the commands, some with metal Gears, or with plastic ones. All have plus and minuses. Common sense is again the rule here. As for installing the Servos, make sure that their body part won't be able to move at all, once installed as if not, they might move during a flight to a point where you may loose control of the plane.

Receiver: This is a device, with an antenna, that will receive orders from your radio, and communicate them to your servos and Speed controller. 

  • #1 is for ailerons. In case you use 2 servos for ailerons, you can either still use only this only Channel, with a Y cable to control both ailerons, or if you radio has the option, plug the right aileron in Channel 1 of the receiver, and left aileron in the channel 6 of the receiver. Then, enable FLAPERONS on your radio.
  • #2 is for the elevator
  • #3 is for the plug from the ESC, that will control the motor speed
  • #4 is for the rudder
  • #6 is for flaperons or other, if not used for flaperon
  • Others are for flaps, landing gears, special controls, etc....

Never forget to fully extend the antenna from the receiver, and to also check that during flight, the extended antenna won't be able to touch the propellers). Fix it with some scotch tape.

Glues: When you start in this hobby, it is not easy also to decide which glue to use for what. In general, follow the below rules:

  • As mush as possible, use the lightest glue possible
  •  For non wood planes, before you use the glue on large surfaces, try it on a very small one, which won't have any effect if destroyed. If it looks ok, then you can use it. in general, also, the manual explains which glue to use, but better be safe, and double check before.
  • For wood/balsa planes, Cyano and wood glue will do fine. Wood glue is very heavy so if used, try to use as little as possible.

Motor: There are 2 types of motors, brushless and brushed. The first type is expensive, but does not require maintenance and will also not die, after X uses. X is usually 100s of flights, for brushed motors, if used within their capabilities. Brushless are also much more expensive, and deliver more power. So, if you don't need a lot of power, brushed motors would be more suitable, and cheaper. If you have to replace one, every 2 years, or so, still worth it. To start, it is recommended to use a 400 type of motor, or less. It delivers good power and is pretty cheap.

Brushed Motor Brushless Motor

If your motor is brushed, to make it pull, you need to put the RED wire (+) on the (+) of the motor. To make the same motor push, you need to inverse, and have the BLACK wire (-) soldered to the (-) of the motor.

For brushless motors, for pullers, match the colors, and for a pusher, just switch 2 of the cables.

 

- Follow the link for more How to Start Data

- Another Excellent link

 

You can now go to the "How to build your plane" Section