Drone popularity has been skyrocketing for several years now. It still hasn’t reached its plateau so there are no doubt drones will become the next big thing in the world. Not exactly like smartphones revolutionized the way we use the internet and social media… but they’ll definitely change the way we take selfies and aerial videos. Industry usage is rapidly going up too which leads to quicker technological advancements and huge price drops in the low-end market section…
This all resulted in a slight popularity increase as well as price drops to other forms of unmanned aerial vehicles such as the likes of RC helicopters and RC planes. While we already have an article covering the former, this one is going to be fully focused on the latter. So, why don’t we start off by giving you the 5 best RC planes for beginners at the moment and then do a follow up with some important information as well as our very own FAQ section!
|5. WLToys F949||20min||200m||See best offer|
|4. HobbyZone 4480||10min||200m||See best offer|
|3. E-Flite UMX||N/A||N/A||See best offer|
|2. HobbyZone Carbon||15min||200m||See best offer|
|1. Parrot Disco||45min||2000m||See best offer|
5. WLToys F949
At the 5th spot, we have WLToys F949, an impressively well-built RC plane that has a good dose of charm to its design. And we’re not just talking about the design – value for money is as high as it can be with this one. It hardly breaks your change yet manages to perform very well for both beginners and more experienced RC hobbyists. It’s a great 3CH trainer and can very well guide you through your first steps in RC planes niche. So, it’s only logical to take a closer look at it and see what’s the catch!
Simple yet very effective flyer
As mentioned above, we are talking about a 3CH model here that comes equipped with 3 pretty powerful brushed motors which are doing all the work as far as rudder, aileron, and front propeller are concerned. However, you need to take into account that this small RC plane doesn’t have a lot of power to write home about. Nothing surprising considering such an affordable price tag to its name. In fact, it’s running on a 500mAh 3.7V LiPo battery which gives it around 20 to 25 minutes of flight time.
That might seem like a ridiculously high flight time for such a cheap model, but that’s just how flight timers are with fixed wing RC planes. However, that’s not WLToys F949’s biggest selling point. Not at all… You see, F949 comes with one of those standard looking WLToys 2.4Ghz transmitters which are used for virtually all of their aerial RC models. What’s so special about them that they’re worth mentioning? Well, how about this…
You won’t believe the flight range on this thing
In addition to a plentiful flight time, WLToys F949 can also boast with impressive operating range. Not only will it surpass 100 meters but can go really close to 200 meters in wide open areas. Of course, you probably won’t be able to see it at such a huge distance but it’s still worth knowing it will not go out of range that easily. Other than that, I believe it’s also worth mentioning the overall build quality is pretty good. The model itself is made out of EPP composite material and borrows the looks from the legendary Cessna 182. It’s not too shabby by any means and, once again, brings the best value for money out of this entire bunch!
4. HobbyZone 4480 Sport Cub S
Next up we have a cool looking 4 channel RC plane made by, yet again, HobbyZone. It is a replica of the ever so popular Cub Crafters Sport Cub which has been the go-to muse for lots of miniature RC models. However, HobbyZone 4480 Sport Cub S has several aspects that go heavily in its favor, especially when compared to similarly priced models. Want to know more about the things which make this little bugger so special? Keep on reading then because everything important will be stated in the next 2 paragraphs!
Comes as BNF and RTF
Since HobbyZone 4480 Sport Cub S is a beginner-friendly RC plane, it’s only logical to see it available as an RTF version. However, to cater towards more advanced users (and to eliminated extra transmitter cost), good folk over at HobbyZone released a BNF version too. It sports a DSMX receiver meaning you will have to provide your own Spektrum transmitter. As far as performance is concerned, HobbyZone 4480 Sport Cub S runs on a ridiculously tiny 150mAh 1S LiPo battery which keeps it in the air for around 10 minutes. It can go longer than that if you don’t stress it too hard, but that might end up with a fried motor becuase these brushed ones get really hot after more than 10 min of heavy workload. Range heavily depends on optical visibility and can go approximately 150 to 200 meters.
It’s a great trainer thanks to SAFE technology
HobbyZone has established itself in the industry with several great entry-level drones suitable for beginners to learn how to properly control RC planes. This is partially made true by their innovative SAFE technology which implements 3 flight variations (beginner, intermediate and expert) as well as a panic switch. In beginner and intermediate modes, the amount of pitch, jaw, and roll is limited and the plane stabilizes itself once you release the stick. This enables beginners to fly easier and prevent them from crashing their models during their first flight.
On the other hand, expert mode eliminates all limitations and stabilizations, enabling users to do barrel rolls and flips just like in those good old WW2 movies. The panic switch works just like it sounds – if you ever panic while flying your plane, simply hit the panic switch and it will automatically level itself.
3. E-Flite UMX Timber
If you’re a fan of ultra-micro RC planes (which this bugger really is), then you’ll come to appreciates E-flite’s highly popular UMX Timber model. First of all, it’s insanely cool. Second of all – it’s relatively affordable which, when combined with the practicality it brings forth, is a massive plus. For less than $150, we’re talking about a proper bargain here, and if you’re just starting out, E-Flite UMX Timber is the RC plane for you!
Affordable BNF Greatness
We’re talking about a Bind N Fly model, meaning it doesn’t come with a transmitter. In fact, it doesn’t come with a battery either. You’ll have to provide your own; a proper charger too. Speaking of batteries, a solid 300mAh 2S (7.4V) LiPo should do the job just fine.
E-Flite UMX Timber is powered by a tiny brushless motor that spins a 5-inch propeller. The body is made out of molded foam which isn’t exactly the most durable material but will still survive a few medium crashes. Last but not least, the wingspan of this little bugger is whopping 27.6 inches or roughly 70cm, not bad for a 4.3 ounce (121g) RC plane, that’s for sure!
Cheks All The Essentials
Moving on, it’s important to note that E-Flite UMX Timber comes assembled. Yep, that’s another reason why I pointed it out as one of the best RC planes for beginners currently available on the market. The fact that it’s Spektrum BNF shakes that statement up a bit, but even total beginners shouldn’t have any issues finding a compatible transmitter as well as a battery plus charger combo. It shouldn’t be too expensive, either…
2. HobbyZone Carbon Cub S+
The second-best RC plane currently available on the market, in my opinion, is the Carbon Cub S+ by HobbyZone. We already talked a bit about another HobbyZone Cub S model, but this one delivers a much better overall performance and has the looks to go with it. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and see what makes this one of the most beginner-friendly RC planes out there, right after the one and only Parrot Disco!
Solid AIO Platform
If you’re lo0king for a great all-in-one RC plane, look no further than HobbyZone Carbon Cub S+! Not only does it come with a high-quality Spektrum DXe 2.4Ghz transmitter, which means it’s a ready to fly (RTF) model, but it’s also featuring optional flaps if you want even shorter takeoff routes. Landing performance is brilliant too, partially thanks to the provided oversized tundra tires which work great on all types of terrain.
On top of that, HobbyZone Carbon Cub S+ utilizes several beginner-friendly features such as AutoLand, holding pattern, virtual fence, and panic recovery. While they aren’t essential, they definitely make this model a much more reliable option than any of its direct competitors.
All in all, HobbyZone’s Carbon Cub S+ delivers endless entertainment for the entire family. Even though we’re talking about a relatively massive RC plane here (51 inches or cca 1.3m), it can be operated by beginners since it has three different flight modes with varying pitch and roll margins. Lastly, it runs on a 480 960Kv brushless motor powered by a 18A ESC, is made out of durable EPO and can fly for around 5 to 7 minutes thanks to the provided 1300mAh 3S LiPo battery.
1. Parrot Disco
Parrot is a known brand as far as drones of all shapes and sizes are concerned… but little did most of you know they deal in RC planes and fixed wing RC models as well. Perhaps they are not as popular as their AR or Bebop drone models, but they’re still up and coming products well worth everyone’s attention. Today, I decided to take a closer look at one of them (becuase the other one is a hybrid and not a fully fledged RC plane), more precisely Parrot Disco.
Build quality is top of the line
Hardside EPP foam bonded with carbon tubing was the material of choice for Parrot during Disco manufacturing process. And it’s exceptional – not too heavy yet surprisingly flexible and durable. Especially the nose which manages to nicely hide away the standard full HD camera with electronic image stabilization we’re used to seeing with Bebop 2 models. Lastly, 32GB of onboard memory should be enough for all of your photos and videos.
What about performance?
Performance enthusiasts will not be disappointed at all because Parrot Disco does not fail to deliver. First of all, it must be said that it sports a gorgeous minimalistic design with a familiar front hull immediately stating that it’s made by Parrot. It’s aerodynamic too, achieving up to 50mph top speeds which are, needless to say, absolutely praiseworthy. Combine that with up to 45 minutes of flight time (yup, power efficiency is an important aspect here) and cca 2 kilometers of range and you’ll understand why Parrot Disco is placed as the best RC plane currently available on the market!
FAQ: RC Planes for beginners
What are the differences between drones and RC planes?
Even though it might not seem so at the first thought, drones and other RC aircraft (such as helicopters and planes) are very different even in the most basic of ways. Starting off with the terminology, it is highly arguable that the word drone depicts anything but a slang term for unmanned aerial vehicles (more commonly known as UAVs). With that being said, the lines begin to blur once you add the fact that drones are supposed to represent aerial vehicles carrying plenty of onboard processing power capable of doing all sorts of tasks including autonomous flight…
But all that falls into the water once you realize RC planes can be equipped with virtually same processing power (yes, the technology has advanced a lot) just like drones? I’m not saying this is a common practice… but RC planes CAN INDEED be equipped with all the bells and whistles too. So where do we draw the line between these 2 types of RC aircraft? Well, if you ask me – let’s take things as simple as possible and start differentiating them by their appearance: if it has wings – it’s a plane… if it has 4 horizontally placed motors – it’s a drone!
Or better yet, we can always differentiate them by their flight mechanics and usage. For instance, drones these days come in all shapes and sizes and are able to combat highly complicated tasks with superb efficiency. They are used for sports (drone racing in particular) but are also turning out to be vital parts of many industries. On the other hand, RC planes possess better power efficiency but usually don’t have the processing power for commercial endeavors. In fact, they are merely recreational devices used by long-range-craving thrill seekers.
Do these RC Planes come assembled?
If you’re planning on buying your very first RC aircraft or you’re still a beginner to this hobby, then you may be interested in the question above. If that’s really the case, I’m happy to inform you there is no need to worry. You won’t need to pull back your sleeves and do any dirty work with one of these RC planes. They all come assembled with the only exception being Hangar 9 Piper J-3 model which will take roughly 3 to 4 hours to assemble. Another thing other RC planes on the market don’t come with are receivers… and that’s only with certain models that don’t come as ready to fly. More on that below:
What do I need to start flying RC planes straight out of the box?
This highly depends (as virtually everything else discussed here in the FAQ section) on the exact model you go for, but I guess I can give you some general guidelines. If you purchase any of the above-featured RC planes (except that Hangar 9 ARF model), rest assured you will have everything you need to take it for a flight straight out of the box… except perhaps some AAA or AA batteries required for the transmitter. Of course, this will be true only if you purchase RTF (ready to fly) and not BNF (bind and fly) or ARF (assembly required to fly) versions.
On the other hand, once you settle in this hobby and you wish to upgrade, you will probably stumble upon some high end (let’s call them “professional”) models primarily meant for DIY experts who aren’t afraid to get down and dirty on them. What you’ll eventually find out is that the majority of these high-end models does not come with a transmitter… Heck, some of them don’t even sport receivers, meaning you will have to provide your own. It’s not a big deal by any means so just think of this as a heads up.
What type of users are RC planes for?
I would like to continue on the story already written above. You see, the second most frequently asked question regarding the topic of RC planes (right after the differences between drones and RC planes) is this: what types of people enjoy flying RC planes? Well, without getting into too much generalizing, it’s still noteworthy to state RC planes are mainly enjoyed by casual users… and by casual users, I am referring to people interested in flying thrills rather than commercial endeavors. That’s why RC planes are basically a safe haven for newcomers to fully fledged RC fanatics and hobbyists of all age and experience.
What happens when these devices go out of range?
When it comes to the majority of RC planes, I’m afraid nothing big will happen once they lose signal coming from their respective transmitter. There are 2 groups for differentiation here – one group will immediately stop all motors and flunk to its death while others will slowly glide towards their doom. I’m not saying there aren’t any RC planes that aren’t smart enough to return to their initial takeoff location… I’m just saying they are definitely the minority at least for the moment.
Knowing what happens to RC planes once they go out of range is the last thing we discuss in this article. It leads us straight to the conclusion in which I won’t beat around the bushes for too long. I’d just like to add that, whether you’re into drones or RC planes, it’s important to respect other people’s choices. All types of radio-controlled aircraft are coming to their mainstream stage but aren’t there just yet. That’s why it is of crucial importance for all of us to enjoy this hobby to share our knowledge and take interest in the technology surrounding these marvelous arts of science.
Last but not least, thank you all for reading and I sincerely hope to see you again!
Until next time… fly safe!
Vito Dronelli, Content Editor @DronesGlobe