How To Turn Your RC Airplane Into A UAV

By Jose Lozano

One of the greatest experiences while flying in an airplane or helicopter is to see the world from above. In general the view is amazing. This bird’s eye view is also attainable with your RC airplane (remote controlled airplane), a small camera, and your desire to have fun. Sound like something from the future?


UAVs have actually been around since 1916 when A. M. Low designed an “aerial target” drone. A number of advances followed in the remote

control arena up to 1959, when the U.S. Air Force, concerned about losing pilots in hostile territory, began to plan the use of UAVs for flights. In 1972, General John C. Meyer, commander in chief of the Strategic Air Command, stated “we let the drone do the high-risk flying. The loss rate is high, but we are willing to risk more of them. They save lives!”*

Today these UAVs or drones, as they are commonly called, have a variety of applications for military and civil organizations. State-of-the-art drones are more than just a remote control airplane with an attached camera. In fact, some of these UAVs are self-piloted, and, depending on the type of mission assigned, can make decisions based on their primary objectives which can include simple surveillance, search and rescue, and targeting and weapons delivery in military theaters.

Aerial ViewOperating UAVs in the U.S.A.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles can be used for recreational purposes below 400 feet above the ground. You can attach a small camera to the aircraft and video your flights. An even better option, if you have the budget, is to get a camera that can transmit the image live to your computer while flying. You will feel like you are on a special mission! To operate an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle for business purposes in the United States, users must obtain a Certificate of Authorization (COA) to operate in national airspace; the certificate must be granted by a public entity such a university as a sponsor.

Safety First

It is important to make sure that all the parts of your “UAV” are firmly assembled and secured. You will be adding weight with the camera so make sure that the camera is properly attached to the aircraft and take the center of gravity into account.

RC Airplane and Camera Awareness

Since you now have a camera attached to your aircraft, you need to be aware that you have added additional weight and drag to your machine. You may not be able to perform all of the same maneuvers as without the camera. Also, be sure not to over stress your airframe. This is all dependent on the size and shape of the camera as well as the mounting location; be sure to test your aircraft flight characteristics for the first few minutes to avoid damaging your UAV or causing damage or injury on the ground.

Have fun while doing it

The best way to get started is to buy a small camera that can be placed as close as possible to the center of the airplane. Also with a RC 3.5 channel Helicopter or Jolly Roger F-18 you could get amazing videos. Just make sure the camera is properly attached and secured.

Your RC airplane experience will totally change once you are accustomed to flying with a camera. Eventually you will be able to see through the camera, and who knows, you could be a pioneer in this area or make money with your videos. Remember, this is how it all started for UAVs; someone with great initiative attached a camera to an RC airplane or helicopter and from there it evolved to the technology we see today. To your flight success!

Jose Lozano

Jose Lozano

About the author: Jose Lozano is an online entrepreneur and engineer with a passion for flying objects. At the age of ten he got his first RC airplane and that changed his life. Recently Jose started a blog at where he shares relevant information about these fascinating toys.

Learn more about becoming a UAV pilot or mechanic

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