Workshop: Build a radio controlled fixed-wing airplane

Edit: Ticket sales are closed, sorry!

Let’s do it!

$150 if you need to buy a transmitter
$85 if you already have a transmitter, or plan to buy a different one
$0 if you want to help/heckle but don’t need any airplane parts

Event Description

In recent years, the RC hobby is being revolutionized by the development of cheap and super-energy-dense lithium polymer batteries, and the ongoing progress in miniaturization and mass production of electronics.

One of my favourite RC companies is Flite Test, they’re popularizing a construction technique that’s really fast, cheap and much easier than the old-school “stick and tissue” techniques that I spent hundreds of very enjoyable hours with as a kid.

All you need to make a Flite Test airframe is foamcore board (2-4 sheets at $1.25 each), a hot glue gun, a sharp knife, bamboo barbecue skewers, and occasionally other random bits found around the house.

We’ll be building a brand new design, the Flite Test Explorer. With a “pusher” configuration, it’s much harder to damage motors and props when the inevitable nose-first crashes happen.

You’ll get:

  • Enough foamcore board to make a complete airframe, with two wings (3-channel “trainer” wing, 4-channel “sport” wing). We’ll have some laser-cut acrylic cutting templates to make it easier.
  • Enough extra glue sticks, barbecue skewers, packing tape and duct tape to hold things together
  • A transmitter (“TX”) and receiver (“RX”) that operate using the 2.4GHz frequency band
  • Five servos – you only need two for a 3-channel trainer, or four for a 4-channel model, leaving a spare. We’ll give you a Y-harness to connect the aileron servos for the 4-channel wing.
  • Steel wire to connect the servos to control surfaces
  • Laser cut plywood motor mount and control horns
  • An electric motor (two different power levels to choose from), electronic speed controller (“ESC”) and a propeller
  • A Lithium Polymer (“LiPo”) battery large enough for ~20 minute flights
  • A LiPo battery charger

If you’re curious about the parts costs, I’ve made a Google Sheets spreadsheet.

You need to bring:

  • A hobby knife (e.g. X-Acto #11) and at least four spare blades
  • A hot glue gun. Because of the size of our wing, your glue gun has to be powerful. A 40-watt gun is barely sufficient, more is better. If you have trouble finding a powerful glue gun, let us know and we’ll order a few.
  • Lunch–we’ll have a half hour break around lunchtime
  • Enthusiasm for building and learning!

What about the flying part?

The workshop is likely to run all day, and it’ll be dark by the time it’s done. We’ll schedule some learn-to-fly days soon afterward, depending on weather and availability.

Instructor Bio

I’ve been building and flying rubber-powered free flight airplanes since I was a kid, but back then RC was incredibly expensive, you needed an amateur radio license to operate a transmitter, and it took dozens of hours to build an airplane. Now, everything is better!

I’m not charging anything for my time, I just want to introduce people to this fascinating hobby.

Build Video

If you want to get a head start, I highly recommend watching the FT Explorer build video.


This looks awesome! I am for sure coming - just gotta double check my December obligations.

They have massive bags of glue sticks at Summit Tools, I think the price was decent too.

I’m in.

Issues with your budget:

  • exchange rate is about 1.38 for CC payments at the moment
  • With some of the large value items you may end up with tax + service fees on the packages

You need a courier to receive a package in the US and take it to Canada?

I return most every weekend.
up to CAN$800 without paying any duty and taxes.

Won’t there be taxes on importing product from China into the US? I never looked into this. It should be at least state tax ( ~8,5% ) any other?

So far (fingers crossed) I haven’t been charged tax/duty on anything ordered from China. If the amounts get higher that may change though.

One more week until ticket sales close! I’m trying to leave about 6 weeks for shipping from China! :smile:

Do you have a photo to go with this workshop?
I can post this on VHS blog, facebook, and twitter pages. It will get a lot more traction then just TALK.

@funvill thanks, this is the “hero image” I’ve been using. :slight_smile:


I guess, strictly speaking, we don’t need super high-powered glue guns for everyone, just one or two should be good for the 2-3 joints in each wing that are extra long.

I have 2 x 40ish watt glue guns I can bring…

Awesome, I have one too, and I think I’ll pick up another 200W of my own.


I had ordered 5 FlySky FS-i6 transmitter/receiver sets, and they arrived today, they’re sitting on my desk at work. :slight_smile: In the past few days I’ve found the blog of a guy who’s been digging into the transmitter firmware, he seems to be making good progress but I’m not going to try anything just yet. :slight_smile:

Also ordered but not yet arrived:

  • 10 EMAX CF2822 motors
  • 10 30A electronic speed controllers (ESC)
  • 40 servos
  • 10 prop adapters
  • 20 props
  • 9 1300mAh LiPo batteries
  • 40 linkage stoppers (for attaching pushrods to servo horns without having to bend them)
  • 10 XT60 male connectors (to be soldered to the ESC input leads, to provide power)
  • 30 pairs 3.5mm bullet connectors (to be soldered to ESC output and motor input leads)

All that’s left to order:

  • Foamcore board
  • LiPo chargers (please tell me if you don’t need one)
  • 1mm Steel wire for pushrods
  • A high-power glue gun (e.g. AdTech 200)

Don’t bother with a LiPo charger for me as I have one…

More stuff arrived today:

Props, batteries and connectors from Hobby King

Lots of servos!

Tonight’s progress:

Finished editing the plans to remove all the helpful, colourful stuff, and get them down to two kinds of line:

  • Black: Cut through
  • Blue: Cut halfway through

Discourse doesn’t let me upload SVG files so here’s a zip file (36.0 KB). Nobody needs to download or do anything with it, this is just in case you’re curious.

Next up:

  • Make a drag knife cutter using some regular-sized CNC
  • Find a bigger CNC to actually cut the foamcore board on (Makerlabs has a huge one)
  • Re-place the parts into new SVG files sized appropriately for the target CNC’s operating dimensions, duplicating the parts that need to be mirrored (wing halves)
1 Like

Can someone please confirm the time for this course tomorrow (later today!). FB says 10am, VHS Calendar says 12pm. I’m assuming the later but want to double check.

Alas I don’t have a heavy duty glue gun. Will that be a problem?


I bought an 80W glue gun last night, we should be cool.

Scheduled start is at 10, but don’t worry about being late!

Call/text my cell at (604) 562-5137 with any questions/concerns.

btw is anyone a keyholder? I’m at the space now, I’ll go get coffee.