Recycling R/C aircraft

What to do with the occasional “leftovers”.

We’ve all been there – your favourite model has taken its last dirt-dive and you’ve reluctantly decided that it is time to let it go and move on. However, you have some perfectly serviceable parts left over, more than the engine, wheels, radio etc. You likely have the tailplane, as that nearly always seems to survive the crash, but you might just have a set of wings, even if one or both are slightly damaged. Well, you may have more choice than you think.

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine crashed his Fastjet, a swept-wing, twin-boom pusher ARF from China. For some reason he’d never had a particularly good time with this model, and when it crashed, was quite prepared to simply remove his radio and engine and consign the remainder to the trash. It was there that I found it, sitting on top of his trailer. Being one who just can’t stand waste, I suggested to him that I could use them if he had no plans, to which he readily agreed that I should remove them and do as I wished. I took them home and stored them until I had sufficient time to develop my ideas.

Since they were swept wings, they would suit a range of designs, so I began with some simple flying wing designs, including tractor, pusher and wide fuselage for an FPV model. A simple, box fuselage is all that is required, although of course you can go as far as you like and make it all rounded corners and flowing curves. It’s going to be your design after all and you want to be proud of it.

The simplest fuselage would be the tractor version, but that provides further design challenges in that you need some kind of undercarriage, or else you will need to launch it via a dolly, bungee or hand.  Wheels would just cause drag, so a better option would be a body skid, and perhaps wire or plastic whiskers in place of the main gear. This will serve to save the wing from damage when landing on hard surfaces, as well as the servo output arms and control horns.

A pusher design offers many of the same advantages, as well as making the model a little easier to balance.  It will need a tall single fin, or a pair of vertical stabilizers on the wing. This is a very common style of pusher design and as such would be quite low risk as a design.

Another version of the pusher can be obtained by building a wide fuselage, one capable of being used for FPV, and able to carry the requisite autopilot and extra cameras. This design may also provide options for a wheeled undercarriage if desired, though skids would likely still be the easiest and most practical solution.

Now we come to the more conventional aircraft style, with wing and tailplane. This may be further than you want to go for a pair of recycled wings, but wings are less easy to build so perhaps it may be worthwhile. Either way, a very sporty looking model can be achieved this way.

From here it is just a short jump to a canard design. This can also be flown effectively without undercarriage, so again it should be a simple build.  Really, there are a huge number of designs that would be possible with just the one set of wings, and there lies the attraction to this project. With very little effort, any number of possibilities might result.

I chose the simple tractor style flying wing to work up initially. I felt that it would make a good addition to my already diverse fleet of gliders, power, scale and sport, as well as helicopters and multi-rotors. I could just as easily have chosen to build the pusher design, and perhaps still might. In fact, there’s no reason to believe that I won’t build all of these designs at some point in the future.

We fly from a dry clay pan, which makes for a good surface, with fine, relatively non-abrasive dust. A little less forgiving than a grassy field, but it works for us!

Providing I don’t crash it in the meantime, the wings should carry on for some time yet.

Of course, I then needed to give it a name. I chose ” Dinged Wing ” as I thought it most appropriate for a recycled model…..

Definitely a “floater” with that huge wing and almost no fuselage. Perfect for a quiet afternoon at the field!

As for power, I chose a cheap electric motor, approximately the equivalent of  a nitro .40, along with a 40 Amp ESC. The entire model was in the air for less than $50, other than the radio gear. It’s initial test flight was with a 4s 2200mA battery, but I found the CofG to be too far forward. When I substituted a 4s 1300mA lipo, we had the right combination of power and balance, and the model flew just fine.

Look carefully, and you will see wire “whiskers” inboard of the ailerons, designed to save the lower wing surface from damage, as well as the servo arms and horns etc.

 I had built the fuselage with a central skid, so it was only a matter of cutting a notch to accept a bungee launch ring. From there, it was a simple matter of ensuring the propeller didn’t catch the ramp on takeoff, and pulling until the bungee was good and tight. The Dinged Wing flew great right off the ramp, with only a little trim required to fly stable and very accurately. It wasn’t especially fast as the wing section is a little thick, but that wasn’t particularly one of my requirements . Not bad for a $50 model….

My mates Kevin and Paul, about to get the wing airborne. I think we were all surprised by the performance of the model, and its ease of handling.
The cooling scoop looks (amazingly) like half a plastic spoon! It’s also very effective at cooling the ESC – score!
Not certain why I put a rudder on it – it flies just fine without it, and I don’t bother to use it….
A few wheel weights for balance. Would look more tidy if they were mounted inside the fuselage, but this is just a recycled model after all….

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