Finding the Right RC Model Airplane Motors

To get the best performance from your rc electric airplane. Choosing rc model airplane motors, motor controllers and batteries can be very confusing to the newcomer to electric flight.

To help sort it out, start by deciding what you want to do with your plane.  Fly lazy circles around the field on sunny Sunday afternoons?  Fly simple aerobatics: loop, roll, stall-turn? Or do you want vertical hovering and the hottest of the hot dog routines to be possible?  Hint: those three choices are in order of the rc model airplane motors’ expense!  We all have to “pay for performance”.  I’m concentrating here on the new-to-electric folks and for either the first or seond type of rc model flying, you can get decent performance with a simple carbon-brushed “can”- type motor costing from $8 – $15.

For longer flights, just add a Nickel Metal Hydride or Lithium Polymer battery together with a battery-elimination-circuit (BEC) proportional controller (using the same battery for both radio and motor power).  A more efficient brushless motor will add both performance and longer flight times.
These improvements will add  $150 +/- and you will then have a solid, powerful and long-lasting system.  Remember that LiPo batteries require LiPo chargers and  special motor controllers, so plan accordingly.  A good way to buy such a system is to get everything together from either your local hobby shop or a good online supplier.

For connecting and wiring, learn to do clean soldering – there are lots of on-line resources  – and always use high-quality plug-in connectors  such as Dean, AstroFlight or Anderson Power Pole. The idea here is  to have the least electrical resistance possible and to VERY carefully observe polarity in connecting batteries and rc model airplane motors to the motor controller.  Trust  me, you can make smoke very quickly..I know!  For tools, a good wire-stripper, small pliers or forceps and a soldering iron are essential, but are not expensive.  Radio Shack ususally is a good source for both.

Putting it all together; you will have two wiring tasks in setting up rc model airplane motors; one to connect your radio receiver and servos and the battery, and the second to connect battery to controller and then to motor.  Often, there will be no on-off switch, as it  is both easier and safer to unplug the battery from the controller, thus completly turning off the system.  Here is a simple diagram of such a system: showing how the signal from the pilot’s radio can both adjust the speed of the motor (or shut it off) and can move the rudder left or right and can move the elevator up or down.   To see how these controls affect flight, see the rc flight section.