How Does a RC Boat Work? Things You Should Know
So you want to get into RC boating? Remote-controlled (or radio-controlled) boats are controlled remotely using radio control equipment. Types include electric sports boats, model sailboats, scale boats, and model combat warships.
First, let’s shine a spotlight on an RC boat’s various components:
The transmitter is a control box you hold in your hand that turns your manual control movements into electrical impulses which it transmits as radio waves to your boat’s receiver.
The receiver is an electronic unit installed in the RC boat which turns the radio signals conveyed by the transmitter into electrical control signals which are sent to the servos.
The receiver sends the radio signals to the individual channels through Pulse Position Modulation (PPM) commands. It should operate on the same frequency as the transmitter (the two usually come together).
These are the devices which create the control movements. Servos convert electrical signals sent by the receiver into physical movements, giving you control over the boat.
There is a specific servo for each control function or radio channel.
The most commonly used are NiMH (Nickle metal hydride) and LiPo (Lithium polymer) batteries. NiMH batteries are much cheaper than LiPos, and are less sensitive to vibration, overcharging, shock, or deep discharge. But they are also heavy, weak, and outdated.
Lithium Polymer batteries are smaller and lighter. They can deliver huge currents, and have a large capacity despite their size.
Note however that they can be dangerous if pierced, discharged too far, or charged too far. When this happens, the battery expands, and if you continue using it, it may explode into flame. So be careful.
The main function of motor controllers is to convert low power input signals (such as battery voltage) into something useful for the motor. They are also known as Electronic Speed Controllers (ESCs).
The ESC is an electronic circuit which helps the motor change its speed or direction. It also enables you to adjust the cutoff voltage, which helps protect the batteries from damage caused by over-discharging.
Depending on the type of motor your boat uses, its motor controller is either a brushless or a brushed controller. Brushed controllers are found in brushed motors.
They send the motors a Pulse Width Modulated (PWM) power input and can be used to control the boat’s lights and anything else that requires DC power. On the other hand, brushless controllers work with brushless motors and modulate the motor’s speed according to the PPM (Pulse Position Modulation) signal.
There are two types of motors: brushed and brushless. Brushed motors earn their name from the small brushes that switch power through the coils.
Brushless motors, on the other hand, do not have brushes – they require an external controller to do the switching. Brushless motors are considered superior because of their efficiency, and their ability to handle higher speeds and torques. They can also comfortably work with huge amounts of power. Plus they last long.
Now let’s look at the hull types
The hull’s shape is one of the main determinants of an RC boat’s performance – especially in certain environmental conditions. The different hull types include:
Deep-Vs are also referred to as monohulls and are the most popular type of boat. People love them because of their capacity to run at high speeds, their agility, their ability to move quickly in any direction, and their stability in rough waters.
Deep-Vs depend on hull strakes to improve their stability and maneuverability. The boat’s V design enables it to absorb the impact of bigger waves on rough water. The V shape also enhances the vessel’s maneuverability.
Modeled after off-shore race boats, catamarans have a wider hull footprint due to the two sponsons attached one on either side of the hull.
This breadth enhances the boat’s stability. Though it has better stability than the deep-V, the catamaran still has more of its hull in the water, a factor that contributes to increased drag and slightly reduced speed.
Also, the fact that catamarans have a smaller draft than monohulls means that they cannot operate in deeper waters.
Hydroplanes have a design that resembles a dual-pronged fork. They perform well only in calm water. They are designed for oval racing, which is why they cannot easily turn left.
Other RC boat types:
Many people love sailboats because they are low maintenance. They rely on the wind as their main source of power, meaning you won’t have the hassle of trying to maintain an engine.
All you have to do is learn how to adjust the sails so as to best utilize the wind currents.
Powerboats are highly popular, especially with RC boating beginners, because of their speed and ease of navigation. They are powered by motors or engines, and they could be either sport boats or racing boats.
Sport boats are easier to operate and are suitable for a large swimming pool or large pond.
Racing boats, on the other hand, require you to acquire a higher level of skill because they sacrifice ease of operation for the sake of more speed.
Scale boats are miniatures of full-size boats, made to scale, and may be small enough to hold in the hand or large enough to be transported by trailer.
Unlike powerboats, they do not prioritize speed. Rather, scale boat enthusiasts are more concerned about the appearance, realism, and scale performance of the boat – how well does it resemble the original?
There are two types of fuel-powered boats: gasoline and nitro-powered RC boats. Gasoline-powered boats run on the same gasoline you use in a regular car, so refueling them is easier and less expensive.
However, note that they don’t run on pure gasoline; rather, it’s a gasoline and oil mixture. Gasoline boats are usually larger and have a larger displacement engine than nitro-powered boats.
Nitro RC boats, on the other hand, are powered by a fuel that contains a portion of a nitromethane and methanol mixture.
The verdict is out about fuel-powered boats: they offer extended run times in comparison to battery-powered boats. They also have the added benefit of the realistic sound their engines produce as the boat rips across the water surface.
Now you know so much about RC boats. All that remains is for you to buy one from a shop or online and start having a blast.