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Electric RC Airplanes

by Andre McFayden

In the recent past, almost all RC airplanes were powered by small internal combustion engines, using liquid fuels. Models powered by electric motors were few and far between. The electric RC airplane is now becoming much more common, especially in models designed for beginning pilots.

Electric power advantages include reliability, convenience, low noise, low vibration, and lack of fuel residue (clean). The disadvantage of early systems was low power. However recent electric airplane motors, combined with advanced batteries, have increased the performance of electric RC airplanes dramatically.

In the more common Brushed motors, current switching is done using sliding contacts known as brushes. The contacts get hot and wear out over time. In Brushless motors, the switching happens electronically using a special voltage regulator (speed controller). This second type of motor and its controller are more expensive to make. Its advantages are no maintenance and higher performance.

There are three main types of batteries in use for electric airplane motors. These are Nickel Cadmium (NiCd), Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) and Lithium Polymer (LiPo). LiPo batteries are lighter for a given application, but tend to be more expensive than NiCad or NiMH.

Electric rc airplane types include powered sailplanes, scale models, aerobatic models, and ducted fan (jet-type). Virtually any type of RC model can now be electric powered. Even powerful electric helicopters are now a reality. In addition, some new types of RC models have emerged that were not practical before, e.g. parkflyers and indoor flyers. For the beginner, something slow and stable is recommended for a trainer aircraft.

Visit the RC Airplane Advisor for more info about Electric RC Airplanes.

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