How to Charge an RC Airplane's Batteries

Written by kevin ann reinhart
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How to Charge an RC Airplane's Batteries
RC aircraft batteries differ by cell type and method of charging. (rc aeroplane, image by Greg Pickens from Fotolia.com)

Remote control model aircraft use one of three types of rechargeable batteries. The earliest models relied upon Nickel Cadmium, or NiCd, a relatively inexpensive but environmentally hazardous power cell. NiCd cells required complete discharge after every use or risked losing battery life. Cadmium was harmful to the environment. Nickel Metal Hydride, or NiMH batteries, provide greater capacity by weight than NiCd and do not lose cell life with improper discharge. Lithium Polymer, or LiPo cells, offer twice the capacity for half the weight of NiMH batteries while providing higher voltage and power output. Unfortunately, overcharging LiPo cells poses a fire hazard. Charging differs with battery type.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • NiCad, NiMH or LiPo battery packs
  • Battery charger for NiCd/NiMH cells
  • Battery charger for LiPo cells
  • OR
  • Combination NiCd/NiMH/LiPo charger
  • Peak detection charger for NiMH battery

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Connect your NiCad battery charger to your NiCad battery pack according to charger directions.

  2. 2

    Follow the instructions for charge rate indicated on the charger.

  3. 3

    Use the battery immediately after charging.

  4. 4

    Ensure the battery is fully discharged before storage to avoid loss of storage capacity.

  1. 1

    Connect your NiMH battery charger to your NiMH battery pack according to package directions. A peak detection charger is best for this battery type.

  2. 2

    Charge your battery at a rate of capacity divided by 10. A 700mAh milliamps per hour battery should be charged at 70 milliamps or 70 ma per hour, taking 10 hours to charge.

  3. 3

    Charge your battery to its full capacity. Do not over or undercharge.

  4. 4

    Do not allow the pack to fully discharge. This will harm a NiMH battery pack.

  1. 1

    Connect your LiPo battery charger to your LiPo battery pack according to package directions.

  2. 2

    Charge with a constant current, constant voltage method. Do not peak charge as you would a NiMH cell.

  3. 3

    Do not allow discharge below 3.0v per cell. Use an electronic speed controller or ESP programmed to provide low-voltage cut-off.

Tips and warnings

  • Charge a spare set of batteries for immediate use to avoid over or undercharging your battery packs in the field.
  • Use battery chargers designed for your battery type. Failure to do so could cause damage to your battery and the battery charger and result in a fire.
  • LiPo batteries overheat easily. Always follow charger directions.

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