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The Complete Guide to RC Electronics

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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!
sangam_cm26 days 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_cm26 days ago
Thanks!
Are you planning on building a quadopter/multicopter or a real helicopter (single rotor)?
AutoPus2 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)  AutoPus2 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.

jmaag4 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)  jmaag3 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 biolethal3 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)  jmaag3 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 biolethal3 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 fatdumpa5 months ago

You can use eCalc to get a rough idea

http://www.ecalc.ch/

biolethal (author)  fatdumpa1 year ago
check out RCexplorer.se
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!

Thaikarl6 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.
A Diabetic7 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.
coolghoul8 months ago
actually,this was really helpful.Thanks!!!
vodinhanhtuan11 months ago
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
Thanks!
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.
budhaztm1 year ago
What ESC did you use?
biolethal (author)  budhaztm1 year ago
For the car or the plane?
plane
biolethal (author)  budhaztm1 year ago
18 amp turnigy plush ESC. http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/__4312__TURNIGY_Plush_18amp_Speed_Controller.html
wolfgang641 year ago
Could you comment on the new LIpo and LIfo4 batteries?
Thank you very much for your input and fast reply. I still have alot to learn on this topic. You break things down very nicely.
biolethal (author)  wolfgang641 year ago
Lipo batteries have more storage capacity for the weight, but are therefore more vulnerable to randomly catching on fire due to cell imbalance. They must be regularly balanced with a good charger to prevent this, but even then, damaging, puncturing, over-discharging or overcharging the battery will still make them catch fire. If you are careful, these batteries can last long and give great performance (theoretically more than 700 charge cycles or more), but they are easily permanently damaged (over-discharging can reduce life to 30 cycles).

I have never used LiFe/LiFepo batteries, but they are less energy dense but therefore more stable in charging and discharging. They are usually more expensive (need specialized chargers as well). I believe they are more robust in general, less prone to permanent damage, and last for more charge-discharge cycles than Lipos.

Keep in mind however, that the cheap Chinese manufacturers have figured out how to make Lipos of relatively high quality, while the manufacture of Life is still being figured out. Right now, LiFe batteries are generally of lower quality than Lipos, unless purchased from advanced manufacturers.
I bought a cheap helicopter from a retail store called maplin. The controller says its 2.4ghz. Could I buy a cheap receiver from ebay and connect the two? Will it connect straight away? Thank you for your instructable I find it mighty useful!
biolethal (author)  tboultwood11 year ago
Sorry for the late response, but there are different types of 2.4Ghz "languages", like Futaba's fasst, Spectrum's dsm and dsm2, etc. I would be surprised if they would connect. The Tactic Anylink system might be worth looking into in your case.
bumsugger1 year ago
A good guide however,it does'nt go quite far enough in section 4,for instance,there is no explanation of the differences between digital and analog servos or a discussion as to their respective pros and cons.
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