Introduction: How to Install LED Light System on Ultra Micro C-17

About: In my spare time, I fly RC airplanes and enjoy sharing my passion for learning how things work through my own instructional videos.

One of the downfalls of a cheap model RC plane is the lack of lighting, known as navigation light. I cannot complain much since these are a cheap model for someone trying to get into the hobby.

I have been on a quest to look for a model where, someone just joins the hobby, can proudly own and fly in the field with other birds. One of the biggest roadblocks of the hobby is the cost of the control equipment. A cheap and reliable transmitter could cost up to 100 dollars and that is without the plane.

Banggood is a great website to get things cheap, especially toys and tools, two of my favorite things in life :D. I have ordered many things from the site, from R/C car to R/C plane and electronic equipment.

You can purchase the UMX Timber LED lighting system from this link here.

You can purchase the Ultra Micro C-17 from this link here.

Step 1: Boeing C-17 Globemaster III

The Boeing C-17 Globemaster III is a large military transport aircraft, provides the US military to deploy troops and tactical equipment to any strategic location around the world.

The maximum payload capacity of the C-17 is 170,900 pounds, and its maximum gross takeoff weight is 585,000 pounds. The C-17 has an unrefueled range of approximately 5,200 nautical miles. Its cruise speed is approximately 450 knots (.77 Mach). To put it in perspective a C- 17 can carry three Bradley armored vehicles. The US Army M1A1 main battle tank can be carried with other vehicles

Bottom line is, C-17 is a Beast.

Step 2: First Step: Inventory

Most of the time, we are just too existed to assemble the kit and overlook one of the most important steps.

There could be parts that tuck in places, you could risking accidentally glue it down without you notice since glue likes to run :P. Can you tell what is missing in the picture?

Step 3: Engines Build and Motor Installed

I like to lay out all the parts that needed in a step, maybe years of playing Lego really leave mark on me. I would recommend any new hobbyist to practice this step since it really helps with clean assembling and save time looking for the part while the glue is drying. This will also mean that one can apply less glue to the parts since you have the parts right in front of you ready for assembly. Remember, before apply glue, DRY FIT THESE PARTS. I don't mean to yell, but I just want to get your attention :P.

Please dry fit these part before you apply the glue. Here are couples reasons to convince you in case you decide to brush this step off.

  • First, these parts fit together very firmly, meaning sometimes you would need to apply a bit of pressure to fit these parts together, you don't want to do that while the glue is drying every second. Things are seen a lot harder under pressure, especially when the pressure is sticky. :D
  • Second, you might use thicker glue, it takes longer to dry so you have more time to work on it. That is true, however, you will add much more weight to the model which we try not to since we already adding the LED system weight. Apply just enough glue will also enhance the model look since there no glue on the scheme.

There are more benefits in dry fit these parts together to have the feel on how these parts fit before the applying glue. It might take you a step longer to assembly but save you five steps on how to fix already glue model.

Step 4: Integrate UMX Timber LED System to the C-17

The UMX Timer is a great plane with a great LED system, I could make my own LED circuit, however, that is a topic of itself so I will save it for another post.
I decided to cut out a part of the fuselage where it connects with the wing. This will help with the model static look. Make sure you mark the area that you are going to cut out then cut just a bit smaller. If you do it correctly, you will be able to just wedge the LED board without the need for glue. Now cut of the original power source connector of the LED board, also cut the power source connector of the airplane controller board just like the picture. Now soldering the red wires together, shrink wrap, and do the same for the ground wire. One might ask why are we going to such a length and not just use 2 battery instead. A simple answer would be for the look, a more complicated answer is battery bay limitation, extra connector, extra weight, etc. One of the most important steps is testing the system before glue everything down, you do not want to find out the LED does not light up after the assembly. When you start gluing everything down you want to make sure all the LED light secure where they suppose to be, then you can secure the LED board. Remember at this point, the LED board on the top is attaching to the airplane control board on the bottom. Making sure you take time running the wires, the more time you gave it, the better it looks at the end, and the better it flies. Since this is the main goal of this project, let me break it down:

  1. Cut out a slot for the LED control board.
  2. Dry fit, make sure it firm.
  3. Test the LED light before soldering.
  4. Solder the LED control board power wires to the airplane control board power wires.
  5. Test the LED light after soldering.
  6. Layout the LED light methodically, where the wire would be, how it runs, make sure LED wires are long enough
  7. .Glue the LED light down where it supposes to be.
  8. Testing LED light after gluing.

Remember, testing the light every time you glue the LED to the airplane. The reason I stress this so much cause the last thing you want to happen is the superglue on your fingertip takes out the micro resistor, from a personal experience. :(

Step 5: Wing, Fuselage and Tail

Now all the LED lights should be secure where they are supposed to be, and all tested. This is a point of no return when you glue the wing to the fuselage, taking it apart will destroy it static look so make sure you dry fit the wing to the body, make sure everything lines up with each other. The company design help builder to line up the wing with the fuselage, however, since we did some modified to the fuselage, we could mess something up in the process. In the end, as long as the wing line up center with the fuselage then the plane will fly great. Make sure apply firm pressure throughout out the drying process. Make sure the wing fits flush with the fuselage and also stay align the whole time. If the glue visibly dry on the surface, leave it alone, give it some extra time to dry internally, I personally think this is the hardest step :P. Go get some coffee.

After getting the needed coffee, now is time to glue the tail to the fuselage. I learned that you should assembly the tail separately before glue the tail section to the fuselage. There are only two parts that make up the tail section, the vertical stabilizer and the horizontal stabilizer. Dry fit, Dry ft, Glue, you should be master this process by now. :D

Step 6: Maiden and Adjustment

If this is your first R/C plane, I would highly recommend you do your maiden flight in a better visibility since you want to make sure the plane fly right. The plane fly base on some aerodynamics phenomenal. What is this mean? Why use the fancy word? This means different thing to the different hobbyist. To a beginner, this means your airplane has the latest tech, it is very simple to fly, with very simple parts, no control surface needed. Throttle up to fly up, throttle down to glide down, turn left to go left, turn right to go right. To an engineering student, it means wingtip, differential thrust, dihedral, all these three factors help the airplane to fly without the need of any control surface, and also gave the airplane a very scale flying characteristic.

However, to say that it would come out perfect for everyone is too naive. Depend on the initial flying characteristic and what is you prefer flight characteristic, we can adjust accordingly.

If the plane takes a long time, full power to take off, we can fix that by bending the fuselage section between the main wing and the tail section. bend the tail upward slightly, you would need very little bending here. Test it before performing another adjustment.

If your airplane claiming too fast, this is bad, because you will have the airplane claim up until it stalls and fall back down. DO NOT PANIC, cut the throttle, it better crash with no power. If it straight out, then apply little power, try to land it, you shouldn't be worry too much since the gyro will help you out.

Our final goal is, full throttle take off in a reasonable time, then fly straight when the throttle is half so that you can then fly around and enjoy the view, Have fun and take time.