What would make a great lighting system? - RC Groups
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Oct 15, 2004, 07:00 PM
jswayze's Avatar

What would make a great lighting system?

I've been approached to design a modular lighting system for R/C vehicles and wanted to do some market research as I begin the design process.

Here are some questions to consider (for those who are interested in buying such a system and not building it themselves):

1. How important is weight to you? Would it be a good idea to offer several different sytems, ie. "featherweight" for indoor flyers, "lightweight" for parkflyers, and a standard large-scale plane-type system?

2. Would it be a good idea to offer light colors other than the standard white, green, and red? With LEDs (the most likely source of light in this system) there are other colors available such as blue, blue-green, yellow, orange, and ultraviolet.

3. There are two primary ways to power a lighting system. One is directly off the receiver, using either a dedicated channel or tapping off a used channel. The other way is to tap off the battery and use a voltage regulator (a small integrated circuit) to create a constant voltage power source. Do you have any strong feelings about one or the other? What would be your choice?

4. Regarding a control system, what would you like your lights to do? Systems out there today usually offer 2 choices, blink or constant. Is the ability to program the controller of value, or would it be better if half the plugs flashed and half were steady? What if you could control each led independently, perhaps controlling the duration of the flash (ie, strobe), the number of flashes, etc? How about the ability to tie into another channel as a control, such as turning on landing lights when your throttle channel goes below a certain point? Is this a feature you'd pay extra for?

5. How many lights would you want to be able to control with the system? Would you be interested in a modular system that, say, could handle 4 LEDs per module, and you could add on up to 4 more modules?

6. What would you be willing to pay for a system assuming it had all the features you wanted and was easy to use?

I realize I'm asking for a lot of information, but any and all feedback will help me create a better product. If you'd like to share your feedback, please reply to this thread. If you'd like your response to be kept private, please PM me.


-Jeff Swayze
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Oct 15, 2004, 08:01 PM
Striving to Rip the Bring
raptor22's Avatar
I have not used lights (so I don't know how valuable this is), but have thought about it and these are my opinions on it.

1. I think it is very important, and that various systems would be quite useful. You could probably hold off on the large scale stuff, because most people will not fly anything large fast or aerobatic at night. Plus, the AMA restricts it over 80 mph.

2. Some Other light colors would be nice, assuming they do not make everything appreciably more expensive. Otherwise, no.

3. Definitely receiver! its easy and super light.

4. I think this is a matter of taste, but I would like to see simply flash and strobe. However, independent led control would be very nice especially for low-light number systems. Landing lights would b really cool; add scale effect.

5. lets say 10, with a modular system being fine.

6. about $20-30 or a little more if it was really nice.

Oct 15, 2004, 08:03 PM
Striving to Rip the Bring
raptor22's Avatar
Oh, just notice you could add UV. DOes that mean black light (UV rays are invisible...)?

That would rock to have a fuse with neon stripes and those at the root of the wing.....

Oct 15, 2004, 08:13 PM
jswayze's Avatar
Yep, UV is black light

Also, the tap off the battery would require an additional connector and a couple of electronic components... you're looking at a little over 5 g for 2 Dean's Ultra plus electronics and about 3 g for JST-type connectors. The circuit board could weigh anywhere from 3-10 g (rough guess)

Oh, and the magnet wire I'm considering using (36 AWG) weighs between .02 g/ft and .03 g/ft.

Last edited by jswayze; Oct 15, 2004 at 08:15 PM.
Oct 15, 2004, 11:41 PM
dalbert02's Avatar
In my experience, lights need to installed on the inside of the airplane as this causes the covering material to glow. Thus, it is really hard to get a good lighting system installed in an ARF or an already covered model. LEDs project a rather narrow beam which can cause orientation problems if attached to the outside of the airframe and pointing outwards. Diffusing the LEDs with sandpaper helps, but glow wire is even better. The general consensus with putting LEDs on already built plane is to have them pointed towards the aircraft so that the light is reflected by the airframe and more of the plane is visible.

Powering the lighting system off the Rx is going to be hard since the current draw may exceed what the Rx can put out, especially with park fliers using small GWS Rx's.

UV LEDs might be hard to come by and pricey, like $4/ea vs. red, yellow, green as low as $0.15

I'm not entirely sure I understand what this product would offer over going to Radio Shack and picking up some LEDs, and a 5v voltage regulator chip, and a resistor. I'm not knocking your effort, but your intended audience is probably more electrically capable then your average citizen. People, in general, are cheap so the price has to be near what buying the parts locally would be. Mass producing these sytems might get you a better discount on parts, but that will be eaten up by advertising expenses.

I applaud your efforts, but I think the business plan needs to be revisited to see if it is econimically viable.

Please don't misconstrue my opinions as deragatory, I am trying to help.
Oct 16, 2004, 01:36 AM
Striving to Rip the Bring
raptor22's Avatar
That's occured to me as well, but a few companies have laready been successfull at offering nice led systems similar to this powered by the rx for about $30. I just like the idea of blinking and radio controlled landing lights . I really haven't considered a lighting system to but for myself, but I do think it would be easier thatn building my own. i'm crappy with a soldering iron.
Oct 16, 2004, 06:24 AM
jswayze's Avatar
dalbert: your comments are certainly not derrogatory - all information in this phase of a project is useful! One point you made is a little off, however - UV LEDs can be had for $.60 if you know where to get them (this isn't a sales pitch thread, so PM me if you want some )

raptor: your response is typical and frankly is what is driving this project - that is, many people don't have the inclination (or in some cases the talent) to do the soldering work themselves. If that number of people is great enough, then the business plan might hold up. Obviously Curtek is selling them, but you can always go to Mr RC-CAM's website (excellent, BTW) and get his info to program a PIC and wire up your own board. Just depends on how much work you want to do. Time vs. money and all that



[ps - going on vacation 'till next Friday... may or may not be able to post depending on internet access at hotel]
Oct 18, 2004, 09:59 AM
Registered User
rcav8r2's Avatar
I ordered some LEDs from you as to me this is a no-brainer set up BUT I know about 80% of the guys in my club would definatly go for the plug and play set up.
Totally unscientific, but for every guy here that says, geesh I can do that myself for a whole lot less, there probably are 5 other guys who would pay for a plug and play set up.
Sure there are other systems like this out there; you just need to set yours appart from the rest.

(I would give examples, but I have no idea what else is out there other than knowing they exist )
Oct 18, 2004, 10:45 AM
Registered User
RGose's Avatar
Originally Posted by dalbert02
I applaud your efforts, but I think the business plan needs to be revisited to see if it is econimically viable.
Although I have built a few RC-CAM systems, and really like them (https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/show...55#post2616155), I want to add that I still bought two Curtek systems for their advanced features, especially the sequential multi-wink strobe output. Look at the Lear video on Curtek's site, you'll see what I mean: http://www.curtek.com/gallery/movies/learjet.wmv
Oct 18, 2004, 04:05 PM
Moths do not fly inverted
LJH's Avatar
While I am no expert I have made up a home made system and also use the Curtek system. I have to say that the Curtek system rocks, light weight, has switchable outputs, and is light. Not sure what else one would want.

Good Luck.

Oct 18, 2004, 06:12 PM
Registered User
RGose's Avatar
No doubt. The RC-CAM system works well for most my needs, but as Jim indicated, the Curtek system leaves you wanting very little. I'm using the Curtek system with planes in which I want to add eye-candy.

If you really want a hot seller, I think a system for larger models, with features similar to the Curtek system, but based on xenon strobes would be well received. The xenon tubes would be daylight-visible and add a lot of presence to a model large enough for them.
Oct 22, 2004, 12:40 AM
jswayze's Avatar
Thanks for all your input, folks. If you have any more input regarding features (must-have, nice-to-have, pie-in-the-sky) I'd love to hear it!

Oct 22, 2004, 09:38 AM
cwaldo's Avatar
I purchased a bunch of LEDs from the site below, they are very bright at 22000 mcd, and only cost $2 each. I lit up a Tiny and a Light Stick with just two leds on each plane.....total cost per plane with 10 ohm resistors was about $5 bucks........ran them off the aux port of the receiver......Lots of fun!

Oct 22, 2004, 09:47 AM
stone_axe's Avatar

I have salvaged a few mini flourescent bulbs and their transformers from scanners left out for junk pickup the are about 9" wide and 5/32 in diameter and very bright - many times brighter than a comaprable row of LEDs.

The weight is about 1.5 oz for the transformer and .5 oz for each tube and its wires.

I have gotten 2 to run off of just one transformer too - but they need 10-16v to operate.
Oct 22, 2004, 01:11 PM
jswayze's Avatar
Be careful when looking at the "mcd" (millicandella) number - many of these are greatly inflated because no consumer really knows what they're getting. They know "dim," "bright," and "really bright" but that's about it. I've found the only you really know is to compare two LEDs side-by-side. I've done this with LEDs "rated" at 5000 and 10,000 mcd, and yes, the 10,000 mcd is brighter, but *just barely*. Buyer beware!

Also, $2.00 is way overpriced for a high-brightness LED. You can get about the same thing for $.60


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