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Radio control (R/C) Models including cars, boats, helicopters, blimps and planes - a buyer's guide.

Radio Control @ Firebox
- A great range of radio control models including cars, helicopters, planes, UFO's, speedboats, Daleks, Pets, a tank, a bird (!), blimps, missile launchers and more.

Radio Control R/C Models - A Buyer's Guide

Radio control or R/C models are one of the most fun toys that anybody could ever have.In fact, they are often more than toys and become a real enthusiasts hobby with competitions and high specification models used.

There are four main types of radio control model - cars, boats, aeroplanes and helicopters. There are also other things that can be controlled by radio control such as blimps, hovercrafts and just about anything else you can think of.

Radio control models are usually powered either electrically or by an internal combustion engine, although there are some variations, such as rubber (elastic band) power and indeed gliders with no power.

Electric powered radio control models use small electric motors starting with an entry level small "500" size motor, costing a few pounds, up to very high power tuned high performance motors that may draw 70-80 amps. All of the electric models are supplied with power from battery packs, which vary in voltage according to the size and power of the motor being driven. All batteries used by radio control models are rechargeable and can be either slow or fast charged. Using fast charge enables you to charge one whilst using the other, thus not being stuck without charge. Batteries do have a life and will have to be replaced, depending on use.

Internal combustion engines vary in size from a few cc (cubic centimetres) to a few hundred cc, but are normally referred to by the cubic inch capacity of the engine ie a 0.4 engine is 0.4 cubic inches or 6.5 cc. Most of the engines are single cylinder, although multi cylinder engines are available. The engines run at anything from a few thousand RPM to twenty or thirty thousand RPM and are a lot more noisy than the electric powered models - but the noise does give an added amount of adrenaline and excitement when using these. These engines run on a fuel called Glow Fuel. This is because, rather than using spark plus to ignite the fuels, they use "Glow Plugs" as the ignition source. Each time fuel is ignited inside the cylinder, the high temperature causes a small coil in the glow plug to glow at high temperature. This coil remains hot long enough such that when the piston comes back on its next turn with some more fuel it ignites this. To get Glow Plugs going for an engine to be started, an electrical supply (battery) is connected to them to make the coil glow. The engine is turned over with either an electric starter or by hand and once started the battery is disconnected from the Glow Plug. The Glow Fuels are a mixture of Ethynol, Castor Oil and Nitro Methane - called "Nitro". The percentage of Nitro in a fuel can be between 0 and 35%. The more Nitro - the more power.

All these models use a proportional radio control system. These systems all have a transmitter with controls in the form of joysticks, or steering wheels or switches, or combinations of all of them. In the model itself there is a receiver which receives the signal from the transmitter and controls small mechanical units called servos. The servos are what are used to move things in the model, such as throttle position or steering etc. The word proportional in these radio control systems, means that the movement of a servo is directly proportional to how much the control on the transmitter is moved. There are hundreds of types of these systems, varying from 2 to 12 channels, AM (Amplitude Modulated) or FM (Frequency Modulated), and either analogue or digital control. The latest radio controlled systems are called "computer radios" as these are highly sophisticated units with programmable functions, enabling sophisticated control of many functions on the models.

Now you just need to choose your toy. Cars and boats work in 2 dimensions and are relatively easy to learn. Aeroplanes and helicopters clearly move in three dimensions, are more difficult to learn and often end up with more mishaps, both in the early days whilst learning and later on whilst showing off!

- Check out the fighter planes, blimps, UFOs and helicopters. There's even a blimp bomber!
Crazy Fruit Bat
- A great range for land, sea and air including rally cars, submarines, miniflyers and helicopters, all with free UK delivery.
ABC Model Sport
- An extensive range of RC items including cars, helicopters, planes, boats, tanks, bikes, trucks and more by Tamiya, Kyosho, Hirobo, Airtech and other brands. Accessories and spare parts are also available.
- Nitro and petrol powered RC cars and boats, together with battery powered cars, boats, planes, helicopters, tanks and robots.