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What is the World's Fastest RC Plane - Dynamic Soaring - A Radio Control Airplane Record With No Engine

Updated on March 16, 2012

So, what is the world's fastest RC plane? The answer is sure to surprise many of you!

Are you envisioning a ducted fan aircraft? A true scale sized jet made of high-tech composite materials? A large scale aircraft with multiple engines that require hearing protection? Are you thinking about the guys who spend thousands of dollars on custom made motors? Or the one who need engineering degrees to put the models together?

If you are thinking about those types of aircraft, you would be 100% WRONG! In fact, the fastest Radio Controlled aircraft doesn't even have a motor in it!

Now how does that work you ask yourself? Read on for a description of how physics and a breeze can create the ideal conditions to hurl an aircraft hundreds of miles per hour.

Dynamic Soaring

Now is a good time to watch the video to the right that describes how dynamic soaring works.

Think of it as moving an object efficiently between two air masses.

The air mass separation is almost always found on the back side of a hill or even a tree line - any place where there is a breeze and a dead spot of air to make the return trip. Watch some of the videos below and see how these powerful machines gain speed by finding these areas of distinct separation of air.

What is the World Record?

As of March 6th, 2012, the unofficial world record is 498 mph. A fill list of speeds of some of the best pilots in the world are shown at RCSpeeds.com.

Birds and Dynamic Soaring

As with most RC planes, the niche of dynamic soaring was first used by birds. The albatross is one of the best soarers in the world and has been known to travel thousands of miles using very little energy.

The bird will dive into the sheltered area behind a wave and then pull up, entering the windy airstream above and then turning the other direction. The bird gains land speed and and ducks behind another wave to repeat the process.

That is the exact principle used by dynamic soarers using RC models.

Watch the video on the right regarding a prototype UAV glider for NASA that uses the same principles of dynamic soaring to keep this aircraft aloft for months at a time using very little energy.

DS with Radar Guns in Idaho
DS with Radar Guns in Idaho | Source
A
bird spring canyon road:
Bird Spring Canyon Rd, Onyx, CA 93255, USA

get directions

The location of the World's Fastest RC plane flight

Bird Spring Canyon

The world record as of March 6th, 2012 was held at Bird Springs Canyon in California. This wide area has a lot of wind coming primarily from the west.

There is a weather station on the ridge above the pass so it is easy to find the current weather conditions. Check out the noaa.gov link for the current conditions.

Be prepared for an adventure getting up here. There is a long dirt road and a good climb to get up on the hill. Additionally, it gets very hot here during the summer (well over 100 degrees F) so be prepared with a lot of water and guard against your vehicle overheating.

In early 2012, the wind was over 90mph and a few brave souls fought their way to speeds over 400mph in only a couple of circuits! Amazing!

468mph DS Run

Practice in a Flight Simulator

It should be no surprise that these fast-moving models require ultra-quick reflexes. You simply don't have the luxury of time to make decisions and react to changes in the environment. You must act and act NOW if you hope to keep your model in one piece.

Before you head out to a ridge on a windy day, practice using a good quality flight simulator. Not all of them have dynamic soaring options, but Great Planes RealFlight does!

Load it up and practice, practice and practice! It is much easier to hit "reset" on the computer and try again than to glue the pieces of your high tech model!

This is the single best investment you can make if you are interested in DS!

Details of the Kinetic 100 DP
Details of the Kinetic 100 DP | Source

A Slower Run (You can See the Plane Better)

The DS Glider

Imagine the craftsmanship and materials necessary for a model to withstand the tremendous forces applied to it at almost 500 mph? Without the proper construction, the model will be ripped apart with the stresses. If the wings don't fail, then the attachment points between the wing and the fuselage might - make sure that they are well-secured before attempting anything this fast!

I won't go into the details here, but the world record RC glider was the Kinetic 100 DP.

Not only are these planes designed to withstand the abuse of high speeds, the machining and tuning must be precise to allow full and absolute control. The fast the plane moves, the more it will react to changes in the control surfaces - so be careful!

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