Night flying is very exciting. Lights have made night flying as easy as flying in the day. Planes fly the same in the dark as as they do in the light. When lighting your plane, it is important to design your plane so you can tell top from bottom; this will help with orientation. Any type of aircraft can be used for night flying; however, slower, stable-type aircraft like trainers are best for night flying. EPP flying wings also tend to be popular as they are simple and strong. There are several options available for installing lights. This page will discuss lighting ideas and installations, show demonstration videos and web links to obtain lights. Also at the bottom of the page you can download the PDF – Simple RC Night Flying Setup for the Beginner Guide.
Equipping an airplane with lights can be economical or expensive – it all depends on your imagination. You can install lights from scratch or purchase light kits that are preassembled. Although there are various options available, below is a list that will provide some insight and where to obtain the best deals for lights.
3528 LED Strips
5050 LED Strips
Aurora RC Bright lights
LED lights – steady and flashing
3528 LED Strips
The 3528 LED strip uses very little power and tends to be the most popular. The strips very in size – LEDs per meter. The most common size used for RC is 60 LED’s per meter. One or two strips of lights won’t make a big difference in how long your plane will fly. The lights are powered by 12 volts. The size of the LED is 3.5mm X 2.8mm. Each set of lights uses between 0.6 and 1 watt, so figure that in to the battery needs you will have for your plane if you are using many sets of lights. There is no limit on how many strands of different colored lights are used. There are light controllers you can buy to get a flashing light show that you can control from your transmitter. If you see that the lights dim as you go full throttle, you are overloading your battery or your battery is going dead. The most economical place to purchase these LED strips is on eBay. It is best to get the non waterproof LEDs, as the waterproof LED strips have heat shrink over the strip and are heavier. Many online stores will carry these 3528 LED strip lights, but I find the most economical place to buy them is on eBay. You can buy a 5 meter non waterproof roll for about $5 shipped on eBay.
5050 LED Strips
The 5050 LED light strip is not as practical for night flying use as the 3528 LED light strip. However, It is far more powerful than the 3528. It feature 3 chips in one housing, and because of this is is sometimes called a tri-chips or triple core LED strips. The 5050 LED lighting strips are high-performance, bright and have a wider array of options such as their availability in single colors and also as a RGB (Red, Green, Blue) color-changable type. The 5050 RGB version requires an additional control unit, but features highly flexible multi-color mode and can easily be adjusted into various colors and color combinations. The 5050 LED light strip is about 3x brighter than the 3528 LED light strip. The 5050 LED light strip consumes more power and a ca. 7.5W per meter, while sometimes LED manufacturers might also offer extra powerful ultra-white 5050 LED light strips that can emit up to 720lm per meter with a power usage of up to 14.5W per meter. The lights are powered by 12 volts. The size of the LED is 5.5mm X 5.5mm. The 5050 LED light strips are more expensive. The most economical place to purchase these LED strips is on eBay. It is best to get the non waterproof LEDs, as the waterproof LED strips have heat shrink over the strips. You can buy a 5 meter non waterproof roll for about $9 shipped on eBay.
Aurora RC Bright Lights
Ever thought about flying at night, or are you tired of flying by dots with low quality and low level lights? Fear no more! Aurora RC makes night flying easier than ever before. Now you can fly your plane with peace of mind at dusk or even on the darkest nights.
Aurora RC’s plug and play lighting system is the brightest on the market and is easy to install. You can see the entire plane and how it is performing at any given moment clearly in the sky or on the ground at take offs or landings. Best of all, it can withstand the most aggressive aerobatics. Aurora RC LED lighting is brighter than any other product on the market and has light kits available for micro planes up to 50% scale. The Aurora RC LEDs can be bought at their website or Tower Hobbies.
Electroluminescent materials, El wire or known as glow wire, was one of the most popular ways to light an aircraft before the LED strips. The glow wire can bend around the airframe to outline the shape of the aircraft. It can also be used to make shapes. The glow wire requires a 12V DC to AC inverter. The plus side of it is you can illuminate the plane relatively inexpensive. On the downside, the glow wire is it is heavy, delicate to solder, and not bright compared to LED strip lights. The most economical place to purchase glow wire and acessories is eBay. Radio Shack also sells glow wire, but at a premium price.
LED lights – steady and flashing
These lights are excellent for scale airplanes like warbirds or general aviation planes. These setups also don’t draw a lot of battery power and are generally powered through the aircraft receiver. Their voltage range is 4 to 6 volts. There are several LED light manufacturers that have kits available. These kits can be purchased through eBay, Hobby King, Horizon Hobbies or Tower Hobbies. No matter what light kit you get, they will all work well. The price range varies, with some kits offering mounting hardware and accessories. eBay, again, will offer the best deal for these lights. Below are pictures and links of some of the available light kits. Click on the pictures to take you the website.
Axial LED Light Set w/Controller and Lights
Integy Complete 8 LED Light Kit w/Control Box Module
Nightfly2, 14 LED Warbird Navigation Sys, 5mm, 14″/24″ by
RC LIGHTS – Horizon Hobbies.
Turnigy R/C LED Lighting System – Hobby King.
8 LED Flashing Light Bulb System for RC Helicopter Plane (Chinese) – eBay
Soldering the 3528 LED Strips
Connecting 3528 LED Strips to the Battery
Using the balance plug on the battery as the power source for the lights.
(See photos below) It can easily carry enough power to run your LED light strips. This leaves the larger power wire on the battery free to hook to the speed controller without having to make a special connector to run the lights. You need to buy a balance plug extension wire and modify it and use it as a plug for connecting the lights. You will only use the end of the extension that plugs onto the battery. See pictures below.
You only need to connect to the black and red outside wires on the extension plug.
Pull out the yellow and green wires. Cut off the black and red wires to desired length that will reach from the lights to the battery. Double check with a volt meter that you have 11.1+ volts from the wires when plugged into the balance plug. If the voltage is less, you may not have the two end wires on the connector. LED lights have two different colored wires. The colored wire often indicates the color of the lights. The black wire is ground.
Wire the lights to the balance connector plug wires matching the ground and power wires.
Several sets of LED lights can be powered off of the one plug. Solder and wire-nut the wires together as needed to get power to all of the lights. Have all sets of light wires connect to the plug unless you understand the lights well enough to make longer chains of lights. If you need to disassemble your aircraft for transport, use polarized Deans mini plugs to connect wing lights to fuselage and tail lights.
Here is the guide:
Simple RC Night Flying Setup for the Beginner
To learn more about what other people are doing, you can follow the build threads on RC Groups in the Night Flying Forum. Below is the link: