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How to jump start your RC flying hobby

With so many products and choices it is a daunting task to know where to begin in the RC flying hobby. This article and follow up series will give you a head start to RC flying and help you avoid the common mistakes that newcomers make.

Pic by Walter46

Hobby grade vs toy grade:

Try searching for RC drone or RC airplane and you will be overwhelmed by the products shown to you by the search engine. Before you decide what to buy you need to be aware that there are two classes of products. Hobby grade and Toy grade.

The below table gives a good idea to help you distinguish between Hobby grade vs Toy grade products.

Hobby GradeToy Grade

omp m1 hobby grade helicopter
syma toy helicopter
Complete Spare part list and availabilityYesNo
Long term supportYesNo
Build qualityHigherLower
Radio RangeExceptionalPoor
AvailabilityLocal Hobby shops/onlineSuper market/online
Usage modelUse, break, learn & fix, repeat.Use, break, throw
Table 1: Hobby grade vs Toy grade models

We will focus only on Hobby Grade stuff.

Types of RC Aircrafts

There is a wide range and variants of RC aircraft but they can be broadly classified into 3 categories based on flight characteristics.

  • Single-rotor (Helicopters) rc helicopter
  • Multi-rotor (e.g. quadcopters, DJI drones)rc quadcopter
  • Fixed wing (Airplanes, Gliders) rc airplane

What RC model to start with?

Simulator, simulator, simulator!

Flying any RC model requires skill. The pilot’s mind and fingers have to develop a certain muscle memory to properly steer the model and react to undesired changes in flight path. Things can change pretty rapidly once the model is in the air and if you are not prepared for the situation it will most likely end up in a crash causing damage to the model and frustration to you.

Developing your flying skills is the best investment you can make in this hobby. Preparation will make your real world flying session even more enjoyable. You will still crash but not as often and most likely with lesser crash damage. The simple rule to follow is: be 100% confident on the simulator for any specific flight maneuver before trying it on the field.

An RC simulator costs less than 100 bucks. The crash cost on a simulator is zero. You get to try and practice on 100s of different aircraft models. There are training lessons to take. Upgrades are free for life. There is nothing to dislike about it.

You can download and try out the neXt simulator for free*. It works on Mac, Windows and Linux.

(* free version has a 2 min flight timer after which you need to restart the simulator)

Try out the different helicopter, airplane and multirotor models and see what suits you the best.

neXt simulator
Fig 1: neXt simulator’s model selection screen

What controller to use for the simulator?

To try the simulator you can use any controller that provides a USB Joystick interface. e.g. Xbox controller, Playstation 3/4/5 Controller. However, don’t use these game controllers to practice as game controllers feel way different than RC controllers so practicing with game controllers will be a waste of your time.

RC models use a programmable Radio Control transmitter that has two sticks that have a significantly different feel than the game controllers. e.g. Throttle stick doesn’t have spring tension. Sticks are longer, have more travel & precision and are operated with two fingers instead of just the thumb.

Game controllerRadio Control Transmitter

PS4 game controller
tx16s radio controller
InputShorter Thumb sticks, self centering on all 4 axesLonger sticks with self centering on 3 axes. No centering on throttle axis.
OperationThumbthumb holdPinch with thumb and index finger pinch hold
PrecisionLower, due to the shorter Thumb stick and Thumb operationHigher, due to taller sticks and pinch operation
ProgrammableNoFully programmable
Table 2: Game controller vs Radio Controller

Back in the days you had to stick to radio equipment from one manufacturer as radio protocols between manufacturers are incompatible so their equipment was incompatible to each other too. For example, if you chose the Futaba radio system you could not use it to fly a Bind-and-Fly (BnF) model that came with a Spektrum receiver.

The situation is still the same between these main stream radio equipment manufacturers but something great has come on the radio controller side. With a 3rd party open source multi-module radio transmitter like Radiomaster TX16S, you can use a single radio transmitter to control almost all the popular radio protocols, including the toy grade ones. Here is the full protocol support list.

I highly recommend the Radiomaster TX16S family of radio transmitters. It is a high quality, fully programmable radio transmitter that comes with the multi-module radio chip. It can be used for all kinds of RC aircraft and other RC models as well as simulators. This is the only radio transmitter you will need to have to control all your models including the simulator.

So what are you waiting for? Grab that simulator and an Xbox/PS4 controller and give yourself some stick time. It doesn’t cost you anything. Once you decide that it is something for you, you can invest in the simulator and radio controller for a good RC flight practice and experience.

Contact us for any questions you may have and we’ll be glad to help.

In the next article we will cover which aircraft model kits you can begin with. Stay tuned!

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Can I fly my drone (RC model aircraft) without registration?

Legal disclaimer: (The contents of this page is not legal advice and is my interpretation of the EU drone regulations for the open category. Please refer to the appropriate regulations/laws in your region. The drone regulations could be significantly different outside EU.)

The new European Drone Regulations came into force as of December 31, 2020. These were laid out by European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and cover operation of Civil drones.

What is a drone? Is my RC model aircraft a drone?

A drone is any aircraft not carrying the human pilot on board I.e. Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). It is usually remotely controlled or may be even flying on it’s own (computer controlled). All RC model aircraft (airplanes, gliders, helicopters, quadcopters, etc) qualify as drones and can come under the new drone regulations.

Do I have to register my drone / RC model aircraft?

In EU, you don’t have to register your drones but you have to register yourself as a drone pilot.

You do not need to register if any of the below is true for your drone(s):

  1. weighs less than 250g and has no camera or other sensor able to detect personal data.
  2. weighs less than 250g with or without camera, but is a toy (its documentation says that it complies with ‘toy’ Directive 2009/48/EC).
  3. is being flown indoors
  4. is being flown at an RC field, in which case you need to check with your RC field manager.

For all other cases you have to register as a drone pilot by passing an online theory test before you can fly your drone.

Is there a minimum age limit? Can my kids fly a drone?

If the drone is privately built and weighs less than 250g, there is no minimum age limit. For anything heavier than 250g, the drone pilot must be at least 16 years old. EU member states can reduce the age to 12. So check you EU member state specific rules.

How do I register myself as a pilot?

You need to register in the country you live in. Check your EU member state specific information from

You will have to go through some reading material, pay a fee and take an online test. Once you pass the test you will be given a proof of competency certificate. Only then you can fly the category of drones mentioned on the certificate. You must always carry the certificate with you during your drone flights.

You will receive a ‘drone operator registration number’ that needs to be displayed with a sticker on all the drones you own, including those privately built. You must also, upload it into the ‘Drone’s remote identification system’ if it has one.

Where do I get further information?

For detailed information please visit and your EU member state specific website

dji Drone


Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

EASA proof of completion certificate

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Go get a hobby!

“A hobby is considered to be a regular activity that is done for enjoyment, typically during one’s leisure time [1]” – Wikipedia

[1] Leisure time or Free time is time spent away from business, work, job hunting, domestic chores, and education, as well as necessary activities such as eating and sleeping.

I wonder why our society has divided time into non-leisure (work) time and leisure time but let’s keep that discussion for some other day.

Do you have leisure time? What do you do during your leisure time?

These days it is inevitable that whatever leisure time we have we spend it on the screen. It is heart wrenching to see little kids wasting their precious childhood on gadgets. Is this something we really enjoy doing or is it something we do just because we are unaware that there are better things to do that are really enjoyable. It might be something as simple as walking or running in a park or just sitting still doing nothing [by “still” I mean absolutely no physical/mental movement. You think you can do it? Oh you poor silly you. 🙂 ]

Alright, back to hobby. Here is a quick checklist to identify if an activity can be called a hobby or not.

  • Are you an active participant?
  • Is it enjoyable?
  • Does it give you increasing level of challenges?

A “No” to any of these questions means the activity is not a hobby. A hobby is something personal so the answers will vary for each person. An activity that is not a hobby for you doesn’t mean that it can’t be a hobby for someone else. But at the same time we can clearly see that passive activities (like watching/listening) don’t pass this checklist for anyone so they are definitely not hobbies.

Here are some examples of hobbies

– physical activity (sports, cycling, running, swimming)

– mental activity (board games, puzzles, certain video games)

– any activity requiring skillful use of hands and mind (sculpting, painting, embroidery, RC/scale modeling, playing music)

Why have a hobby?

Imagine your childhood with only study time and no play time. How would you feel when you look back?

Now imagine you are on your deathbed, your entire life has passed with only work and no real play time. How would you feel about it?

A Hobby is a way to bring back play time into our lives. It gives us opportunities to be ourselves by doing the things that we really enjoy. It challenges us to improve our skills and eventually be a master at it. You don’t have to have just one hobby. You can have multiple hobbies.

So what are you waiting for. Go get your hobby! If you already have one, Go get another!

RC Helicopter hobby

RC Helicopter

RC Car Hobby

RC Car