Electric RC planes are becoming more popular, due to improvements in technology and their clean, quiet, and reliable nature. There are many different kinds of electric RC planes available, and each is designed for a different purpose. This article will show you the different types of electric RC planes available, and explain how they work.
Benefits of Electric RC Planes
Electric RC planes have many benefits over fuel planes. This list shows some of the many reasons that you should choose electric power over fuel:
- Cheaper than fuel RC planes - In many cases, electric power is cheaper than a comparable fuel system.
- Just as powerful as fuel RC planes – Brushless motors are just as powerful as their fuel counterparts.
- Safer than fuel RC planes – Electric RC planes are safer than fuel. A hot nitro or gas engine can do serious damage to anyone who accidentally touches or gets to close to it. Electric RC planes use motors and propellers which do not inflict as much damage in the event of an accident.
- Electric motors are reliable - A good brushless electric motor is far more reliable than any fuel engine. Why waste time adjusting the mixture, idle speeds, and other settings when you can just plug in a electric motor and fly?
- Great way to get into RC – Electric RC planes are a great way for a beginner to learn how to fly because of their low cost and durability. Several beginner electric RC planes are available.
- Practical for 3D / Foam – Electric power is the only form of power that makes sense for 3D and foam electric RC planes. Fuel engines cannot be build small enough to power these models effectively.
- Indoor flight is possible – Many electric RC planes can be flown indoors. This is not possible with any fuel model due to the noise, mess, and danger.
Examples of Electric RC Planes
There are many different kinds of electric RC planes, so here is a list summarizing the basic types you will find.
Simple 2 Channel Electric RC Plane
Some electric RC planes use only a two channel radio system. These planes are a great way for kids to learn about RC planes, due to the simple design and low cost. The Vortex is a great example of this type of electric RC airplane. Everything needed to start flying is included in the box, and spare parts are available on our website.
More Advanced 3 Channel Electric RC Plane
More advanced Electric RC planes use a three channel radio, letting the pilot control the altitude, yaw, and pitch of the aircraft. The Vortex Extreme is a good example of this design, with a proportional radio system and a powerful electric motor. We recommend this electric RC plane to anyone interested in learning how to fly. Check out these articles covering everything from the basics of RC flight, to choosing your first electric RC plane.
4 Channel Electric RC Plane
Electric RC planes aren’t just for teaching beginners how to fly, there are many full control models available for serious pilots. These types of electric RC planes use a proportional 4 channel radio system, allowing the pilot to control the bank, pitch, yaw, and throttle. An excellent example of a 4 channel electric RC plane is the Multiplex Minimag. This airplane is perfect for anyone who wants a dependable plane to fly anywhere.
3D Foam Electric RC Plane
One of the most common uses of electric power is in 3D foam electric RC planes. 3D model airplanes are able to hover, due to their large power to weight ratio, and are an excellent choice for indoor and backyard flying. The Southern X-3 is a great example of this type of electric RC airplane, and is maneuverable enough to be flown inside a house! Indestructible takes on a whole new meaning with this airplane, due to it’s flexible foam construction it is able to survive almost any crash without damage.
How Electric RC Planes Work
Electric RC airplanes use several different approaches to radio and motor system design. Here is a list of some of the most basic components that all electric RC planes use:
- Motor – The motor is one of the most important components of any electric RC plane. It is used to spin the propeller and generate airflow over the wings, which causes lift and allows the airplane to fly.
- Battery – The Battery is what provides power to the motor and radio system of the electric RC plane. There are two main types of batteries used. The NiMh (nickel metal hydride) batteries are readily available, and are used in several electric RC planes including the Vortex and Vortex Extreme. Lithium polymer batteries use a different chemistry, and provide many times more power than NiMh batteries. Special chargers are required to charge lithium polymer batteries, due to the flammable chemicals that they use. Make sure to supervise these batteries while charging, and get a fire retardant sack to charge them in.
- Radio System – The Radio system is used to control the electric RC plane. Radio signals are sent from the transmitter to the receiver in the airplane, which tells the control surfaces how to move and the engine how fast to spin.
- ESC (electric speed controller) – The electric speed controller is used in electric RC Planes to control the speed of the engine. This is similar to the throttle on a fuel airplane, which opens or closes the carburetor air intake to vary the speed at which fuel is burned. The ESC varies the amount of power sent to the motor of the electric RC plane by altering the voltage of the current that passes through it.
- BEC (battery eliminator circuit) – Some electric RC planes have a battery eliminator circuit. This is a device which powers the radio system of the electric RC plane using current from the main flight battery. Without a BEC, an electric RC plane needs a separate battery to power the radio system.
Electric RC planes can use other components, but these are the most common found in nearly every model.
Why Choose an Electric RC Plane?
You are beginning a great hobby, one which will require patience and dedication to be successful. Electric RC planes are a great way to begin, and experienced pilots will appreciate the fantastic 3D capabilities of electric foam planes. Have fun with your electric RC planes!