The non technical guide to getting started in RC. Be informed – start here. RC (Radio Control)
Which RC hobbies are for you?
So you arrive at this page and your immediate question is, which RC hobbies are for you? Such a simple question has a fairly lengthy answer. The good thing is there are quite a few to choose from and the bad news is, there are quite a few RC hobbies to choose from. With such a large selection of RC’s to try out, you may really dial in your personal preference, as there really is no limit. It’s fun, rewarding, great for the family and most definitely addicting for everyone.
RC Hobbies are great for all ages, age really does not matter. Skilled pilots over the age of 70 are having just as much fun as a 10 year old son or daughter. RC hobbies is a great way of adding another activity for families to enjoy. In many cases heading over to the local club can bring about a solid day’s worth of social entertainment as well as fun.
Most of the RC hobbies on radiocontrolinfo are from four mainstream groups and these groups can be broken down in to further more specific groups, which are lastly broken down in to three different power sources for each RC Vehicle class. The final selection after you have dialed in to what vehicles type you want to start with, is the most challenging to select from. There is simply just so many to choose from. RC Hobbies are a great hobby, let’s go through this:
The first group for RC Hobbies is by type.
Types – Grouping 1 – RC Hobbies
The four mainstream types of RC hobbies are:
- Radio Control Airplanes
- Radio Control Boats
- Radio Control Cars
- Radio Control Helicopters
As we were talking about above, these 4 different groups can then be broken down further. We will now break these down in to the power source options.
Power Source – Grouping 2 – RC Hobbies
In general there are three different power sources available to provide the mechanical energy for you RC vehicles. These power sources include Electric, Gas and Nitro. Each power source has its advantages and disadvantages. As a summary here they are.
Electric power is a clean, quieter source of power. Maintenance on an Electric motor is quite low where only the bearing are a wear item on the motor. Ease of operation is excellent and nearly plug and play in all types of RC. Speed capability is high actually very high!
Large size for all application of RC Hobbies is very appealing. The Gas engine used to propel the RC vehicle is easy to operate and requires minimal tuning. Realism in terms of smoke, sound and power adds to the RC excitement. Longest potential run time of all power systems.
Quicker potential speeds in comparison to the Gas engine. Smaller RC vehicles with lower costs.
I would highly recommend that someone new to the RC hobbies world would stick to Electric power for their first RC vehcle. It is the most reliable and offers the best learning experience of all power sources.
Classification – Grouping 3 – RC Hobbies
Lastly we will break down the 4 mainstream types of RC hobbies in to the final sub category. The final sub category defines the classification of a specific Group. For example, if we look at the cars we drive to and from work each day, these can be broken down in to Luxury Cars, Economy, Sports Cars, ect. We will now do the same with the different types of RC Hobbies.
To read further about any of the RC hobbies, follow one of the links directly under the description paragraph.
- Radio Control Airplanes
- Trainer Airplanes
- Pattern or Aerobatic Airplanes
- 3D Airplanes
- Ducted Fan / Jet Airplanes
- Radio Control Boats
- Scale Boats
- Performance Boats
- Radio Control Cars
- On Road RC Cars
- Off Road RC Cars
- Radio Control Helicopters
- Co-Axial Helicopters
- Collective / Fixed Pitch Helicopters
Now that you know how each RC vehicle type is broken down, we will go in to further detail for each RC hobbies vehicle category and then steer you in the direction where you can read and learn further. We will first start with Radio Control Airplanes.
Trainer Airplanes – RC Hobbies
The very first airplane type is known as the Trainer Airplane. Now if you are reading this, chances are this is where you will or at least should start. A trainer airplane is best known for having its wing high up on the fuselage.Trainer airplanes are airplanes in the RC hobbies world that allow for slower flight characteristics both in speed and handling. Both of these conditions is exactly what you should expect from a plane that will be your first. A slower reacting plane is a plane that is not as sensitive for new pilots reacting to how the plane is flying. This is due to newer pilots tending to over control the plane with lots of directional change inputs. A slower flying plane is a plane that allows for more time to react to change in direction. Trainer airplanes can be scale models of full size airplanes or new models created by RC manufactures. It is highly recommended to start here should you choose RC Airplanes.
Pattern, Sport, Aerobatic Airplanes – RC Hobbies
This classification of airplane deals with airplanes that have a much higher flight envelope then Trainer airplanes in the previous paragraph. A Pattern plane gets its name for being able to precisely fly specific patterns with excellent aerobatic flight characteristics. The design of the airplane is significantly different which allows the airplane to travel at faster speeds while handling very well. Handling is directly related to where the wing is placed on the airplane. This class of airplane typically has the wing mounted low or in the middle of the fuselage. The airplane must be quick to react, which in return makes it very responsive to input control and takes an experienced pilot to control. It is highly suggested that new pilots work their way up to this level. Starting here makes it very difficult to have high chance for success.
3D Airplanes – RC Hobbies
3D Airplanes are a very interesting class of airplane. This type of airplane can literally do any type of maneuver in the trick book. This is achieved using an airplane that is light in weight, has control surfaces with high surface area / deflection angles, and just add power. Lots of power!! Having more thrust then what the plane physically weighs is what allows this type of airplane to hang off of the propeller similar to a helicopter. The extreme sensitive input control at super slow speeds makes this class of airplane best suited for highly experienced pilots.
Ducted Fan / Jet Airplanes – RC Hobbies
Ducted Fan / Jet Airplanes are one of the most thrilling classes of airplanes. You can most definitely expect very fast forward flight out of these airplanes. Handling is generally excellent when the plane is at speed however slow speed handling is sluggish by nature. We briefly summarized the available power systems for RC’s in general above. This is one of the only RC types that features a fuel breathing power source other then what was mentioned. Ducted fan jets are powered by electric motors while the full on scale jet is powered by a Model Jet engine. The sound that comes out of these extreme machines match identically to the full size jets as the engines are designed around the same concepts. The Model Jet engines are just smaller variations with a more simple design. Unfortunately owing one of the Jet Engine powered jets require a second mortgage, you can most definitely travel to your local model airplane club and see if you can see one of these amazing airplanes in action. You will be hooked for sure. The people flying the Jet powered Jets have already climbed the RC Plane ladder. It takes a lot of experience to work up to this level. Just remember, start slow and work your way up and after several years of you may find yourself here.
Sailboats – RC Hobbies
Sailboats are a great way to enter the world of RC Boats. Sail boats are controlled the same way a full size sail boat is controlled. One channel or stick on the radio controls the Sail and the second channel or stick controls the rudder. Typically the Jib is controlled simultaneously with the main sail. There are different size classifications for RC Sailboats. The most popular size class is 1 meter where the size refers to the hull length of the boat. Sail boats are quite quick for being powered by the wind, don’t let this fool you. Sail boats are highly recommended for new boaters as there are several almost ready to run kits out there that make the builds quite simple.
Scale Boats – RC Hobbies
Scale boats are boats that look identical to a full size boat. Most of the scale boats available are modeled after ships, tugboats, and even submarines. The level of detail that the manufactures include in these hulls are of the highest. Some scale boats offered or built by RC Enthusiasts have fully functioning system on board their scale boat. This may include gun turrets that can be operated, yes operated to shoot small BB’s or operated to rotate to different angles. Other items include motorized cranes, motorized fire hoses that have a water pump on board. Only the imagination is the limit of what is possible. Anything can be built and fixed to the boat hull. Scale boats must travel slowly in order to represent the scale speed of that particular model which means if you are looking for some fast fun filled excitement, this is not where you should start. However if you appreciate high detail or appreciate a highly detail filled build, this is for you.
Performance Boats – RC Hobbies
Performance Boats are just that. Boats that are built to perform and by perform we mean speed and handling. A performance boat is a boat that can achieve over a 20mph speed where the average speed of most RTR boats in this category are 30mph or higher. There are many different types of performance boats that have different handling and speed characteristics. For example a monohull is great for rougher water conditions but a Hydro style hull is excellent in top speed and handling performance.
Although there are many ready to run boats on the market that offer a very quick entry to boating, many hobbyists enjoy putting together a high performing boat. When starting out in performance boating it is recommended to purchase a RTR boat. This is the most reliable way to begin enjoying the hobby, however as your confidence and knowledge builds in RC boating building a boat is just as fun as running the boat.
On Road Cars – RC Hobbies
On road RC vehicles are best known for performing well on a hard compact surface such as asphalt or concrete. There are some on road RC Cars that perform well indoors on carpet. Some different popular types of on road RC vehicles include drift cars, on road circuit cars, and on road top speed cars. Drift cars are designed to be able to throw the rear end of the car loose in order to drift around corners. This takes a great amount of control in order to feed in the correct amount of steering and throttle input. On road circuit cars are cars that are designed with a moderate top speed but can also handle well in order to race competetively around an on road track. These cars may obtain a speed of around 40 to 50mph. Top speed on road cars are not as common but are very impressive. These cars are designed to achieve speeds around or over the 60mph mark. There are only a couple ready to run models that are capable of these speeds out of the box. A great level of control is required at these speeds. If you are new to on road RC cars, you will most likely want to take a look at drift or circuit / track cars.
Off Road Cars – RC Hobbies
Off road cars are RC vehicles that are capable of handling terrain the is not smooth and flat. There is a wide range of terrain covered in this area of RC. Although we call these RC cars, many of them are in fact trucks. A light off road RC is known as the buggy. The RC buggy is designed to handle hard packed dirt. High offroad speeds are its advantage, however the buddy must stay in light off road terrain. On the other side of the spectrum are RC Rock Crawlers. Rock Crawlers are best known for being able to conquer the most wild off road terrain. These RC vehicles are able to crawl over almost anything that you throw under it. Typical speeds of off road vehicles range in the 10-35mph region. Outside of this range on the higher end are the off road buggies. If you are looking to enter the world of RC land vehicles this is one of the best areas to start it.
If you are interested in RC Helicopters, Co-axial helicopters are the perfect place to start and highly recommended before moving in to some of that more challenging helicopter types. Co-Axial helicopters get their name from having two counter rotating main helicopter blades. The blades that are counter rotating are placed co-axially which just means above the other main set. Co-Axial helicopters offer a very stable flight, so stable that just about anyone can pick up a controller and have tons of fun. Now of course there will be crashes. Co-Axial helicopters are typically smaller which offers excellent crash resistance due to there low weight characteristics. If you are looking for your first Helicopter and have never flown an RC vehicle before, this is by far the place to start.
Collective / Fixed Pitch Helicopters – RC Hobbies
Fixed Pitch Helicopters is a step up from the Co-Axial Helicopters mentioned above. A fixed pitch helicopter has only one main set of rotor blades and the pitch or angle at which these blades rest are fixed. A change in altitude requires increasing the speed or decreasing the speed of the main helicopter blades. In comparison to the Co-Axial helicopter, a fixed pitch helicopter is less stable. The helicopter requires a constant control input in order to maintain a hover. This is the way a full scale helicopter flies and only adds to that sense of realism.
Now a collective pitch helicopter takes this yet another step ahead. The collective pitch rotor is capable of varying the pitch. This allows the motor to maintain a constant speed to rotate the main blades, and when more pitch is feeded in through input controls the helicopter changes altitude. A collective pitch helicopter allows the helicopter to perform more aerobatic maneuvers which can be seen in 3D flight. It is highly recommended to be very comfortable with a fixed pitch helicopter before moving on to the Collective pitch helicopter.