RC Airplane/RC electronics

There are many electronic parts in modern RC systems. Although much simpler and cheaper than older equipment, it can be very confusing for a beginner.

Electronic components edit

Whether an RC plane is gas or electric powered or a glider, there are some common electrical components that are required to control them.

All planes edit

  • A transmitter (also called a radio or controller) is a handheld device with joysticks, switches and an antenna that communicates with the receiver in your plane, allowing you to control it.
  • A receiver receives the signal from the transmitter and translates this into positions for servos and electronic speed controllers.
  • Servos control the position of control surfaces and other things (such as throttle).

Gas powered and gliders edit

Electric powered edit

  • A battery (normally NiCad, NiMH or LiPo) to operate servos, receiver and motor.
  • An ESC (electronic speed controller) for controlling the speed of the electric motor.

A More Detailed Explanation of Components edit


The Transmitter is the most visible part of the system - anyone who has seen a radio control model being flown or operated is familiar with the rectangular box with an antenna protruding from the top and the left and right control sticks or joysticks. Costs for transmitters and receiver sets start from as low as US $ 25 right up to hundreds of dollars for the more sophisticated models.


The Receiver is a small electronic unit that is capable of receiving the signals given by the transmitter. The receiver will only act on signals sent to it by its transmitter, most modern systems are capable of being operated with many other systems in the same flying area without interfering with one another.

A search for "RC receiver" in a search engine will yield information and photos of RC receivers. An RC hobby store will usually display a wide variety of receivers as well as transmitters and other components.

The receiver will have out put terminals for sending the signals received to the servos -these are electronic components that convert the current sent by the receiver to an movement - to move a rudder, aileron or an elevator. A point to note is unlike the earlier systems or simpler toy RC systems, the current sent out by the receiver is proportional to the movement of the control sticks on the transmitter so finer control can be exercised, not simply 'all or nothing ' control of an elevator or other control surface. To use the example of a radio controlled toy car, where the front wheels can be steered full left or full right or straight ahead, proportional controls enable the wheels to be steered in degrees, either a small correction or a full turn to the left or right and anything in between.


A servo is a device for moving a part of the model. Usually servos operate the rudder and elevator on a three channel model and the aileron as well on a four channel model. The throttle may be operated by a servo or on electric models it may be operated by a speed controller called an 'electronic speed controller' that plugs into the receiver. It connects to the motor, enabling it to change thrust.