Hello, my friends.

I have often found hobby RC electronics to be of interest in my projects due to their apparent simplicity and ease of use. However, it took me a while to figure out how to put together all the different components, figure out where to get all of the stuff, and read all of the (rather peculiar) ratings when I was trying to build something. Therefore, I hope that this guide will speed things up for you and lead to successful projects.

Quick reference:
1 - Where to obtain parts
2 - Transmitter
3 - Reciever
4 - Servos
5 - Motor controllers
6 - Motors, Propellers and Gears
7 - Batteries
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Step 1: Where To Procure Components

After much research, i have found the following to be reliable, have a reasonable price, and have good selection:
 - Hobbyking: A Chinese-based distributor with a huge selection of motors, controllers, and everything else. mostly flying things. Shipping takes forever.
 - Horizon Hobby: Based in the USA, also have a large selection of items, but mostly ground-based vehicles.

There are other, cheaper websites, (like GoodLuckBuy) however I have heard that the reliability and customer service of these is often compromised.
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Borg1012 years ago
For a complete RC noob, like myself - This guide was very helpfull.
biolethal (author)  Borg1012 years ago
Awesome, thanks!
SamB41 month ago

Just what I've been looking for, thanks very much!

I must say, This has to be one of the best "Welcome to the World of RC" posts I've ever read. Thank you immensely for your post.

biolethal (author)  Robert_Hatalla1 month ago
Thank you, that made my day!
A Diabetic11 months ago
Awesome guide! I am making an RC submarine and had no idea why I needed an ESC or how to connect my servos and motor to the transmitter. Thanks a ton.

Won't radio reception be a problem under water though?

it works to a limited depth. Particulates (salt, chlorine, etc.) effect range, but you can get an average of 6 - 8 feet of reception in fresh water.

excalibur28112 months ago

An excellent all round guide! Thank you for taking the trouble to put this together.

There is one area which is still a mystery to me. Namely I cannot understand why some motors have such high current requirements. frankly speaking the motors I am familiar with are those I scavenged from various printers (which are brushed 12 Volt motors which do not seem to require much current but spin quite fast) and also brushless motors such as those used in a cd drive (which also seem to need little current and spin very fast), so when I see adverts for ESCs that can deliver 30 Amps or more, I get a little confused. Could I use the typical CD motor for a quadcopter for instance and if so why are such heavy current demands and dangerous LIPOs needed?

biolethal (author)  excalibur28112 months ago

As far as the motors go, the small cd drive motors won't work because while while they may spin fast, they cannot supply a lot of torque. You can test this by trying to stop one of these motors with your hand: it is very easy to slow them down. While the big, high current motors spin at close to the same speed, they can supply a lot more output power, and therefore more torque. This means that if you try to stop one of these motors with your hand, it is a lot more difficult to do so. In practice, this means that they won't slow down with a big propeller attached to them, and therefore will be able to create enough lift for a quadcopter. The LiPo batteries are in turn needed to power the large motors.

Thanks again. Interestingly I did some further reading and found that apparently there are people who "beef up" CD motors by messing about with their internals to improve performance and then these motors do become useful for quadcopters and so on. But apparently not "out of the box", except for really small quadcopters.

sangam_cm5 months ago
Sir, I read your article. Liked it a lot. I'm interested in building a rc helicopter. What all extra electronic components are required other than what you've mentioned?
you need a gyro and maybe 2 batteries
biolethal (author)  sangam_cm5 months ago
Are you planning on building a quadopter/multicopter or a real helicopter (single rotor)?
AutoPus6 months ago

Hey I loved reading your guide and I would just like to know if you could give me a few more suggestions for a transmitter am looking for the same basic cheap type and would like to know if I have any other options... a bit more expensive wouldn't hurt either. Thanks.

biolethal (author)  AutoPus6 months ago

Thanks! There's a few good options out there: there's obviously the really cheap stuff (<$50), and that is all about the same quality, and usually doesn't include a screen or any kind of programmability. If you are willing to spend more than that, I hear (though i have no personal experience) the Turnigy 9X 9Ch transmitter from hobbyking is definitely the best value for your money. It offers 9 channels, a long range, and programmability. For $60 or so you get the transmitter and a receiver, and 9 channels are more than you'll probably ever need. If you're looking for better quality but less channels, look at the spectrum line of radios from horizon hobby. I've had a spectrum Dx7s radio from them for the past two years and couldn't be happier with it. It is a significant step up in price though.

hope that helps, let me know if you have any other questions.

jmaag8 months ago

i would like to use a nano hooked to my futaba rc receiver to control multiple lites on my quad. Can you help me

biolethal (author)  jmaag8 months ago

would you mind clarifying what this "nano" is? There are many RC electronics products out there with "nano" in their brand name.

Otherwise, I could guess that HobbyKing's "9 mode multi colour/multi function LED strip with control unit" might help you. I have had success with it in the past.

jmaag biolethal8 months ago

I looked at it and it does not function the way I want. It looks like it has to cycle through to turn off the lights. I came up with my own design. Mine has 8 multi-switches from one channel. I can turn each switch on or off individually such as number 5 on, then number 5 off or the same with any other switch or turn on 3, 6, 7 on and then just 6 off.

biolethal (author)  jmaag8 months ago

It has multiple modes, and every time you switch it on/off it goes to a new mode. one of these is indeed cycling through colors, but I believe it also has fixed color modes.

jmaag biolethal8 months ago

ok, never seen that, but I designed mine that the first 4 are solid on, the next 3 are flashing and the last one is double flash like a strobe.

fatdumpa1 year ago
anyone know where to find info on pairing props/motors/escs/batteries/chargers? me and a mate are thinking of building a simple tri-copter on the cheap.
dany-dan fatdumpa9 months ago

You can use eCalc to get a rough idea

biolethal (author)  fatdumpa1 year ago
check out
He has a great tricopter build and shows what motors and esc's he uses.
What servo would you recommend for a helicopter?

digital servos with a high speed 0.08 seconds or faster. The size depends on your heli class (a 450 class usually has 20 grams servos) . For larger (more expensive) helis I would recommend getting highly rated servos designed for heli applications. Have fun flying!

Thaikarl10 months ago
Thanks so much! I only recently got interested in RC planes. There's a lot of information out there, but it gets confusing - so many numbers, specs, techs. this is really helpful to see the whole system ias components without a lot of clutter. I feel like i have a place to start from now.
coolghoul1 year ago
actually,this was really helpful.Thanks!!!
Very good guide and instructions clearly . Thank you
acunliffe11 year ago
Thanks for the great guide. Really helped me. Although you say you connect the battery to the esc but I will be having two motors and therefore two escs'. Do I connect the battery to one esc? And what battery do you recommend; there will be 1 servo and two motors on the boat
DJNASHA1 year ago
canu tell us what type of transistor used in r/c recivers thanks
acunliffe11 year ago
Great guide for the beginner in rc which I am. Although you say you connect the battery to the esc but I will be having two motors and escs so do I connect it to just one esc? And what battery would you recommend? I am having two motors and a servo.
Fabulous.... You've answered heaps of the jargon for me...
biolethal (author)  michaelmacnz1 year ago
glad i could help :)
double_g1 year ago
Thanks for the instructable! This cleared up some things which I've struggled to find answers to such as how to convert C ratings into current! Already favorited!
biolethal (author)  double_g1 year ago
I am planning to buy a new DC motor driver board which can run 5amp motor but I don't know how to connect it with Atmega 8A chip. Please see the pdf I attached for Atmega 8A.

Here are the 7 pins in DC motor controller:-

Pin No. Pin Functionality
1 GND Ground
2 IN-1 Logic input for the motor direction.
3 Diagnostic 1
(DG-1) Output pin with logic 1 output in normal operation. Represents side of the internal
H bridge corresponding to IN-1. Pin is pulled to logic low by the motor driver in
case of over temperature or overload due to short circuit.
4 PWM Used to apply Pulse Width Modulation to control motor velocity
5 Diagnostic 2
(DG-2) Output pin with logic 1 output in normal operation. Represents side of the internal
H bridge corresponding to IN-2. Pin is pulled to logic low by the motor driver in
case of over temperature or overload due to short circuit.
6 IN-2 Logic input for the motor direction.
7 CS* Current Sense output to measure the current flowing through the driver
biolethal (author)  MohitJindal1 year ago
I'm not familiar with the Atmega 8A chip, but here's my guess:

-connect controller GND to Atmega chip GND
-Connect the IN-1 and IN-2 to two of your digital output pins on the chip
-connect PWM to a digital output pin

Don't worry about the other pins yet as they just tell you if everything is working well.
budhaztm2 years ago
What ESC did you use?
biolethal (author)  budhaztm1 year ago
For the car or the plane?
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