The famous inventor and scientist Nikola Tesla was the first to build and operate a remote-controlled vehicle, a radio-controlled boat about 1.7 metres long and .9 metres wide. He demonstrated what he called his “teleautomaton” for the public at an exhibition touting electricity in Madison Square Garden in New York City in May 1898 and again later in the year for the United States military in hopes of acquiring a contract for remote-controlled military weapons. Neither demonstration resulted in much more than a mention in the newspapers of the day. In the 1930s the British military did make use of radio-controlled planes for target practice.
Radio-control and remote-control vehicles didn’t emerge for sale to the public until the 1950s when radio equipment became common enough, compact enough and cheap enough to produce products the public would buy. Multi-channel transmitters and receivers made it possible to control several different functions at once, a quality that fit perfectly with the three dimensions of control for a plane: motor speed, pitch and yaw. Today, radio-control has moved from analog to digital, the current standard being 2.4 gigahertz transmissions. Conversion kits are also available for older 35 megahertz and 72 megahertz digital devices.
Remote control and radio control toys run the gamut of vehicles, from planes to cars to boats to helicopters to locomotives. It’s possible to send commands to vehicles to tell them to turn, fly, twist, jump, accelerate, spin and do tricks. As with any electronic toy, you can start out with a basic model and keep moving on up to more complex devices with multiple control channels and intricate mechanisms. Basic models can be purchased for under fifty pounds, but, after that, the sky’s the limit for both price and complexity.
Vehicles can be bought requiring a slight bit of assembly or can be bought as a kit to assemble from scratch. That’s the learning experience for a child, building a complex piece of machinery with the help of a parent. troubleshooting any mechanical or control problems that may arise and ending up with a fully functioning piece of equipment that they’re proud to show off to relatives, friends and neighbors.
Remote control toys for adults are specialty items that can be difficult to find in stores and can cost several hundred pounds. Though constructed of high quality materials, the adult versions, often called hobby-grade models, can be fragile and usually need continual maintenance and refurbishing after each use. Controls for adult remote control toys can be quite complex and difficult to learn. Remote control toys for children, on the other hand, can be purchased for between fifty and one hundred pounds at toy stores everywhere — they are made of durable materials and have simplified controls.
Cars, trucks and boats are all vehicles available in many sizes as remote control toys for children. Planes, however, are considered hobby models, though some less expensive versions of helicopters can be found. When learning how to fly a plane, the best bet is to join a local RC Airplane Club, where you and your child will be immersed in all aspects of remote control aircraft operation. You’ll learn about such vital components as power supplies, rechargeable batteries and battery chargers; you’ll participate in fun events and bond with fellow enthusiasts.
But, one of the finest qualities of a remote control toy is that ownership of such an item will provide both physical and mental challenges for a child and instill a sense of pride and responsibility.