A Brief Introduction to Radio-Controlled Gliding
Plans for three of Armada's RC model gliders are now available to purchase from myhobbystore.co.uk.
In a world that is increasingly mindful of environmental issues, radio controlled gliders (also called soarers or sailplanes) are extremely "green", since they use naturally occurring rising currents of air to keep them aloft.
Although the majority of model glider pilots just fly for fun, there are national and even international competitions for those interested in this aspect of the sport. Two main categories of glider exist, namely thermal soarers and slope soarers.
Thermal soarers are usually launched by means of a towline or bungee. The main aim of thermal soaring is to keep the model airborne for as long as possible by use of atmospheric convection.
A thermal soaring competition is not unlike fishing. You look for indications of thermic activity using your knowledge of the local terrain and the presence of convective cloud, then you 'cast' your model into the blue. A displaced wingtip is a good sign of rising air, so you 'reel-in' the thermal by turning towards it and circling to (hopefully) fly within its core. With luck, you'll 'catch' some lift and maybe even win the comp.
Slope soarers are a different kettle of fish. They are usually smaller, with wings of a lower aspect ratio. As the name implies, slope soarers are flown from a hill. The wind has to be directly onto the hill so that air is forced upwards. Unlike thermal soaring this rising air is very predictable and reliable, allowing models to be flown for long periods. Scale and aerobatic models are popular among slope soaring folk.
Within the two broad categories detailed above exists a great variety of models and performance is constantly improving as technology evolves.
"Discus-Launch Gliders" are an exciting example of a new fashion, allowing a simple hand-launch technique to provide all the motive force required for long-duration flights (see composite picture below, illustrating the discuss launch technique using a Snickersnee soarer).
At the other end of the scale, the new RC glider phenomenon of "Dynamic-Soaring" sees models reaching speeds in excess of 400 mph! Whatever the future brings to RC soaring, it's guaranteed to be exciting.