Introduction: How to Build Your First RC Plane for Under $100 - Transmitter, Shipping, Battery, Charger, and Hardware Included

Let's face it: radio controlled planes are expensive, especially if you are new to the hobby. Cheaper options are appearing every day, but for the most part, hobby-grade planes come with a big price. Flite Test's speed build kits and electronics packs are an option, but can also be pricey when all the components are purchased. In this Instructable, I'll be showing you how I built the Flite Test Tiny Trainer for under $100, electronics, transmitter, and hardware included. Of course, you can build any of their Mighty Mini series, or alter my shopping list and make any one of their planes. I've included literally everything you need to buy from Hobbyking to build your first RC plane. After building this one, you'll already have most of the materials needed to make another, so your next one will be extremely cheap!

FT Tiny Trainer Overview:

I'd like to give special thanks to Flite Test for providing the free plans for this project, and for helping the whole RC community with their videos and website.

Step 1: Your Hobbyking Order (International Warehouse Prices Shown)

These are the items I used in my Tiny Trainer. I wanted power, so I'm going with the Blue Wonder 1300kv. If you want a milder plane, the "Turnigy Park 250" with a 6x4 prop and 2s battery should work. I was originally going to use that buy I wanted power...some would say crazy power for a plane this weight. With the 2s battery and Blue Wonder motor, an 8x4 prop would definitely suffice, so you can substitute that if you're intimidated by power.

$23.55 - Transmitter and Receiver:

https://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewI...

$10.45 - Brushless Motor:

http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewIt...

$5.33 - 2S LiPo Battery:

https://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewI...

$8.30 - 12A Brushless ESC:

https://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewI...

$6.75 - LiPo Charger:

https://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewI...

$2.69 - 9g Servo: (Need 2)

https://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewI...

$3.01 - 8x4 Propellers

http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewIt...

$1.90 - Servo Extensions:

https://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewI...

$1.03 - Control Horns: (Will need to widen the holes to 2mm)

https://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewI...

$1.85 - Push Rods:

https://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewI...

$1.59 - Linkage Stoppers:

https://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewI...

$2.77 - Velcro:

https://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewI...

$0.30 - Heat Shrink:

http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewIt...

$1.93 - JST Connectors:

https://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewI...

$1.83 - Bullet Connectors:

https://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewI...

Step 2: Other Purchases

$1 - Adams Readi-Board: Available at Dollar Tree stores (Need 2 sheets)

97 cents - Bamboo Skewers: Available in packs of 100 (or more) at Walmart or any supermarket

$4.97 - 8 AA batteries for the transmitter. I was still under $100 on my total price, so I threw these in.

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Rayovac-815-8CTF2-Rayova...

Pick them up at Walmart if you need them.

Step 3: Tools & Other Items

There's no way to know what tools every individual has already, so I won't include any in the total cost of this project. Chances are you will have all of these items or will only need to buy one or two.

Soldering Iron: Cheap at Harbor Freight Stores, or you can borrow one from a friend (please return it when done)

Solder: Can also be found at Harbor Freight (or borrowed)

Razor (Utility) Blades: Harbor Freight has many types and quantities of blades for cheap

Hot Glue Gun: Walmart offers many kinds

Hot Glue Sticks: Walmart and other craft stores sell big and small sticks

Tape: What store doesn't sell tape?

Rubber Bands: Walmart or Dollar Tree, or any supermarket

Step 4: The Motor Mount

I made my motor mount to fit the Blue Wonder 24 gram motor. I have access to a laser cutter, so it was easy enough to model the firewall and cut it out in plastic. I used the screws that came with the servos to mount the motor.

Because the diameter of this motor is larger than that of the recommended 250 size, I modified the little motor pod. It was wide enough, but not quite tall enough. I increased the motor mount size to 30x30 mm so I could fit the Blue Wonder right in the center. I also extended the sides of the motor pod to 26 mm, so the total height of the finished pod would be 30 mm to fit the motor mount. For further modifications, look at step 7.

Most people don't have access to a laser cutter, so fortunately there are other options. You can cut and drill wood or plastic yourself, or you can buy wooden firewalls from the Flite Test store and use a smaller motor that will fit better. http://store.flitetest.com/mighty-mini-firewalls-5...

I guess you could try making your motor mount out of foam board, but I doubt it will perform as well as a traditional firewall. If you're brave (or cheap) enough to try this, I would suggest removing the paper from the foam board.

Step 5: Things to Note About Hobbyking Items

The battery charger I selected doesn't come with an American-style cord. This wasn't a problem for me - I just used an old laptop charger cord that's shown.

I didn't end up using everything from my shopping list. I explain this in a later step.

Step 6: My Costs

I ordered from the USA West warehouse on Hobbyking, so the prices are a bit more expensive than those listed for the International warehouse. My order total includes every single item listed on my shopping list. Select the warehouse you wish to buy from on the product page, or find a substitute item that is available from a different warehouse near you. In my state, tax is 6 cents on the dollar.

My Order Total: $81.94

Shipping: $7.40

AA batteries: $5.27

Skewers: $1.03

Foam Board: $2.12

GRAND TOTAL: $97.76

Keep in mind that shipping and tax changes depending on where you live, so you might not get your cost under 100 dollars. This Instructable is just showing how I did it.

You may already have 8 AA batteries or other items, so that could really keep the price down. I tried to include every single purchase (with the exception of tools) you could possibly make and still keep it under $100.

Step 7: Build the Plane

Using the plans provided by Flite Test and their videos on YouTube, you should be ready to build your plane. They also have videos on connecting electronics and soldering connectors. If you have any questions on how to use the connectors I chose or any other inquiries, please leave a comment and I will respond quickly.

Tiled Plans: http://www.stonekap.net/ftplans/FT-mini%20Tinytrai...

Without changing any zoom settings, I just printed the tiled plans onto regular A4 printer paper and taped them together.

Full-Size Plans: http://www.stonekap.net/ftplans/FT-Mini%20TinyTrai...

If you have access to a large printer, you can use the full-size plans.


Build Video:

Connecting Electronics:

Soldering Batter Connectors:

Another good video on soldering bullet connectors:

Step 8: Design Modification

I mounted the servos on the exterior near the tail so I could use the 12" push rods that were available from the USA West warehouse. This is why I included servo extensions in my shopping list - the servo wires aren't quite long enough to reach to the electronics near the front of the plane.

I got the idea from an article on flitetest.com that was posted by winglet.

http://flitetest.com/articles/tiny-trainer-a-littl...

Thanks a lot!

I also reduced the thrust angle of the motor pod as shown in the photo. I lowered it about a millimeter because I think this plane is a bit big for the thrust angle meant for Flite Test's Mighty Mini series.

Step 9: Tips

These are things I've found to make the build process a bit easier.

-Use a sharp blade! I used 4 different blades throughout my build because I wanted my cuts to be as precise as possible.

-To transfer the lines from the plans onto the foam board, I use a pin. I lay the plans over the foam board and poke tiny holes through the paper and onto the foam board, and then connect all straight lines on the foam board with a ruler and pencil. For curves, I pierce several holes along the curve and connect them freehand with a pencil. With the pin method, you can reuse the plans as many times as you want!

-For cutting curves, make 3-5 score cuts until you cut through the paper on the underside of the foam board. This makes the curves smoother and cleaner.

-Don't try to build it all at once. If you take your time and cut and glue in sessions, your handiwork will be much nicer. I stretched my build out over weeks, doing a little here and there, and it turned out very crisp and clean.

-Round the ends of your barbecue skewers with a file. They look nicer and won't be sharp.

-I cut the skewers that hold the motor pod in flush with the nose because it makes more sense to not have them sticking out in my opinion. If you ever want to remove them, just push them out partway with another skewer and pull them the rest of the way out.

Step 10: Fly Your Plane!

If you're a beginner (and you probably are if you haven't bought a transmitter yet), I would suggest watching the Flite Test Beginner Series.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6IuSFWz4kt...

Make sure your prop has the labeling numbers facing forward!

If you really want to keep cost down but want to practice flying planes before you crash your precious scratch build, there are apps on the Google Play Store that can help you get the feel of RC plane flying. Search "rc plane simulator" and you can find one that works. These are not very realistic, but if it gets you used to the controls and helps you prevent a crash, it's worth a try.

If you are really serious about the hobby, buy a flight simulator. I have no experience with these, and I believe they can be expensive.

If you crash, don't worry. Foam board is easy to repair with more foam board and hot glue! (But that's not an invitation to crash).

Please keep in mind that this is an introduction to the RC hobby, and once you buy everything on my shopping list, your future scratch builds will be MUCH cheaper - a couple more servos and an extra motor is all you would need to buy if you didn't want to rip stuff out of your first plane. You can unplug the ESC and take out the Tx/Rx, battery, and all the other hardware to use on future planes.

Thanks for taking a look at my Instructable! Feel free to ask questions in the comments.

Good luck!

Comments

author
JoshG149 (author)2017-07-05

Hey all. I made a lot of comments on this so I thought that now I'd officially sign off, pay some regards, and impart some knowledge. I went on a vacation for three weeks, but when I got back, I fixed my receiver and got my airplane to fly... Up really high and then straight into the ground. Then I fixed what was broken and tried again. This worked a little better but still crashed... After this crash my servo motors were unglued. Rather than gluing them where they were, I went with the alternate setup where the servos are outside the plane near the tail. It worked perfectly. I cut the wire that I thought was too think for this plane in half and used them as push rods. They are very sturdy and reliable. I wish I would have gone with this setup from the get-go.. It is much easier to set up and fix. Then this morning (it's 2am rn.... So technically yesterday morning) on the 4th of July I climbed up on my roof to watch fireworks.. And then took my airplane in my hands and chucked it off the roof. And it flew perfectly over the trees and everything and was perfect. Thank you so much for this tutorial. I am now an rc pilot and believe that I will now spend my downtime building and designing more and more planes as it is very fun. So thank you BlackHansen99 for the amazing tutorial and introduction into a fun hobby.

And with that, I'm out. Bye!

author
blakehansen99 (author)JoshG1492017-07-05

I really enjoyed reading that, thanks for posting it. And you're very welcome! :)

author
JoshG149 made it! (author)2017-06-08

I've officially completed this... I accidentally fried my reciever so I have yet to put this in the air, but this all went decently well. (Oh... and I may be 17, but when I get incredibly bored I start randomly scribbling with markers apparently)

Thanks for the fantastic tutorial and parts list!

I would recommend buying thinner push rods however.

Anywho, here are a few pictures of my creation. Thanks!

WIN_20170605_18_01_21_Pro.jpgWIN_20170607_22_25_59_Pro.jpgWIN_20170607_22_26_38_Pro.jpgWIN_20170607_22_25_39_Pro.jpg
author
blakehansen99 (author)JoshG1492017-06-08

I love it! Thanks for the questions and pictures. I 100% agree on the pushrods, they were a flop if there ever was one. I hope yours makes it to the air!

author
JoshG149 (author)JoshG1492017-06-08

The tiny flag on the back says "Life is an adventure!" and "Flight of the Bumblebee"

author
JoshG149 (author)2017-05-29

(sorry i keep asking questions... but...) Do you know what size of screws can be used to mount the motor? I am having troubles finding out what the size of the holes are. (hextronik 24gram Brushless Ourrinner 1300kv)

author
blakehansen99 (author)JoshG1492017-05-30

Keep the questions coming! I can't easily measure the holes in the Blue Wonder motor right now, but i would guess the holes' diameter is 2 or 3 mm. A small screw with a wide head works like a charm, such as the ones that come with servos for mounting them.

author
JoshG149 (author)2017-05-24

What additional parts would I need to buy if I want to also build a wing with aileron capaility?

author
blakehansen99 (author)JoshG1492017-05-25

You could do it with a single servo driving both ailerons, but it's advisable to have a servo for each aileron. You'd need 2 servos and a y-splitter: https://hobbyking.com/en_us/turnigy-v-tail-mixer-ultra-small.html

You might take a look at my other unstructable for how to use it: https://www.instructables.com/id/Building-The-Frenzy-RC-Wing/

author
JoshG149 (author)blakehansen992017-05-25

Thanks!

author
blakehansen99 (author)JoshG1492017-05-25

Any time! (Unstructable - haha whoops)

author
LeoW18 (author)2017-01-11

Is there any chance of this model being unmanned? such as by using px4 open source autopilot to control it?

author
blakehansen99 (author)LeoW182017-01-11

Sure, but you're talking to the wrong guy here.

author
AThousandCranes (author)2016-02-06

Is it possible to add a cheap fpv camera from ebay to this? Or do I need another channel? Can I use your instructable for my school project?

author

Yes you can add fpv with this the frequency is 5.8 ghz so it will work fine here is a cheap fpv setup

author

My setup with the Blue Wonder is more than powerful enough (on a 3s 11.1 V battery) to carry fpv gear - I've taken videos with a smartphone strapped to it. As far as FPV setup, I have never done it, so I can't help you there. Sure, you can base a project off of this, but give credit to Flite Test as it is due and definitely do not use it for any kind of cheating!

author
SuperRistopaha. made it! (author)2016-05-22

This is the first thing I have ever made off of instructables. I was very encouraged by this easy to understand instructable and made this with my son who has flown it intensively already. (As you can see by the many tape re-enforncements.) We damaged one motor by crashing to many times but then we moved it more inside the plane as can be seen on the photos. This helps a lot to save the motor during crashes. Our Hobbyking experience was a bit nerve wrecking though, very long delivery times, stuff going out of stock while waiting for other parts to come back into stock and being forced to split the order into many packages even though they are very light and small. Hobbyking wants to profit from shipping I have the feeling. Anyway without them we would not have made this.

20160522_094634.jpg20160522_094645.jpg20160522_094716.jpg20160522_094727.jpg20160522_094746.jpg20160522_094812.jpg
author

Thanks for your heartfelt comment. Great job on the plane! Congratulations on entering the world of RC, and I wish you luck in your continued flying!

author
ramibatman (author)2016-02-13

i really want to have this plane can you make it to me but am in a aéroclub then i'll do a try i have to fly a plane i really want it

author
blakehansen99 (author)ramibatman2016-02-15

I encourage everyone to try building one themselves! It seems scary at first, but you've just got to dive in and try it.

author
blakehansen99 (author)2015-12-04

Maybe, but thinking positive - they are cheap options that work well for those tightwads like me.

author
blakehansen99 (author)2015-12-03

Haha - thanks. Yeah, it must be pretty annoying for Estes to have tons of knock-offs. It's ridiculous how many good and not-so-good replicas that have been produced.

author
blakehansen99 (author)2015-12-03

No, it was actually a "Redcat C50" mini Cessna, one that has a million different names under a million different Chinese companies. Who knows what the original is called.

author
blakehansen99 (author)2015-12-02

Yeah, I once got a tiny 3 channel plane for 50 dollars and learned to fly from it. It had pitiful servos and a brushed motor, but it was actually pretty fun and aerobatic until I destroyed it.

author
blakehansen99 (author)2015-12-01

Thanks for the suggestion! That is actually reasonably affordable.

author
Bhartenduji (author)2015-11-11

To Author:

Sir, I'm doing my image processing project, by integrating features on this plane,for the purpose I already implemented the coding part. But to make this plane my team member spent almost a week to find the desired type of Foam. I it very nasty to find this kind of materials here in INDIA, I already bought all parts except the Board. Please help me availing it.

author

Sorry for taking so long to answer. I'm probably too late anyway, but alternative to Dollar Tree foam board is Depron or other insulation-type sheet foam. There are different techiques used with these, however, but they can be found online.

author
AlanS14 (author)2015-10-18

Thanks. The prebuilt ones I'd looked at had reviews saying they only had 5 minutes or less fly time. Interesting!

author
blakehansen99 (author)AlanS142015-10-19

No problem.

author
AlanS14 (author)2015-10-15

Interesting thanks. Can I ask how long it will fly for? I'm asking because I am interested in an RC helicopter but all of the starter ones I've seen have such short fly times that it puts me off trying.

author
blakehansen99 (author)AlanS142015-10-16

I've never actually timed it, but I'd say somewhere around 15 minutes. I've got the 2S battery listed and a 3S, and if I take them both out and swap them when one's depleted I can be flying for around half an hour.

author
mozza010101 (author)2015-10-16

Thanks for an excellent instructable guys!. I have some Styrofoam at home so I hope to have a go making it soon.

author

Good luck if you do!

author
SuperRistopaha. (author)2015-10-15

Hello,

I would like to make this with my son. I am just wondering if anybody knows a good source for the foam board in Europe? (not amazon or ebay, to many bad experiences)

Would this be the right stuff?

http://www.modulor.de/en/Composites/Sandwich-Panels-with-Foam-Core/Foamboard-white-white-core.html

Thanks for your feedback!

author

Hey I use Adams Readi board from the dollar tree at this website.

http://deals.dollartree.com/catalog/product.jsp?pr...

the problem is i dont know if they can send it to you where you are.

author

Hmmm. I'm not sure, especially since it's sold in small sheets.

author
MrNathann (author)2015-10-13

This is great. When building the plane can standard foam board (from a craft store) be used?

author
carlosbertrand (author)2015-10-13

this is like super awesome. my boy and are always talking about buying a RC plane but sometimes the money and time are not enough. i will definitely made this one with my boy. many thanks

author
rsmith79 (author)2015-10-10

by total coincidence, I'm building the ft tiny trainer with my kids at the moment. we started sticking it together this morning. they are in bed niw but the glue gun is on and I'm about to start the chuck glider nose and wing.

author
blakehansen99 (author)rsmith792015-10-10

Cool - I actually made a chuck glider version first, loved it, and moved on to the true RC version. It's a really good plane!

author
rsmith79 (author)blakehansen992015-10-11

finished it this evening... sports wing is still just paper plans... I'll see if it flies first. :-)

temp_-715723707.jpg
author
blakehansen99 (author)rsmith792015-10-12

That looks really nice - I'm sure it'll fly.

author
Seb Pattom (author)2015-10-12

This is so cool!! Will definitely try making this in the next couple of weeks!! Thanks for sharing!

author
blakehansen99 (author)Seb Pattom2015-10-12

No problem! Good luck!

author
Schober (author)2015-10-11

A good way I've found to transfer the plans to the foam board is to use Elmer's Spray Adhesive. The small 4oz. bottle can get you through 2-3 builds. http://elmers.com/product/detail/E421

Once you've gotten your plans printed and tiled together, cut them out piece by piece and arrange them on your foam board to create the least waste. When you've found an arrangement that you like, very lightly spray the back of each piece with the spray glue and replace it on the foam board. Lay each piece down smoothly to avoid wrinkles. At this point you may begin cutting. The spray glue will keep all of the pieces from shifting while they are being cut ensuring straight lines and proper proportions.

If the coating of glue is kept to a minimum the plans can be peeled back off of the pieces once they are cut out without damaging them. Unfortunately, transferring your plans with this method makes them single-use.

author
blakehansen99 (author)Schober2015-10-12

Great idea!

author
kavish laxkar (author)2015-10-12

but still u need it .cant ask dad all the time.:(

author
kavish laxkar (author)2015-10-12

but still u need it .cant ask dad all the time.:(

author
Tampaguy (author)2015-10-10

You've done a GREAT job of sourcing parts so that (almost) ANYONE can build one of these! Take note that there are R/C Clubs ALL OVER the place, and they could be a great resource for questions and help. ALSO - All clubs that I know of REQUIRE Membership in the American Modelers Association, who provide a license and Insurance. They are Worth the money to join, even if no club is joined.

author
blakehansen99 (author)Tampaguy2015-10-10

Thanks for the feedback.

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