Tech Time: Radio Controlled (RC) Vehicles

Sometimes referred to as remote control or radio controlled, self-powered model vehicles are operated from a distance using a special transmitter. Though cars and trucks are most popular, helicopters, planes, blimps, boats, submarines and tanks are also available.

RC vehicles are crafted to scale, operate on multiple radio frequencies from a hand-held dashboard controller and are often very detailed die cast models of actual vehicles.

In a world of options, RC’s are powered by either batteries or fuel cells (sometimes referred to as Nitro RC’s), may be designed for on or off road and fit into two broad categories – toy and hobby.

Newbies start with the toy grade RC; they are easy to operate, have low top speeds but are often un-repairable. The clean running, low noise electrics are recommended for newbies. More experienced RC enthusiasts graduate to the hobby grade. Hobby RC’s generally offer longer life spans, superior performance, more speed control, more fuel options and have user serviceable parts, which can be interchanged or tweaked.

For the cars and trucks, RC’s are built to be enjoyed either on road or off. On road RC’s race at high speeds, have a sleek body and require a smooth surface to operate best. Conversely, off road (sometimes called off-track) cars and trucks have full suspensions, large, rubberized tires, high chassis and shock absorbers fitted to function well on unpredictable terrain.

Regardless of category, all RC’s are done to scales ranging from the littlest 1:64 to the largest 1:4 with 1:8, 1:10 and 1:12 being the most popular scales. Again, regardless of design, RC’s have four basic parts:

Transmitter: sends remote radio waves to the receiver and is otherwise known as the remote control. This hand-held device generally operates in a frequency range of 27-49 MHz. Full function controllers have options for forward, reverse, forward left, forward right, reverse left and reverse right for precision movements.

Receiver: antenna or circuit board on the vehicle receives the signals and activates the motor.

Motor: turns the wheels/wings, propellers/engines

Power source: pushes electric or fuel based power

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