Radio Control Flying Terminology

Radio Control Flying Terminology

As someone new to the thrilling hobby of flying radio control (RC) airplanes, helicopters and/or drones, you might be seeing lots of words and terms that you're not familiar with.

The more involved with the hobby you become, the more you'll understand all these terms, but I thought I'd explain some of the more common ones that you're likely to see when doing your RC research. Do note, though, that some words and terms differ between countries. For example, there are several differences between the UK and USA. These differences are only small, but they are worth knowing about.

Here we go then, some common RC related terminology...

RC - short for 'radio control' but you might also see it referred to as 'remote control'. Either way it just means that the model is being controlled by radio signals.

Transmitter - this is the component that you hold in your hands, and it's the thing that generates those radio signals each time you move the transmitter sticks, or flick a switch. 'Tx' is a short way of writing 'transmitter'.
You'll likely see the terms 'Mode 1' and/or 'Mode 2' mentioned in association with transmitter information. This simply refers to which sticks on the transmitter operate which primary functions of your model. Mode 2 is the common mode.

Receiver - this is the component fitted inside your model that receives and decodes the radio signals sent from your transmitter. 'Rx' is a short way of writing 'receiver'.

Servo - the Rx sends each signal on to the relevant servos, which then move a certain way in response to those signals. As each servo is directly connected, by a linkage, to the model's control surfaces (and other moveable features of the model), so those surfaces are moved by the servo - thus controlling your model.

Control surfaces - these are the sections of wing, tailplane and fin that move in response to your inputs at the transmitter, to control the flight path of your model. The main control surfaces are...

Ailerons - located on the trailing edge (back edge) of each wing. Ailerons control how the aircraft rolls about an imaginary line running from nose to tail. As one aileron moves up, so the other one moves down. The wing with the up-going aileron will drop, and vice versa, thus rolling the plane in the intended direction. An upward-moving left aileron and downward moving right aileron will roll the plane to the left, and vice versa.
Elevator - located on the trailing edge of the tailplane (also known as the horizontal stabiliser). The elevators control the 'pitch attitude' of the model, in other words whether the nose of the aircraft points up or down. Elevators directly affect the airspeed of the aircraft (nose up = decrease in speed, nose down = increase in speed).

Rudder - located on the trailing edge of the fin (or vertical stabiliser). The rudder controls the 'yaw' of the aircraft, in other words whether the nose is pointing to the left, right or straight on.

Flaps - located on the trailing edge of each wing, between the ailerons and fuselage. Flaps move downwards and create more lift at slower speeds, and also increase drag to slow the model for landing. Beginner RC planes won't have flaps, but faster planes likely will.

ESC - this stands for electronic speed controller and is the component that controls the speed of the motor, when you move the throttle stick of the transmitter. The ESC is connected between the battery pack and the motor of the aircraft.

Li-Po - short for lithium polymer, it is a type of battery chemistry commonly used in radio control models these days. You might see the battery also referred to as a battery pack or flight pack.

RTF - this stands for Ready To Fly and just means that the aircraft you buy is more or less completely assembled. There is no building to be done - you can just charge the battery, perhaps do some basic assembly (such as attaching the wing) and go. RTF aircraft are excellent for beginners.

ARF (or ARTF) - this stands for Almost Ready To Fly and means that the plane requires some work to complete it, and the motor and radio control gear needs to be installed. Some degree of model building knowledge is required to complete an ARF aircraft.

Kit - a kit model needs to be built over plans from scratch, with the bits of wood and hardware provided in the box. It's an involved process that takes time, but is very satisfying to do! You should have some good model building experience behind you before you attempt a kit build.

CG, CoG, or Centre of Gravity - this is an important location on an aircraft, and it's a point where the aircraft balances horizontally, when looking at it from the side - rather like the fulcrum of a see-saw. An aircraft must balance correctly to fly properly - if the aircraft is too heavy at the nose or the tail then the flight characteristics are affected. A tail-heavy aircraft can be completely uncontrollable. Nose-heavy isn't so bad, but you should always strive to get your aircraft balancing correctly according to the manufacturers CG instructions.

2.4GHz - this is simply the radio frequency range that modern radio control systems operate within.


Well there are just a few of the more common words and terms that you're likely to encounter, as you begin your exciting journey in to the world of radio control flying!

For a more detailed list, you can visit my rc flying glossary at

The important thing to note is that you mustn't let all these new terms frighten you! You'll quickly get used to what they all mean, and getting to know the meanings will give you a better understanding of the hobby.


Happy Landings!


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