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Today's Radio Control Park Flyer Model Aircraft

Today’s smaller RC planes turn every backyard into a flying field

Park flyer RC model airplane

Typical park flyer RC model airplane


Flying radio control model airplanes is a great hobby. For years, modelers have aspired to being able to fly an RC airplane in their back yard or at the local park. Hence the term “park model” used to describe smaller electric powered RC planes that could maneuver in the confined space of a local gym, park or back yard.

T-28 Trojan RC model airplane

T-28 RTF micro plane from Horizon Hobby

Technology was always the limiting factor in any sort of useful park model aircraft. Until recently, radio control electronics were too heavy and oversize to fit into any sort of practical small model plane. Compounding the backyard flight challenge were the gas engines used to power all models of the day. The noise alone of the smallest gas motors precluded any thought of RC flight outside of a local club flying field.

Introduction of park flyers

In the past few years a revolution has occurred in the character of the smaller radio control model airplanes. For the first time, a backyard flyer is not only possible, but widely available and accepted by the modeling community.

Pietenpol Air Camper model airplane

Pietenpol Air Camper makes a great small field flyer

There is no set definition of a park flyer. Generally, it is a small model powered by an electric motor. A silent electric motor is a requirement so as not to disturb nearby neighbors.

A park model should fly at a slow enough speed and have enough control authority to stay within the confines of your flying area. Free flight models, such as the Guillow Lancer, can be converted to RC flight. A faster RC model suitable for a large field might not be able to maneuver in a smaller back yard area.

motor and ESC of Finch RC plane

Miniature motor and electronic servo brick for the Finch

There is a wide selection of miniature electric motors and tiny batteries that will meet the needs of the smallest radio control model aircraft.

These power systems can be stand alone or adapted from ready to fly park models such as the ParkZone Cessna 210 or Micro P-51 Mustang. The Finch is a good example of a successful adaptation of the ParkZone P-51 power system into a plans built RC model plane suitable for indoor or backyard sorties.

Perhaps the most important item of enabling technology that permitted the explosion in popularity of park sized radio control model aircraft is the introduction of 2.4 GHz radio transmitter spread spectrum technology.

 

Prior to the use of 2.4 GHz transmitters, all RC model plane transmitters operated on discrete frequencies in the 72 MHz band. While subject to periodic interference and glitches, the 72 MHz band worked well for years.

Spektrum radio and Chickadee RC model airplane

Spektrum 2.4 GHz transmitter by Chickadee

72 MHz vs. 2.4 GHz transmitters

The crucial operating safety point with 72 MHz was that transmitters could not operate on the same channel at the same time, or else the RF signals would jam each other.

All radio control model flight was restricted to chartered clubs that implemented a strict frequency control process to prevent anyone from accidentally flying on the same frequency at the same time.

The requirement of knowing what RC frequencies anyone within several miles was operating on essentially precluded RC flight outside of known club field RF safety zones.

ParkZone P-51 mustang RC model plane

ParkZone micro P-51 Mustang park flyer

All these restrictions have been completely overcome by the introduction of 2.4 GHz spread spectrum technology.

Spread spectrum technology employs the same design scheme used for cordless phones in your home. With spread spectrum the radio system “binds” a transmitter to a specific receiver. Transmitters “talk” to only the one receiver they “recognize” via the binding process.

Any number of transmitters can be on at the same time with no worries of interference. For the first time, a park model can be safely flown anywhere without concern over causing interference with someone else’s RC transmitter.

While spread spectrum technology permitted RC flight without the old frequency deconfliction board, a true micro plane requires the smallest sized radio control equipment possible. A variety of manufacturers have responded to the need for featherweight servos, receivers and electronic speed controls. The best example of this is the ParkZone line of electronics, using an innovative “brick” concept that combines all needed control functions in a single tiny unit.

 

ParkZone ESC brick RC electronics

Amazing ParkZone combination receiver and Electronic Speed Control with two servos

Ready to fly micro models

The final step in the rapid adoption of park models by everyday pilots was the introduction of quality ready to fly aircraft. The smaller radio control models were always a challenge to build due to the strict weight requirements. A slight addition of surplus structure could add enough weight such that successful flight is precluded.

Development of precise design and foam manufacturing processes has allowed anyone to obtain an affordable, quality park model ready to fly right out of the box. These models are professionally designed and soundly built. They come complete with everything needed for a flying session to include an easy to use lipo battery charger.

There are no design compromises made with these remarkable flyers. Get one or two today. They truly are a pleasure to fly. It is great fun to enjoy an evening flying session in your back yard with these little gems.

Author: Gordon McKay