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Title pretty much sums it up, but I would like to try to make my own RC plane. I'm looking for a kit or bundle I can get that would basically include all the supplies to make a plane, so I guess that would be a controller, receiver, a motor or two, some servos, and a battery(I think?). Built in FPV camera is a plus but not necessary. Price is where I'm mainly concerned, and unless the circuitry is pretty indestructible I only really want to pay twenty dollars for it. If I can crash it without too much damage then I can do up to 50 dollars, but preferably you would have some experience with the kit so I don't have just amazon reviews to go off of. I can solder any connections that are needed if the kit isn't preassembled.

If you need any more details, just ask and I'll add it.

I am in the US, state of Tennessee.

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    $\begingroup$ Specifying your country might matter: Not everywhere you're (technically) allowed to have a camera, overflight laws are different, etc. A "local" (=can be far away but in same jurisdiction) club website/forum will tell you. $\endgroup$ – user3445853 Oct 5 '20 at 15:00
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Probably the easiest way to get started building planes these days is with foam board models, such as those popularised by FliteTest. Foam board is a 5mm thick non-beaded polystyrene foam sheet with a layer of paper on either side for added strength. You can buy sheets from craft stores for a dollar or two. It's easy to cut with a sharp knife (small box cutters are ideal) and it can be glued with hot glue or UHU POR (but some other adhesives will melt the foam). The paper layer makes it easy to paint, with almost any paint.

You can build a good starter plane with two or three sheets of foam, and with practice it only takes an afternoon or so. Your first attempt may be a bit scruffy but you will get better with practice, so plan to make several. Smallish, light models are fairly tough and easy to patch up, but knowing you can completely rebuild for very little cost is a huge confidence boost and will help avoid the common story of buying an expensive model from a shop, crashing on your first flight and giving up.

Download and print out a 3-view drawing of your favourite plane and stick it to the foam. Cut out a profile of the fuselage, and the plan view of the wings and tail. Stick them together, add some nose weight so it balances about 25% from the front of the wing and it will probably fly. Experiment with the nose weight, the angle of the tail and dihedral. You'll also learn a lot about the location and weather required for flying.

Next find a plan for a beginner RC plane in foam board, such as the FliteTest Tiny Trainer, Simple Cub or Scout. These models are relatively light and simple, and all have the wings angled up (called dihedral) which causes them to self-level, vastly increasing your chances of success.

These all have free plans under the 'resources' tab in their shop. Print them out, lightly glue the paper to the board and cut them out. Feel free to simplify the shapes slightly as they were drawn for a laser cutter.

Now for the electronics. There are some toy planes under $20 that are quite fun for a 10-year old under adult supervision but they're quite limited and not a good way to start the hobby. You don't have much control and they're very slow, so will blow down wind. You also can't reuse the gear in anything else so they're not a good investment.

A basic radio will cost at least \$30, but you'll want to upgrade that within a year so it's not really a good investment. For \$40 you can get a cheap computer radio with multiple model memories (for when you have more than one plane) and channel mixes (for flying wings, deltas, V-tails or flaps) - that's all the features you really need for a lifetime in the hobby. Most people will spend more for a 'nice' transmitter, but you don't need to. Transmitters generally come with a receiver.

The recommended sizes for the various bits are listed with the plans. You'll need to do a bit of research to work out what all the numbers mean.

Next you'll need a motor and Electronic Speed Controller (ESC). These are \$5-10 each. You will break props, so get some spares. 9 gram servos are about \$3 each. You'll need 2 initially, but it's worth having a couple of spares for crashes or more complex models. You'll need multiple batteries, as flights are typically 10 minutes or so. Basic chargers start at about \$20. Get one that can handle a range of sizes and cell counts, and it'll last you for years.

You won't get that lot for \$50 but you should manage to keep it under \$100. I suppose the stuff that's in the plane should be under \$50, as the expensive bits are the transmitter, charger and spare batteries!

The good news is that the gear can be used on multiple models. When one gets too damaged, or you want to try something new, just move the gear across. The transmitter, charger and batteries can all be shared between multiple models.

It's worth shopping around a bit but avoid anything that's super cheap with no reviews.

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I recently started flying myself (Approximately once a week over the past few months) and can recommend a flying wing made out of foam (Expanded Polystyrene (EPP)) with an electric pusher prop and a field with tallish grass (You'll also need around 3 tubes of epoxy, 2 extra propellers, a ladder and/or a pool scoop and in sever cases an axe ;) ).

Model Selection

Flying wings have a nice leading edge for spreading the impulse when smashing into things and no tail that'll rip off when you do the more severe cartwheel/bollemakisi type crashes. If you go for a tube an plate design I believe a top wing is more stable then a bottom wing as the weight hangs below the wing and tends to "self right" which translates to an easier learning experience. Definitely aim for something that flies slowly, and has largish control surfaces; you can usually soften the responsiveness in the controller settings.

Pusher configurations seem better then puller configurations as the propeller is less likely to snap when in the back then in the front. Also motor shafts readily bend in collisions and are pain to bend straight again (Pressing on two chucks mounted on each end of the bend in the shaft seem the easiest means of doing this). If you do go for something with a front facing propeller make sure that the propeller is protected by the recess between the nose and the wing (Touch the nose and wing tip to a flat surface and be sure that the propeller doesn't make contact as well).

Materials

Foam is surprisingly durable and can sustain repeated rips, tears and repairs. A strip of duct tape along the leading edge will protect it in heavier crashes and collisions with pointy things like sticks. Mine has two carbon ribs that run almost from wing tip to wing tip which are surprisingly handy as you can press a ripped wing together, tape up the tear with some masking tape and go for a few extra flights each session; I tend to keep flying until the rip gets to these ribs as it's easier to repair a complete rip then a partial one. If you do go the balsa route building something out of solid balsa, rather then a finnicky ribbed construction, then I'd add a strip of foam along the leading edges for shock absorption.

Construction

When you build yours make sure that all the wires are tucked within the body. Any loops of wire that hang loose will snag on trees, fences, rough bush and rocks and you will have to get thrifty with the soldering iron. Protect your control rods as well with a bit of raised plastic or balsa.

Radio Setup

When you setup your radio check in the menus if you can setup a kill switch for the engine it'll save a propeller here and there and makes it easier to learn as you just toggle the switch when you're about to hit something. Not having a tail also saves you learning an extra control input right out of the gate.

Model Setup

When you start flying make sure that the model is well balanced, usually it should pivot about the widest point of the wing. I usually throw mine into a patch of tall grass a few times making sure that it glides fairly straight. If it rotates or veers left or right check that the flaps/ailerons/flaperons are inline with one another. If it bobs up and down check that it isn't nose or tail heavy (Tail heavy is worse it seems) and that the control surfaces aren't too high/low. Ideally it should glide level and straight with a slight down angle making a triangle from where you released it and where it contacts the ground.

Flying

Once the model is setup try for unpowered glides, throwing down wind gives you a good glide and builds confidence but limits maneuverability since the wing has limited lift. Throwing into the wind you can point it high and glide it in place and give a good feel for it's reactivity under power. Once you're comfortable with this add power and try for long straight flights, get used to fighting cross winds and any disturbances then work up to lazy S curves and aim for figures of 8. After that you can start with the fancy things.

Aside

My initial setup was/is quite under powered so I didn't know if it would actually fly until the fifth or sixth session when I finally got a good glide or two and had worked out what the heck I was doing; mostly for the plane to climb it had to be dead level at full power, a slight nose up was ok too but anything more then 5-10 degree up and it would sink.

I have let family members and any one walking past showing the slightest interest have a bash and reckon one needs about 200-300 crashes to get flying.

  1. The first 50-100 flights, with flight times of 5-15 seconds gets the control down
  2. The next 100-200 flights, with flight times of 15-30 seconds, one can start transitioning to powered flight
  3. The 200-300 thereafter, with flight times of 30 seconds to a few minutes, one gets comfortable with it flying back at you and across your view.

My second setup was overpowered and I would not recommend that as a starter either as you'll smash into the countryside faster and need more glue; granted an overpowered plane has more near misses then collisions once you get the control down.

Personally I'm quite inclined to recommend discus launch gliders as the first planes to try since the get high quite quickly and let you have more time to learn the controls initially. I'm building one at the moment so will report back if it turns out to be a nicer trainer.

P.S. Hope you don't mind me going a bit out of scope with my answer but I thought I'd mention some of the observations I've had over the recent months

P.P.S. Post a photo of your model when its built

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  • $\begingroup$ thanks for the recommendations, ill post a picture or two if/when I get it finished. $\endgroup$ – Ceramicmrno0b Oct 5 '20 at 22:45
  • $\begingroup$ Sure thing, I can definitely recommend letting friends and family try for a session. No one says "Oh sorry, I crashed into that tree ..." its usually "Yippee! check how far I got that time !!! Damned foliage". Women are the funniest though; they get this wry expression of "Down with the man" when they realize they fly better then their husbands ... (Particularly if he was mansplaining beforehand). $\endgroup$ – Carel Oct 5 '20 at 23:04
  • $\begingroup$ Congratulations on teaching yourself, but I think you'd have saved a lot of crashes if you'd gone for a more traditional trainer with dihedral and saved the wing until your second plane. I've taught a lot of people to fly, and most of them would have struggled with a wing - I guess you think faster and have better reflexes than them! Also, EPP wings are relatively cheap and much tougher than foam board. $\endgroup$ – Robin Bennett Oct 6 '20 at 8:21
  • $\begingroup$ Oh drat, by foam I meant expanded polystyrene (EPP), my appologies. @RobinBennett I have since bought a glider with a high wing and tail/rudder controls an will try it out on the next newbie once I can get it up myself (still working out the C.G.). Another model that seemed terrific as a trainer had a vertical foam plate for the body, tail/rudder as the control surfaces, the engine was mounted in the middle of the fuselage and the wing was attached with magnets; if it crashes the wings simply pop off and you stick them back on and go again (I can't locate the video at the moment though). $\endgroup$ – Carel Oct 6 '20 at 9:39
  • $\begingroup$ @RobinBennett I was wondering about the relative number of flights necessary to learn to fly would you mind weighing in on this question ? $\endgroup$ – Carel Oct 6 '20 at 10:04
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Went shopping online for a few hours, came back with this;

  • Transmitter/receiver is the most expensive part at $30 which I found here

  • Motor and ESC I found in a bundle on Amazon, ESC didn't have the best reviews but the motor should be worth it. $16 here.

  • Props I'm still trying to figure out the size so that I on't know yet. Hobbyking seems to have them at a low price so probably go with them.

  • Servos seem to cost less per unit the more you buy, but this set here had the best value. HobbyKing servos are just a tiny bit more expensive, but they do look nicer.

  • Batteries will probably end up costing the most if you decide to buy a few extras. Lots of options here, but I think this one is probably the best since it's a good size.

  • You'll need some connectors to connect the battery to the rest of the plane, said battery uses XT60 and Hobbyking has a set of 5 and that should be plenty for the first plane.

  • Battery charger is going to be a needed piece so don't forget that. Fancier ones with extra safety features are more expensive but this one is cheap and will work with said battery.

  • This last one is somewhat optional, but if you use the transmitter/receiver from up top, you'll need this connector cord to program the remote if the default settings don't suit your project.

I have no experience with these products so I can't say they are good quality, but with the exception of the ESC everything had good reviews.

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