Radio control
Radio control is the use of radio signals to remotely control
Remote control
A remote control is a component of an electronics device, most commonly a television set, used for operating the television device wirelessly from a short line-of-sight distance.The remote control is usually contracted to remote...

 a device. The term is used frequently to refer to the control of model vehicles
Radio-controlled model
A radio-controlled model is a model that is steerable with the use of radio control. All types of vehicles imaginable have had RC systems installed in them, including cars, boats, planes, and even helicopters and scale railway locomotives....

 from a hand-held radio transmitter. Industrial
Industrial organization
Industrial organization is the field of economics that builds on the theory of the firm in examining the structure of, and boundaries between, firms and markets....

, military
Military organization
Military organization is the structuring of the armed forces of a state so as to offer military capability required by the national defence policy. In some countries paramilitary forces are included in a nation's armed forces...

, and scientific research organizations make use of radio-controlled vehicles as well.


In 1898 at an exhibition at Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden, often abbreviated as MSG and known colloquially as The Garden, is a multi-purpose indoor arena in the New York City borough of Manhattan and located at 8th Avenue, between 31st and 33rd Streets, situated on top of Pennsylvania Station.Opened on February 11, 1968, it is the...

 Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor, mechanical engineer, and electrical engineer...

 demonstrated a small boat which could apparently obey commands from the audience but was in fact controlled by Tesla interpreting the verbal requests and sending appropriate frequencies to tuned circuits in the boat.
John Hays Hammond Jr is regarded as the father of radio control due to the fact he was involved in experiments as an apprentice of Thomas Edison at the age of twelve. Hammond was a close friend of Tesla and they performed experiments together in his lab located in his castle. He learned a great deal form his exposure to Tesla.
Tesla was granted a US patent on this invention on November 8, 1898. In 1903, the Spanish engineer Leonardo Torres y Quevedo
Leonardo Torres y Quevedo
Leonardo Torres y Quevedo was a Spanish civil engineer and mathematician of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.- Biography :Torres was born on 28 December 1852, on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, in Santa Cruz de Iguña, Molledo , Spain...

 presented the "Telekino" at the Paris Academy of Science, and was granted a patent in France, Spain, Great Britain and the United States. In 1904, Bat, a Windermere
Windermere (lake)
Windermere is the largest natural lake in England. It is a ribbon lake formed in a glacial trough after the retreat of ice at the start of the current interglacial. It has been one of the country’s most popular places for holidays and summer homes since the arrival of the Kendal and Windermere...

 steam launch, was controlled using experimental radio control by its inventor, Jack Kitchen.
In 1909 the French inventor Gabet demonstrated what he called his "Torpille Radio-Automatique", a radio controlled torpedo.
In 1917, Archibald Low
Archibald Low
Archibald Montgomery Low was an English consulting engineer, research physicist and inventor, and author of more than 40 books....

 as head of the RFC
Royal Flying Corps
The Royal Flying Corps was the over-land air arm of the British military during most of the First World War. During the early part of the war, the RFC's responsibilities were centred on support of the British Army, via artillery co-operation and photographic reconnaissance...

 Experimental Works, was the first person to use radio control successfully on an aircraft.
In the 1920s, various radio-controlled ships were used for naval artillery target practice.
The Soviet Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 used remotely controlled teletank
Teletanks were a series of wireless remotely controlled unmanned robotic tanks produced in the Soviet Union in the 1930s and early 1940s. They saw their first combat use in the Winter war, at the start of World War II. A teletank is controlled by radio from a control tank at a distance of...

s during 1930s in the Winter War
Winter War
The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland. It began with a Soviet offensive on 30 November 1939 – three months after the start of World War II and the Soviet invasion of Poland – and ended on 13 March 1940 with the Moscow Peace Treaty...

 against Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 and fielded at least two teletank battalions at the beginning of the Great Patriotic War. A teletank is controlled by radio from a control tank at a distance of 500–1,500 meters, the two constituting a telemechanical group. There were also remotely controlled cutters and experimental remotely controlled planes in the Red Army. In the 1930s Britain developed the radio controlled Queen Bee
De Havilland Tiger Moth
The de Havilland DH 82 Tiger Moth is a 1930s biplane designed by Geoffrey de Havilland and was operated by the Royal Air Force and others as a primary trainer. The Tiger Moth remained in service with the RAF until replaced by the de Havilland Chipmunk in 1952, when many of the surplus aircraft...

, a remotely controlled unmanned Tiger Moth aircraft for a fleet
Naval fleet
A fleet, or naval fleet, is a large formation of warships, and the largest formation in any navy. A fleet at sea is the direct equivalent of an army on land....

's gunnery firing practice. The Queen Bee was superseded by the similarly named Queen Wasp
Airspeed Queen Wasp
|-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* "Airspeed AS.30 Queen Wasp." Control Column, Official Organ of the British Aircraft Preservation Council, Volume 12, No. 2, February/March 1978....

, a later, purpose built, target aircraft of higher performance.

Military applications in the Second World War

Radio control was further developed during World War II, primarily by the Germans
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 who used it in a number of missile
Though a missile may be any thrown or launched object, it colloquially almost always refers to a self-propelled guided weapon system.-Etymology:The word missile comes from the Latin verb mittere, meaning "to send"...

 projects. Their main effort was the development of radio-controlled missiles and glide bomb
Glide bomb
A glide bomb is an aerial bomb modified with aerodynamic surfaces to modify its flight path from a purely ballistic one to a flatter, gliding, one. This extends the range between the launch aircraft and the target. Glide bombs are often fitted with control systems, allowing the controlling aircraft...

s for use against shipping, a target that is otherwise both difficult and dangerous to attack. However by the end of the war the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

was having similar problems attacking Allied bomber
A bomber is a military aircraft designed to attack ground and sea targets, by dropping bombs on them, or – in recent years – by launching cruise missiles at them.-Classifications of bombers:...

s, and developed a number of radio-controlled anti-aircraft missiles, none of which saw service.

The effectiveness of the Luftwaffe systems was greatly reduced by British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 efforts to jam their radio signals. After initial successes, the British launched a number of commando
In English, the term commando means a specific kind of individual soldier or military unit. In contemporary usage, commando usually means elite light infantry and/or special operations forces units, specializing in amphibious landings, parachuting, rappelling and similar techniques, to conduct and...

 raids to collect the missile radio sets. Jammers were then installed on British ships, and the weapons basically "stopped working". The German development teams then turned to wire guidance
Wire-guided missile
A wire-guided missile is a missile that is guided by signals sent to it via thin wires connected between the missile and its guidance mechanism, which is located somewhere near the launch site. As the missile flies, the wires are reeled out behind it...

 once they realized what was going on, but these systems were not ready for deployment until the war had already moved to France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...


The German Kriegsmarine
The Kriegsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Nazi regime . It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly...

operated FL-Boote (ferngelenkte Sprengboote) which were radio controlled motor boats filled with explosives to attack enemy shipping from 1944.

Both the British and US also developed radio control systems for similar tasks, in order to avoid the huge anti-aircraft batteries set up around German targets. However, none of these systems proved usable in practice, and the one major US effort, Operation Aphrodite
Operation Aphrodite
Aphrodite and Anvil were the World War II code names of United States Army Air Forces and United States Navy operations to use B-17 and PB4Y bombers as precision-guided munitions against bunkers such as those of Operation Crossbow....

, proved to be far more dangerous to its users than to the target.

Radio control systems of this era were generally electromechanical in nature, using small metal "fingers" or "reeds" with different resonant
In physics, resonance is the tendency of a system to oscillate at a greater amplitude at some frequencies than at others. These are known as the system's resonant frequencies...

 frequencies each of which would operate one of a number of different relay
A relay is an electrically operated switch. Many relays use an electromagnet to operate a switching mechanism mechanically, but other operating principles are also used. Relays are used where it is necessary to control a circuit by a low-power signal , or where several circuits must be controlled...

s when a particular frequency was received. The relays would in turn then activate various actuator
An actuator is a type of motor for moving or controlling a mechanism or system. It is operated by a source of energy, usually in the form of an electric current, hydraulic fluid pressure or pneumatic pressure, and converts that energy into some kind of motion. An actuator is the mechanism by which...

s acting on the control surfaces of the missile. The controller's radio transmitter would transmit the different frequencies in response to the movements of a control stick; these were typically on/off signals.

These systems were widely used until the 1960s, when the increasing use of solid state
Solid state (electronics)
Solid-state electronics are those circuits or devices built entirely from solid materials and in which the electrons, or other charge carriers, are confined entirely within the solid material...

 systems greatly simplified radio control. The electromechanical systems using reed relays were replaced by similar electronic ones, and the continued miniaturization of electronics allowed more signals, referred to as control channels, to be packed into the same package. While early control systems might have two or three channels using amplitude modulation
Amplitude modulation
Amplitude modulation is a technique used in electronic communication, most commonly for transmitting information via a radio carrier wave. AM works by varying the strength of the transmitted signal in relation to the information being sent...

, modern systems include 20 or more using frequency modulation
Frequency modulation
In telecommunications and signal processing, frequency modulation conveys information over a carrier wave by varying its instantaneous frequency. This contrasts with amplitude modulation, in which the amplitude of the carrier is varied while its frequency remains constant...


Radio-controlled models

The first general use of radio control systems in models started in the early 1950s with single-channel self-built equipment; commercial equipment came later. The advent of transistor
A transistor is a semiconductor device used to amplify and switch electronic signals and power. It is composed of a semiconductor material with at least three terminals for connection to an external circuit. A voltage or current applied to one pair of the transistor's terminals changes the current...

s greatly reduced the battery requirements, since the current requirements at low voltage were greatly reduced and the high voltage battery was eliminated. In both tube and early transistor sets the model's control surfaces were usually operated by an electromagnetic escapement controlling the stored energy in a rubber-band loop, allowing simple on/off rudder control (right, left, and neutral) and sometimes other functions such as motor speed.

Crystal oscillator
A crystal oscillator is an electronic oscillator circuit that uses the mechanical resonance of a vibrating crystal of piezoelectric material to create an electrical signal with a very precise frequency...

 superheterodyne receiver
Superheterodyne receiver
In electronics, a superheterodyne receiver uses frequency mixing or heterodyning to convert a received signal to a fixed intermediate frequency, which can be more conveniently processed than the original radio carrier frequency...

s with better selectivity and stability made control equipment more capable and at lower cost. Multi-channel developments were of particular use to aircraft, which really needed a minimum of three control dimensions (yaw, pitch and motor speed), as opposed to boats, which can get away with two or one.

As the electronics revolution took off, single-signal channel circuit design became redundant, and instead radios provided proportionally coded signal streams which a servomechanism
thumb|right|200px|Industrial servomotorThe grey/green cylinder is the [[Brush |brush-type]] [[DC motor]]. The black section at the bottom contains the [[Epicyclic gearing|planetary]] [[Reduction drive|reduction gear]], and the black object on top of the motor is the optical [[rotary encoder]] for...

 could interpret.

More recently, high-end hobby
A hobby is a regular activity or interest that is undertaken for pleasure, typically done during one's leisure time.- Etymology :A hobby horse is a wooden or wickerwork toy made to be ridden just like a real horse...

 systems using Pulse-code modulation
Pulse-code modulation
Pulse-code modulation is a method used to digitally represent sampled analog signals. It is the standard form for digital audio in computers and various Blu-ray, Compact Disc and DVD formats, as well as other uses such as digital telephone systems...

 (PCM) features have come on the market that provide a computer
A computer is a programmable machine designed to sequentially and automatically carry out a sequence of arithmetic or logical operations. The particular sequence of operations can be changed readily, allowing the computer to solve more than one kind of problem...

ized digital
A digital system is a data technology that uses discrete values. By contrast, non-digital systems use a continuous range of values to represent information...

A bit is the basic unit of information in computing and telecommunications; it is the amount of information stored by a digital device or other physical system that exists in one of two possible distinct states...

-stream signal to the receiving device, instead of analog type pulse modulation. However, even with this coding, loss of transmission during flight has become more common in part because of the ever more wireless society.

In the early 21st century, 2.4 gigahertz transmissions have become increasingly utilized in high-end control of model vehicles and aircraft. Now, these 2.4 gigahertz systems are being made by most radio manufacturers. The radios range from a couple thousand dollar
The dollar is the name of the official currency of many countries, including Australia, Belize, Canada, Ecuador, El Salvador, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, and the United States.-Etymology:...

s, all the way down to under US$30 for some systems. Some manufacturers even offer conversion kits for older digital 72 Mhz band radios.

Modern military and aerospace applications

Remote control military applications are typically not radio control in the direct sense, directly operating flight control surfaces and propulsion power settings, but instead take the form of instructions sent to a completely autonomous, computerized automatic pilot
An autopilot is a mechanical, electrical, or hydraulic system used to guide a vehicle without assistance from a human being. An autopilot can refer specifically to aircraft, self-steering gear for boats, or auto guidance of space craft and missiles...

. Instead of a "turn left" signal that is applied until the aircraft is flying in the right direction, the system sends a single instruction that says "fly to this point".

Some of the most outstanding examples of remote radio control of a vehicle are the Mars Exploration Rover
Mars Exploration Rover
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Mission is an ongoing robotic space mission involving two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, exploring the planet Mars...

s such as Sojourner
Mars Pathfinder
Mars Pathfinder was an American spacecraft that landed a base station with roving probe on Mars in 1997. It consisted of a lander, renamed the Carl Sagan Memorial Station, and a lightweight wheeled robotic rover named Sojourner.Launched on December 4, 1996 by NASA aboard a Delta II booster a...


Industrial control

Today radio control is used in industry for such devices as overhead crane
Crane (machine)
A crane is a type of machine, generally equipped with a hoist, wire ropes or chains, and sheaves, that can be used both to lift and lower materials and to move them horizontally. It uses one or more simple machines to create mechanical advantage and thus move loads beyond the normal capability of...

s and switchyard locomotive
A locomotive is a railway vehicle that provides the motive power for a train. The word originates from the Latin loco – "from a place", ablative of locus, "place" + Medieval Latin motivus, "causing motion", and is a shortened form of the term locomotive engine, first used in the early 19th...

s. Radio-controlled teleoperators
Telepresence refers to a set of technologies which allow a person to feel as if they were present, to give the appearance of being present, or to have an effect, via telerobotics, at a place other than their true location....

 are used for such purposes as inspections, and special vehicles for disarming of bomb
A bomb is any of a range of explosive weapons that only rely on the exothermic reaction of an explosive material to provide an extremely sudden and violent release of energy...

s. Some remotely-controlled devices are loosely called robot
A robot is a mechanical or virtual intelligent agent that can perform tasks automatically or with guidance, typically by remote control. In practice a robot is usually an electro-mechanical machine that is guided by computer and electronic programming. Robots can be autonomous, semi-autonomous or...

s, but are more properly categorized as teleoperators since they do not operate autonomously, but only under control of a human operator.

See also

  • Precision-guided munition
    Precision-guided munition
    A precision-guided munition is a guided munition intended to precisely hit a specific target, and to minimize damage to things other than the target....

  • Radio-controlled airplane
  • Radio-controlled boat
    Radio-controlled boat
    - Fun Sport :Electric Sport boats are the most common type of boat amongst casual hobbyists. Hobby quality boat speed generally start at around 20MPH and go up from there, and can be just as fast or faster than their internal combustion counterparts, with the latest in Lithium Polymer and Brushless...

  • Radio-controlled car
    Radio-controlled car
    Radio-controlled cars are self-powered model cars or trucks that can be controlled from a distance using a specialized transmitter...

  • Radio-controlled helicopter
    Radio-controlled helicopter
    Radio-controlled helicopters are model aircraft which are distinct from RC airplanes because of the differences in construction, aerodynamics, and flight training...

  • Radio-controlled model
    Radio-controlled model
    A radio-controlled model is a model that is steerable with the use of radio control. All types of vehicles imaginable have had RC systems installed in them, including cars, boats, planes, and even helicopters and scale railway locomotives....

  • Telecommand
    A telecommand is a command sent to control a remote system or systems not directly connected to the place from which the telecommand is sent. The word is derived from tele = remote , and command = to entrust/order...

  • Teletank
    Teletanks were a series of wireless remotely controlled unmanned robotic tanks produced in the Soviet Union in the 1930s and early 1940s. They saw their first combat use in the Winter war, at the start of World War II. A teletank is controlled by radio from a control tank at a distance of...

External links

  • Bill Yenne, Attack of the drones: a history of unmanned aerial combat, Zenith Imprint, 2004,ISBN 0760318255
  • Laurence R. Newcome Unmanned aviation: a brief history of unmanned aerial vehicles, AIAA, 2004,ISBN 1563476444,
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