Types of Power for Flying Model Aircraft

There's a saying that if you see an aircraft soaring through the skies, there's a good chance that it has a miniature counterpart out there somewhere -- from a World War II-era P51 Mustang to the epitome of modern fighter jet, the F-16. And just like their multi-ton cousins, all model aircraft need a power source to get it off the ground. In some cases this power source comes via another plane or a good throw.

Gliders are arguably some of the cheapest models on the market and for a good reason: they have no engine of their own. Take your glider to the top of a hill on a windy day and you can let mother nature be your source of power.

One old and widely used method of powering a model aircraft is the elastic motor. This consists of, more or less, a rubber band that is wound up before the flight. The elastic motor appears on an array of models, from children's toys to serious high-end competition pieces, due to its durability and simplicity. It does have one fault however: the run time is quite short (though the competitive model can fly for up to an hour).

An often-seen type of power in simple flying model aircraft is gas propulsion. Using steam to power aircraft is a method even older than rubber and is now rarely seen. Using compressed CO2 by powering a piston-expansion engine is a much newer concept of gas propulsion.

Internal combustion engines come in a wide array of sizes and power. One of the most popular internal combustion methods is the glow engine. The glow engine requires an outside starting mechanism and its plug needs to be heated by electricity before it can reach a temperature high enough to trigger fuel ignition.

The jet- and rocket-powered aircraft models have used a number of engines, from turbine, to pulse jet, to rocket engines.

Since 2008, electric engines have become widespread amongst the model aircraft. The electric motor runs on batteries, and today nearly all model aircraft under 20 pounds can be powered by it. The price is usually the same or less than that of the more traditional fuel-powered engines.

An aircraft lover certainly has plenty to choose from today, be it the model, scale or type of power. There is bound to be something to suit everyone.

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