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Ever since the wingspan of rc models exceeded three feet in length, proper storage of flying models has been an issue. During this blog, we’ll look at several methods of storing radio control planes under different conditions.
For rc modelers who have a large number of aircraft, the best approach is to get them off the floor to prevent damage from a number of sources. The use of hangers, while not a new idea, will serve to mount the models from the ceiling where they may hang freely out of harm’s way. The most common hangers are designed smaller aircraft weighing under four pounds. Heavier models will require larger hangers. An appropriate hanger size would be a 4′ by 3/16″ steel rod, big enough to reach a ceiling beam as well as strong enough to support the plane. Bike hooks and smaller scale hooks may also be used to mount the hanger in the ceiling, depending upon the weight and size of the model. Suggested tools are a ruler, vise, sandblaster or sandpaper, a degreaser, drill, stud finder, and pencil. Optional tools include 24″ by 3/16″ inside diameter tubing for padding the rod where the wings are supported in addition to glass cleaner or hairspray.
The first step to preparing the hangers is to bend the steel rods. Find and mark the center point of the rod, securing it to a vise then bending a 90-degree angle into the rod. Remove from the vise and complete the bend so the rod is folded in half. Use the vise again, if necessary to reinforce the bend. Find the center of the bent piece, bending it again to about 45-degrees, spreading the legs out slightly wider than the plane’s fuselage. You can work different bends which correspond to the fuselage shape. Next, prepare the hangers for painting. This may be accomplished by using either a sandblaster or a bench grinder with a wire wheel. Sandpaper may also be used. The purpose is to remove any residual oils from the metal in order to give a good surface for the paint to adhere. A degreaser or TSP will clean up any remaining residue. Then, spray paint the hangers, making sure to let them dry completely. The next step is to add tubing to insulate the hanger where it contacts the wing. Be sure the inside diameter of the tube matches the outside diameter of the rod. This will act as a buffer between the hanger and the wing of the rc plane, advantageous for heavier planes as well as those having a delicate finish. Hairspray and glass cleaner are good treatments for the hanger surface with hairspray acting as an adhesive as it drys. Finally, mount the hooks in the ceiling, draping the hangers through the hooks.
Planes may also be mounted on the wall area of a garage or storage building. If space allows, the entire aircraft may be secured with hangers draped around wall mounted hooks, as with the ceiling example. However, if storage space is limited, the fuselage and wing components may need to be stored separately. By using metal shelf brackets placed about two feet above the floor level supporting a wooden shelf, wings may be placed in small storage bins on the shelf. In this mode, the wings are high enough not to be disturbed by traffic inside the area, yet low enough not to conflict with fuselage storage. Fuselages may be hung by either the tail or propeller, with the tail preferred due to the larger surface area. The disadvantage of tail hanging is gasoline accumulation near the engine. Rotating fuselage positions may help in overcoming this. Finally, if no other space is available, an appropriate rc plane makes a good decorator item for a den or rec room.
Another method of storage, which has gained favor in recent years, is the use of PVC tubing. Its advantages are simplicity, flexibility, and a relatively low cost. With the use of a scissors-like cutting tool, PVC tubing may be cut to any length or configuration. While three to four-tier racks are the most popular configuration, many variations are in use. Since PVC racks are light, they are easily transportable, allowing an rc pilot the opportunity to fly several planes at an event. Cement is usually not necessary to secure PVC tubing, since the tubing is usually snug at the 90-degree joints. PVC pipes may also be used with metal hangers and hooks with the PVC acting as an insulator, as well as a work stand frame for rc models.
RC model stores sell a variety of storage kits, with most priced about $50, depending upon the configuration and type of kit. Some avid enthusiasts have even purchased outdoor buildings in which to store their planes. With all of the possibilities, rc model storage is not a one size fits all endeavor.
To view a large-scale model in flight is an impressive experience. These rc planes have a number of features, such as flaps, sliding canopies and landing lights, which convey the impression of a real aircraft. However, the complexity of these models poses a problem for the rc pilot. During this blog, we’ll examine some of the problems associated with flying a large rc model.
The first issue of flying a large rc plane is a reliable power source. While lipo (lithium polymer) batteries now offer near gasoline power in some applications, gasoline engines remain the best choice to provide sustained power over a long flight. Speaking of fuel, carefully check all fuel lines and make sure they are properly connected. Make sure you have the correct diameter and type of line for the fuel you are using. All of the rc’s fuel should be filtered, with periodic filter changes advisable. A number of models now have a filter in the filing line, as well as one between the carburetor and the fuel tank. If the rc pilot is using glow fuel or gasoline, he may use either, but not both as they are not interchangeable. The rc pilot should also make sure the fuel tank clunk stays free from the front of the tank and does not bend, which could obstruct the flow of fuel, producing a rough take off.
Flight control surfaces are an important component, as well. The rc operator must make sure all control linkages are both properly secured and pivot according to transmitter commands. Ailerons, elevators, and rudders should have equal parameters of movement in each direction. This is especially true of flaps, which aid in landing and flight stability at low speeds. Flap hinges should work freely, without binding. Servo mounts also pose a problem, as they tend to work loose after repeated flights. Check them after each flight to ensure they are secure and functioning. Engine mounts and mufflers are also prone to vibration. Carefully balancing the props will help, but vibrations are an inherent problem with large rc models. Replace propeller blades when necessary to keep the aircraft running smoothly, since they cost a fraction of replacing an entire plane.
Range checks are essential to gauge whether a radio signal allows the plane to fly at a safe distance without it going out of radio range. To conduct a range check, first turn on the transmitter, then the receiver and fully retract the antenna. Activate the transmitter while walking back from the plane between seventy-five and one-hundred feet. As you walk away from the plane, keep moving the control surface sticks and closely watch the various control surfaces of the plane. If you experience a hesitation or a lack of movement of the control surfaces, do not attempt to fly the aircraft. Check the transmitter batteries, as they may need recharging or replacing, since low batteries may drastically reduce radio range. Loose connections to the receiver could also cause a lack of response from control surfaces. If control surfaces are still unresponsive, there may be signal interference from other rc hobbyists on your frequency. Interference is a leading cause of rc aircraft crashes, so you need to be sure your frequency is clear before taking off. Whatever the cause, if your rc plane appears difficult to control, correct the problem before flying.
Though not always practiced, test glides of the aircraft are advisable, particularly if the rc model is a powered glider or a large aircraft. The reason for doing this to determine the glide pattern of the plane, should it suddenly lose power. A test glide is best conducted over long grass if possible. This is necessary to ensure a soft landing for the plane should there be turbulence. Test glides may also be used to confirm the balance of the plane with regard to weight distribution and center of gravity. Always take off and land in a flat, level area if possible. Finally, have fun but use common sense; avoid flying too close to people or property yet keeping the plane at a sensible height and distance while maintaining control, as well as keeping an eye out for other rc pilots.
My grandson and I were looking at pictures of rc helicopters online and we saw the picture of a strange looking craft. Unlike a conventional helicopter, which has a large main rotor centered above the cabin with a smaller rotor mounted at the tail, this unit had its rotors mounted at the end of four bars, extending from the center. The helicopter in question is called a quadcopter and is one of the fastest growing types of rc models. During the course of this blog, we will trace the development of quadcopters, as well as some of the reasons for their current popularity.
While manned quadcopters were first tested in the 1920s, rc model applications began in Japan in the early 1990s. Although the tests were successful, the quad units were never marketed internationally. During the early phases of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military was in need of a means of conducting reconnaissance in support of ground operations. These missions were first conducted by small rc planes mounted with cameras. While the rc aircraft were effective camera platforms, the need for a hover capability became apparent. Experiments were conducted with a number of designs, with a practical rc quadcopter developed by the late 2000s.
Radio control quadcopters have only recently come into use due to the processing power required to not only keep all four rotors turning, but at a synchronized speed. RC quadcopters represent the merging of several technologies. The first being a solid state gyro system from which to steer the craft, followed by high capacity batteries to provide increased flight endurance, along with digital camera technology for video and still photo observation. Many of them are constructed of a carbon-fiber material, similar to that on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. These copters are quite durable, with some test units surviving crashes in excess of 100 ft.
The quadcopter is a popular rc vehicle for a number of reasons. To begin with, it has fewer moving parts than a conventional rc helicopter and is easier to fly. While a conventional rc copter may need pitch adjustments to its main rotor while in flight, the quadcopter runs via four flat-bladed rotors. To control the quad in flight is merely a matter of controlling the power to each of the rotors. Quadcopters are also relatively safe from wind conditions due to their balanced structure. Quad units are simplier to build and repair than conventional rc helos. A number of quads are equipped with multi-colored led lights, enabling night flights. With current battery and engine technology, many quadcopters can fly in excess of 30 min. Finally, the quads are built around the ever present camera, an afterthought on a conventional rc copter.
In 2010, a radio controlled aircraft collided with a small private plane during a charity airshow at a Colorado airport. While there was no visual damage to the private plane, the incident reflected a growing trend in rc aviation – the use of FPV planes. During the course of this blog, we will discuss the current problems surrounding their use.
We first need to define an FPV plane. An FPV (First Person View) plane is a radio controlled model aircraft, which utilizes a small onboard video camera and transmitter sending imagery to a ground receiving unit in the form of video goggles or a portable LCD screen. The view from such flights is the same as a pilot would have from the plane. Because of this, the rc pilot on the ground need not maintain line of sight (LOS) contact with the model, limited only by the reach of the radio signal and the power supply of the aircraft. While a number of rc aircraft are built with FPV capability, kits are available to install video cameras on virtually any rc plane. The rc pilot using goggles or head tracking gear usually has an exciting flight experience.
The capability of FPV aircraft to fly beyond visual contact range (some have a radius in excess of thirty miles), as well as an altitude ceiling above 3,000 ft., may sometimes cause problems when the pilot loses the video signal. For example, private planes often make their landing approaches at altitudes within the envelope of the FPV model. A loss of signal at the wrong time could result in a collision between the two craft and pilot error due to the distraction. Collisions with communications towers, power lines and other ground obstacles pose an equal threat. Though there are currently no laws or regulations governing control of FPV planes, the Academy of Model Aeronautics has proposed several guidelines to make FPV flight safer.
The first is the use of a buddy box system, in which two pilots, one in sight of the rc and the other monitoring the flight by video are able to direct the plane using independent flight controls. Another proposal requires an FPV pilot to fly their craft within line of sight at an altitude of no higher than 400 ft. Some models utilize autopilots, which automatically fly the plane back to its controller upon loss of video power. For all of the safety concerns, there has never been a recorded incident of an FPV plane causing major property damage or injuries, due to the majority of FPV models being constructed of styrofoam, which is lighter and less rigid.
During a recent visit to a local hobby store, I got an education about an important but often ignored tool of rc modeling – antennas. During the course of this blog, we will provide an overview of antennas and their applications for rc planes.
For all of the sophistication of antenna theory, the techniques for the successful operation of an rc model antenna are relatively simple. To gain further insight, we must define an antenna and how it operates. A transmitter antenna is a straight wire or telescoping pole device which converts an electric signal in the form of a radio frequency into an electromagnetic field. For successful operation, the antenna must be connected to the transmitter device at one end with the other end connection free. In the case of rc model planes, a receiver antenna is also necessary. A receiver antenna is usually a straight wire, which converts the transmitter radio signal and its associated electromagnetic energy into an electrical signal, which controls the aircraft. As with transmitter antennas, one end is connected to the aircraft, while the other is free from contact. Frequencies denote the number of times an event occurs within a given time period. Radio frequencies are stated in Megahertz, or cycles per second with one hertz expressed as one cycle per second. A radio band is a spectrum or range of frequencies designated by the Federal Communications Commission for a particular purpose. Most rc models operate in the 27MHz, 35MHz, 40MHz, 72MHz and 75MHz bands. Electromagnetic fields can be explained in the form of static electricity creating energy. However, the electrical charge traveling from the rc model transmitter contains more energy, traveling through space at the speed of light. The magnetic and electric fields change as the transmitter antenna frequencies change.
Directing the antenna for the best performance is another issue. When the hobbyist points the antenna in either a forward or direct vertical position, the antenna is often pointed at the model. If the model flies straight, there is usually no problem, but if the aircraft is performing a manuever it could result in a pause, from a temporary loss of signal. Some hobbyists even point their antennas toward the ground. By doing so, they lose the strongest part of the signal and limit the distance from which they are able to control the plane. An advantage of pointing the antenna to the side other than constant signal strength is pointing the antenna toward the plane results in more stress on the antenna from being continually flexed, which causes both more breakage and repair bills. There are also several troubleshooting procedures to make sure your rc plane is responding properly. The first and perhaps most obvious is to check the on and off switches, not just to make sure they are on or off, but to determine if they are in working order. Next, be sure the transmitter is set to the right frequency for the plane. Often this can be corrected by merely changing the crystals in the transmitter. Be sure both your transmitter and receiver batteries are at a full charge before flying. Ideally, they both should have an equal charge. Next, inspect the receiver antenna for proper installation with the transmitter antenna fully extended. Based upon prevailing rc radio frequencies, a transmitter antenna length of 28″ and a receiver antenna of about 40″ provide optimal performance for most rc models. Switching rc model and transmitter combinations is another way to isolate problems. These are but a few procedures to make sure the rc pilot has a trouble free flight.