Airframe Lighting Tips

by FliteTest | April 29, 2014 | (29) Posted in Tips

When your at a fantastic event like SEFF the flying doesn't end when the sun goes down. 

Flying in the dark sounds like a bad idea, and it is! Unless you adorn your plane with all kinds of lighting tech first.

Here we equipped the Kraken with some internal LEDs and some electroluminescent wire (or EL wire) on the wingtips. 

To go the extra mile we filled the bomb bay with radioactive waste!

Actually we just filled it with a ton of these cool little light up helicopter toys. 

Here is the basic internal setup for the LED strip. 

We used two 9 Mode Multi Colour/Multi Function LED Strips from Hobby King. One for each wing. 

These things come with a control unit which allows you to pick through 9 pre-set "animations", from solid color, to blinking solid, to cycling colors, and others. 

All you need to do is remove the sticky backing on the strip and wrap it around both sides of the spar. 

To get the best effect, give the light room to dissipate. In other words, don't have the LED facing directly into the foam. From the outside you will only see little dots of light instead of the nice even glow.

But, if this is the type of effect you're looking for, experiment with it!

This is a setup with a basic single color LED strip. Just remember if you need to solder the ends of two strips together:



Remember, most LED strips require 12 volts of power to work properly. Less power and they will not glow as well. More power and you can actually damage the LEDs. Be aware this might vary depending on the brand you go with, so check with the manufacturer. 

Use a 3 cell battery when powering your lights. If you also want to run the motor off the same 3 cell (instead of trying to fit two batteries into the plane,) you can always pick up a basic balance connector. 


We hope this episode gave you guys some inspiration to get out there and be a night owl!

How do you like to make your planes glow? Let us know! Chat it up in the forums!



SP0NZ on April 30, 2014
Awesome! I was just telling my son last night that I hoped you guys would write an article on how to do this. Thanks.
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mbradford278 on April 30, 2014
On the original Kraken from NEAT 2013, how did you wire the LED's so you could turn them on and off with a switch? I've tried wiring the + into the signal post on the receiver but get nothing. The only way I get any light is if I wire the + and - wires on the LED's to the + and - posts on the receiver but then they are on all the time.
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spectrum on April 30, 2014
Hobby king sells relays that are controlled by a channel on your receiver.
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ashbreeze on April 30, 2014
Yaaaaaaa! More David!
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dave48822 on April 30, 2014
Using two controllers, one for each half of the wing, how did you sync them up so they had the same light pattern at the same time??

Beautiful effect at night!
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zephyrrc on May 14, 2014
it looks amazing! I cant believe how easy it is, I am going to do my first scratchbuild, and I will definitely add these internally (as I hope to use foam board)
great job guys (as always) Keep up the good work!
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RevJim1952 on June 26, 2015
How would you put lights on a bixler 2 ?
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Airframe Lighting Tips