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Aug 16, 2002, 01:16 PM
Registered User

Model plane lighting system

I'm building a blown-up version of Fred Reese designed Electric Buttercup and intending to turn it into a flying lantern. My initial intention is to use LEDs for wing and fin tips, and halogen bulbs in the cabin and engine cowl nose light. Entire airplane will be covered in transparent film. Does anyone out there has any past experience and better suggestions? Thanx.
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Aug 16, 2002, 03:17 PM
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Mr.RC-CAM's Avatar
halogen bulbs in the cabin and engine cowl nose light.
For a lower current burden, use the high lumen (super bright) white LED's in these area.

Aug 16, 2002, 05:54 PM
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Tony Oliver's Avatar

Lightning system

You may find that with clear covering that all you see is lights! I'm not sure what would give the effect, but take a tip from the Mugi slopers - the Correx is translucent, and lights make the whole thing glow. I only have two high intensity leds each side, but the effect in total darkness is startling.

If you follow the link at you can download some movie of the night flying/led lit models.

Aug 16, 2002, 09:47 PM
Registered User
Originally posted by Mr.RC-CAM
For a lower current burden, use the high lumen (super bright) white LED's in these area.[/url]
Yes! So those super bright LEDs used on mini flashlights are called high lumen. It'll definitely be my first choice. Thanx for the enlightment.

The entire construction will be balsa trusses and I guess Correx is impractical. However, I believe some less opaque iron-on film can give the same effect. Has anyone tried it? Is opaque Monokote, Solarkote suitable? Thanx again.
Aug 16, 2002, 11:32 PM
Electrics, Tricopters, FPV
rcgreaves's Avatar

Night Lighting

I've experimented with a variety of lighting set-ups. My favorite, and worth a second look is RC Neon @ Two sets of contrasting color for top and bottom of wing or whatever will set you back $50. There is a power inverter box about 2'' square but the results when powered off a 9v transistor radio battery are very impressive. I fly my E Zagi right down to the deck as in daylight. Other methods were cheaper, this has been the most fun.
Aug 17, 2002, 11:43 AM
Cal Slope Criminal@DV
Duke58's Avatar
The leds have a lens and the light is focused in one direction , I took a fine sponge sanding tool to mine and the light was diffused and lit the area better. Somewhere here is a photo of my Avertura II that had lights in the wing panels ( I'm on the Ole Lady's Computer now, no RC crap allowed). The effect is great for nite flight , on the lake you'll get bass going for yer plane.

Try lighting the stab the way the airlines do , two leds shining up from the horizonal stab illuminating the vertical stab, this helps orientation , and watch out for barn owls!

Save Torrey Pines
Aug 18, 2002, 10:09 AM
Registered User
Does anyone know what's the voltage and current draw for high lumen LEDs? I'm thinking of putting some in the cabin and inside the wings to turn the model into a flying lantern. Green LED will be placed on the left wingtip, Red for right and if I can find, a blinking LED on the fin tip. Not quite sure about RC Neon as I can't even access to the website.
Aug 19, 2002, 12:37 PM
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Mr.RC-CAM's Avatar
Does anyone know what's the voltage and current draw for high lumen LEDs?
Unlike traditional LED's, the "Vf" voltage of the high brightness types are higher (usually range from 2 to 4 VDC at 20mA). You will need to look at the LED's data sheet to get the actual value.

The good news is that with the proper currently limiting resistor they will still operate from a standard 4-cell or higher pack. At 20mA per LED, the ESC's BEC output can be used if you do not get crazy with lamp count.

Also, the viewing angles can get rather narrow, so pick something that has at least 45 degrees for good visibility. A diffused lens is often the best choice too, but it all depends on what you are trying to illuminate.

Aug 20, 2002, 03:20 AM
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OH!Zone's Avatar
Do check out the Mugi site, lots of good info on what types and colors of leds work best.
On a diffrent note, I just recieved some luminous paint I'm excited about. It's inexpensive, water-based and can be mixed with transparent acrilic paints to provide colors.
I'm interested in mixing it with water-based quick drying urathane varnish, a new wonderstuff finish for use on foam. it can be colored with ordinary food coloring!
Here is a link:

Aug 20, 2002, 05:05 AM
Mugi Pilot
Moogee's Avatar
Joe, I think if you cover the plane in transparent film you'll suffer some of the problems I got on the early Mugi.

The high brightness LEDs have a relatively narrow viewing angle but will diffuse very well under a translucent material such as correx. I'm not sure how film will compare as the cellular structure of correx seems to refract and internally distribute the light. I'm not up on coverings, but I suspect a textured type might work better than the smooth films.

The narrow viewing angle may cause problems if you have transparent as at certain angles you may find yourself looking directly down the 'lens'. This will dazzle you and you'll probably get a halo effect in your vision - effectively making the rest of the plane vanish from the sky, especially those parts illuminated by LEDs pointing the opposite direction.

The best LEDs I have found are green and blue ultra brightness. The green quotes up to 10000mcd as their output - though I tend to use the 4400mcd versions which increase viewing (spread) angle from 15 deg to 30 deg.
Those I buy are manufactured by Nichia and run to 3 per LED here in the UK. Your local supplier should have some of a similar spec. Fortunately, there are also some orange LEDs that give out a good amount of light for only 0.80 each. These are Toshiba.

The Mugi site should have the specs and links to Maplin if you want to compare the ID's etc. to your local place.

The white LEDs are amazingly bright but I should warn you that it all my experiments they did not diffuse as well as the colours.
In fact, in order to fill a Mugi with as much uniform light coverage as one green and one blue, I needed six white LEDs!
They just do not like to diffuse.

Hope that's helpful.

By the way, OH!Zone - over here, one of our main paint mfrs. Dulux has a glow in the dark paint that's actually sold in big tins - I think up to 500ml for about 8 which compares pretty favourably. I haven't seen it in action but I suspect it's not bad and may be worth a shot.
Also, regular emulsion or vinyl paint seem to be the only thing that sticks to correx.


Green Nichia LED (brightest and best diffuser)
Blue Nichia LED
Toshiba Extreme Brightness - orange makes a great red


Aug 21, 2002, 09:18 AM
Registered User
Thank you guys for your valuable suggestions. I'm still yet to decide the system to use. A friend of mine agreed to sell me his RC Model lighting system cheap which is similar to the RCNEON. However, I was told that this system is quite delicate. My model is huge (68" span) and the fuselage is volumuos. I reckon that it can easily carry a separate 4-cell 600mah pack w/o much weight penalty. It seems that it'll need quite a number of LEDs to have sufficient brightness or I could get away with a halogen bulb or 2 with enough duration for about 2-3 , 10mins flights. I've yet to find out the cost of LEDs and halogen bulbs. If LEDs only direct light in certain directions, what is the best possible LEDs placement and configuration in the fuselage to get optimum effect?
Aug 21, 2002, 06:17 PM
Registered User
Steven Horney's Avatar
Look at: They offer luminescent wire and LED'S for all kinds of applications. We've used them with very good success on R/C airplanes (they originally were aiming for the R/C airplane market, but it was so small they've branched out to other areas).

Aug 21, 2002, 10:56 PM
Tacoma, WA, USA
William A's Avatar
Or if you don't want to mess with wires.....

Found these at K-mart, 2.27$ for a pack of 2, .5g a piece.
Last edited by William A; Mar 03, 2014 at 04:31 PM.
Aug 23, 2002, 08:59 AM
now that's a wattmeter...
simingx's Avatar
Hmm, would it be possible to use spare servo outputs from the receiver to drive a buffer transistor which is in turn connected to the LEDs? The servo output *is* a PWM signal, right? Only thing is you wouldn't be able to switch the lights completely off, but it would be cool to have adjustable intensity lighting
Aug 23, 2002, 10:36 AM
Registered User
Mr.RC-CAM's Avatar
would it be possible to use spare servo outputs from the receiver to drive a buffer transistor which is in turn connected to the LEDs?
The duty cycle of the servo's signal is too low to allow for satisfactory performance. But, you could always buy a cheap low current ESC for use as a lamp dimmer.