Picture of The Complete Guide to RC Electronics
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

Picture of 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!
bodger-bill3 months ago

Thank you for a very interesting article, however I still couldn't find the small piece of information I have been searching for

How slow will these motors go, assuming a slow pulse driver is connected !

It looks as though one of these motors could be modified to have a hollow centre shaft, therefore, they probably would be suitable for driving the cross slides on a small mill, power would be no problem, and it would not be necessary to disengage the shaft before changing to manual mode

Any thoughts would be helpful, but please don't just say I should be using stepper motors

biolethal (author)  bodger-bill1 month ago

These motors will spin at a minimum rpm of approximately 100. With some gearing, they could easily drive cross slides, and if you just need a constant feed rate you might even be able to get away with a decent speed controller and servo tester setup. The reason people use stepper motors is that stepper motors have much finer/more controlled positioning (1.8 degrees per step vs about 30 for most rc motors), and the drivers for steppers are designed to step a certain amount of steps rather than maintain an approximate speed as in an rc motor driver.
I don't see why you would have to disengage a stepper to use manual feed, perhaps it is because the electricity generated by spinning the motor would fry the control circuits? In that case, you could just add an electronic disconnect switch.

Dear Sir
Much obliged for the information, I'm only just getting into brush-less motors, and finding that although there's is a lot of information from the manufactures point of view, it's not much help to someone not familiar with the individual terms ?, (Still hopefully searching for a good helpful book on the subject)
Many thanks again
voaferro13 months ago

"Older, analog TX"? MY LEFT FOOT is analog... Ever since about 1966 that these are known as Digital Proportional - GO READ YOUR HISTORY ON THIS:

SamB45 months 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_Hatalla5 months ago
Thank you, that made my day!
A Diabetic1 year 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.

excalibur28116 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)  excalibur28116 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_cm9 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_cm9 months ago
Are you planning on building a quadopter/multicopter or a real helicopter (single rotor)?
AutoPus10 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)  AutoPus10 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.

jmaag1 year 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)  jmaag1 year 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.

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)  jmaag1 year 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.

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.

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!

Thaikarl1 year 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)  michaelmacnz2 years ago
glad i could help :)
double_g2 years 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_g2 years ago
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