R/C Model Aircraft

This is another of the hobbies that I cycle through. I was employed in the hobby trade, specifically R/C (Radio controlled) for a few years while I was between careers. Friend of mine threw me a lifeline and I returned the favour by spending most of my pay in his store, or so it seemed. Presently I’m playing with the latest generations of electric helicopters.

The photo shows some of the electric-powered machines that I have. These are not really toys anymore. Technical development has them to the point where they are quite sophisticated small aircraft, requiring mastery of both technology and piloting dynamics.

The top one in the assemblage above and shown below, the Trex 550E, requires all of the care and diligence of a full size aircraft. It uses sophisticated digital control technology, has on board gyrostabilizers and power management and monitoring systems, and swings a 42″ carbon fibre rotor blade assembly at 2500 rpm (a typical table saw turns a 10″ blade at 1750rpm). This one has had a number of structural and performance upgrades to improve reliability. Its gets much the same pre-flight and post flight inspections and check-listing that one does in a full size. Certainly catches your attention when it spools up.

While these get used and abuse in spectacular fashion in crazy aerobatics, they, and other R/C aircraft, like the XAircraft x650 quadcopter below, are finding their way into the photographic arena. These are state-of-the-art in control. Requiring computer hookups for setting up flight control paremeters, they contain onboard computerized flight managment systems, 3-axis digital gyros and accelerometers, digital compass for flight orientation control, on may also be equipped with barometric sensors and gps units for position hold, waypoint navigation, and return-to-home features. Many players are installing on-board video cameras and transmitters for direct-view flight (so=called FPV or “first person video”) in addition to the photographic video equipment.

Digital cameras have made high quality video available with relatively low-cost cameras, so cameras and flying platforms are being combined, both in special purpose-built multicopters like this one, and with helicopters too. easier to use than a massive photo crane or full size heli, their video footage is showing up more and more in commercial photography. So much so that airspace concerns and legal issues are arising out of their use. The R/C frequencies allocated do not permit commercial exploitation (hobby use) and the use of remotely piloted vehicles in controlled airspace is raising concerns with regulatory agencies. Still, they’re fun to play with.

I’ve been playing with the helis because they don’t require much room. Flying sites are at a premium around where I live, so the more traditional aircraft are harder to fly. I’ll post some of my other planes when I get them dusted off and get some good shots. Unfortunately age and eyesight is limiting how crazy I can get with these (not to mention the cost – R/C helis are not a cheap hobby, especially if you like to do aerobatics). I’m fond of saying to beginners, “they’re built to be flightworthy, not crashworthy”.