The bind and fly game changer. Some RC airplane kits are sold with everything you need. Quite literally, ready to go flying, straight out of the box. These electric RC planes are known as ‘Ready to Fly’ and are a ton of fun. They are probably the best way to get low cost RC flying experience.
So, for the benefit of those who are new to RC flying and as I’m sure most already know, Your RC ‘transmitter’ electronically converts your manual stick inputs into a radio signal. This signal is picked up by the ‘receiver’ inside your RC plane. It is acted upon and causes the actuators to move the control surfaces on the RC plane via a series of control rods and linkages.
RC transmitters are identified by the number of channels they offer. Each channel controls a separate function on-board the RC plane. Logically, if an RC plane has 6 channels. You need a 6 channel transmitter. A 4 channel plane requires a 4 channel transmitter, and so on.
Generally speaking, you need enough channels for the control surfaces. Ailerons, elevator and rudder. Throttle control requires its own channel as well. If you’re RC plane has trailing edge flaps and retractable landing gear, each of those will have a channel assigned to them.
Ready to fly RC planes are supplied with a transmitter, albeit a very basic one. Each time you buy a Ready to fly plane you get to learn another new transmitter and add it to your collection.
When you have gained enough flying experience (and built up your transmitter collection), you might start looking for more challenging RC plane. This is where you should give some thought to your next RC transmitter and plane.
I’m going to suggest you consider making a slightly larger investment in your RC flying career. I’m going to ask you to seriously think about an RC plane that is supplied with a technology called Bind and Fly.
Bind and fly is sometimes referred to as B&F, Bind-n-Fly or BNB. This type of RC plane is supplied with the receiver already installed and connected.
But, wait …. you don’t get a transmitter. This is where you move up a gear and invest in a good quality bind and fly transmitter and an RC plane to match.
An ideal choice, for many is the Spektrum DX6e. It is an inexpensive, 2.4GHz, six channel transmitter that is simple and easy to use. Most RC planes will only use 3 or 4 channels at a time. This channels free for other functions and upgrades, such as landing gear and flaps.
If you decide this is a good option for you, you will fly all of your bind and fly RC planes with the same transmitter. Which is extremely handy since you don’t need to learn how to use a new transmitter every time you buy a new plane. Nor, do you need to haul several transmitters back and forth to the flying field and maintain each of them with fresh batteries.
The Spektrum DX6e transmitter is an ideal choice, I heartily recommend them for bind and fly planes. The transmitter has 250 memory slots. You allocate a slot for each RC plane you own (or borrow). You can. Quite literally, fly 250 RC planes (one at a time) with just one transmitter.
Another candidate is the Futaba 14SG. This offers 14 channels (2.4GHz) which also utilizes their FASSTest technology. This is, arguably, one of the most sophisticated and capable transmitters that is available to the average RC flyers.
The transmitter’s frequency changes several hundred times per second. This makes for a very secure RC flight control system that completely eliminates signal interruption and any other potential signal conflict. As an added bonus, you don’t need a frequency PIN with this transmitter.
The transmitter supports a broad range of telemetry functions. It also takes advantage of Futaba’s frequency hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) technology. Which is a complex blend of ‘black magic’, algorithmic genius and pseudorandom sequencing. Their aim was to provide RC flyers with a more dependable and reliable transmitter. Which it most definitely has! It also offers extremely low latency. Which means less reaction time between stick input on the transmitter and response from the RC plane’s receiver.
Another great option is the Flysky i6X. This 2.4 GHz transmitter offers the highest range of features at a remarkably low price. The Flysky i6X is a 10 channel transmitter but arrives set to 6 channels as default. The other channels are activated in the setup menu, if you need them. The transmitter is supplied with a receiver and is pre-bound. A USB cable for updating the firmware is also provided. Simple and easy to use, the Flysky i6X has a large backlit LCD display which helps you to navigate around the menus.
The on-board memory stores up to 20 models. You can easily switch back and forth between fixed wing, helicopters and drones. It even has a trainer port.
Flysky’s automatic frequency hopping digital system (AFHDS) ensures optimum transmitter range and super is reliable. Designed to provide a strong stable signal while eliminating interference from other devices. The Flysky i6X is, for the money, an excellent entry level choice for a Bind and fly RC pilot.
Build quality is pretty much what you would expect for an RC transmitter in this price range. It has a great range of feature and is well up in its lineage.
Bind and fly makes a lot of sense. You are already used to one type of transmitter. The ‘muscle memory’ in your hands and fingers means you intuitively know where the buttons and levers are at. If you break plane (or sell it on), you don’t need to get rid of the transmitter, just look for RC airplane kits that are marked as Bind and Fly capable.
Bind-n-Fly DSM technology
Bind and fly RC planes were developed around DSM radio technology. The DSM receiver locks onto the signal emitted by the transmitter and stores it. The entire ‘binding’ process takes seconds.
There are huge advantages to Bind and Fly RC planes. To give you some context, here is the background on early RC transmitters.
Back in days before cell phones had cameras and music was on cassette tape, RC planes were assigned their own radio frequency.
The 72 MHz frequency was divided into 50 separate channels starting at 11 and ending at 60. Back then, a ‘channel’ meant the frequency at which your RC plane and transmitter was set. It also meant that only one RC plane on that ‘channel’ could fly at any one time.
These days, modern 2.4 GHz transmitters, use frequency hopping technology. The Transmitter signal ‘hops’ across different RC channels in an irregular pattern. A similar system, called ‘Direct Sequencing’ bounces the RC signal back and forth across the available frequencies. It’s difficult to determine which system is the best. But, both are equally good at preventing signal interference and degradation which ensure zero loss of control in the air.
It was a major drag when you wanted to fly, but couldn’t because somebody else was on the same radio frequency. The radio frequency was denoted by the color of the pennant on the transmitter’s antenna. The flying field would usually have a chalk board that would schedule the RC planes on the same ‘channel’.
A flying queue was the norm and good etiquette required that you wait your turn. While the vast majority of RC flyers were careful and considerate. There was always the risk that someone would switch on their transmitter, start messing about with the controls and nosedive your RC plane into the deck.
Bind and fly with your friends
Modern transmitters operate on the 2.4 GHz frequency which has better capability for eliminating radio interference. Which in turn, eliminated the need for the scheduling board.
As technology rolls ever onwards, the electronic magic inside a modern 2.4 GHz transmitter lends itself to other applications.
Each bind and fly transmitter has its own individual identifying code. Called a Global Unique Identifier (GUID). There are over 4 billion code combinations available for RC use. The odds of someone else having the same code in their transmitter are extremely low.
DSM technology, completely eliminates RC transmitter interference. Which means, everyone on the same transmitter frequency can fly at the same time. Even if they are standing shoulder to shoulder. There is no risk of control loss.
RC Airplane kits
You should note, there are RC airplane kits on the market where the transmitter and the receiver are purchased separately. Which means, you have to go shopping for a suitable receiver. Then you need install it and connect it and make sure its functioning properly. A better idea, would be to get someone who knows what they are doing to handle all that for you.
This type of RC airplane kit is aimed at the more ‘experienced’ enthusiast. Someone who wants extra capability and functionality of rotating gun turrets, bomb doors and smoke generators.
Bind and fly RC planes under $100
Horizon Hobby – Sport Cub S2. This is a bind and fly trainer plane that features Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope (SAFE) which is a flight stabilization technology that guards against loss of control. Ideal for first time pilots. It is a micro design and can be flown in parks and other areas where space is at a premium.
E-Flight – UMX PT-17. This bind and fly, 4 channel, RC plane is fully assembled and ready to fly (after you charge the battery of course). It is aerobatic capable and features the AS3X stabilization across 3 axis and Spektrum 6-channel receiver.
Bind and Fly RC planes over $100
E-flight UMX Turbo Timber. An updated design with a powerful motor and 3 bladed propeller. It has a short take and landing capability. It can take off and land on water (if you buy the floats). It’s fitted with the SAFE flight stabilization system. It is fully assembled and can be bound to its Spektrum receiver in seconds.
Hobby Zone – Aero Scout. Designed for first time RC pilots it is an excellent trainer. The propeller is mounted at the rear in a pusher configuration. This keeps the prop safe from damage in the event of a bumpy landing. It has the Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope (SAFE) stabilization system fitted as standard along with a bind and fly Spektrum receiver.
Spektrum DSM2 technology
It is worth saying that Spektrum did improve upon DSM radio technology by developing its own DSM2 version. The actual procedure for binding, between one manufacturer and another might differ slightly but for any 2.4 GHz system but it’s more or less the same. Power up the receiver and transmitter, push the binding button on the transmitter, watch for a flashing LED signal to confirm everything is peachy and you are done!
Bind and fly RC airplanes, powered gliders and helicopters are an excellent concept. I have owned several of them over the years. Although I feel it is mostly marketed to intermediate and advanced RC pilots, I would argue it has a place for beginners. If you are a student RC pilot or feel you could benefit from some intermediate training. Look for a good quality, transmitter that has provision for an instructor to ‘plug in’ to your transmitter, take control and demonstrate your RC plane.
There are several good products on the market for beginners (who don’t have access to training facilities) to build their flying experience.
With regard to training, you should check out the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA). You can find the nearest AMA chartered club on their website. Look for the ‘find a club’ link on their home page (www.modelaircraft.org). You can find out where the nearest club is and whether or not the club has instructors. You can also ask for advice on RC plane kits and equipment.
The editorial team