RC-soaring in Denmark
RC-soaring in Denmark

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Article: What is rc soaring? 
by Peter Mikkelsen

Peter Mikkelsen

RC-soaring - or flying with radio controlled model gliders.

A "glider" is a common used term describing a certain type of airplane (usually one without an engine). Model gliders exist in lots of different sizes and shapes. The smallest are under a meter and the largest are up to 10 meters of wingspan. Many model gliders are exact copies of a real full-size gliders.


The models are controlled with a transmitter that has 2 controlsticks/joysticks and a number of switches used for activating special functions.

Inside the model glider sits a reciever and a battery. The reciever decodes the signals from the transmitter and controls a number of servos (small motors) that operate the controls on the plane. Usually, a model glider has at least 2 servos installed - one for steering up/down (elevator) - and one for steering sideways (rudder). Additional servos can be used for controlling other functions on a plane like ailerons, flaps, spoilers and landing gear.

A glider is usually a plane without a motor. It is able to fly due to it's weight and the aerodynamics of the wings. When a glider flies, it slowly looses altitude in order to maintain airspeed.

Instead of a motor, gliders require "thermals" - warm air rising upwards - which can help the glider to climb higher. Another option is using upwind created by the landscape. Wind heading towards a mountain is forced up and can be used by a glider.

    A glider can be launched in these ways:

you can..
- throw it into the air
- tow it up with a motorized airplane
- throw it off a cliff, hill or a mountain
- pull it up with a line (like a kite)

The last method is the most common one used. The force for pulling the line can be created by using powerfull rubberbands, by pulling manually (2 people) or by using an electrical powered winch.

Another option is to use a built-in motor that can help the plane climb and gain altitude. When enough hight has been gained, the motor can be shut off and the plane acts as a glider.

When you fly model gliders you get in close contact with wind, weather and nature. The objective is usually to find thermals, because when you do, the model gains energy to fly high, far and fast.

Beside being able to steer the model glider, lots of other things influence the flight. Wind, temperature, sun, humidity and clouds all have a part in the creation of thermals. Elements in the landscape - hills, trees and fields - all have a part in determining where and how the thermals occur. The behaviour of birds and the reaction of trees to wind change - it can tell you where the thermal is.

It's facinating to fly the model gliders, but to some of the people enjoying this hobby, two more things are just as important.

1) constructing and building the planes. It's always a special thing to have built your own airplane and then see it fly. During the winter, many hours of cutting balsa or moulding carbon-fiber can be spent. However, it's always possible to buy ready-to-fly kits instead.

2) competition. Even though it's "only" a hobby, there are pleanty of chances to compete against each other. Various championships in several different classes are held on a national and regional scale. The ultimate challenge is the World Championship.

All in all, a hobby with something for everyone.
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