Radio Systems

by Kurt Gornek


Radio systems are what allow you to control your aircraft from the ground. The piece you hold in your hands is called the transmitter and the unit inside the model that receives the signal is called the receiver. The transmitter interprets movements you make on the sticks (gimbals), rotary knobs and switches and sends those commands to the receiver that, in turn, actuates servos, controls the motor speed and moves the corresponding control surfaces. We’ll cover modern 2.4GHz computer radio systems and their components. For older FM analog and PCM digital systems the basic concepts and rules will apply but some of the features may not be available.

In order to understand today’s radio systems you must familiarize yourself with some terms and elements of the devices themselves. The following image contains all of the standard radio equipment necessary to get your model up and flying (gyros are not necessary on fixed-wing aircraft):

Common components of a 2.4 GHz computer radio system include:

Radio transmitter
Radio receiver
Receiver battery (optional if BEC is present within ESC)
Electronic Speed Control (if electric powered aircraft)
Gyro (Helicopters and some 3D airplanes)

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