Monthly Archives: September 2015

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RC Plane LED Lighting

Senior Telemaster With LED Strip Lights

The Senior Telemaster RC airplane makes a great trainer and is available many sizes: from mini all the way to a giant 12 foot wing span! With it’s slow flight characteristics and docile handling it’s truly a joy to fly – even for more experienced pilots!

Another primary advantage of the Telemaster design is its ability to be able to carry a lot of weight due to the low wing loading. This make it a great platform for modifications – as there is room to add some weight without effecting flight performance!

This particular Telemaster I acquired was not in very good shape and was in need of some repairs. I restored it earlier this summer: fixed the broken balsa stringers, recovered the wings, and shaped new ailerons for the wing. The fuselage was also twisted and needed to be straightened.  I was able to do this by the holding the correction (twisting it past the correct point since it will naturally spring back a little) in place while shrinking the covering with an iron. I added a set of flaps!



One other item I wanted to do was add some lighting to the wings and the fuse. Originally I had just added some LED strip lights to the main wing during my first round of repairs, but after my initial testing I decided I wanted to light the entire plane!

When I was recovering the wings with Ultracote, I drilled wholes in the ring ribs so I could run the LED strips through the wing. I ran a set in the front of the spare and also at the rear of the spar so I could light the entire wing. One thing I wanted to keep in mind when positioning the LED strips in the wing was to try to position the LED’s in such a way that the wing was “indirectly” lit – taking advantage of the internal reflection of the white Ultracote. This makes the lighting appear evenly distributed throughout the entire wing giving it a more natural “glow” effect.

The main colors I used for the wing and the horizontal stabilizer, were red and green – with the green LED’s on the right and red on the left. I used neutral white for the fuselage interior. I placed the fuselage LED strips on the bottom so they could shine up – again taking advantage of indirect lighting. Using this technique where possible really makes it glow and the light looks very even!

When it came time to install the LED strips into the horizontal stabilizer, I developed a new technique for placing the lights; perhaps one I wished I would have thought of instead of drilling holes in the ring ribs! Sometimes you “learn as you go”! For the horizontal stabilizer, I cut small slits in the rib and slid the LED strip in place as close as I could to the spar location. Once I was satisfied with the positioning, I added some thin CA to the small gap to restore the integrity of the ribs in the stab (the Telemaster uses an air foiled design for the horizontal stabilizer). Again, I ran a strip in front of the main spar and also at the rear – both strips shining outward from the center. This made for very even light distribution!

Installing the light in the fuselage, I decided the easiest method was to cut the covering down the very center using a straight edge so I could access the entire bottom of the fuselage. Of course hindsight would dictate to install the lights before I covered it the first time! For the LED strips in the fuselage, I stuck two strips of lights back to back (in this case I did want one set to show down and one set to shine upward into the inside of the fuselage). I ran two double strips on each side of the center line of the fuselage. I wired the back-to-back pieces together using jumpers I had made from some scrap servo lead wire.

Once I was satisfied with the placements of the lights, I secured the LED strips and wire leads with a hot glue gun. Hot glue works very well for this sort of thing!

I wanted to be able to control the LED lights from my transmitter. I decided to use the Turnigy Receiver Controlled Switch to do that. This switch simply gets wired into the positive lead of your battery, and the other end connects to an open channel in your receiver. Since this plane is a glow powered plane, I’m using two separate batteries, a normal NiMH 5 cell – 6.0 volt pack for the receiver and servos, and a 3S lithium polymer battery for the LED strips. One thing to note, is that for this circuit to work properly, the ground (black wires) of both batteries need to be connected together! Without doing this the switch will not operate! I’ve included a wiring diagram of the configuration for this type of setup.  Mode II is the diagram you should follow when using two separate batteries.

Here’s a YouTube video that explains the switch modes in more detail: 

After all the lighting was installed it was just a matter of resealing the bottom covering and a very thin strip was needed to cover the bottom seem.

With all the LED’s in this setup, the entire system draws roughly 3-4 amps. I’m using a 3S 1300 mah lipo for this particular setup.

Good luck with your LED project!




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Polaris RC Seaplane Covered in Ultracote

Polaris RC Seaplane Build | Foam Sea Plane

If there ever were an RC plane that one were required to own – the RC Polaris Seaplane designed by Steve Shumate would be it! Made from 1/4 inch depron foam sheets, it’s a quick build for most and very low cost!

One of my local club members had a partially completed Polaris he had been working on and never got around to finishing it.  It was given to me by this club member so I wanted to finish it and get it flying.  This is actually my second Polaris I’ve owned as the first one met and early demise when flying to close to the ground!

I was able to reuse all my electronics from the original Polaris park flier I had, so everything was mostly a direct fit. Part of the fuselage and tail section had already been started and some of the control surfaces had already been hinged with tape.  On my original Polaris, I used Ultracote iron on covering for the hinges and it worked very well!  I decided to do that on this one as well and replace the tape that was partially coming off.  Surprisingly Ultracote covering sticks very well to depron foam; even using the low heat setting of around 220 degrees Fahrenheit.  I did some tests on small pieces of foam to see how much “stick” it had… it seemed to hold better than any of the packing tapes I had tried in the past!



On my original Polaris, I felt the tail section was a weak point so I added some 1/16 balsa there to make it slightly more rigid.


I also reused the original wood control horns for the ailerons and just carved some small slots in the foam and secured those with a foaming polyurethane glue.  These glues work great if you have to fill some larger gaps.  For a more secure bond, use clamps.

The rear vertical stabilizer was missing so I opted to make one out of 1/4 inch thick balsa and then carved the center out to reduce the weight.  I also laminated this with some thin CA to stiffen it up a little more.  I printed the template from the original Polaris plans and simply cut it out with my no. 11 blade xacto knife. I used 30 minute epoxy to secure it into the rear tail section and pinned it in place once I was satisfied everything was square and straight.



With the original Polaris RC Plane I had, I had made a motor box that “gripped” the tail section a little better as I had an unfortunate mis-hap with the original where the motor mount had torn away from the foam!


Next, it was time to begin running some wiring for the 2200Kv motor and Castle Thunderbird 54 Amp ESC I was using.  I also decided to not mount the servos inside the body compartment this time.  It is not as waterproof I will admit, but it made running the control rods a lot easier!  As a result of this modification I felt it balanced slightly better than my original Polaris, since it allowed me to move the battery to a more forward position. Having to replace a servo is now much easier too.

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Once I had all the servos mounted, ESC, and receiver in place, it was time to add the top cover.  I secured this using polyurethane glue.  I pinned it in place along some of the curved sections and also weighted it down with a pillow and a couple of 10 lbs. weights.  Using a pillow helps to disperse the pressure more evenly.

The bottom rear section was also missing.  I  cut some balsa to fit and then sanded this to final shape.  I secured it with polyurethane glue and weighted it down for a few hours.


Once all the major work was completed, it was time to do some sanding to help smooth out any bumps and rough corners.  I rounded over most of the corners and edges.  I also hit the edges of the wing and rear control surfaces just to take off any hard edges.

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Finally, I cut my battery hatch.  I found the approximate location by just setting the battery on the top of the fuselage and determined where the proper CG should be.  I cut an opening that was slightly larger than the battery for easy “in and out”.  I placed scrap foam pieces in the nose as a “stop” so I know exactly where to place the battery each and every time.  I also made a small latch by cutting in a scrap piece of balsa and securing it to the foam with epoxy.  I drilled a hole for the screw and strengthened the balsa piece by coating it in thin CA.  A simple Ultracote hinge works well on the ear section of the hatch as it acts like a trap door.


I added some more covering to the wing leading edges to help increase visibility.  I’m not certain I’m done covering it yet… I’ll fly it and see where I should add pieces to help aid with visibility!


This was certainly a great project to work on!  It’s amazing how well these little foam planes can fly.  I highly recommend any modeler build one!

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