Wednesday, February 21, 2018


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Materials Needed
22 LEDs
22 Resistors matched to your LEDs for 12 V power supply
Phone cord
Micro Deans connector (the side with two female connectors solders to the ESC, the side with two male connectors solders to the lights)
Soldering iron

The total weight of the light system -- including LEDs, wire, solder, resistors, and plug -- was 0.95 ounces. By way of comparison, the old magnet wire system I replaced was only 0.20 ounces lighter. The weight penalty well worth it, in my opinion, to not have to worry about whether the magnet wire will suddenly and (and maybe violently) short out by getting scraped.

Obligatory Warnings about Soldering Safety
Always practice safe soldering practices. Solder in a well-ventilated area away from flammable materials. Do not touch the soldering tip and NEVER place the soldering tip in your mouth. Do not leave a hot soldering iron unattended and while camping NEVER sleep with a hot soldering iron in your sleeping bag. When soldering onto the wires of your ESC or any other circuit, solder as quickly as possible to avoid damaging the circuit with heat. If you ever get into an argument with a soldering iron, it’s best just to unplug it and leave the room for a few minutes while both of you cool down.

Kudos to the Creators of this Lighting System
I didn’t invent this lighting system. Not even close. I’m using Chimaera and Delorno’s system, which I found in this thread: Thanks, Chimaera and Delorno, for sharing a great design with us.

Here’s a play-by-play of the video with some details to help you understand what's going on, especially where the events are compressed to avoid boring viewers completely out of their gourds. The numbers in parenthesis correspond to the time counter on the video.

Strip out the small wires from a phone cord. You will need three positive lines of wire and three negative.

You will be running a positive and a negative to each wing and a positive and negative to the tail. The four wires for the wings should reach from the ESC to the wing tip, then along the side of wing tip, and then along about one-half of the trailing edge. The two wires to the tail should reach to the leading edge of the horizontal stabilizer and then be long enough to connect two LEDs on one side of the horizontal stabilizer. You can either double back to connect the LEDs on the other side or you can splice in separate wires for that side (I spliced in two separate wires for the other side since I thought the wire doubling back would look ugly).

Solder the three positive wires to each other and then to the Micro Deans plug (the side with two male connectors). Solder the three negative wires to each other and then to the other side of the Micro Deans plug.

Heatshrink to your liking. The Deans plugs came with some small heat shrink, so I opted to put that on first and then put some larger heatshrink over all three wires. Then pair up each negative with a positive – a positive and a negative for each wing, and a positive and a negative for the tail. With these pairings, you are now ready to begin soldering the LEDs to the wires. Please see the attached wiring diagram if you have any questions. Remember: the positive and negative wires DO NOT touch each other, but will terminate without touching each other directly (the electricity flows from the positive wire, through each resistor and LED, then into the negative wire.)

The longer prong on the LED is the positive. Bend it down at a 90-degree angle, away from the other prong. Solder the resistor to the positive prong. I prefer twisting the resistor lead around the LED a few times so there’s a mechanical connection in addition to the solder; then, after I solder, I trim the excess leads off. Try to avoid holding the soldering iron to the LED prong too long or it may burn out the LED.

Pick a wing and decide how close to the fuselage you want your first LED. Mine are about 2 or 3 inches in from the center of the wing. Rubbing the positive wire back and forth on the soldering iron, melt enough of the insulation off to make a good contact point. A quick way of doing it is to rub the top of the wire back and forth a few times, then the bottom, then rotate the wire 90 degrees, then rub the bottom and top again. This generally will clear enough of the insulation away. Just make sure there’s plenty of wire visible.

Wrap the free resistor lead several times around the newly cleared section of wire, then solder it and trim off the excess lead.

Measure the negative wire to see where the negative prong of the LED will connect without a lot of extra slack in the wire. Extra slack just means you’ll have extra wire. Melt the contact spot the same as with the other wire, and then twist and solder the negative lead onto that spot.

Test the first LED to make sure all solder connections are good, and that you didn’t somehow manage to wire it up backwards. Also, make sure the soldering iron hasn’t been sitting in your lap for the last five minutes. When testing the LEDs, avoid shorts by making sure none of the strands of wire are touching. I sometimes put a dab of hot glue on the ends of each wire or a little piece of black tape. I had previously spliced into the positive and negative leads on my ESC and soldered the other Deans Micro plug (with two female connectors) onto it. This makes testing very easy. It’s also nice to have the lights lit up when you hot glue them to your wing, because you can see exactly where the lights are focusing and hold them at the best possible angle until the glue cools.

Solder up 21 more LEDs. For the wings, I soldered on four white LEDs and then three colored LEDs, all spaced about 4 inches apart. Then after an 8-inch gap, I soldered on two more white LEDs separated by 4 inches. For the tail, I soldered two white LEDs to the bottom of the leading edge of the horizontal stabilizer. To find the contact points on the tail wires, lay out the wire along the fuselage to measure where the contact points should be.

Hot glue the LEDs to the plane. I attached the first four white LEDs to the bottom of the leading edge of each wing, then the four colored lights to the bottom of each wingtip. I attached the last two white LEDs to the top of the trailing edge of the wing. The reason the last two are on the top is to give you better visibility when the plan is climbing out away from you or at other angle when you can’t see the bottom of the wing very well.


This tutorial is also posted at rcgroups:

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