Fig. D: Akihide Hirata’s USS Enterprise goes where no
starship has gone before: your swimming pool.
Fig. E: Crawler kit from RC4WD. What began as a
hobby “Frankensteining” truck kits is now a full-time
business CNC-milling kit components. Fig. F: Drive
a real car with an iPhone? Douglas Farrell does.
are sold as kits, and R/C purists hate RTRs/RTFs.
I see these products as just a way to get more
people involved in the hobby. R/C models need
maintenance, and beg for improvements, so sooner
or later, nearly everyone ends up “under the hood”
and becomes a maker.
One of the most innovative new R/C cars is the
Traxxas Summit (
traxxas.com), which can be used
as a monster truck or a rock crawler.
Photography by Akihide Hirata (D), Rob Shouldis (E), and Will Schoettler (F)
powerful and reliable, so I think it’ll remain at the
core of remote control tech for years to come. The
newest digital equipment, such as the Hitec Aurora,
even has a back channel for telemetry and other
aircraft information, so there’s lots of development
Will Schoettler, Waterloo Labs, DIY engineers
and rogue scientists (
But ultimately, computers will win and I expect the
robotics world, including UAVs, will eventually come
up with cheap and easy-to-use radio systems that
are computer-driven from end to end. The machines
will do the driving, while we just watch. Fingers on
sticks will become the weak link in the chain.
Remote control and teleoperation technology permeates our lives: it’s in home networks, electronic
controllers, even household devices. You can take a
cellphone and control just about anything from it.
Francesco Fondi, publisher of Xtreme RC Cars
Italian edition (
R/C hobby culture is deeply connected to maker
culture, as R/Cers love to build, unbuild, and modify
models as they see fit. For the average consumer,
In our project Driving a Car with an iPhone,
we remotely controlled a fully-functional Olds-mobile Delta 88 with an iPhone. All it took was
sending commands from the phone over wi-fi to
a CompactRIO controller (
which was programmed to control some motors.
R/C is a way that they discover their mechanical and
electronic creativity; it’s their way into making!
Right now, the quality of R/C kits is so incredibly
high, while at the same time, it’s cheaper than ever.
That same CompactRIO could be programmed
to cook your breakfast. The iPhone could send
instructions to a stereo equalizer. The possibilities
are endless. The technology has become available
everywhere, and with just a little knowledge of programming, it’s now accessible to anyone.
In the last few years, the new trend has been
Ready-To-Run (RTR) cars and Ready-To-Fly (RTF)
planes; models are sold built and ready to go right
out of the box. Traditionally, model cars and planes
More online at
Gareth Branwyn is editor-in-chief of Make: Online.