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How Do Radio Control Models Work?

Updated on June 13, 2013
VENOM Apache RTF Remote Control Helicopter
VENOM Apache RTF Remote Control Helicopter

Volume 1:

I want to try and go over some of the key elements in Radio Control Models and Toys. I will explain the different frequencies used for Radio Control models, their components, and how they all work together. I will also explain the difference between Radio Control & Remote Control in relation to RC model vehicles.

The more popularly recognized types of Radio Control Models available today are Cars & Trucks, Airplanes, Helicopters, and Boats. The least popular RC’s you’ll come across are Blimps, Submarines, Tanks, Heavy Construction replicas and Robots. Although these toys can differ in how they operate, the following are the fundamental items they all share.

  1. Transmitter - (a.k.a. Controller) A hand held control device which sends control signals implemented by the user via radio waves to a Receiver located inside the Radio Controlled model.
  2. Receiver - A device within the Radio Controlled model that receives control signals via radio waves from the Transmitter. The receiver interprets these radio waves into control signals which activate special motors known as Servos which are also located in the RC model.
  3. Servo - Not to be confused with a standard two wire DC motor, can be considered a special DC motor having three wires. With it’s built in gearing and circuitry, the Servo is used to control the angle and position of mechanisms. These are also located in the RC model.
  4. Motor - Your standard DC Drive motor used to drive wheels and propellers in relation to an RC car, airplane, boat or helicopter.
  5. Power Source - And of course last but not least, a power source such as a battery to provide a source of energy to all these devices.

Radio Control (also known as R/C or RC) by definition is the use of radio signals to remotely control a device. The big difference between Radio Control models and Remote Control toys is that the RC toy either has a wire connecting it to the controller or it sends command related signals via an Infrared light beam (or IR) similar to your TV or DVD remote. The IR Transmitter sends pulses of infrared light that the IR Receiver translates into specific commands such as left, right, go and stop. Generally a Remote Controlled toy has no use for an antenna, but for the purpose of aesthetically mimicking the Radio Control versions. Radio Control Transmitters are always wireless, and operate over Radio Frequencies (or RF).

With regards to Radio Control models and toys, this is how all these components work together. The hand held Transmitter sends a control signal to the Receiver located in the Radio Control model in the form of a radio wave. The Receiver in turn translates these waves into a specific action to drive a Servo. The Servo, also located in the RC model then executes these commands mechanically steering the model, while another servo can control the Drive Motor thereby making the model go fast or slow, and even braking in an RC Car. Some of the more expensive RC’s, particularly the Helicopters will have as many as 6 Servos located within the RC all being managed by the one Receiver.

There aren’t many people who think about how Radio Controlled models and toys work. But with all these Radio Control components working together in unison, it makes for a wonderful, fun filled experience. I hope this Volume allows for a better understanding of how Radio Controlled models and toys function, making it a more valued experience.


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    • Oscortega profile image

      Oscortega 6 years ago from California

      ...and I totally agree, RC models are fun for all ages, and genders.

    • Oscortega profile image

      Oscortega 6 years ago from California

      Thanks for dropping by and pointing out the broken links. I went live with a new web page design and hosting and it's taking me sometime to point everything in the right direction. Thanks again.

    • formosangirl profile image

      formosangirl 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      I have always been fond of remote control cars. They are so much fun. Your two links at the end of your articles do not work.