Flight School: Signal Transmission

Ground Control to Major Tom…Uh, How Does It All Work?

Now that we know where it started, lets take a look at how radio control flight happens. The technology revolves around the use of radio waves. Radio waves are a form of electromagnetic radiation with a frequency that lies between 10kHz to 100GHz1. Radio waves are used for long distance communication2.

Wavelength Size Comparison

Photo from Nasa.gov “Comparison of Wavelengths”4

Electromagnetic Spectrum

Photo from Nasa.gov “What are radio waves?”5

In the hobby, we use a transmitter to send radio signals with information (instructions) to a receiver, located somewhere in your model. The receiver, which is being powered by a battery, then takes that information and passes it along to what you have plugged into it, telling those devices what to do based on the original input at the transmitter. A very basic set-up, would consist of four servos plugged into the receiver, the receiver battery, and your transmitter.

A servo, otherwise known as a servo motor, is a “self-contained electrical device”3 with an electric motor connected to a gear set. You would then connect an arm to one of the gears and then to a control rod to mechanically control your flight surfaces (Rudder, Elevator, Ailerons, Flaps).

Photo from Sparkfun.com “Servos Explained”6

As technology advanced, the devices that you can place into your aircraft have also changed. Now-a-days, setups can range from basic (sport airplane) to a more advanced set-up (turbine aircraft) with multiple devices installed for both functionality and showman ship – and everything in between.

Browse our electronic flight components here!


  1. Author Unknown. “Communications System” Northwestern.edu. URL https://www.qrg.northwestern.edu/projects/vss/docs/communications/2-more-about-radio-waves.html#:~:text=Radio%20waves%20are%20in%20the,hundred%20million%20vibrations%20per%20second). (February, 2023)
  2. Oxford English Dictionary. “Radio wave, n. 1.” OED Online. Oxford University Press. (February, 2023)
  3. Heason Technical Blog. “What is a Servo Motor Used For?” November, 2020. URL https://www.heason.com/news-media/technical-blog-archive/what-is-a-servo-motor-used-for- (February, 2023)
  4. NASA. “Comparison of Wavelengths” September 2018. URL https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/heo/scan/communications/outreach/funfacts/txt_radiowaves.html (February, 2023)
  5. NASA. “Comparison of Wavelengths” August 2018. URL https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/heo/scan/communications/outreach/funfacts/what_are_radio_waves (February, 2023)
  6. Spark Fun. “Servos Exlained” URLhttps://www.sparkfun.com/servos (February, 2023)