Get an Idea About How RC Boats Work: Things to Consider When Buying One

If you’re looking for ways to spend time on the beach, but swimming or surfing isn’t your thing, then perhaps driving an RC model boat might be something you’d want to try. RC vehicles, in general, can be a great opportunity to spend some time outdoors, whether it’s racing or just mindlessly driving around.

While RC boats might not be as popular as RC cars, with the advancement of motor and battery technology, they’re quickly climbing the ranks. That being said, if you’re on a mission of buying your first RC boat, understanding the basics will help you make the right choice.

First of all, I’d like to point out that you can find ready-to-run RC model boat kits that are easy to use straight out the box. Boat kits with a single motor and battery are the most popular ones. However, twin-motor boat kits are also available. Unfortunately, single-motor boats can only run up to several minutes at a time.

The drive system in most RC boats is quite simple. They feature an electric motor near the front that’s connected to a shaft running towards the back of the boat and through the bottom of the hull. The shaft is within a stuffing tube filled with grease. The grease in the tube prevents water from getting into the hull and provides lubrication.

At the end of the shaft, you’ll find a propeller, and there’s a shaft on the rudder that protrudes into the hull, where a small servo motor actuates it. The electronic speed control and radio receiver for the motor are typically enclosed in a waterproof casing. From the casing, you’ll see a radio antenna emerging, as well as battery wires, a rudder servo cable and the on/off switch. The built-in battery pack (usually lithium-polymer or NiMH) capacity is usually 1100mAh, and it provides a nominal DC voltage of 7.2V.

RC boats offer an entirely different experience than driving an RC vehicle or flying an RC plane. Both DIY and RTR kits are made for everyone to easily jump into the fun. RC boat kits are quickly becoming favourite among RC enthusiasts and for all the right reasons. They offer outstanding performance, and they look great. Even though most RC boats look great, there’s much more to think about, namely the power, drive and radio system, ESC the battery and charger.

The power system is comprised of a brushed or brushless motor. Brushed motors are more affordable but less powerful than their brushless counterparts, but they still provide decent power and runtime. Brushless motors, on the other hand, are more powerful, are far more efficient and require less maintenance.

The drive system is where the electric motor transfers power to the propeller through a drive shaft. The driveshaft, as aforementioned, features a stuffing tube that helps it leave the hull and establish a connection with the propeller. The radio system is comprised of a radio frequency transmitter and receiver. The old 27MHz systems are replaced with 2.4GHz systems, as they’re less prone to interference.

Most RC boats made in the last few years come with programmable ESCs. This allows alteration of the cutoff voltage to protect the batteries from over-discharging. The option to program your own ESC through the EPM (ESC programming module) also allows you to set cutoff preferences, activate braking and pick throttle curves.

The battery of the RC boat is one of the most important things you’ll have to consider. As aforementioned, your best options are lithium-polymer and NiMH batteries. NiMH batteries are more affordable and provide decent performance. However, they have a sharp discharge curve, meaning that the performance and speed of the boat will vary based on the charge level of the battery. Lithium-polymer batteries, on the other hand, have a flatter discharge curve and are lighter. This means that the performance and speed from start to finish will be more consistent.

Additionally, lithium-polymer batteries are free from performance degradation, a problem that NiMH batteries suffer from. When choosing a lithium-polymer battery, consider the C rating. The C rating refers to the amperage-discharge capabilities of the battery. Higher-rated battery packs can handle higher loads.

Lastly, you’ll need to choose a suitable battery charger for the batteries. While this is something that’s seemingly unimportant, it can actually play a crucial role in the longevity and performance of your batteries. You’ll find timer and peak detection chargers. Peak detection chargers are recommended for the best results. Timer chargers are more affordable, but peak detection chargers feature advanced charging algorithms to make sure the battery is fully charged safely.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.