Though flying an rc model can be a fun activity, certain safety considerations must be observed in order to make the flight both a safe and enjoyable experience. During this blog, we’ll take a look at buying an rc plane or helicopter from the safety standpoint, as well as techniques to promote safe flying.
Real aircraft must undergo a pre-flight checklist, which is also a good philosophy for radio control aircraft. The pilot must make sure the rudder, ailerons, and elevators are functioning properly, with both the receiver battery and radio fully charged. The problem with rc planes, as opposed to rc helicopters, is the center of gravity. The center of gravity is a point at which the plane needs to balance in order to fly well. The center of gravity for a plane with a tail can be as far back as 32% from the nose of the plane of the plane, though the operator may still have to make it balance. While placement of the battery and radio can compensate for any CG imbalance, it’s always desirable to have both a light nose and tail section of the aircraft, with adjustments made at the center of the fuselage. A properly balanced plane will be more responsive to commands and use less fuel/battery charge. Flying wing designs have a common center of gravity at 23% back from the nose.
Before launching the plane, be sure the correct propellers are installed. The thickest section of the prop should be facing toward the front, The rc pilot can determine the front of the blade by manufacturer lettering. The plane will still fly with the prop(s) mounted backward, though at about a third of the power of a front mounted blade since the thicker front section displaces more air. Better quality props are more rigid, and thus more stable in flight – especially at high rpms. They are also less likely to flatten out over extended use. Getting a good launch of the aircraft is more difficult than it appears. Inexperienced rc pilots have a tendency to spin the plane, often a cause of crashes. If one wingtip is moving faster than the other, it will have more air over the wing, so the plane will roll towards the slower wing. The correct procedure is to release the plane when both wings are level and moving in the same direction at the same speed. If the model is launched at too steep an angle, it will experience an immediate stall.
Transmitters are an important element of rc flight. Many rc pilots have a tendency to fly their planes by their thumbs. Clutch the transmitter sticks on the side with the elevons or elevator-ailerons control. This offers the rc pilot more than one orientation to the controls and prevents accidental maneuvers of the rc plane. Don’t jerk the control sticks, but rather use a gradual motion from which to control the model. Proper antenna angle is another factor, since there may be local interference, which affects signal quality. Fly the plane at a close distance, using different antenna angles to determine the optimum signal. While more recent rc planes are equipped with a homing device, which returns the plane to the transmitter if the model experiences signal or line of sight interference, it’s always best to fly your rc plane no farther than your field of view. A three channel transmitter with throttle, rudder and elevator controls is usually the best for a beginner. Speaking of planes, the most important decision facing beginning rc pilots is choice of aircraft. The hard fact is the plane will experience a number of crashes until the pilot becomes more proficient. Foam is a relatively inexpensive material and easy to repair if the rc plane is damaged. While a foam aircraft construction is not the most pleasing to the eye, it provides the rc model beginner with a practical means of getting into the air. RC models may be purchased in either ready to fly (RTF) or in kit form, which must be assembled. Building your own model has the advantages of learning the parts and operating systems of the plane, as well as a lower cost. RC model planes may be powered by either gasoline engines or lithium polymer (LIPO) batteries. The use of lipo batteries has increased drastically in radio control use over the last ten years. They offer near gasoline engine performance while being more compact, with little or no maintenance.
The use of radio control aircraft, quadcopters and drones have increased exponentially over the last fifteen years. Near collisions between drones and passenger aircraft now run into the hundreds each year, with the FAA receiving in excess of 100 reports per month. While most drones weigh less than ten pounds and have a limited altitude, heavier and more capable machines are the rise. For example, even a collision between a lightweight drone and a jetliner could result in millions of dollars if the jetliner sustained damage to either the engine or control surfaces. Though the FAA has a regulation in effect for four years making it illegal to fly a drone within five miles of an airport and limiting the altitude to 400 ft., many operators who use drones in their business pay scant attention. A year later the FAA enacted a five dollar registration fee for all drones weighing more than half a pound. While ineffective at tracking drones, it may get the attention of some operators. For all the electronics and regulations, perhaps the best source of rc model safety is common sense in their use.