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




About: Trying to learn faster than I forget. It will be cool to make some stuff along the way.
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 www.ebay.com
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 - http://techshop.ws


Step 1: Build Airplane

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

Step 2: 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

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

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

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!!

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!



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    34 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    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 ?

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

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


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    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....


    5 years ago on Step 6

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

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    5 years ago on Step 6

    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.

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    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 Annroballoba

    Reply 5 years ago on Step 6

    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.)