How to Choose an Airfoil for RC Gliders

Updated March 23, 2017

The world of remote-controlled aviation is actually much more complex than many people would imagine. There are countless peripherals, mod kits and premium parts available for almost any model of RC glider. These parts can transform a run-of-the-mill toy plane into an incredibly agile model glider capable of reaching considerable heights and speeds. Choosing the right airfoil is one of the most important aspects of customising any RC glider. Airfoils are specialised wings that feature distinctive aerodynamic shapes. The shape and size of the airfoils determines how air is split as it hits the wing, which is the primary mechanism behind lift, the force that enables flight.

Create a budget. Premium RC glider parts can be very expensive, but there are distinct price tiers within the RC glider market. While more expensive airfoils often offer better results than cheaper alternatives, the margins of change become extremely small after a certain point. While you may wish to have the very best parts on your RC glider, it is not always wise to spend top dollar due to the delicacy of RC gliders and the relatively small increase in performance.

Determine what kind of performance you want to achieve with your modified RC glider. High-lift airfoils with a modified parabolic shape are often sold at a premium price, claiming to offer the best lift and consequently longer flight times and faster climb as the aircraft increases elevation. However these high-lift airfoils can cause serious handling problems when installed on smaller RC glider models and are put to best use on models with large bodies and long wingspans. Rectangular airfoils are usually the cheapest, and are generally looked down upon for having a high drag coefficient. These wings will reduce flight time and can reduce fuel efficiency when installed on larger models. However, when they are installed on small models they can offer very good flight speed at little cost. Multi-taper airfoils fall somewhere between high-lift and rectangular airfoils in cost. These wings provide decent performance across the board but require a greater deal of fine-tuning with each flight. They also tend to be a bit heavier than other airfoils, which can compromise the flying efficiency of lighter RC gliders. Ultimately, your airfoil will tweak existing performance but will not make too drastic of a change in flight quality without further modifications.

Locate a vendor and examine your options. Solicit advice from enthusiasts or store employees if you are new to the world of RC gliders. Most enthusiasts have gone through a large number of gliders and airfoils in their time and can help you make an informed decision.

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About the Author

Jacob Stover is a writer and editor from Ann Arbor. He has been writing professionally since 2009. His work has been published in the "Wayne State University Literary Review." He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and film studies from Wayne State University.