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RC Microlight History

By Mario I. Arguello

Control Types:

Indirect (Simple)
Direct (Complex)
Weight-Shift
Wing Warping
Reflex Variable Geometry
Elevon Mix
Thrust Vectored
Conventional 3-Axis

Wing Designs:

Rogallo Delta
High Aspect Ratio
Rigid
Semi-Rigid
Flex
Cable Braced
Strut Braced
 
The Beginning
The experimental and recreational flying fad of the 70’s, when young daredevils took to the skies in ultralight homebrewed aircraft, called hang-gliders, and my affinity for unique lightweight aircraft, inspired my  passion for these interesting and unique flying machines.

In the  late 70’s,  I embarked on a quest to find one in scale that could be flown via radio control, but I could not find one for purchase.  The closest thing I found was a publication of a 1:6 scale Rogallo “ Delta kite style wing” hang glider model, made to fly with a modified GI-Joe toy figure, using 2 servos on the torso, for weight-shift control.

American Modeler Magazine, April 1974, as bought at the time from a local hobby shop in Chicago. Circa early 80's.
American Modeler Magazine, April 1974 "Flexi-Flier" Article Plan

American Modeler Magazine, April 1974 "Flexi-Flier" Article Photos

This publication was in an American Aircraft Modeler- April 1974 magazine, which I found in a local hobby shop’s “old magazine rack”, after having, literally,  gone through all the magazines there, and purchasing many of them that looked interesting, while trying to find anything related to the subject.

The hobby radio transmitters of the time did not have mixing or programmability and thus the radio, used with this model, had to be physically turned at 45 degrees so to obtain a pseudo form of mechanical elevon mixing, on the Aileron/Elevator stick, to operate the model with some control.
 
Building the First Peseudo RC Microlight
After building the model from the magazine’s article, plan and photos,  and trying several times to get the model to fly to my expectations, I gave up on it.

Several things contributed to these unsuccessful attempts. The control  was poor, to begin with, and the model required a hill to be tossed from.  One had to toss the model down hill and had to run down the hill to fetch the model and climb back up the hill to start the whole process again and again.  This was very exhausting. 

RC Hanglider Rogallo Delta Wing built in the early 80's
RC Hanglider Rogallo Delta Wing  Framework built in the early 80's

In addition, the model suffered from lack of durability, being manufactured from hobby grade thin aluminum telescopic tubing, spruce, and a bunch of bits and pieces, as the plan called for.  And although the cabling and  rigging was made to resemble, in scale, parts on the real hang gliders of the time, it was simply too many small parts that either became loose, bent or broke, during use of the model.
Landings were not graceful, every time the model landed hard, while the rather heavy GI-Joe figurine pilot legs cushioned most of the shock, the wing  structure would bend easily on impact. The sail, however, made for a nice kite material and I used it, as such, on breezy days, after rebuilding the framework a few times.  Photos show the wing, in present day, as I kept it since the last time I rebuilt it, nearly 40 years ago. Note the, once shiny, brass nose plates have tarnished over the years.

RC Hanglider Rogallo Delta Wing Nose Detail built in the early 80's
 
A Better Approach
It is at this time, that I decided I would design my own and to my own specifications, while using a more modern wing design and  better materials than what was called for on the Rogallo kite plan.

I designed and built several high aspect ratio wing prototypes, to test the wings. For simplicity, these were made from thin plastic sheets, and were rigged also with a king-post and cabling, but less complex, as I wanted to keep my designs simple and more importantly flyable and durable. At least until I got the design fine tuned.
Later on, my wing designs got more complex and were done in fully sewn Ripstop Nylon and Dacron with the addition of rib pockets for battens to provide a more efficient airfoil flex wing. 

I  also employed electric propulsion, so the model could be flown as a modern-day microlight, with a complete trike and sit down pilot figure which was also designed to control the model via the control bar.

MIA RC Microlight
Specifications:


Lightweight
Durable
Flyable
Easy to Manufacture
Easy to Assemble
Easy to Transport
Use Electric Power
Use Inexpensive RC Gear
 
Early MIA Large Scale RC Microlight and Pilot
Figure from the 80’s
Inspired present day MIA RC Microlights
MIA Early 80's RC Microlight
MIA Early 80's RC Pilot Figure
MIA Early 80's RC Microlight Astro Fligfht Cobolt Motor
MIA Early 80's RC Microlight King Post and Cables
MIA Early 80's RC Microlight Upper Cable Strut Connection
 
Early MIA Air Creations Inspired Trike for RC
Great for Scale purposes
Not for RC every day use
 
World's First "Ultra Light-Weight" RC Trike Microlight
Since that time, I have designed dozens of RC Microlights, in all types of configurations, with various forms of control, including but not limited to rigid, semi-rid and flex wings, with weight-shift and wing-warping via “Indirect and Direct Control”.

I refined some of my early designs to be sold as RC Microlight Kits, when I established MIA Micro-FLIGHT, back in 1999, basically the same time I started selling the world’s first RC micro helicopters, also in kit form.

MIA Ulra Light-Weight Late 90's RC Microlight
My original direction was to provide an uncomplicated RC Microlight “Trike” kit that could take advantage of the technology available at the time and be simple to assemble and fly. This meant  cutting a lot of complexity, of my original designs, and making the trike and wing as light-weight and simple, as possible.

The answer was the MIA Condor™, also known as MIA Angelis™ as seen in the attached early video which was posted on You Tube in much later years than when the model was designed, built, and flown.

MIA Condor RC Microlight
Specifications:


Wing Span: 54"
Wing Chord: 11"
Flying Weight: 6.4 Oz.
Propulsion: GWS IPS DC Motor/ESC
Battery: Ni-Cad 8-Cell 110 mAh
Channels: 3-CH
 
Some of MIA's Most Prominent Early RC Microlight Designs
Intent for a Simple Kit
MIA Most Prominent Early RC Trike Designs 1
MIA Most Prominent Early RC Trike Designs 2
MIA Most Prominent Early RC Trike Designs 3
MIA Most Prominent Early RC Trike Designs 4
MIA Most Prominent Early RC Trike Designs 5
 
An Early 2-in1 MIA RC Microlight and RC Autogyro
RC_MICROLIGHT_TRIKE_ULTRALIGHT_MIA_ROTO_TRIKE_VINTAGE_1
RC_MICROLIGHT_TRIKE_ULTRALIGHT_MIA_ROTO_TRIKE_VINTAGE_2
This early bird, used a flex-wing loose sail with king-post, landing and flying wires, “luff-lines”, reflex and washout.  Because of the similar control function “Weight-shift”, control link setup, as used on rc and full-scale autogyros and the way I designed the control block mechanism at the top of the mast,  this lended itself to a 2 in 1 model, by simply exchanging the “lifting surface” the “fixed wing” in the case of the microlight and the “rotary wing” in the case of the autogyro.
 
Streamlining the Models
I’ve always been in favor of the KIS (Keep It Simple) rule, especially when  I started selling kits. This has advantages from many points.
A king-post and cables on the early scale model hang gliders, microlights, ultralights, was something that I wanted to do without, because of the extra complexity in manufacturing, setup and maintenance. Not only extra parts, that protrude on the wing, rob performance efficiency, but can be also distracting and annoying, when traveling with the aircraft or storing it. A full-scale or model wing with a king-post and cabling requires a higher ceiling for storage and transport, wether it be in a real aircraft hangar or inside a car, respectively, unless it is completely disassembled.

MIA EZ™ 1.25 Trike RC Microlight with Single Piece LG

MIA EZ™ 1.25 Trike RC Microlight with Strut Braced LG

MIA Robo™ Trike RC Microlight with Strut Braced LG
MIA Robo™ Trike RC Microlight with Single Piece LG
Because of this frame of mind,I opted to streamline my wing designs on all my kits with “strut-braced topless” wings, removing all the complexity associated with the older style wing design approach, and making them just like on modern-day full-scale hang gliders and microlights.

In addition, I've gone further and simplified some of my original trike landing gear designs so that the latest "standard kits", I produce, are easier to assemble, and maintain, while providing the same or better suspension and protection on hard landings, as on my original designs.

 
Pilot Figures for Greater Realism
MIA's early RC pilot figure of the 80’s was designed with the intent to fully control the rc microlight or any other similar RC aircraft.  In similar fashion to the Flexi-Flier GI-Joe modified pilot figure,  but with added articulation control of the limbs. 

On full-scale microlights, the pilot controls the microlight via the control bar attached to the wing. This requires complex flexibility, rigidity and precision handled by the human anatomy, articulation in the joints.

MIA EZ™ 1.25 Pilot Figure
MIA Robo™ Pilot Figure 2012
To mimic this, in scale form, with precision, and simplicity required considerable thought and a bit of ingenuity. I have probably burned thousands of brain cells, in this area, alone.

I designed various configurations in order to have something tangible that I could study the mechanics and feasibility, ease of manufacturing in kit form, etc.,  while I tested and refined the designs in my rc microlight models.

Some worked better than others on some models,  and some required a bit more complex geometry to obtain a more realistic form of control.

 
Weight-Shift Control
 
Indirect control - A Simpler Form
For added simplicity, on our MIA EZ™ 1.25 Trikes, the control is “mimicked” via a typical 2 servo elevon setup  rigged via links to the wing, in much the same fashion as RC and full-scale autogyros are done,  and the pilot figurine hands are simply attached “floating” to the control bar. I call this “Indirect Control”.

MIA RC Microlight Indirect Control 1
MIA RC Microlight Indirect Control 2
MIA RC Microlight Indirect Control 3
MIA RC Microlight Indirect Control 4
MIA RC Microlight Indirect Control 5
 
Direct Control - A more Realistic Form
One of my greatest accomplishments, in the area of the RC Microlight, has been the development of a robotic pilot figure which can steer the model, just like a real pilot steers a real microlight, via his hands attached to the control bar.   Similar to the typical 2 servos on the figurine’s torso, that was used to control the Flexi Flier, for simplicity in servo count, but with additional geometry and components imbedded into the design of the pilot body structure, so to yield a more fluid and realistic form of control, via the pilot figure hands attached to the control bar. I call this “Direct Control”.

I employed this more elaborate form of control on the MIA Robo™ Trike RC microlight kits, as well as other microlight and hang glider designs  of various sizes. I offer the full mechanical RC Microlight MIA Robo™ Pilot Figure, “Direct Control”, as part of the MIA Robo™ Trike Kits and as a "custom stand alone option" to match the particular scale of the trikes and wings we offer.

For example, the original MIA Robo™ Trikes use a Pilot with 2 servos with Enhanced Body Geometry, while the most recent "Larger" MIA Robo™ RC Microlights use a Pilot with Multiple servos and much more Complex Body Geometry, although I designed these pilots to look rather simple, especially when they are fully covered with a flight suit.

The following photos show the MIA Robo™ Pilots in their natural form, whcih I think adds a bit of interest and uniqueness to the models they control.  

MIA Direct Control RC Microlight 1
MIA Direct Control RC Microlight 2
MIA Direct Control RC Microlight 3
MIA Direct Control RC Microlight 4
MIA Direct Control RC Microlight 5
 
MIA RC Microlights - Present Day
Today’s MIA RC Microlights have become very sophisticated in design and features.  Present-day technology, in power and energy systems, has evolved tremendously over the years and has opened up the room for much more realism and performance, something that was very challenging to obtain in the past with older technology.  MIA’s latest RC Microlight designs employ high performance brushless (BL) motors and metal gear servos for power and control and the result of this combination can be seen in the awesome flight characteristics of every single one of MIA’s RC Microlights and flying products, in general.


MIA 2018 Present Day RC Microlight 1
MIA 2018 Present Day RC Microlight 2
MIA 2018 Present Day RC Microlight 3
MIA 2018 Present Day RC Microlight 4
MIA 2018 Present Day RC Microlight 5
mia_scale_rc_pilot_flex_head_hands
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