Radio controlled toys and projects have a huge fan following (mostly hobbyists) around the world. There are different types of radio controlled hobbies that you can enjoy, it involves displaying your skills controlling the device efficiently.
Radio Controlled Devices: Popular Hobby
Building, driving, and modifying radio-controlled car kits or other toys is a popular hobby among radio controlled enthusiasts who love displaying their skills of controlling the radio controlled device efficiently.
Radio Controlled devices, or remote controlled devices as they are also called, are devices that are worked remotely from a distance. These remote controlled devices are also commonly called RC devices – RC stands for Radio Controlled.
The concept is certainly a fun one, a miniature model of some real-life vehicle, fully functional and ready to get around.
Radio Controlled Toys / Hobby Grade Devices for Serious Hobbyists
The radio controlled models can be categorized as toy grade or hobby grade.
- The toy grade devices are available in retail shops, and are available at a far lesser price. They are ready made assembled models, and usually utilize electric power.These are made of non-serviceable parts and are produced in bulk. The toys are not very robust in their speed or abilities. A radio controlled device of one toy cannot be used in another toy.They are not durable and are of “soft” material; these toys are mostly not able to take on the rugged terrain outdoors. They are available in “ready to use“, “buy and play” models and need no assembly. The only thing that will be required is to open the battery case and put in the batteries, and then the toy is ready for use.
- Hobby grade models are available at a greater cost but are more durable and serviceable. They usually require assembly, and most often run on gasoline or nitro.These are made of durable material, and are custom made. They are mostly simple in their design. The design is simple and can be re-used / remodeled, and can be serviced. The radio controller and the parts can easily be used in another hobby grade toy. They are durable and more robust. They are not always available in ready-to-use state, though there are many hobby-grade RC stores that will deliver the toy in assembled state.
All such devices require a transmitter with controls, a throttle trigger and the wheels for turning. The receiver is placed in the body of the toy.
The models can be electric models as well as fuel models. The electric models work with electrical speed control, and the fuel control systems utilize the radio control mechanisms to regulate the fuel input and the such.
The RC devices can be varied, and include cars, boats, airplanes, helicopters and robotics. The small robots, cars and toys are usually for indoor play. Robotics combined with remote control technology is frequently seen in the international robotics contests held annually in Japan and other countries. Robotics are another hobby, which are even more interesting when combined with radio controlled or remote controlled toys.
The uses for radio control are limitless, and cars only scratch the surface. In reality, there are hundreds of different ways that you can enjoy radio controlled hobbies.
Types Of Radio Controlled Hobbies
There are many different types of radio controlled hobbies that can be enjoyed. All it takes is basic knowledge of the radio equipment and the motors, and you can enjoy all of them in some way or another.
Remote Control Car
The RC car is the one most common toy among radio controlled model hobbyists. The cars come in various sizes and shapes and can also be fuel driven or electrically powered. RC cars are relatively safe compared to the airborne toys, and can be controlled even by a child. They can be “off-road” or “on-road” models, referring to the terrain on which they can drive on.
Small model cars can be rigged in a way that will allow you to accelerate, steer, and brake them at will. There are numerous ways that you can accomplish this. The first is to just buy a remote controlled car and some good batteries.
However, if you are interested in the technical aspect of it then this may seem uninteresting. Another option is to build a model or a kit from scratch, putting together all of the components of the car and installing the radio control system. Still another option is to take a pre-existing toy, and mount all of the radio components inside.
Remote Controlled Boats
Toy cars aren’t the only radio controlled hobby. Remote controlled boats are also very popular. It is fairly easy to convert a boat toy to be radio controlled. The biggest challenge faced by those trying to make a radio controlled boat is the issue of having a waterproof area for the engine and electrical equipment.
Usually this is solved by placing the motor in the hull of the boat, and having the propeller emerge underwater through some sort of rubber, watertight seal. It is a good idea to buy this part of the boat pre-made, since a do-it-yourself, trial and error approach could lead to quite a few ruined engines before you get it right.
Radio planes are probably the most difficult project to undertake. Since a plane requires very detailed calculations and measurements in order to stay afloat, you will have to be attentive every step of the way. Makers of radio controlled airplanes will usually take one of two routes.
The first is to buy kits that include cutout pieces of some sort of light wood that can be assembled using glue. After that is done, the radio and motor equipment are purchased and added in. The second method is to skip the kit, and find (or even make your own) plans for a model plane. After you have plans, you buy all of the necessary wood to make the plane from scratch.
RC airborne toys require a high level of knowledge and control, and will need supervision of adults. They are not suitable for younger kids. They are relatively more expensive than the rest of the RC models. This is another reason that younger kids cannot use it safely, since a crash can result in damage that can be too costly.
Remote Control Helicopters
Airplanes aren’t the only radio controlled devices that take to the skies. Remote control helicopters are becoming more and more popular. They require around the same (perhaps a little less) detail as planes, and allow for a more interesting flying experience since they can hover in midair, and go backwards / forwards on command.
The novelty of flying a toy helicopter is what attracts many people to building one, while planes usually attract those who enjoy the technical and mathematical aspects of getting the plane to leave the ground. Both are extremely rewarding, especially after hours and hours of labor.
These are most popular in Japan, but the popularity is quickly catching up in other nations in the west too. Robotic hobbyists who design, control and model the robotics for various activities are common, and there are various competitions held regularly for them to create the best robot.
Robotics however, are actually moving from radio controlled models to the latest artificial intelligence models and voice controlled models. But, radio controlled models of robots are still very popular as toys, as hobbies as well as a safety tool for remote handling of bombs and such.
These are some the many different ways that you can apply the intricacies of radio electronics to regular toys. While these make up the main areas that are focused on in this hobby, they certainly don’t confine you. If you have an idea for a radio controlled toy that is not a car, a boat, a plane, or a helicopter then by all means pursue it.
By starting with the more basic toys, you can learn about the radio systems and the motors that power whatever it is that propels the vehicle forward. All it takes is this basic knowledge, and the hobby of radio controlled toys can span a vast number of possibilities.
Tools Required For Radio Controlled Hobbyists
Here are specific tools that you will need to pursue this hobby.
- Most radio controlled projects are made out of wood, Balsa wood is the most popular choice, especially for toy airplanes and helicopters. It is extremely light, yet very solid. For building larger models, you may need to look for other (harder) woods.
- The radio and motor equipment is the second most important part. You can buy transmitters or motors pre-assembled and just glue them wherever they need to go, in order to save time.
- You will need a good old X-Acto Knife to shave off any bumps or extra pieces of wood / plastic that are getting in the way. Its also perfect for cutting outlines from thinner pieces of wood, cutting notches for the electrical equipment to keep steady, or just getting everything to the exact shape that you want it.
- You will need some type of tack or glue to hold it together. You can use superglue, wood glue, or epoxy. Look up the type of wood or plastic that you are using, and see what type of tack is recommended to fasten it.
- If you are building a remote control boat or even a submarine, you will need to consider waterproofing — in order to avoid ruining the electrical components when you first put it in the water. This is usually accomplished through some sealing putty for cracks and a spray-on sealant to keep the wood from soaking.
- At some point you may have to cut all of the wood into different segments that you will need to piece together. While it is possible with a handsaw, a table saw works better for larger pieces, and for finer details you will need a tool like a Dremel Tool. These look like electric toothbrushes, and have quickly rotating heads that can grind away balsa wood in a matter of seconds. It allows for maximum accuracy, whether you are shaping a piece of wood or making holes for wiring.
Activities For Radio Hobbyists
Amateur radio or ham is largely a hobby activity. The majority of the hobby time is spent on making contact and having conversations with people in distant regions and from different cultures. Two way communications, identifying their location and station, zone, region and place is the usual custom. This is always followed by other casual communications. If the contact is made for a contest to make two way communication with as many stations or ham radio operators as possible, this all the information that is shared.
An amateur radio is called a Ham radio, and the operator is called as an amateur radio operator. The origin of the word ham for an amateur radio operator is rather interesting. Ham was used to mean anybody who was NOT efficient or talented in the field. In the early days, the amateur operators had a notorious reputation for sending in garbled Morse code. So, these amateur operators were called by many names including ham, as opposed to the professional wireless operators. But, over time, the name stuck up for the amateur radio operators although it is no longer used in a derogatory way.
DX-ing and DX-peditions
An amateur radio operators main hobby is to make contact with as many stations as possible from as many parts of the world as possible. DX stands for Distant Stations. The DX-ing usually is followed with the QSO. (a Q code., see below) which means a conversation.
DX-peditions are different in the sense that they are expeditions organized / planned solely for the purpose of making contacts with some special or rare stations and regions. Some people travel long distance just to make contact with some unrepresented region or place.
Radio Frequency scanners available now a days form the tool of great use in these attempts. The radio scanner scans for signals until a strong signal is found and so on.
The Q code is a standardized collection of three-letter message encodings, all starting with the letter “Q”, initially developed for commercial radiotelegraph communication, and later adopted by other radio services, especially amateur radio. In today’s audio signal transmission age, the Q codes are not essential. but still in use and are viewed as a sort of tradition.
As a part of DX-ing and DX-peditions the QSL card or the proof of contact card is shared. QSL is one such Q-code that means I acknowledge receipt. The common practice was that the ones who made contact at a particular frequency exchange a QSL card in the mail to confirm their contact and conversations. These QSL cards can be used as a proof of their making contact and amateur operators who make contact with a certain number of other amateur radio operators in a specified time is awarded. Moreover, they are distinguished and honored since they are deemed to be efficient amateur radio operators.
Remote region contacting
Some countries have less amateur radio operators, and making contact with these is considered special. So, when a radio amateur from these regions makes contact, other ham operators flock to make communication with this / these hams. Making contact with these less represented places has its awards and special considerations in the award programs.
Social events for the ham families and friends. Its something akin to the family oriented social fests where there are sales, exchanges, meetings and fun. Similarly, the fest is filled with selling and exchanging hams, meeting real life ham friends and fun events for a day or sometimes over few days.
Discussion groups and Nets: Ham operators form a discussion group based on common interests other than ham or it can also be a ham related discussion group and they can form nets or networks.
Any radio hobbyist who gets involved with these activities will never be bored. Look into some of them, and see if you would like to get involved.
Radio Controlled Devices: History
The first demonstration of the remote controlling activity was perhaps by Jagdish Chandra Bose (Indian scientist) when he ignited gun powder and struck a gong from a distance using electromagnetic radiation.
Tesla was the first to demonstrate a remotely controlled ship calling teleautomata, using transmitter and receiver showing how ships and mechanical gadgets can be controlled on a wireless principle in 1898. He also constructed a wireless tower which remained unfinished due to economic constraints. This showed the farsightedness of Tesla. He laid the foundations for the radio controlled devices that we have today. American inventor Armstrong remarked about Tesla: “The world will long have to wait for a mind equal to Tesla’s, a mind of such creative possibilities and such wealth of imagination.”
In 1937 the first radio controlled airplane was flown by Dr. William Good and his twin brother Walter. Dr. William was a specialist in radios and Walter made aeromodels, and they combined them to create the RC plane. Radio control had also been employed in WWII. In the 1960s, the availability of transistors revolutionized the circuits and made them more compact and light.
In the mid to late 60’s, a British company named Mardave, based in Leicester, began to produce the first commercially viable RC Cars. Their first cars were Nitro or gas powered cars sold in the local area in the early 70’s.
After radio technology was stabilized, there was a steady growth of radio signaling in the fields of navigation of ships and for rescue operations. On the other hand, the amateur radio operators also started to dominate the air. The first documented and famous amateur wireless enthusiast was a then young man named Irving Vermilya born in 1890 when wireless transmission was being born. The young man since age 12 heard Marconi and built his own wireless transmission equipment and was often heard telegraphing with ships during that time. In 1911 he became a member of the Radio Club that had been formed. He got himself certified in 1912 when law mandated all wireless operators to be certified.
This was pre-audio era, and communication was purely in Morse code. Irving then organized his own amateur group who had regular meetings monthly and would communicate daily wishing GM (good morning) and GN (good night), some of the first amateur jargon to be used. He also proceeds to describe in his series of articles published in QST magazine in 1917 as to how they managed to lay the telegraph lines and such and how they drew juice for the wireless operation from the electric lines instead of relying on batteries.
Meanwhile, a Dutch engineer in Hague was the first to make regular wireless transmission via radio (first regular radio broadcast). After this there was slow development until the commercial radio stations came into being.
The requirement to be certified killed the enthusiasm in many amateurs, and the number of amateurs dwindled. But then after WWI, there was a boom. The first radio clubs were formed in 1909 and this was the beginning of the radio hobbies which included radio as a part of the hobby activity.
During the WWI the amateur radio operators were asked to stop their activity and dismantle the equipment. Radio operators in uniform helped in military communications. They got back on the air again by November 1919 again. A similar lull in amateur radio happened during Second World War and got back on air by 1946. After lots of battles over the frequency range that the amateurs can tune into, the amateur radio is here to stay!
After lots of developments, including the discovery of the transistor which greatly decreased the size of the radio equipment, the old ways still remains which included waiting for someone to signal.
The rules to get oneself certified and licensed included a Morse code proficiency until the World Radio communication Conference in Geneva in 2003 that eliminated the need for Morse code proficiency from the licensure tests. Taking effect from February 23, 2007 the Morse code has been eliminated from the tests for amateur radio license tests.
Radio Sports For Die-Hard Hobbyists
Radiosport (Radio sport) refers to the use of amateur radio equipment (or the ham) as a part of playing some sort of game. It might be group event or a single person event. It can involve other competitors in real time like a race or like a performance or achievement over a given time frame.
The contests are usually sponsored events, and can last anywhere between a few hours and couple of days (the world wide contests being two days usually). It can be local in a specific region, or may involve traveling a long distance. It can be a cumulative contest taking place over many weekends, or a sprint contest which lasts only a few hours. The rules are specific for the event and they include which stations (which regions) may participate and the like.
Popular radiosports include Dx-Contest, Fox Oaring or Bunny hunting, Amateur Radio Direction Finding Contests, etc.
Finding Like Minded Hobbyists
You might have to take a weekend trip, but it will be worth it to be around those who are as passionate as you about what you are doing. These meetings may include races, or just a good old convention to share tips and tricks with other radio hobbyists. You would be surprised at the large amount of information that you can learn from the people who go to these events.
Starting a new hobby may be daunting at first, since there is a wealth of information that you probably know nothing about. However, if you just get started with the basics and use all of your resources that are at your disposal, you will be able to succeed.
Top Beginner Resources for Radio Controlled Hobbies
R/C Hobby Sites
Check out these awesome R/C hobby websites. These remote/radio control resources contain videos, forums, tips, and tons of information about R/C airplanes, cars, trucks, boats, and helicopters. Whether you are an R/C newbie or veteran instructor, you are sure to find something fun and informative!
British Model Flying Association – BMFA
Provides many great learning resources for radio control flying enthusiasts. Expand your knowledge of R/C flying.
RC Cars Guide – With remote control cars, airplanes and boats
Find up to date information on remote control cars
If designing and assembling electronic devices/gadgets fascinates you, then you will most likely be interested in RC models and are a great candidate for pursuing a radio controlled hobby.
The best resources available to beginners interested in radio controlled hobbys is the internet.
Use the online communities, blogs and forums which can be indispensable tools for connecting to people with similar interests. There are numerous groups and one must try to find one with people close to home as well as those that have activities related to the hobby. You may be able to meet more experienced hobbyists who can guide you pretty well in pursuing your hobby. Talking to experienced hobbyists can help you make a good decision, and can help you learn a lot.
You should be willing to devote time to your RC hobbies, and you should also be willing to make some financial investments. Amateur radio sets are available in ready-to-use form. The costlier models usually have a longer range and better quality.
Just use all of the resources at your disposal, and you will find radio controlled hobbies to be fun and rewarding.