Powering aircraft has always been a tricky business.
Commercial airliners are only limited in range by the amount of fuel they can carry, which is Jet A fuel or a variant of kerosene. Late this year the world’s first electric powered aircraft took flight in the shape of a helicopter, and stayed airborne for 2 minutes 10 seconds.
The inherent problem with using electricity to power aircraft is the storage of it. Large arrays of batteries are cumbersome and very heavy. Also the bigger the aircraft gets the more power it needs, disproportionately requiring more and more batteries.
Whilst we won’t be flying to Australia on an electric powered Dreamliner any time soon, we do have good news when it comes to RC Aircraft. Thanks to the improvements in Lithium Polymer technology in recent years it’s now possible to get high performance, and decent flight times, from battery powered planes.
Lithium Polymer batteries, known as Li-Pos, are capable of holding huge amounts of charge and distribute it evenly for a good period of time. This has allowed manufacturers to bring to the world the Electric RC Jet.
The reason glow or petrol powered rc planes have been so popular in the past is that a combustion engine can provide huge amounts of power in a short space of time. Whilst batteries could do this, they wouldn’t have anything left to give once you’d got off the runway!
The typical electric rc jet nowadays is just shy of a meter in length with a similar wingspan, a 1300-2200mAh Li-Po battery and is capable of a whole lot more than just getting airborne.
The oomph needed during takeoff is easily supplied, and a notch or two of throttle is all it takes to have the rc jet streaking into the sky. The benefits of a jet over a traditional then become clear. The performance is incredible! Barrel rolls and loops only scratch the surface of what these fighter jet replicas can do in skilled hands.
There’s no need to jump straight into aerobatics either, the new breed of EDF Electric RC Jets boast top speeds of around 95mph – which is just about slow enough for you to keep track of!
With all of this excitement and the challenge of mastering new stunts, it may be easy to initially overlook a big benefit of electricity as a power source for your aircraft. It’ll soon become apparent though, as you won’t be paying for fuel! Granted, it’s not completely free but a few pence compared to several pounds (and supply issues) for traditional rc planes is fantastic news to jet flyers.
There’s another often overlooked benefit of having a battery as your main power source too. As it’s already on the jet, there’s no harm in tapping another lead in and running other equipment – a camera for First Person View (FPV) flying is perhaps the best option, but GPS tracking and Return to Home options are also popular.