back to article What is the difference between a drone, a model and a light plane?

Christmas is over, it’s grey outside, and you want to look at pages of blue skies, exotic locations, and smooth, aerodynamic models. Yes, you’re ready for El Reg’s dabble in the extreme end of modelling... aircraft modelling that is. Way back in the summer we were invited to a day out at Stow Maries, a refurbished WW1 …


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  1. xenny

    That's no Hellcat

    It's a P-47 Thunderbolt..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That's no Hellcat

      > It's a P-47 Thunderbolt..

      One the earlier razorback variants.

      Oh, is that my coat? How kind.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That's no Hellcat

      P-47B but hey it is quite similar to a Hellcat

      1. xenny

        Re: That's no Hellcat

        Are you sure it's a 'B' ? There's precious little visual difference between b,c or early d until the bubble hood was introduced part way through d production.

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

          Re: xenny Re: That's no Hellcat

          It's painted as a late-War P-47 of the 61st Fighter Squadron, 56th Fighter Group, the HV coding is the give-away. If you look closely it has the 13" longer nose of the later models, which means it can't be a B model, so could be a late C-5 or early D as the 61st didn't fly the B model, and the early C-1 and -2 had a short, vertical radio mast, missing from this otherwise accurate model so unlikely to be an oversight. The D and C were virtually identical with mainly internal differences until the cut-down rear fuselage and bubble canopy was introduced on the D-25 block. If you can read the tail number or the code letter just in front of the tail then you could probably identify the pilot of the actual machine the model represents here (

          (MIne's the anorak with far too many books in the pockets.)

          1. xenny

            Re: xenny That's no Hellcat

            I want your anorak :-)

    3. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Re: That's no Hellcat

      It looks shiny and I want one, whatever it is

  2. Peter2 Silver badge

    The Libyans are using off the shelf drones already in their civil war.

    The second from last video covers the scout UAV.

  3. MJI Silver badge

    The Hawk

    Prefer in 9s and bright red

  4. MJI Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Sea Fury


    1. Chimp

      Re: Sea Fury

      Prop is wrong. Nice, though.

  5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    On telly

    I first saw this sort of thing on telly a couple of years ago. Look out for "Supermodels" on Discovery Shed. No doubt it will be aired many more times over the years in between the fishing programmes. Last one I remember seeing was a four jet engined bomber.

  6. John 110

    That last picture...

    That last picture has an erroneous caption. The Aircraft is a Sea Fury, hence flown by the Royal Navy. Tcha.

    (pedantic aircraft spotter alert icon required)

  7. Tim Worstal

    Not quite

    "Your great grandfather's introduction to aviation was something like this"

    That was my grandfather's introduction to it. Sopwith Camels, SE5As etc etc...

    1. John Gamble

      Re: Not quite

      Yep, My grandfather's too, training for the RAF in Canada. He always said that given the average lifespan of WWI pilots, he was very lucky the war ended before he got shipped over.

    2. graeme leggett Silver badge

      Re: Not quite

      My grandfather joined the RAF in the 1920s and put the fabric on aircraft wings etc. Rejoined in WWII to do a similar job - seems there were still enough fabric covered surfaces to keep him busy.

      1. Number6

        Re: Not quite

        The Hurricane has a fabric-covered fuselage. Early versions had fabric-covered wings too, but they were later replaced by metal clad ones that allowed faster dives due to withstanding the stresses a bit better. There were quite a few Hurricanes in WW2.

        1. DiViDeD Silver badge

          Re: Not quite

          My dad (RAF) always insisted that the Spitfire had a better PR agent than the Hurricane, and that twas the 'urricane wot won the Battle of Britain. Just that the Spitfire was prettier (and, he reckoned, there were more around when it came to make the film)

    3. Mike Henderson

      Re: Not quite

      Or you can see the real thing - full size, piloted - at Hood Aerodrome, Masterton, NZ.

      Film mogul Sir Peter Jackson chooses to waste his money on re-building and reproducing WW I aeroplanes, a vice I most heartily approve of and for which I am extremely grateful! :)


      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Not quite

        Or the shuttleworth collection, if your in England.

        They have a collection of original and reproduction aircraft plus a "late production model" of a Sopwith Triplane, so called because it was so faithful to the Sopwith original that Sir Tommy Sopwith decreed after inspecting it that it was a continuation of the original production line rather than a reproduction.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That isn't actually a DJI Phantom.

    The DJI Phantom "pictured above" isn't a DJI Phantom, but a technically very similar F450 with custom undercarriage. A minor mistake, but a mistake.

    1. ShellShockeD

      Re: That isn't actually a DJI Phantom.

      i see why you posted anonymously


  9. Don Jefe

    Flying Machines and Flying People

    The engineer in me sees no difference in principal between an R/C aircraft and a full size/real aircraft. Sure, payload capacity is different, and the drinks on the R/C flights are quite small, but those are a matter of scale, not principal.

    It's the very same science and mechanical forces that allow both models and 'real' planes to fly, but with a model you can interact with the science. What happens if you lop 8" off the wing tips? If you add nitromethane to the fuel what are the performance gains (the answer is none, but now I know that :) Anyway, if you're building a model from raw materials, following someone else's blueprints or your own, you are building an aircraft.

    Whether it's a model or a full size plane, it's the plane doing the flying, not its cargo. A pilot is piloting inside a real plane, but still interacting with the same forces in the same way as the R/C pilot, but in both cases, the plane is flying, not the people.

    Besides, big is cool and all, but I've really gotten into the micro R/C models the last few years. They aren't as realistic as my larger scale models and not as showy as my turbine model, but let's see you fly the big models or a full size plane in your living room :)

    1. ratfox Silver badge

      Re: Flying Machines and Flying People

      "The engineer in me sees no difference in principal between an R/C aircraft and a full size/real aircraft."

      I think the view it gives you is a bit different… no?

      1. pepper

        Re: Flying Machines and Flying People

        Sure, the view and feelings are different, when you sit in the cockpit of a machine you feel the forces through the flight controls and buttocks and when you are standing on the ground you will have to judge every tiny flutter by its consequences.

        But other then that, he is very correct that the way these machines fly is nigh on the same. And flying RC is much much cheaper then flying the bigger counterparts, and easier to do(not easier to fly as such). Its also more open to experimentation.

      2. Naughtyhorse

        swings and roundabouts

        Speaking of the view, in a GA aircraft you never get to experience the joy of 'flying towards yourself' when left and right get swapped around. Far and away the hardest thing to learn when flying RC. (as it the real world, model helicopters just don't count - every law of physics says they should screw themselves into the ground, so they must fly using magic)

        but flying RC you don't get to say BUMFICH nearly as often :-)

        Persnly I think these guys are mental, if you have 20 grand to spaff on a hobby you could get a 20% share in a brand new spitfire replica (full size).

      3. Don Jefe

        Re: Flying Machines and Flying People

        Sure, the view provided is different, but that's a function of your size, not the principals of powered flight. Were you small enough to get in an R/C aircraft the view would be the same.

        I have asked my GI-Joe pilot if he finds my various model aircraft comfortable, and if they provide enough outward visibility, but he chooses not to respond. He's quite stoic and doesn't waste many words but I'll get back to you if that changes :)

      4. Turtle

        The Flight of the Phoenix

        "'The engineer in me sees no difference in principal between an R/C aircraft and a full size/real aircraft.' I think the view it gives you is a bit different… no?"

        Here's movie about the differences - or the lack thereof - between model airplanes and the real ones:

        (The 1965 version with James Steward is very highly rated at both IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.)

      5. taxman

        Re: Flying Machines and Flying People

        Well, if you were to install a video camera in the cockpit that fed to in-line video goggles you would get the same view. I know it's done over here in Blighty by R/C glider pilots, not sure about 160mph jet planes though! That would be quite a rush when flying low!

        1. pepper

          Re: Flying Machines and Flying People

          Naughtyhorse, I feel extremely offended as a RC helo pilot and therefore felt the need to downvote thy! Alas I cannot take my flying gloves and slap you in face in a duel to the death, otherwise I would!

          Insinuating that helicopters fly on magic is already considered extremely rude! How could you be such a insensitive person!

          Now excuse me, I need to go the helicopter-magic-parts-unlimited, I just noticed I ran all out of magic juice for the anti-gravitational device!

          1. DiViDeD Silver badge

            Re: Flying Machines and Flying People

            Pepper, as a fellow R/C helicopter pilot of some years standing, I can heartily agree. My helicopters do not fly by magic.

            Indeed, on the contrary, they crash, wrap themselves around tree branches, get tangled up in clothes lines, make perfect landings on the exact centre of house roofs which are not even in their flightpath and perform arbitrary manoeuvres in response to non existent commands (such as flying in th opposite direction to the one transmitted, but only when this takes them further away or positions them for a perfect landing on someone's roof).

            By magic.

            Anyone want to buy a 3.6 metre R/C helicopter? It's over there, on top of that building. Yours for a tenner.

  10. MJI Silver badge

    As a modeller

    of other things this is a great article.

    There is a lot of cross interest between all the model types, I personally do 4mm scale model railways, but also like building 1/72nd aircraft and also balsa rubber powered aircraft like the West Wings.

    So you will see us Railway Modellers getting excited by these machines, as we also appreciate all the work put into these.

    Now I am going to have to try an RC aircraft!!!!

  11. Johndoe888

    Cosford is the place to go

    The Large Model Association show at RAF Cosford is the one to go to, a 20 foot wingspan Vulcan, and a pair of Red Arrows Hawks doing the full singletons routine are just examples of what you will see there.

    19th - 20th July 2014

  12. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Damnit, I'd just about decided not to renew my BMFA ticket...

    Still flying the paraglider though: model planes scare us and we do our best to keep well away.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: Damnit, I'd just about decided not to renew my BMFA ticket...

      "....model planes scare us....." Driving or flying, it is usually a good rule of thumb to assume every other road/air user is a suicidal fool and give them plenty of room.

      1. sam bo

        Re: Damnit, I'd just about decided not to renew my BMFA ticket...

        Suicidal, are you sure you didn't mean homicidal ?

    2. PC Paul

      Re: Damnit, I'd just about decided not to renew my BMFA ticket...

      "Still flying the paraglider though: model planes scare us and we do our best to keep well away."

      I wish... there are lots of good paragliderists, but there are a minority who seem to feel entitled to fly wherever they like whenever they like, even at slopes where there are long standing agreements between model fliers and the local PG clubs. The same minority also seem to spend a lot of their waiting around time getting the nerve up with the help of funny smelling fags...

      Human safety comes first obviously but having to risk crashing an £800 model because some knob has deliberately decided to keep flying across directly in front of the RC slope is painful. Frankly with a few kilos of pointy nosed carbon fiber model doing unpredictable aerobatics at 100mph+ I'm not sure I'd want to invade the RC airspace, but then again I wouldn't risk flying a PG either, so maybe it just enhances the 'fun/danger' aspect for them..?

      When we co-operate, it can be very good. I'm always happy to scout around for thermals then leave them to the PGs if they are having trouble finding lift, and many PGers are happy to work together at the meeting of the airspaces. But some PGers seem to be on a power trip from the get go and cause nothing but trouble and bad feelings.

      Some modellers are as bad probably, but then again PGers seem to be mainly 30-40ish well-off blokes, whereas RC gliderists are largely 55+ retired blokes. Sometimes obnoxious certainly , but not really so aggressive.


  13. Miami Mike

    Do it for real . . .

    Cost to obtain a pilot's license in the USA is about $5,000 to 6,000, it is good as long as you can pass the not-very-rigorous third class medical (which may be eliminated anyway).

    Cost to buy a serviceable Cessna 150 in the USA is $15,000 to $20,000.

    For $25,000, you're all set, fly yourself and a companion anywhere you want to go. That's about GBP 16,000 or so. Of course, it is easy to spend a LOT more.

    BTDT for the last 35 years. The models are neat to look at and show a huge amount of work and dedication - I'd rather fly a real airplane with me inside of it . . . but that's just me.

    1. pepper

      Re: Do it for real . . .

      Yes, well in Europe costs of flying is easily 5 to 10 times as high alas!

      1. Aldous

        Re: Do it for real . . .

        What about license transfer? It was recommended to me to go to the US and learn somewhere with good weather then transfer across?

        1. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: Do it for real . . .

          I got my fixed wing PPL in the states back in '97 for around £2000 + flights & food, the accommodation was included in the price of the licence. You can either get an FAA licence and then convert it to an EASA* one when you get back to the UK, or go to one of the places that has EASA licensed examiners and get an EASA licence which is what I did. If you can spare the three weeks or so off I'd definitely recommend it as you can do two or three flights in a day and really notice your progression. Plus flying down Daytona beach and past Kennedy Space Centre isn't something you'd get to do on your UK Nav flights!

          *When I did it it was the CAA but it's the same difference.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > Anyway, our mole predicted, before too long, your average airshow will largely consist of models, if only because the real things will be too rare, if not unsafe, to risk over a crowded airfield.

    Duxford can field a ludicrous number of Spitfires these days. I could be wrong, but I don't think there has been a bystander injured at an air show for many years. The problem is that the CAA's red tape keeps getting thicker and more deviously tangled everyday.

    The CAA's airline chums would like all the plebs in little 'planes to fuck off and let their cattle trucks have free reign. Vintage aircraft are sadly low hanging fruit in the getting-rid-of-the-plebs master plan.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Think they're against GA?

      There are persistent rumours that they want paragliders, hang-gliders, and microlights to carry mode-S transponders... going to be interesting when the hill starts working and forty or fifty low-altitude and random course aircraft launch in ten minutes at Long Mynd...

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge

        Re: Think they're against GA?

        I don't think that'd be a major problem, for instance TCAS doesn't really care what the course of the other aircraft is, it just plots the bearing of the contact and its range, for an advisory it calculates the rate of closure to see if you're going to hit. For anything moving at a moderate speed a para-glider would be more or less a stationary contact. It should also reduce the ATC traffic reports where they can only tell you there's something near where you are, possibly, based on two faint radar returns and you spend the next few minutes being overly paranoid. Lots of returns in the same area shouldn't be a problem, although ATC may want to put a filter on that area if it gets too much.

        Personally I'm in favour of anything that makes it more likely I won't hit the slow moving white thing against a background of slow moving white things, but apparantly glider pilots are less concerned about being hit because their planes blend in with the clouds.

        Having said that I think it'll be another generation of transponders before there's one that's practical for use in unpowered air vehicles without having to carry a massive battery.

        1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

          Re: Think they're against GA?

          "Personally I'm in favour of anything that makes it more likely I won't hit the slow moving white thing against a background of slow moving white things, but apparantly glider pilots are less concerned about being hit because their planes blend in with the clouds."

          We're up there near cloud base because that gives us a longer cruise before we need to find our next climb. As for the white colour: that's Regulations, mate, and dates back to the mid '60s when composite structures first appeared. The Powers That Were thought that a composite structure was bound to soften and fail unless it was painted white when, if anything, the opposite is true. As a result, gliders with a fibreglass or carbon structure, i.e. everything built since about 1970, has to be painted white except for the outer 1m of the wings and the nose area.

          Comment: if you want to fly a full size aircraft reasonably cheaply, come gliding: operating costs are a fraction of that for any GA aircraft and most microlites. Flights of several hundred km are routine even in the UK. You can get very nice older gliders for a lot less than some of those large jet models cost, and a years' flying (all costs included) will be around £2500. I fly a Standard Libelle and really enjoy the challenge of going cross country without an engine.

        2. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Think they're against GA?

          "Lots of returns in the same area shouldn't be a problem, although ATC may want to put a filter on that area if it gets too much."

          Common sense says this shouldn't be a problem, yet the introduction of mandatory mode-s on gliders has shown it IS. Atc can't filter them properly and gets overwhelmed by the many returns. In the meantime most heavy metal TCAS systems filter GA signals, meaning the mandatory mode-s transponder has given us a negative safety benefit.

    2. paulc

      I remember a day spent on the display line at RAF Waddington in the late 90's keeping a pair of video cameras going to record evidence of display infringements... all maneouvers had to have their momentum angle pointing to the safe side of the display line and no-one was permitted under any circumstances to be on the crowd side within a couple of miles either side of the enxtnded display line... was fun when the SR-71 Blackbird came in for their high speed passes... they were lining up over Hull for each one... took three counties to turn around... ;)

      Display lines have been getting further and further away from the crowd line with each year... bit of a bummer when you've got this nice big feature of a runway to line up on and you're not allowed to fly along it as it's too close...

  15. Fihart

    Takes me back.

    To the 1950s and my dad building balsa wood models on our dining room table -- much swearing and a strong smell of the dope used to stiffen the tissue paper wing covering. Fuel tanks were improvised from metal cigarette packs cut and shaped and sealed with solder.

    Then the trip to a farm nearby and much swearing and smell of ether as the diesel (pre-glowplug) engine failed to start. In the days of valve (tube) radio, remote control didn't feature. It was start the engine and launch by hand hoping that the plane would come down within walking distance. I recall going with him the next day to pick up one which got away. The people whose caravan it had crashed onto seemed pretty decent about it.

    I don't think I could have matched my Pa's patience, ingenuity and handiwork, creating a fleet including Gipsy Moth, Gloster Meteor, de Havilland Vampire (the experiments with Jetex solid fuel engines didn't work out so well).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Takes me back.

      When I was a kid we used to make Jetex powered dragsters from balsa wood. In our local park was a wide and smooth tarmac path where we would race them. If they hit a piece of gravel they went airborne but were easily glued back together after the inevitable crash.

  16. a well wisher

    Missing Pilot found ....

    In one of the captions you said the Pilot couldn't be seen ....

    No such problem here ( @ about 1min 57 ) - thats extreme detail !!


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