Getting to know the “Radio” in “Radio Control”!

Sep 26

Getting to know the “Radio” in “Radio Control”!

If you’ve ever thought of buying a radio controlled airplane, or are thinking about buying one, you probably should be aware of what the “radio” is and how it functions. Let me show you an image, which you might have already seen:


52ca65377a36ea5 Getting to know the Radio in Radio Control!


So this is what a typical “radio” looks like! The above image also has all the “channels” or “controls” marked out. The radio is also referred to as the “transmitter” and has a corresponding “receiver” that is installed in the plane itself. The receiver gets signals from the radio/transmitter and passes it on to the respective servos. In order to avoid confusion, I will discuss the other electronic parts like servos, receivers, etc, in the next post.  

The channels of a radio system refers to a specific function or task performed by the radio. Don’t get it confused with “frequencies”. The number of RC airplane controls , or functions, depends on how many channels the radio system has.

The most basic radio control transmitters have 2-3 channels. A 3-channel airplane, which is the best for beginners, has 3 functions that can be controlled by the radio, namely the speed (throttle), the elevation (elevator), and the “yaw” (rudder). For a refresher on the airplane parts, see my earlier post Parts of an RC Airplane

 

A radio with four or more channels will have elevator/aileron control on the right stick and throttle/rudder control on the left stick. The ailerons are the primary turning control for an airplane with ailerons. Ailerons really bring an airplane to life because they allow the airplane to “roll”.

 

Below is the list of different controls you get with the different number of channels in a typical RC radio system:

  • 1 Channel – Rudder (The RC model plane flies with full throttle until out of fuel/power)
  • 2 Channel – Throttle and Steering (RC Cars and Boats) or Rudder and Elevator (Glider RC Planes)
  • 3 Channel – Rudder or Aileron, Elevator, and Throttle. Or, Rudder, Aileron and Elevator.
  • 4 Channel – Rudder, Aileron, Elevator and Throttle
  • 5 Channel – Rudder, Aileron, Elevator, Throttle, and Flaps or Retracts (retractable landing gear)
  • 6 Channel – Rudder, Aileron, Elevator, Flaps and Retracts

In terms of cost, the radio is actually the biggest investment. However, a good radio will last you for years so it is advisable to buy a good radio with 4-6 Channels. You can use the same radio to fly all your airplanes, so as you start progressing from a 3 channel airplane to a 6 channel airplane, the same radio will keep on working. 

In the next article, I will show you how the “radio control” communicates with the different parts of the plane.

Hope this post was helpful! Please do post your comments and suggestions below.

 

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59 comments

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