RCU Review: Parkzone Radian Pro BNF electric sailplane


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    Contributed by: Andrew Griffith | Published: April 2011 | Views: 42789 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    Parkzone Radian Pro BNF Review
    Andrew Griffith

    BarracudaHockey

     

    Parkzone
    Distributed exclusively by:
    Horizon Hobby
    4105 Fieldstone Road
    Champaign, IL 61822
    Phone: (877) 504-0233
     Website: www.horizonhobby.com
     

     



    Full 5 channel control.
    Attractive new decals.
    Gets you in the air quickly.
    Flew well even in light lift.
     


    Control surfaces needed a little work before they moved smoothly and returned to center each time.

     

    Click HERE for explanation
    Skill Level: Beginner

    Time to complete: 30 min

    Frustration Level: None

    Parkzone releases the follow up to their very popular Radian electric glider.  The Radian Pro BNF (Bind aNd Fly) is ready to go with a motor, ESC, battery, charger, and DSM2 receiver.  The Radian Pro sports features usually found in more expensive designs.

    The Radian is what's known as an RE or Rudder/Elevator design and uses a simple 3 channel radio.  The Radian Pro however is a "full house" design and includes both ailerons and flaps. 

    Since the release of the modestly priced Parkzone Radian, I have helped a number of people get started flying with them.  The light weight, well manners, and slow flying characteristics have helped the Radian introduce several people in our club to R/C soaring and R/C flying in general.

    The Radian Pro steps up the game a notch with a ready to fly full house sailplane.  The "Pro" is priced well below what it would normally cost to get a similarly equipped built up model in the air.  The ailerons allow tight turns in thermals, and the flaps allow the model to land where the pilot wants it to without floating into the next zip code.

    Bind it to a radio with advanced mixing functions like my JR 11X and you can expand the flight envelope ever farther with features like full wing camber, reflex, and crow (air brake) mixing for even greater precision.




    Kit Name: Radian Pro BNF electric sailplane.
    Price: $249.99
    Wing Span: 78.5" (2 meters)
    Flying Weight as tested: 33 oz (935.5 grams)
    ESC Used: 30Amp (Included)
    Motor Used: 480 size 960kv (included)
    Battery used: 3S 1300Mah LiPo (included)
    Radio used: JR 11X 2.4 Ghz

    • DSM2 5 channel radio
    • Programmable 5 channel DSM2 radio (optional) if you want to enable advanced mixing options (crow, camber etc)
    • Phillips screw driver
    • 12 volt power source
    • Tweezers or hemostats (optional but VERY useful)

     


    Packaging
    Kit Contents
    Nicely protected

    I got my start in R/C by learning to fly gliders in 1980 like the Craft Air Drifter II.  30 years later I still love flying sail planes.  In the not too distant past I would have considered it sacrilege to mount a large battery and motor on the front of a sail plane.  After flying several motor gliders though, I decided that rigging a winch or chasing a high start was a whole lot of trouble when I could take a plane out of my car, plug the wings and battery in, and be in the air in minutes.  Besides, I reasoned, the long slender fuselages of most sail planes require lead in the nose to balance properly so at least the extra weight upfront is doing something useful now!  Don't get me wrong, I still have several planes setup for winch, high start, and even aero-towing, but for maximum flying time with minimum fuss, motor gliders are the way to go.

    The Radian Pro is Parkzone's answer to the multitude of Radian owners that wanted higher performance and more features.  Parkzone answered with a sail plane with a better airfoil, as well as the addition of ailerons and flaps.  The Pro can be flown on a 5 channel radio and Y harnesses on the ailerons and flaps, or can be set up with a computer radio to enable such advanced features as reflex, camber, and crow mixing. 

    Instruction booklet
    Battery and balance charger
    Underside radio compartment

    When the Radian Pro arrived I inspected the packaging and sat down to read the rather thick manual from cover to cover.  It turns out that only the first twelve pages are in English so I never made it to the back cover.  The products I have owned or reviewed over the years from Horizon Hobby always come with above average or better instruction manuals and the Radian Pro is no exception.  Detailed instructions, clear diagrams and pictures, safety warnings, parts listings, support contact information, and even flying tips are all included.  In addition to the printed manual, Horizon also makes setup sheets available on their web site for their popular radios. If you're a registered owner of a Spektrum DX8 radio you can just download the pre-configured setup file straight to your radio. Now THAT is bind and fly!

    The Radian Pro arrived extremely well packaged and damage free.  Parts were separated, bagged, and taped down in to form fitting areas in the packing container.  Where tape was used it was only used on the foam packing material or over a layer of bubble wrap, it never touched the actual model pieces.  A number of zip ties were also used to hold the pieces firmly in place during shipping.  Anywhere that zip ties crossed the pieces of the model there was a layer of bubble wrap or cardboard protecting the model itself.

    Receiver and tail servos
    30Amp E-Flite ESC
    1300Mah 15C LiPo battery

    I unpacked the model and set about the task of charging the battery.  The supplied battery is a Parkzone 3 cell, 1300mah, 15C LiPo with a balance adapter and comes equipped with EC3 connectors.  The included charger can charge up to two amps and either two or 3 cell batteries.  It's also equipped with a lighter plug so you can charge from your automobile.    Ensure that your cell count and charge rate are set correctly (1.3 amps for the included battery), plug in the battery via the balance tap to the correct output on the charger and press the button.  When the battery is done the charge will shut off and the green light will come on steady.

    While the battery was charging I inspected and assembled the model.  The Radian Pro is constructed of durable Z-Foam.  While there are no adhesives required to assemble the model, if you have a mishap Z-Foam may be glued with just about anything including regular CA.  In speaking with my Dawn Patrol friends that have a lot of foam planes, they claim the best adhesive to use to repair the Radian Pro is white Gorilla Glue.

    The fuselage has two compartments, one for the motor and battery on the top front of the model, and one on the bottom with the Spektrum AR600 receiver and the rudder and elevator servos installed.  Both hatches are held in place with sturdy magnets.  I really like the magnetic hatch, it makes battery access very easy and that's important to me on an electric model.  The bottom hatch is vented to allow heat generated by the motor and speed controller.  One minor drawback that I found was with the louvered hatch on the bottom of the plane.  If you fly in the early morning and the grass is covered with dew, when you land on the grass you can get water in the receiver compartment.

    Elevator connection
    Rudder and tail skid
    Completed tail assembly

    Also included and already installed are two Y harnesses, one for the flaps and another for the ailerons.  Since I was planning on using crow mixing I eliminated the aileron Y harness and connected the second aileron to the auxiliary channel by adding a short extension.  Radios like the DX7 will require a P-mix setup for dual ailerons; ensure that you use P-Mix 5 or 6 for the dual ailerons so that the trim function effects both servos.  Higher end radios like the 9503 or my 11X allow you to select dual ailerons and specify a mate channel and you're done.

    There really isn't a whole lot to do to put the airplane together.  The horizontal stabilizer/elevator is slid into place and affixed with 4 pieces of supplied adhesive tape.  Before securing the tape I installed the wing tube and measured the stabilizer for center, then I measured the distance from the tip of the stab to the wing tube to make sure everything was square. Connect the control surfaces to the recommended holes and you're done with the tail.

    The wings already have the servos installed and rigged, the only thing to do here is to install the wing rod and connect the servos.  The wing rod is fairly light and appears to be plenty sturdy and slipped into place with an excellent fit.  I listed hemostats as optional but if you have a set they will come in handy for hooking up the flap and aileron servos.  The aileron servo wires are conveniently marked with yellow tags to keep the connections straight.  Unlike the Radian which uses a friction fit to hold the wings in place, the Pro includes a countersunk phillips screw on each side so that the wings remain in place during flight.  They even included a spare screw incase you loose one, nice touch Parkzone!  Maybe if they had known they were sending it to me they should have included 5 or 6 spares.

    Aileron sevo installation
    Wing attachment
    Battery installed ready to fly
    Ready to program
    LOTS of programming options
    Notice THERML flight mode

    There are a number of options available for you.

    1. Basic radio setup.  You can set up a basic acro model, leave the Y harnesses is place and put the flaps on a switch.  This requires at least a 5 channel radio such at the DX6i.  Even with a more advanced radio, you can go this route and put the flaps on a 3 position switch or slider and get quite a bit of performance out of the Radian Pro.  But if you're an R/C'r you probably like to tinker so read on...

    2. You can remove the aileron Y harness and use the setup provided HERE by Horizon for the DX6i to enable flaps and crow mixing on a switch.  Crow mixing raises the ailerons at the same time you drop the flaps for a very effective airbrake mode.  This lets you dive without picking up too much speed, it also helps break lift when you're enjoying a great thermal so much that you realize you are loosing sight of the plane.  It also allows very fine control of your landing approach for precision landings.

    3.  With a 7 channel or better radio such as the DX7 or a 9503, you can use the setup sheet provided HERE and in addition to crow and flaps you can also use camber and reflex control.  Camber lets you drop the flaps and ailerons to increase the lift of your wing. This works well when flying slow in thermals to give you maximum lift.  Reflex control raises the trailing edge and lets the Pro fly faster.  This comes in handy when you are in sink and want to scoot to another part of the sky to resume your search for lift.  In addition to camber and reflex the DX7 allows you to mix elevator compensation for when the flaps are deployed.

    4.  As I said earlier in article, if you're the registered owner of a DX8 radio you can simply download the file provided HERE and copy it to your radio via the SDCard slot.  I don't have a DX8 to see all what is included but I would have to think it would have all the goodies listed above.

    5.  For owners with an advanced radio like the 9503, 11X, or 12X, you can really have fun if you want play with serious sail plane programming.  The 11X features 5 flight modes that you can individually configure dual rates, expo, aileron differential, rudder to aileron mixing, elevator compensation, pre-set camber control, slider or switch controlled camber, and a whole range of features of which I haven't even figured out what the acronyms mean yet. 

    One thing that really helped was plugging in the Radian Pro and sitting it on my work bench while I referred to the manual and played with the mixing options.  Using the flight modes and MOT or motor option, I was able to enable the throttle stick to activate the motor in launch mode, but once I switched to normal, thermal, or reflex mode the motor becomes inactive and the throttle stick becomes the flap/crow stick that most high performance sail planes use.

     

     

    I balanced the Radian Pro at 70mm from the leading edge as the manual suggested, charged the battery, and headed to the field.

    LAUNCH

    I gave the Pro a power off, level toss just to check the balance and trim.  I always use a helper to hand launch a motor glider on it's maiden powered flight just in case.  There was no need to worry solo launching the Radian Pro however.  You can launch it with power out of your hand or just give it a level toss into the wind and apply power and climb out. 

    The Radian won't win any races with the Space Shuttle like I have seen with a few other motor gliders, but it climbs with authority and reaches altitude quickly. 

    FLYING

    This isn't the floater that the original Radian is, you actually have to work a little bit to fly the Pro.  One reason is the lack of significant polyhedral which eliminates the self correcting tendency of the Radian.  It also likes to fly a little faster and you will probably find yourself using the motor than you would with the original Radian.  If you try to mush it around, the plane will stall and loose altitude on you.  Recovery is nothing more than letting go of the up elevator and letting it regain a little bit of speed or adding a touch of throttle.

    We put several 15 to 18 minute flights using the motor intermittently but without picking up any real lift charging the battery between each flight.  Though the included charger doesn't give any indication of power consumption, hooking the battery up to one of my good chargers showed that these 18 to 20 minute flights were putting between 55 and 65 percent of the capacity back in.  This shows we had plenty of time to spare to work some lift or make additional motor runs.

    If you drop the camber a few degrees or have the flaps on a proportional channel and crack them a bit, The Radian Pro will slow down nicely.  The rudder and ailerons are quite effective and coordinated turns are easy to accomplish for minimal loss of altitude. 

    THERMALING

    A thermal is a bubble of air that is warmer than the surrounding air.  If you picture a bubble rising from bottom of a tank of water, as it gets closer to the surface it gets larger due to the decrease in surrounding pressure, you can begin to visualize what a thermal would look like if you could see it.  To stay in a thermal you need to circle within the rising bubble and follow its progress as the thermal itself is blown downwind.

    I can remember catching my first big thermal like I can remember reeling in my first big fish, it's quite a rush and can be very addicting.  The key is trimming your glider for hands off flight and keeping your hands off and letting the plane find the lift.  A sharp eyed sail plane pilot will keep an eye out for what the birds are doing.

    Most of us like to use the motor to head up to high start altitude, shut it down, and start hunting thermals so I gave that a try.  The Pro reacts well to lift and having ailerons its easy to turn into the lift.  If you use the rudder to circle in the lift a little bit of opposite aileron to the turn will keep the wings nearly level and present the most wing to the rising air.  Increasing the camber a few degrees and the Radian Pro will work the light lift that occurs down low quite well.

    LANDING

    The flaps are very effective at slowing the Radian Pro down for landing.  If you have a radio that lets you use crow mixing the Pro will appear to come to a stop in mid air.  We also dialed in some elevator compensation so that the Pro maintained attitude through flap deployment.

    Landing with or without flaps is very easy with the Radian Pro.  With little wind the flaps allow the airplane to slow to a controlled stop nearly effortlessly.  The Pro handles winds beyond what I would have expected from a foam sail plane so if you're flying in the wind, leave the flaps retracted and use the wind to slow down your ground speed for landing.  Crow can be used for consistent spot landings. 



    Download and Watch in Windows Media Player here!

    Flight Shots
     
     
     
     
     
     
     







    While I wouldn't recommend this as a beginner plane like the Radian, the Pro is a great step up for the pilot that wants more features and more performance.  If you have a high end radio but are intimidated by the sailplane programming, the Radian Pro is a cost effective platform that you can use to start experimenting with advanced features as camber, crow, and other mixing.

    The Radian Pro assembles easily and can get in the air quickly.  The BNF version includes everything you need to get in the air with your favorite DSM2 airplane radio. 

    The Radian Pro launches well, is a respectable thermal ship, and handles wind surprisingly well.  If you're looking for a step up from a 2 or 3 channel glider, that doesn't take a large chunk out of your modeling budget, give the Radian Pro serious consideration.


       

    Parkzone and JR
    Distributed exclusively by:
    Horizon Hobby
    4105 Fieldstone Rd.
    CHAMPAIGN, IL 61822
    Support Phone: (877)504-0233
    Sales Phone: (800)338-4639
    Website: www.horizonhobby.com
    Email: support@horizonhobby.com

    Comments on RCU Review: Parkzone Radian Pro BNF electric sailplane

    Posted by: Master Blaster on 04/27/2011
    The stock lipo when fitted into the battery compartment as illustrated causes the Radian to be very tail heavy and difficult to fly. I mounted it on top of the ESC and almost got perfect CG. I opted for a 1800 and 2200mah mounted over the ESC and solved the problem,as well,I got about 27min of flite time with the trade off of a little extra weight.
    Posted by: BarracudaHockey on 06/13/2011
    Thank you for your comment. I have heard about a few people having cg issues, however we can only report on any issues we have with the kit we receive and the plane balanced correctly and flew well without any cg tinkering.
    Posted by: giddyuperic on 03/09/2012
    Hello guys and maybe some gals. I am having a heck of a time geting every thing pluged into the AR600. I have a DX7 and did the programing just like they said no problem. I just need help pluging the servos in the right ports on the AR600 Can someone please show me a photo or help me please???? Thank you very much. Eric at ericstriepeke213@msn.com
    Page: 1
    The comments, observations and conclusions made in this review are solely with respect to the particular item the editor reviewed and may not apply generally to similar products by the manufacturer. We cannot be responsible for any manufacturer defects in workmanship or other deficiencies in products like the one featured in the review.

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