Introduction: UFO Project - Color Changing Glowing Radio Controlled Airplane - RGB LEDs Are Awesome!

Picture of UFO Project - Color Changing Glowing Radio Controlled Airplane - RGB LEDs Are Awesome!
I love R/C Airplanes.
I love things that light up.
I love photography.
put them together and you can play at night!

*** WARNING *** people will freak out if you do this project and fly it successfully. Police and air traffic controllers will hear about this if you are successful. That said, don't do anything stupid.

You will need a white foam RC airplane. I used a Parkzone Stryker kit - has to be a "repair" fuselage since the ready to fly version is already painted.
a spool of RGB LEDs with RGB LED Controller - I got mine from
Clear Packing Tape or Clear Covering material like Doculam or Monokote
Soldering Iron & Solder
4 colors Thin Wire - 20-22 gauge - I used phone wires - they were color coded already. I did learn that the insulation melts easily, so be quick with your soldering!

I used the tools at Tech Shop in Menlo Park to complete this project.
Check it out -

Step 1: Build Airplane

Picture of Build Airplane

Build the airplane according to instructions.
This plane is a Parkzone Stryker replacement body and comes unpainted.

Step 2: Lay Out Lighting

Picture of Lay Out Lighting

Cut to fit the LED lights. These lights had cut points and solder pads every three LEDs. Lay them out in a pattern that will provide eve coverage. Hold in place with painters tape. It's low tack and can be repositioned a couple times.

Step 3: Solder the Wires Light Strips

Picture of Solder the Wires Light Strips

Solder the strips being sure to match the positions of the solder points from wire to wire. You can cut them in sections of 2" or 50mm each on the light strips I used.

The pattern of LEDs are face up for now and while being soldered, but they will be flipped horizontally and taped with the lights shining into the foam. This will make the foam glow and diffuse the light intensity of the bare LED.

Wire in the controller for the LEDs - this will set colors and modes of light sequencing. This controller plugs directly in line with the LED strip, but it did need a power source. I used a deans connector to connect it with my 12 volt lipo flight battery.

Step 4: Test Out the Wiring and Make Final Placement

Picture of Test Out the Wiring and Make Final Placement

Do they work?

When you are happy that your soldering worked, flip the wiring so the LEDS face inward and start taping them to the plane with clear tape.

Step 5: Cover LED Strips and Plane

Picture of Cover LED Strips and Plane

I used a clear document laminate called Doculam to hold everything in place after taping. This will be good durable protective layer that wraps to the contours well. It is applied with a heating iron.
If you look closely you can see the "corn light"  pointing to the tail fins from the central area. There are also two Red Corn lights in the back to look like after burners.

Step 6: Enjoy Your Plane!!

Picture of Enjoy Your Plane!!

Light up airplanes are a lot of fun!
Be sure to know how to fly RC planes before you attempt fly this project ! Flying at night is a lot more complex than during the day. Good luck!


Raphango (author)2014-02-03

Beaultiful man!


Benjamick (author)2014-01-03

I'll try it out

darthlively (author)2014-01-02

I live near a small municipal runway...I can see the humour in flying a plane like yours. Well done. It's really cool. What was the over all cost? Under $50 or over ?

roballoba (author)darthlively2014-01-02

the cost could be as low as $200 or less, but mine was more because of the fancy radio equipment I used...

roballoba (author)darthlively2014-01-02

check your laws... flying close to airports is highly regulated.

rkrishnan7 (author)2013-12-30

Cool! Maybe you should try EL lights on the next one!

roballoba (author)rkrishnan72014-01-02

I used EL wire on my first night time airplane project about 5 years ago... it was great since I could shape the wire to follow a shape. The wire I got was not nearly as bright as these LEDs however.

I would still like to do one that sequences through various configurations... perhaps to represent flapping wings.

ComixDude (author)2013-12-30

take some long exposures of that flying!

roballoba (author)ComixDude2013-12-30

This plane is way too fast and covers too much space for good long exposures in flight... I have done some with multicopters and 3d planes that look awesome though. One I really loved was of a guy flying and then crashing his 500 size helicopter! The lights were cool for a couple passes and the crash was like a flower on the ground... him walking to get it showed up and the retrieval as well....

bgettel (author)2013-12-30


roballoba (author)bgettel2013-12-30

*blushing* Thanks!

marhar (author)2013-12-29

Nicely done!

roballoba (author)marhar2013-12-30


kbyrne (author)2013-12-29

I used to fly rc gas, but at night never would have tried or thought of that idea. Nice flight thou.

roballoba (author)kbyrne2013-12-30

electric is the way to go... quiet and clean! great for night flights... start with simple trainer planes... this will keep things sane for a while.

MCUman (author)2013-12-30

This is just spectacular! Well, done!

roballoba (author)MCUman2013-12-30


karlpinturr (author)2013-12-29

Very nice indeed - thanks for the 'ible ... and ideas..!

I'm somewhat surprised that the extra weight of all those LED's and their controller AND your Doculam wasn't a problem - and I wonder if it'd be worthwhile cutting channels for them to sit flush, and not affect the aerodynamics so much (as I assume they would, just being 'stuck' on the surface)?

I also wonder how easy/difficult it would be to control the LED's from your transmitter..? I know some can be remote-controlled, but I'm not sure they'd work at flying distances (assuming their remote's signal is at all compatible, that is).

Anyway, I have voted for you in all 3 categories, and followed you, in the hope that you'll post more 'ibles and updates to this.

roballoba (author)karlpinturr2013-12-29

the LED's are pressed in so it is pretty flush and the duculam seals the whole set in. the plane has plenty of wing area and flies great.
I would love to do a remote switch and I don't think it would be difficult to add.

Thanks for the votes! Please check out my other instructables, subscribe, and vote if you like them!

Poppy Ann (author)roballoba2013-12-30

Hobby King does the LED's with control switch that you just connect to a spare receiver channel so remote switching is easy to do, hobby king No 9171000061 and only around $12 in UK shop.
great instructable by the way have you tried to use the LED's the other way up so they are brighter? i was thinking of fitting them to a plane but putting red on the left wing and green on right with ultra bright on front and a couple of orange on rear to help with orientation of plane at distance (i find it hard enough during the day to make out which way up the plane is never mind at night.)

roballoba (author)Poppy Ann2013-12-30

you can face the LEDs outward... and it is much easier - just peel and stick. for your wing tips, I would recommend the waterproof versions of the light strips as they will be protected from bumps and rough landings.

I have a plane where i did all the lights facing out, but I found it was actually too bright to look at - it burnt my eyes and all I could see was tracers of where it once was playing over where it actually was and it got annoying to fly. As indicators however they work great. Several of my friends do this and they work great.

One thing about facing them inward, the light is more diffused but it has more surface area so you see the plane more than just a strip of lights.

you can also build the lights into the inside of a plane as you put it together. This is the super stealth method. Good luck and have fun!!

chuckyd (author)2013-12-29

WOW!! Now if you could just change the sound it makes to a hum...

charlie-lee-rhee (author)2013-12-28

i did mine on a model helecopter, and it worked great too!

Sweet! I have lit up a few flying models. Night flying is a lot of fun - we have a group of flyers who get together... Sometimes the cops come saying they got a call. It's ok though and they know it too... stay within your legal height limits.

Matt428 (author)2013-12-27

What tipe of solder did you use?

roballoba (author)Matt4282013-12-28

typical 60/40 electronics solder - it is very thin and has a flux core.

drstys6 (author)2013-12-26

we had so much fun in the neighborhood with this; Children love it!

roballoba (author)drstys62013-12-27

Very good times! while creating these photos we had several groups of neighbors stop to watch or participate. Stuff like this creates conversations.

vegasrandall (author)2013-12-25

some UV paint on the prop with a diode shining on it would add a nice touch

roballoba (author)vegasrandall2013-12-26

I have painted the props with day glow orange before... The UV diode would be cool... except this prop travels at around 28,000 rpms and is hard to see.

vegasrandall (author)roballoba2013-12-26

strobe the diode?

roballoba (author)vegasrandall2013-12-26

short mylar streamers in a little bunch with an orange LED pointing at them look like an after burner... I did the White LEDs on top pointing at the vertical stabilizers and the red in the back to help with the orientation... it's a fast plant and every little bit helps - I like to run the plane on the fasting strobe mode as it is... I call it Seizure mode!

TrickyTricky (author)2013-12-26

I love this!!! Great job with this project

roballoba (author)TrickyTricky2013-12-26

Thanks! it's so rewarding to fly... people are so excited to see it!

About This Instructable




Bio: Trying to learn faster than I forget. It will be cool to make some stuff along the way.
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