RC Planes

How many minutes can a typical (under $500 or so in total) plane can run for if gas or electric?

What is the flight range like? typical max distance from operator?

How much would it cost to get a video feed from the plane? do they sell one ready made for this?

What is the minimal cost and recommended model for park flying / sports?

I live in Chicago, will the wind be a serious issue?

Depends on the size of the model, the engine, and the size of the gas tank. Also, how efficiently you fly. It’s been a few years for me, but my recollection is that 10-15 minutes once you get the hang of it.

In general, unless you have a really good video feed, you’ll want to keep it in eyeball view. There is also a maximum distance at which the transceivers used will work which I never, personally, tried to find out because I didn’t feel like chasing the dang thing all over the neighborhood.

Old days, it could have wound up almost anywhere (nothing like knocking on a door and saying “Excuse me - can I get my model airplane off your roof?” or out of the pool or away from the giant dog that just discovered a new chew toy that dropped into his world or up a tree or stuck on a powerline…). These days, you can get little units that, if the thing loses contact with you it will use GPS to fly to a predetermined spot. Don’t know how much they cost these days.

Keep in mind YOU are liable for any damage caused. Also, for any alarm generated in the local authorities.

Yes, but I do not know the costs involved.

Unfortunately, as I haven’t purchased such things for over ten years now I can’t help you with that.

Actually, I have a couple dozen models belonging to both my late spouse and myself that I’d like to sell or for some just pass on to someone who would appreciate and use them.

I will also note that these days anything over .55 pounds requires a drone license from the FAA. Which is not a huge deal in my view - you register, pay a nominal fee (about $5 if I recall correctly) and you get a number you have to put on all your qualifying aircraft

Hon, at times the wind is a serious issue for full size planes in this area, up to and including airliners. The good news is that this is a manageable problem. You just have to learn a bit about the weather and check it before going out to the flight location.

It’s recommended that beginners join up with a club or other flyers to learn the robes. Among other things, you’ll break fewer models. Some clubs have instructor set-ups using linked boxes so if you start to lose control an instructor can take over. There are also now RC flight simulators that allow you to learn by breaking pixels rather than wood and plastic.

How do you contact a club? Shops that sell RC model stuff usually have information on local clubs in your area. There is also the Academy of Model Aeronautics or AMA which I have very mixed feelings about but is another avenue for getting started and learning.

If you’re just getting into RC I would second joining a club as well as looking at park flyers (small planes that work indoors or out) rather than shelling out a fair bit of cash for a larger model. I buy my stuff primarily through Hobby King or Horizon Hobby online and they have plenty of easy to fly trainers likethis one that will get you going.

I believe that’s also a legal requirement in the US for remote controlled aircraft, including drones. The operator is required to keep the aircraft within visual line of sight.

Is that supposed to be 5.5 or 55? A half-pound seems a little bit light.

0.55 pounds. 250 grams. cite

So the little toy drones you see at Walmart are mostly exempt from the registration requirements. Anything heavier, like the DJI drones, must be registered. It’s a simple process though, you just register online and pay your $5. You get a registration number which you are required to display on your drone or RC plane.

Yep, a few years ago I got an email from the FAA saying that I needed to register my DJI drone. I’m not sure how they even knew I had one.
BTW there was a recent rule change – previously the registration number could be anywhere on the drone (like inside the battery compartment), but now it must be externally visible. They want police to be able to identify the owner without needing to handle the drone.

I have a DJI Mavic Air. A bit over $500 but worth every cent IMHO. There is a slightly cheaper model called DJI Spark that is under $500.

It uses a smartphone, attached to the controller as a live video display. Live video quality is excellent, I think 720p (onboard stored video is 4k).

It promises a huge range but I have found the range to be strictly line of sight. I.e. you have to see the drone at all times. I once went behind a line of trees and it quickly lost the signal and went into automatic return home mode (that did work brilliantly).

The battery promises 21 minutes (and does achieve that) but that’s the point where the motors cut out. Obviously you have to be back on the ground comfortably before that happens. You can comfortably fly more than 10 minutes, perhaps even 15, before you start getting low battery beeps and really need to start bringing it in.

Stabilization against winds is excellent (you see it fighting mightily against the winds, while video stays rock solid) but it does show wind warnings easily.

If it uses Wi-Fi and a smartphone to control it (don’t know if any “planes” do, I was researching sub-$100 quad-copters) the control range is 300-400 feet. (That, along with a flight time of 6-7 minutes per battery, convinced me that they weren’t worth bothering with.)

<underlining mine>

Now you’ve got me imagining a secret cult of RC plane aficionados, who perform ritualistic flights at midnight by light of the full moon. :smiley:

Agree. Just to avoid misunderstanding, the DJI’s can be controlled in that way (using only a smartphone as the controller, no separate controller) and it has that limitation in that mode. Or it can be controlled by its own controller with the smartphone attached through a USB cable, and having very much better specs in that mode.

Mavic Air specs

Spark specs

My DJI Phantom 3 claims to have a range of 1000 meters, but I’ve never flown it more than about 200-300 meters from me. I get nervous when I can’t see anything more than a barely visible speck in the distance. BTW, don’t be overly reliant on the “uncommanded return” feature. The very first time I flew mine outdoors, I got it far enough away that I wasn’t sure which direction it was facing, so I pressed the “return to me” button. The controller flashed “COMPASS ERROR” and nothing happened. I was sure I was going to lose my new drone at that point but I managed to steer it back to me.

Cook County has quite a few authorized flying fields. Sometimes, my evening commute has me drive past what I just learned is called Schiller Model Airplane Flying Field on Irving and ‘luckily,’ traffic is often backed up enough to let me watch for a minute or two. Really cool, planes and helis looping around. I have only seen scale models being flown and I’d figured that drone flyers were made to feel unwelcome by the ‘traditional’ flyers. However, the county’s page indicates that it’s explicitly disallowed at that field while allowed at others.