Archive for March, 2012

Part 2 – RC Airplanes / Gliders for Beginners

March 3, 2012

And as promised, here is Part 2 of RC Airplanes / Gliders for Beginners.

In this episode, let’s learn about Transmitters, Receivers and some other basic stuffs which you really need to know before buying your first plane / glider (including some jargons which will be explained along the way).

# The Transmitter

I’m sure many of you have bought and play those ‘Ready to Play’ RC cars before and most of them comes complete in a package such as below.

All you need to do is charge the batteries, turn the unit and transmitter on, and you’re ready to play. Unfortunately with RC planes and gliders (unless it’s the small sized super cheap ones made just for kids) you need to assemble (for Ready To Fly – RTF) and buy additional accessories (for Almost Ready to Fly – ARF) to complete the package before you can fly. And one of the most important of them is of course – the Transmitter (Tx).

Futaba 6x

Pictured above is the Futaba 6x, one of the popular and recommended Tx. Now, in Part 1 of this topic, we covered about planes and gliders, and which one is good, suitable, and recommended for beginners. However with Tx, if you are serious about this hobby and plan to venture ahead (such as with First Person View flights (FPV),  telemetry, autopilot capability, etc) then it is better to get yourself with a well equipped Tx so when you do upgrade, your Tx is ready to serve and support all of those advanced functionality.

However you need to take note of the unit (Tx) lifespan and new technologies. A veteran RC user once told me that Tx potentiometer will eventually wore out after some years of (heavy?) usage – so plan wisely and if you think you will stick just with basic flying (eg. do barrel roll, loops) and not venturing that much further into gadgets and stuffs, plus will only fly in Line Of Sight (LOS), then a low to medium end Tx (eg. some China / Taiwan brandlike the Turnigy, below) is sufficient. But make sure it has good transmission range (usually a good full range stock 2.4Ghz is capable up to 1 – 2km).

It’s better to invest a bit more and get a good Tx, then losing more money and time because your plane crashes because you lose signal / interference

Back to Futaba 6x, now this is a High End Entry Level Transmitter with 6 Channels (Ch). Simply said – the more channels you have, the more gadgets you can control on the plane (eg. Video angle control, Lights, Wiper, Parachute, etcs). Although a 4Ch Transmitter is sufficient to fly a basic trainer plane / glider, I would personally recommend the 6x because you may add and use autopilot and stabilizer mode as well. And yes we are still talking about RC planes and gliders here 🙂

Another thing that you need to take note about Transmitters is there are 2 modes of flying as below :

Mode 1 (Europe & Asia)
Left Stick – Elevator & Rudder
Right Stick – Throttle & Ailerons

Mode 2 (USA)
Left Stick – Throttle & Rudder
Right Stick – Elevator & Ailerons

Good thing about buying a good Tx like Futaba 6x is the option to switch modes. I’ve been practicing with Mode 2 (there are Mode 2 flyers in Malaysia) and have become comfortable and so much better with it than in Mode 1.

Another Tx worth mentioning is the Turnigy 9x pictured below :

Turnigy 9x

However there have been lots of negative reviews about the Turnigy 9x. Such as the device became defective quite too fast. Although I’ve been hearing otherwise from local Malaysian users. There was this RC user which flashed new firmware and upgraded the device – and is happy with it. Most of the RC users who bought Turnigy 9x is well because of the cheaper price (will be covered before end of this part).

Let’s have a detailed look of Futaba 6x (Although I do found the one below to be slightly different from the model previously shown above – but it will be a good exposure)

We’re not going to learn everything just as yet. Just to show that RC planes / gliders Tx have much more functions than RC cars. You shouldn’t have to worry much. Just focus on the basic stuffs (like the sticks and trims) will do for now.

I’m still learning these myself, so please comment if you found any mistakes which I’ve made here.

Futaba 6x costs around RM600 (Tx only) while the Turnigy 9x costs around RM220 – RM350 (Tx and Rx sold together). Bare in mind that you also need a Receiver (Rx) to be paired up with these Tx although there are some that sells them in packages (like the Turnigy 9x) which is great for beginners. These Tx are available locally (Malaysia) and lots of RC flyers used them (so it’s easier to ask for help). Both are 2.4Ghz Tx with standard range of 1km up to 2km. However you shouldn’t fly far without any failsafe or Return To Launch (RTL) to avoid unnecessary crash (sounds interesting? We’ll talk about that later.. much much later).

I personally wouldn’t call RC planes and gliders reviewed here as a ‘toy‘. It could cause injuries (to yourself and also others) if not managed carefully. Always consult experienced RC users if you are not sure. And if you are a beginner, fly high and avoid place with uncovered peoples and electric wires. If you need further advice, you could always go to any RC forum that’s related to your country, or leave a comment here.

Part 3 is coming which we will see some fun stuffs instead of serious learning, and maybe a bit of RC Simulator (you don’t think I’ll let you fly before any trainings would you?). But, as promised before for you Android users out there, head over to Market and download Leo’s RC Simulator. This is a great simulator to familiarize yourself with the controls (remember to set controller to Mode 2 or switch to Mode 1 if you prefer) especially when the plane heads towards you – familiarize with inverted controls. Treat the simulator as your real flight experience, avoid crashes at all necessary costs, practice take off and landings, fly high if you just started (as you will have time to recover if anything bad were to happen) and most important of all, have fun!

I’ve read reviews where people who started off with this Android simulator can actually fly real RC planes and gliders without much issues for the first time (They should be telling the truth because I am one of them!). However, there’s more to it than this. Stay tuned for Part 3 of this topic, coming soon!

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