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RC - How it works

The letters rc stand for radio control. You'll often see rc airplanes referred to as remote control but technically this is an incorrect term. Radio control is the correct term because the airplane controls respond to radio signals that pass through the air from the transmitter (abbreviated to 'TX') to the receiver (abbreviated to 'RX').


The transmitter (also often just called the radio) is the main box that you hold in your hands and use to control your airplane, and the receiver is located inside the airplane and receives the radio signals sent out from the transmitter.


The signals are sent to the plane in the same fundamental way as television and radio broadcasts are sent. Signals are generated whenever you move a stick or flick a switch on the TX, and they are emitted via the antenna, or aerial.


All radio signals operate on a frequency commonly measured in kilohertz (kHz), megahertz (MHz) or gigahertz (GHz). The TX and RX must be operating on the same frequency for them to work together and the gadget that determines which frequency channel the radio system uses is called a crystal. Both the TX and RX need a matching crystal to function. However, crystals are only necessary in traditional MHz radio systems.


Traditionally radio control systems operate on designated frequency channels in the MHz ranges but more recently a newer radio technology, called spread spectrum, has come in to existence and has become commonplace throughout the hobby.


These newer rc systems use the 2.4GHz frequency band and are far less susceptible to unwanted radio interference. It's a much better and more advanced technology and 2.4GHz radios are quickly replacing the MHz ones for radio control use both in the air and on the ground.

2.4GHz systems don't require crystals to operate because the technology and method of operation is different to the MHz systems.


Regardless of the rc system being used, once the radio signals are picked up by the receiver, via the receiver antenna, they are passed on to the servos (and ESC - Electronic Speed Controller - in electric powered planes) inside the model and converted into physical movement.
Servos are connected directly to the control surfaces of the airplane by linkages, so any movement of the servo is passed directly to the control surface that it is connected to.


The end result is that when you make an input at the transmitter, something on the airplane moves to control the plane.

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