A History of Model or Radio Control Planes

Radio control models make use of a transmitter to fly them and come in various kinds including ready to operate right after unpacking and almost ready to fly. The fascination of flying dates back to 1000 B.C when the Chinese tried to make kites that had no strings attached them. Leonardo da Vinci in around 1500 also came up with a similar idea by designing a device with a fixed wing capable of lifting and propelling through the air. The first Radio Controlled Aircrafts were hydrogen-filled planes with the operator remotely controlling the device via a transmitter. The transmitter sends signals to the receiver that in-turn transmits signals to move parts of the model plane.

Key Dates in Radio Control Innovations




In 1871, Alphonse Penaud came up with the Planophore which he propelled 131 feet in the air for 11 seconds. The Frenchman managed to promote model flying using his rubber-powered model which had a width of 18 inches and a feather bladed propeller. After Alphonse’s experiment, the popularity of model flying soared, and people started to believe that flying was a possibility.


Later in 1898, Nikola Tesla demonstrated his invention of radio-controlled boats to a mesmerized crowd at the Madison Square Garden. He referred to his invention as the “teleautomatons.”


Leonardo Torres Quevedo

At the Paris Academy of Science in 1903, Leonardo Torres Quevedo launched the first radio controlled device. Through electromagnetic waves, he managed a robot making it perform various commands.


The radio control invention was followed by the creation of an aerial drone for use in World War I by the Royal Flying Corps in 1917. The radio-controlled drone was Archibald Low’s idea and was used as a guided bomb hence the reason he is referred as the “father of radio guidance system.” The military played a vital role in popularizing remote control planes when in 1932 for the first time a model plane took to the skies. This technology played a key in warfare in World War II.


In 1937, the first competition between radio controlled planes was held among six participants. Walter Good and his brother William developed a fully operational RC plane known as the “Big Gulf.”  The popularity of radio controlled airplanes grew considerably in the 1950s despite their low battery capabilities which needed regular charging before the discovery of the transistor.


Dr. Dieter Schluter

Dr. Dieter Schluter

Dr. Dieter Schluter from West Germany designed and constructed the first radio controlled helicopter back in 1968. Little wonder why he’s referred to as the father of radio controlled helicopter flight.


The price of batteries, motors, and tires rose sharply due to the rise in popularity of the 1:10 scales electric vehicles and trucks.


Continued inventions in the radio control industry led to soaring interest in the sector. In 2008, Florida hosted the world’s biggest the radio controlled contest where more than 125 participants took part in the contest named Top Gun.


On March 24th, six years after the successful exploration of Mars, the RC instructed rovers – Spirit and Opportunity – achieved a greater distance to the initial 600 meters goal.