What are the Different Types of Radio Control Aeroplanes?

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What are the Different Types of Radio Control Aeroplanes?

Radio controlled aeroplanes are small flying machines controlled remotely by the user through a transmitter. Radio control aeroplanes as a hobby has grown significantly as more effective motors have emerged, and as RC aeroplanes have become more affordable.

Many different types of radio controlled aeroplane are available, suitable for different users and situations. These include simple balsa wood gliders to detailed scale models and even jets. Many different kinds of radio control aeroplane are available on eBay.

Scale Aircraft

One of the oldest and most popular types of RC aeroplane, scale model aircraft are a widespread type of RC aeroplane. These planes are scale replicas of real world aeroplanes, and models are available based on planes from the First World War all the way up to the present day.

These aeroplanes are often highly detailed, featuring fully detailed cockpits, functioning navigation lights and retracting landing gear in order to mirror the full sized version of the aircraft. Scales can vary greatly, with models that are 20% of the size of the real aeroplane and above, with models of smaller planes sometimes even reaching up to 50% scale.


Gliders are a popular choice of RC aeroplane. They are among the more affordable types of radio control aeroplanes, and models are available which allow more time for the user to respond, making them quite suitable for novices. Gliders are unpowered, and need to be launched up to speed before they can take advantage of the thermals that allow them to remain in the air. There are a number of launching methods available for RC gliders.

Hand launching is the simplest method available. In suitable conditions, the pilot can simply 'throw' the glider into the air, where it will catch thermals and gain altitude and speed. In some conditions, it is possible for a pilot to correctly position the glider before simply letting go.

A towline launch involves a user running along the ground towing the glider behind with a long line, usually between 50 and 150m long. This requires a stretch of flat ground.

An aerotow launch is a more complex method, and mirrors the method often used to launch real world gliders. The RC glider is attached to a powered radio controlled aeroplane, and it is this vehicle which brings the glider up to altitude. This requires a skilled pilot for both aircraft, as the addition of a glider to the powered plane can significantly complicate handling, while care must be taken by both pilots to avoid collisions.

Gliders are often used in events such as races. A particularly popular event, which inexpensive and hard to damage gliders are suited for is 'combat', where participants attempt to drive one another out of the air.


RC jet aeroplanes are unusual, and are among the most expensive type of radio controlled aeroplane available. These vehicles often use ducted fans or micro turbines to power them, and can reach very high speeds, meaning they are only suitable for experienced and skilled users. These vehicles often make use of reinforced wooden spars and Kevlar fuel tanks to maintain a light weight whilst also reinforcing the structure to withstand the great speeds these aeroplanes can reach.

'EDF' models are also available. These smaller, lower speed models are less costly than more complex jet vehicles, and can use the same kinds of batteries and controllers as conventional propeller driven RC aeroplanes.

Pylon Racers

Pylon racers , sometimes referred to simply as racers, are very small, very fast aircraft designed specifically for use in pylon races. The design of these vehicles places a great deal of emphasis on reducing weight. Wings are often hollow, with the fuselages made out of fibreglass and light weight composites. These planes can be difficult to fly due to their very high speeds and unusual handling.

Toy Class

Toy class radio controlled aeroplanes are among the newer types of RC aeroplane. Toy class RC aeroplanes are some of the cheapest available vehicles, and are an excellent choice for young users and those inexperienced in flying radio controlled aeroplanes. Frequently built out of durable foam and flying at low speeds, these aeroplanes are designed to withstand frequent crashing, and are no risk to people or property if they do. These planes also feature no elevation control, limiting the manoeuvrability but making these vehicles far easier to control and simpler to use.

Kit Types

In addition to these different types of aeroplane, these RC vehicles and also be categorised into different kit types. The main difference between kit types is the amount of assembly required by the user upon purchase, and there are a few alternatives available to the standard kit vehicles, which require a great deal of time to fully construct.

Ready to Fly

Ready to fly or 'RTF' radio control aeroplanes come as pre-assembled kits, and require little if any assembly on the part of the user, such as attaching the wings. Preferred by hobbyists who prefer the operation and flight of their aircraft over the construction, these radio control aeroplanes are suited to those who do not want to, or are not able to, construct a vehicle themselves. This ease of use comes at the cost of the additional customisation that kit models offer.

Almost Ready to Fly

Almost Ready to Fly or 'ARTF' kits are similar to Ready to Fly kits, but require more assembly. Generally, these kits take around four or five hours of time to complete, in contrast to kit aeroplanes, which can take upwards of seventy hours. These kits may also require the separate purchase of components such as motors, speed controllers and control rods. This makes these kits a good choice for established hobbyists who already have the equipment, and simply require an airframe.

Balsa Kits

Balsa kits arrive as a set of the raw material required to construct a plane. These kits often include very complex construction instructions, as well as direction on how to convert the kit to suit alternative power sources. Many of these kits also include an 'iron on covering' which is attached to the airframe using heat and can increase the durability of the model. As a small error in construction can significantly affect the airworthiness of the model, a balsa kit is not suited to inexperienced users.

Airframe Materials

There are a number of materials that are commonly used in the construction of the airframe of radio control aeroplanes. Most place an emphasis on being lightweight and strong.

* Wood has long been used in the construction of radio controlled aeroplanes. Among the cheaper available materials, wood is widely available and light. Wood has the benefits of being strong and usable with a variety of adhesives. Balsa is the most commonly used wood, though those such as pine and spruce are also sometimes used.

* Carbon fibre is often used to reinforce key points on models, and on high performance vehicles is used as the main construction material. Light and very strong, the key drawback of carbon fibre is its high cost.

* Expanded polystyrene and Styrofoam are increasingly being used in the construction of the entire airframe. Affordable and widely available, this material is both light and flexible, meaning the impact of a crash can be absorbed. This material is often used on radio controlled aeroplanes intended for inexperienced or young users, as they can withstand repeated crashes without damage to the model or others.

Power Source

An important characteristic of radio control aeroplanes is the kind of engines that power them. There are a few widely available kinds of power source available.

* Internal combustion engines are commonly used in RC aeroplanes, and often use either petrol or nitro fuel. Perhaps the most popular kind of internal combustion engine is the glow engine, which uses a combination of methanol, nitromethane and lubricant. This mixture is commonly sold pre mixed as glow fuel. Glow engines require the use of a glow plug to start, which is electrically heated to allow the engine to start combustion. These engines are powerful, but also very loud and require a significant amount of maintenance.

* Electric motors have become increasingly popular with the advent of lighter, more efficient batteries. Electric models are easy to maintain, and do not require consumable fuel, making them a popular choice for more casual and younger users.

* Often used in simpler models, particularly those for younger users, rubber band propulsion is one of the oldest methods. A rubber band motor is wound up, and the force of the unwinding powers a propeller to drive the plane. Widely used, more complex versions can be found on some higher end craft.

* Compressed gas propulsion is also sometimes used. These motors often use compressed carbon dioxide to power a piston engine. These engines are sometimes called 'cold' engines because they grow cooler as they run, in contrast to glow engines which grow hotter.

Buying a Radio Control Aeroplane on eBay

A wide range of radio control aeroplanes are available on eBay. The full listing of available RC planes can be viewed in Toys & Games.. Aeroplanes can be found under Radio-Controlled.. The listings can be arranged by categories such as location, price, condition and distance to seller, as well as by power source, manufacturer and whether or not the kit requires assembly. It is also possible to arrange the listings by the Auction and Buy it Now buying options, which offer flexibility in how a radio control aeroplane can be bought.

Important specifications of an item, such as the type of radio control aeroplane, are usually prominently displayed in the item listing. Further information about an item can be accessed on the item page, where information about the seller such as feedback ratings and item reviews can also be seen. It is also possible here to ask the seller the question regarding the specific item.

If a specific RC aeroplane is required, it may be easier and more effective to use the search function available at the top of every page. More information on using the search function is available on the Search Tips page.


A wide range of different types of radio control aeroplane are available to suit the needs of different users. Resilient, easy to fly toy class aeroplanes are ideal for young and inexperienced users, while enthusiasts may prefer the complexity and customisability the balsa kits offer. The right radio control aeroplane is easy to find on eBay.

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