Summer is almost upon us. We all need to get outside more and what’s a better way to get outside than by printing up some fun RC toys to play with. I’m a big RC hobbyist. When I was a kid I built Gas Planes, HellisCarHell'(If you are new to RC stay away from Helicopters they can easily hurt or kill you).These days I don’t get out enough and fly but I’m trying to fix that by teaching my son to fly. I ordered him some parts and we are going to build and fly some RC planes and quads. For this article, I decided to share my passion in the hopes that some of you will think about picking up the hobby. It’s a great way to bond with children and build problem-solving skills. In this article, I’m going to outline a Basic kit that will get you through any of the builds I suggest with higher end options. The nice thing is this one kit can be used a few different ways. Making it very versatile. I know I have used all these parts in Multiple builds. I’m going to drop some video’s from fittest as well. They have a whole beginner series if you want to watch it but I will just be posting some of them. I will link the whole series at the end for anyone that wants to watch it.
Buying the parts you can’t print.
Before I get too much into buying parts from online retailers I would like to say this. If you can shop local, Hobby stores are hard to come by but they can be great homes away from home. Most of the time they are very helpful and building a friendship with the guys behind the counter can help you a lot. From helping solve issues with your builds to buddies to fly with. That being said it’s not always easy to find a local store and they are rarely cheaper than an online retailer. So for this article, I will list from the site I use for my Rc parts. WWW.HobbyKing.com Everything listed will be the international pricing but they have options for some countries like the US to get faster shipping. I am going to outline a kit to build a 250 size Quad which is a great beginner size to learn on. Small enough to be very crash resistant but large enough to install a camera and maybe some light weight FPV gear (First Person View) for when you really want to take flying to the next level. This kit can be broken down to make 4 RC planes with some servos so you have options.
I’m going to keep things on the cheap side but I will give some options should you decide you want more. If you know you’re going to get serious skip my first option it’s a great learning radio but lacks functions a seasoned pilot will want. One other important tip In the US we use Mode 2 radios. That means the throttle is on the left most countries outside us use Mode 1 but it is mostly just preference. Though I suggest you stick to the radio-style used in your area because if you need help, someone can pick up your radio and teach you easily. For this article, all my radios will be mode 2 so click the mode one option when you order if you are a model one country.
The hobbyking special
It comes with a 6 channel Receiver and only cost around 30$ depending on sales and shipping. I have 2 of these I use as loaner radios and they work great. The receiver is a little bulky though so I remove the case and put some heat shrink on the internals to prevent shorts. it’s a good mod for any small build. This is a no frills radio but it gets the job done.
The Spektrum Clone AKA OrangeRX
Like the title suggests this is a spektrum DX6i clone I own one of these as well as a real DX6i and if I was handed one of these without being allowed to see it I couldn’t tell the difference it is very close to the real thing and operates as well as a spektrum but you can buy 2 of these for the same price as a Real Dx6i If you opt for this radio remember to buy a compatible receiver as well. When radio shopping you can get a little overwhelmed. So I suggest you stick with these until you get used to using them besides odds are you won’t need more than 6 channels for anything you’d be doing anytime soon.
Batteries and a Charger
My personal preference tends to be turnigy and for this project I suggest 2 to 3 cell batteries above 500mah I’m going to list a couple that I buy but also post a video on choosing batteries for your project because it is important that you have better information as these batteries can be dangerous. Also, consider overall size when choosing batteries if the frame you choose is too small then the battery choice will need to be changed. While I am on the issue of electronics I just want to point out that you want to make sure you buy a few sets of matching connectors or buy parts that match from the start. All my small craft use JST But if you want a solid connector that is good for all applications the XT60 is great.
If you are a beginner I would suggest you buy a few 2 cells and get used to flying before you up the voltages. A quad can drastically change in attitude just by changing to a 3 cell setup. It’s a bit more complicated than that C Rating and discharge rate come into play as well but for beginners these 2 batteries are great.
I use this one. It is DC only meaning you can’t plug it into the outlet on your wall but any 12v source will do. Meaning the same 12v led PSU’s we use to power our 3d printers can be used to power this unit. It also means you can attach it to the battery in your car and charge at the field. No matter how you power it, NEVER CHARGE IN YOUR HOME OR AROUND ANYTHING YOU WANT TO KEEP. Modern batteries aren’t prone to exploding but it can still happen. Be responsible charge your batteries safely.
If you decide to go Airplane only you won’t need any of these and can skip ahead. I love quads and have had a chance to test out quite a few Controller boards. My personal favorite right now is the Naze 32 but the KK2 board is still a good option. The difference being programming. Programming a Naze 32 takes a little more work at the start to get in the air but flies much smoother than a kk2 ever will. They are priced about the same so it really is a better option to go with a Naze. Just my opinion, though.
Motors and Esc’s
250 size quad motors. DYS 1804-23 2000KV BX Series Set of 2 Motors CW/CCW. Now you are going to need to double this order for a quad but the price is hard to beat. I just got some of these and I couldn’t be happier they work great and make quad setup a breeze. As long as you make sure you have them correctly rotating they will self-tighten. I will go into that in a little bit.
I have been using these for a long time but you can use any 7 to 12amp ESC for these motors. but you need 4 of them if you are making a quadcopter, one for each motor.
For the builds listed on this page airplane or quad I would stick with a 5×3 prop you can step up to a 6×4 but you will be testing the limits of your ESC. I also suggest having 2 colors for your props it makes orientation easier. Props are cheap and you will be crashing a lot, even seasoned pilots crash so buy a few sets just to be safe.
Servo’s for Tricopter’s or Planes
Personally, I have been using 9g turnigy servos for years. They are cheap, fit in small places and pretty durable.
The minimum cost for a complete electronics kit to build one quad comes to $147.72 before shipping no servos and no frame. Now you could order a 250 frame from them as well and it would still be under 200 but we are going to 3d print a frame. For Plane fliers, you only need 1 motor and one ESC but I would buy the 2 set so you have the option of making a pusher wing they are a lot of fun.
This video can be used to assemble any quadcopter. I’m going, to be honest, these guys are much better teachers than I ever will be. So for anything flight related check them out.
On to the models
My go to the frame has been the Mini FPV Quadcopter created by EMaglio. I FPV but he has frames that don’t have the camera hole. I like it because it is very easy to print and is very aerodynamic. I will post some other frames after it. that I have tried.
A few others I have liked.
This one is a 270 but can be flown using the 250 setups.
The easiest way to explain a tricopter VS a quad is that a Tricoper uses a servo and the rear motor to stabilize its flight where a quad uses counter rotation to do the same thing. It’s hard to explain the benefits of either suffice to say a try copter will act more like a conventional helicopter in flight than a quad would. I love both. A quad is easier to learn to fly that much I can say.
For those of you who want to play outside but don’t have the area for a plane or a quad I have you covered. Meet the 3d printed Hovercraft. You can use all the parts listed above to make one of these as well. I have yet to build one of these but it looks fun as hell.
Now for the plane flyers.
I want to start by saying that the planes listed don’t need any 3d printed parts at all. They are built mostly from Dollar tree (1$ a sheet) foam board and hot glue. This is actually what got me back into the hobby. For a long time, I stopped flying. It was just too costly. The time it took to build a balsa model and the cost of getting it in the air was just too much. Even electric planes can be very costly. Then I came across the flitetest team and their foam park fliers. For just a couple dollars of foam and maybe 2 hours of build time you can be up in the air flying in no time. If you crashed so what you were out a prop and a couple bucks of foam and this is a full on nose dive of a crash. If you want to fly cheaply or are scared to get into flying because of cost here is your answer. Thankfully there are some things you can 3d print if you want to make stronger planes or just don’t want to cut balsa and I will list a few to go with the following vids. A good place to start is their power pod series. You can build one electronics pod and swap it into a wide range of planes they have made.The coolest thing about these guys is every kit they sell as a speed build on their website they have a diy build plan for so you can cut it out of foam yourself if you want or just buy a speed build kit and be off and flying in a matter of minutes.
Swappable speed builds
3 great starter planes
I can’t tell you just how much fun it has been making and flying these foam park flyers. They have made so many different planes over the past few years that I’m sure they have a plane to suit just about anyone’s tastes Here are some things I started 3d printing for my foam planes.
RC has always been a passion of mine and with spring here I have started dusting off my electronics. I hope this helps you guys get out there and try it out. You can have tons of fun and once you start flying I’m sure you will find all kinds of things to print to go with these planes or to help build your own custom designs. When 3d printing plane parts remember lighter is better keep the infill low. For any of the quad builds you can use PLA and it will fly fine but ABS is more crash resistant. The best thing about all these builds is everything is scalable. When you get the hang of the smaller quads and planes going bigger isn’t much harder.
The flitetest beginners series. Watch this and you will be flying just about anything in no time at all.