Ensuring Perfect Radio Waves
The airplane and helicopter folks partake in a very strange ritual before they fly a new model for the first time. They’ll get a friend to help them perform what’s known as a range check. What this does is make sure that when you’re flying you have the proper control of your plane. If they lose signal it could mean anything from a moment of panic to a catastrophic crash. With boats we don’t have the same crash concerns, but no-one likes sending out the retrieval boat, or worse, throw the “cast of shame”. We’re going to walk you through some basic steps to make sure you have adequate signal strength.1 Get your boat completely ready for the water. This includes installing the antenna in the antenna tube, charging your main battery (or receiver pack in a gas or nitro boat) and install fresh batteries into your transmitter. You want to replicate your actual running conditions as closely as possible so make sure you also install any inner liners and the canopy too. 2 Power on both your transmitter and your boat. Make sure you respect the propeller on the back of your boat as, if there is a potential for a radio issue or glitch, the prop can start spinning even without your knowledge. 3 Actually this is more like step 3A as your radio will determine if you follow or skip this step. Unlike when you are out running do NOT extend your antenna if you are using a 27Mhz or 75Mhz radio system. The reason for this will become clear in a moment but essentially you are “forcing” your transmitter into a pseudo “range check mode”. Speaking of which step 3B, as it might be called, would be to set your 2.4Ghz radio to its range check mode if it happens to have one. 4 This is where you need some help from a friend. Find an open field and have someone take your boat and walk 40-50 paces away from you. As they walk have them stop every 10 to 15 paces and hold still as you cycle the controls on the transmitter. If everything works properly have your friend give you a thumbs up. If it doesn’t work properly, its time to take a look at how your gear is mounted and routed.
Once you have completed your ground range check it doesn’t mean you’re totally in the clear on the water. Don’t just grip-it and rip-it when you first get on the water for the first time. Select a calm, clear area of water to make some easy test passes, this time with your antenna on the transmitter fully extended if applicable. If everything checks out its time to open the throttle and let ‘er eat.
While RC boating is a lot of fun and swimming is a lot of fun you don’t want to be swimming out after a dead RC boat. Performing regular range checks is a quick and easy way to help prevent signal losses, fades or interference. I think we’d all agree we’d much rather take some preventive steps ahead of time than risk having to see someone like Greg shore-side casting a fishing line out for a boat in a speedo. If that mental image isn’t enough to convince you to range check I don’t know what will!
Words: Scott Donaldson