Let's Talk Swashplate: The Dance Floor for RC Helicopters

Rafael Biriba
Written by Rafael Biriba on
Let's Talk Swashplate: The Dance Floor for RC Helicopters

Dive into the heart of RC helicopter maneuvers with the swashplate—a silent maestro in the skies. This small but mighty component transforms your commands into captivating aerial ballet. Join us as we unveil the secrets behind the swashplate’s intricate dance, making every flight a thrilling performance.

The Swashplate Defined

At its essence, the swashplate is a mechanical device situated between the helicopter’s rotor blades and the rotor head. It serves as the intermediary, transforming control inputs from the pilot into complex movements that govern the pitch and roll of the rotor blades.

Swashplate on a radio-controlled helicopter.

  1. Non-rotating outer ring (blue)
  2. Turning inner ring (silver)
  3. Ball joint.
  4. Control (pitch) preventing turning of outer ring
  5. Control (roll)
  6. Linkages (silver) to the rotor blade

Two-Tiered Tango

Now, this dance has two main players—the upper swashplate and the lower swashplate. The upper one gets groovy with your cyclic control inputs, tilting in all directions to tweak the pitch of those rotor blades. Meanwhile, the lower swashplate is all about the collective pitch control, changing the pitch of all blades at once.

Cyclic Control Shimmy

Swashplate servos

Ever pushed your stick forward or to the side? That’s the upper swashplate catching the vibe and tilting accordingly. This move adjusts the angle of the rotor blades, making your heli shimmy and shake in the desired direction.

Collective Pitch Jam

Now, when you pull up on that collective pitch control, it’s party time for the lower swashplate. It tweaks the pitch of all rotor blades at once, determining whether your bird is climbing high or cruising low.

Flybar vs. Flybarless Funk

Flybar vs. Flybarless

Back in the day, we had flybars for stability. They were like training wheels, keeping things steady. But nowadays, we’ve got the flybarless systems rocking the scene with high-tech gyroscopes and electronic wizardry for a more agile and responsive flight.

But this is a separated topic. Let’s talk about it in a different blog post.

Precision Play and Tuning Tunes

Swashplate links

Getting the swashplate to hit all the right moves takes a bit of tinkering. Think adjusting linkages, tweaking servo endpoints, and making sure everything’s mechanically spot-on. It’s like tuning your guitar before hitting the stage—you want that perfect harmony in the air.

Closing Notes

So, the swashplate is the secret sauce behind every epic flight. It’s the puppet master, turning your commands into a sky-high dance party. Get to know its moves, and you’ll be pulling off tricks that’ll leave onlookers in awe.

Rafael Biriba
Rafael Biriba
Author and creator of the blog.
'If you want to fly, give up everything that weighs you down.'
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