To go with today's feature on remote control
, Joe asked me to write a post about my experience with RC models.
Like many model enthusiasts, I started young. I built my first Airfix plane at the age of four, was cluttering my ceiling with models by the age of nine and my teens were filled with rockets, free flight aeroplanes and countless radio controlled cars and planes. I left the boats to my brother.
It's an interest that still lingers today and which pre-dated my passion for PC hardware. Contrary to popular opinion, you don't have to be technically minded or have the dexterity of a Red Bull-addicted ninja to enjoy making them either.
There really is something for everyone. Planes, boats, cars, even tanks and flying insects. You can be sailing, flying ordriving in five minutes or if you prefer, you can build your model just like you would with a die-cast one. Building your own is very rewarding although you'll probably want to throw yourself of the nearest building if it crashes.
Nitro-powered cars are a lot of fun
Cars are much easier to have fun with than planes because you don't have the issues of gravity and the ground. Having flown real planes I can say with some certainty that flying an RC plane is actually much harder than the real thing because you're not in the cockpit. Things get very weird when you're flying your plane towards you as the controls appear to be reversed.
If you're not that technically minded or experienced but are looking to take up RC then RTR (ready to run) and ARTF (almost ready to fly) are the kits you're after as nearly everything is pre-built. With RC cars it's worth bearing in mind that while tournaments and clubs are pretty common, most will only race certain models. Make sure you get the right one.
The Aerobird Swift is tough, cheap and good place to start
If you aren't racing and are only wanting some casual fun then there are still plenty of affordable options. There are electric and nitro-methane powered models available (the latter are very noisy so may annoy the neighbours) and they are very much like owning your own car. Thankfully, they're much cheaper but you can buy spares, upgrades and if you want to extend their life, even service them.
The Bullhead looks more impressive under the shell than a real monster truck
It's worth considering where you want to drive too, as some of the nitro-powered models are too fast and loud to drive in built up areas. I usually take mine down to the beach or to big, open parks. Remember that not all tyres can handle all terrain too - larger wheels will give you more grip.
There are nitro and electrically-powered planes and helicopters too with the latter more suited to the beginner as they're less hassle. If you don't have an RC flying club close by for some tuition, your best bet is to opt for something simple and bomb-proof - learning to fly is tricky!
The SkySurfer is cheap and essentially crash proof but still great fun
RC planes are typically categorised by the number of channels you control. A two-channel plane will have only basic controls, leaving aerobatics out of the question, while a four-channel plane will give you control of the throttle, rudder, elevators (pitch) and ailerons (roll). Two/three-channel and a strong plastic frame is the way to go for first timers, but I actually started out with a SkySurfer like the one above.
There are even PC simulators available that come with a USB RC controller and allow you to practice with various different models. They can be worth every penny - crashing in a simulator is a lot cheaper than in the real world!
With my spare cash now going towards PC modding and keeping the car on the road, my RC days have been on pause for a while with my models collecting dust at home. It's still close to my heart though, so if you're into RC racing then I'd love to hear from you in the forums.
Make sure you check out our feature on remote control vehicles, too.