How Much Weight Can an RC Plane Carry?

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Many RC enthusiasts have pondered about how much their RC plane can truly carry. After all, many different RC plane manufacturers claim their products can handle more payload than what their rivals offer.

An RC plane can carry as much as 2 – 20 lbs (32 – 320 oz) of weight. RC planes have a low payload since they’re made from lightweight materials and are smaller in size than commercial aircraft. However, there are extreme cases where these planes can carry over 200 lbs (91 kg) of extra weight.

Keep reading for an in-depth analysis of how much weight RC planes can carry. We’ll consider what the experts say about this and discuss how to determine the maximum load your aircraft can handle without compromising flight stability and performance.

How Much Weight RC Planes Can Carry

How Much Weight RC Planes Can Carry?

On average, RC planes can carry a load of between 2 lbs and 20 lbs (32 – 320 oz), but the maximum load a typical RC plane can handle varies between different models and the materials used in their construction.

Typically, RC planes come as fixed-wing, helicopter, or multi-rotor aircraft. These models have different maximum ground takeoff weights (MTOW).

Let’s examine them in greater detail:

How Much Weight a Fixed Wing RC Aircraft Can Carry

On average, a fixed-wing RC plane has a payload capacity of between 2-10 lbs (32 – 160 oz). As this blog post highlights, the load varies between small, medium, and large wing aircraft as follows:

Wing Size CategoryTypical Maximum Load
Small wingLess than 2 lbs (32 oz)
Medium wing2 – 10 lbs (32 – 160 oz)
Large wing10 lbs or higher (Over 160 oz)

Why does a fixed-wing RC plane carry such light loads?

Fixed-wing RC aircraft are typically made of lightweight materials such as balsa wood and foam. They don’t have the same type of structural integrity as commercial planes or helicopters because they’re not subject to heavy loads regularly like these other types of aircraft.

For example, if you were carrying an important package from one location in your fixed-wing airplane, it would likely be damaged due to the limited amount of strength that can be put into this design without risking flight stability.

However, some more advanced RC airplanes with better materials can carry heavier, such as the replica Concorde built by Steven and Mathew Bishop, can handle up to 228 lbs (103 kg) of weight!

How Much Weight an RC Helicopter Can Carry

The best RC helicopters on the market are designed to carry 10-20 lbs (160 – 320 oz). However these are extreme instances. This is because RC helicopters aren’t designed for heavy-lifting. Carrying excess loads drains their batteries faster and might damage their components.

Additionally, the rotor blades of a helicopter tend to create drag and turbulence as the plane moves, reducing the amount of load it can handle without compromising stability.

Rotor diameter is another factor to watch out for when determining the maximum load to add to your RC helicopter. Generally, the larger the rotor diameter, the heavier the load your plane can carry, as this discussion thread on Stack Exchange highlights.

PRO TIP: It’s best to keep your payload light if you’re using an RC helicopter for aerial photography or video recording - you’ll save energy and won’t have any issues maneuvering around objects (and people) on landed surfaces like roofs and playgrounds.

If you need a durable, quality RC for this job, I recommend the QIRDLP WiFi Quadcopter Drone from Amazon.com. Rest assured, it will offer you crisp images, thanks to its high-resolution, wide-angle 1080p camera.

How Much Weight a Multi-Rotor RC Plane Can Carry

Generally, multi-rotor RC planes are designed to lift a payload ranging from 4 gm to 8 kg (0.14 oz – 17.6 lb), according to UAV Systems International. Anything more than that could cause excessive weight-related vibrations, deteriorating the plane’s stability and performance during flight.

One exception, however, may be hybrid drones that run on electric-gas engines. Aircraft that run on gas-electric engines offer a lift capacity of up to 20 lb (320 oz), according to MIT.

Therefore, if you need to carry a load of more than 17 pounds (7.71kg), you may need to use a hybrid plane.

Factors Affecting How Much Weight an RC Plane Can Carry

The maximum weight an RC plane can handle depends on the following factors:

The Wingspan of the Plane

Airfoils produce lift by creating air pressure differences on either side, so wingspans should be as large as possible to produce more lifting force. This means that larger aircraft can carry heavier loads because they can generate more lift for their own size and weight. Smaller models will need to fly to stay airborne or risk crashing due to excessive loading.

Weight of the Materials

How much material makes up the frame?

Heavier materials lead to higher weights because they are stronger than lighter ones, meaning there is more room for supporting attachments such as engines or fuel tanks without bending too much under heavy loads.

How To Determine the Maximum Weight Your RC Plane Can Carry?

There are two main methods RC owners use to determine the maximum load their planes can carry: slowly add weight to the plane or check the plane’s square footage.

Slowly Add Weight to the Plane

You can use this method by adding an item weighing 100 grams (3.53oz) to the plane and trying to fly it.

If the plane flies with no stability problems, try adding another 100 grams (3.53oz) to the load and attempting to fly the aircraft again.

However, pay keen attention to your RC plane’s balance as you do this – you don’t want the plane to dip too much, either backward or forward.  

Check Your Plane’s Square Footage

Most RC planes can handle 0.625 to 1.25 lb (10 to 20 oz) per square foot. They usually come with a scale printed on their bottom, a feature that may come in handy when using this approach.

Alternatively, you can determine your plane’s square footage by measuring the distance from the front edge to the back edge and dividing the result by four (length + width).

NOTE: Both methods can be time-consuming but are pretty accurate. Regardless of which method you use, ensure you don’t put any more weight than necessary to maintain flight stability.

Why to Avoid Overloading an RC Plane?

Overloading your RC plane comes with disastrous consequences such as:

  • Undue stress on the plane’s structure:  The more weight you put on your plane, the greater chance that it will get broken and crash. For example, a higher weight puts more pressure on the fuselage, which can weaken it or even snap the plane in half.
  • Difficulty landing: Added weight makes it more difficult for RC planes to land. This is most common when the plane’s nose becomes too heavy and, in turn, its tail becomes too light. Instead of striking a balance during landing, the aircraft may fly forward in a downward direction, making it difficult to control
  • Running out of power: The more weight on your plane means that you will run through batteries faster and have to replace them often. This is because heavier planes need higher battery voltage than lighter ones.
  • Difficult maneuverability: When your plane’s weight exceeds its capacity, you may notice a change in its circular movements, such as a more jerky motion or one that is less smooth.
  • Added stress on the radio: The overall effect of the above factors is more stress on your radio. As a result, you may need higher capacity servos or face the risk of your servos blowing out mid-flight, as this thread describes.

In general, regardless of the type of RC plane you own, ensure you read the user manual to have a clearer picture of how much weight your aircraft can handle and the guidelines to follow to prevent the risk of crashing it.

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