A radio-controlled glider sets a speed record at 548 mph, without a motor

A radio-controlled glider sets a speed record at 548 mph, without a motor
A radio-controlled glider sets a speed record at 548 mph, without a motor. Credit: DSKinetic

California enthusiast Spencer Lisenby set a new world speed record for remote-controlled aircraft, taking an unpowered RC glider transonic at 548 mph (882 km/h) using nothing but the wind. The new record was recorded on the slopes of Parker Mountain, California. The previous speed record for RC gliders was set in 2018 at 545 mph (877 km/h).

The aircraft in question is a DSKinetic Transonic DP glider with a wingspan of 3.3 meters. Made of carbon, its profile has been studied so that it can fly as quickly as possible. It has no propeller, no engine; in short, it has no onboard propulsion source, and yet, this device has just reached a speed of 882 km/h by exploiting nothing other than the force of air masses in the mountains.

To achieve this speed similar to that of airliners, the specialized R/C glider relies on a technique called Dynamic Soaring. The flying technique provides the receipt of additional energy when crossing the border of air masses moving at different speeds. This technique is used by birds, such as Albatrosses. In the wild, the Albatross exploits it to soar without flapping its wings, diving into the troughs of the waves and climbing above their crests. The method allows it not to expend energy, while other seabirds use another technique called slope flight and which relies on the ground effect.

Since the 1960s, “slope soaring” radio-controlled glider pilots have used that reliable source of energy to keep their aircraft flying pretty much indefinitely. It is the most effective to use dynamic flight near obstacles, such as hillsides, where the wind reaches its highest speed. As a result, when properly controlled, RC gliders reach high speeds and can hover for as long as desired.

It is a very complicated technique since the pilot has to be able to maintain the trajectory, correct small imperfections of the movement, and, of course, avoid hitting the ground. Not to mention that at these speeds, a failure can cause the glider to fly towards one person and split him in two. Let’s not forget that at 881 kilometers per hour, the glider travels 244 meters in one second, so there is not much time to think.

A video published on YouTube channel shows a special RC glider, operated by remote control, is flying well more than 500 mph. It was also flying in a very rapid elliptical pattern that just seemed to keep giving the aircraft more and more energy. The camera is back a little far, so you have to watch carefully for that ellipse because this aircraft is looping unbelievably quickly. At the time of this record, the northeast winds were blowing with gusts reaching 105 km/h at the top of Parker Mountain (863 meters).