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Radio Controlled Airplanes and Helicopters

Uttara Manohar Apr 29, 2019
Radio-controlled airplanes and helicopters are aircraft models that are operated via radio signals. Learn more about the mechanics of such an invention and how to pursue this as a budding hobby.

What are Radio-controlled Airplanes and Helicopters?

The controls are generally sent via a hand-held transmitter that has a joystick operator and the airplane or helicopter has the receptors that catch these signals and operate accordingly. The receptors operate via servomechanism which is an automatic device that enables movement of control surfaces according to movement of the joystick on the transmitter.


This unique hobby dates back to the late 19th century, which boasts of electronically guided, hydrogen filled airships. These airships were flown as a music hall act around theater auditoriums using a basic spark-emitted radio signal.
It was in the 1920s, that the Royal Aircraft Establishment of Britain built and tested the Larynx, which was a monoplane with a 100-mile range. And so it began.

Difference Between RC Helicopters and RC Airplane

Radio-controlled airplanes and helicopters differ from each other in their construction and aerodynamics. Helicopters use the rotary wing system, whereas airplanes are constructed with the fixed wing system.
For people who pursue a hobby of flying these, they usually start with planes and then move on to flying jets and then helicopters since this is the ascending order for the difficulty level. The engines for both airplanes and helicopters, can be electric-powered or gas-powered.

Pursuing this As a Hobby

Many youngsters and adults are avid followers of this unique hobby. Traditionally, hobbyists consider the assembling and flying as the entire experience, however due to ready-made airplanes and easy-to-assemble kits, people can now save time on building or assembling the aircraft from scratch.
For beginners there are park flyers and trainers, whereas more advanced pilots prefer the glow plug engine, electric-powered, and sailplane aircraft. Expert flyers can pick from jets, helicopters, autogyros, 3D aircraft, and many other high-end aircraft that make for some very satisfying and challenging flying experiences.
Beginners can also indulge in the indoor radio controlled helicopters, which are relatively easier to fly and are comparatively inexpensive.

Controllers of Radio-controlled Aircraft

The controller or the joystick plays a crucial role in the flying process. The more the number of controllers, the more number of functions you can control.
Beginners are advised to start with planes that have three channels that operate only on throttle, elevator, and rudder. Practicing simulation before operating an actual RC aircraft might be a good idea since it will give you a sound idea of the entire experience.
People who have mastered their skills at the three-channel operation can then move on to try their hands at four-channel aircraft, which are controlled by throttle, elevator, rudder, and ailerons. For experts, there are complex models and larger scale planes where multiple servos can be used on control surfaces.

Ready-to-fly Airplanes and Helicopters

Ready to Fly planes, commonly known, as RTF planes, are nothing but pre-assembled or ready-made airplanes.
Also available are Almost Ready to Fly or ARTF airplanes that are usually assembly kits that only require minimum attachment or some other basic assembly to be performed. These kits or ready-made planes thus save on the building time invested and give more time for the airplane enthusiasts to indulge in actual flying.
However, traditional hobbyist builders do not prefer these models since they consider the model assembly as an integral part of the hobby.


For hardcore enthusiasts who consider building or assembling an airplane as a crucial part of this hobby, there are various kits available. The kits contain all the raw material needed. It is usually accompanied with a complete set of assembly instructions, and a few spare parts in case there are some errors.
Assembling a model is a very time-consuming process. The builder has to work industriously assembling the frame, covering it, and then polishing the control surfaces to ensure correct alignment. One of the important things to be kept in mind is that these kits do not include the necessary tools, and hence, the tools need to be bought separately.
Indulging in a hobby can be a very fulfilling experience, to say the least. So if you are into airplanes or helicopters, it is time you try your hand at building one and enjoy as you fly your aircraft in the azure skies or in the comfort of your home!