How Do I Maximize Thermals For My R/C Glider?

Fireworks 5 Flow DLG RC Glider

Published: July 4, 2019 am31 8:50 am


Categories: R/C Gliders

If you own an R/C glider, there is a lot of sense in trying to make as much use of thermals as the weather conditions allow. In doing so, you can get extra flying time, as well as extra fun. In this article I will try to give you some valuable tips and provide answers to some of the most common questions in the field of remote-controlled thermal gliding.


How to Find Decent Thermals?

Needless to say, if you want to make the maximum use of thermals while operating your remote-controlled glider, you’ve got to first find them.

Finding steady thermals is a matter of luck, if you are an R/C gliding newbie. Once you learn the ropes of sailplane piloting, you should be able to quickly get your glider to a decent altitude with the help of thermal flows.

Sailplane aficionados unanimously agree that hot summer days are the best for gliding, as the soaring hot air currents are the strongest at that time of the year. Because thermals’ strength depends largely on the difference in surface temperature, they mostly occur on hot days preceded by a cool night.

If you want to know if the day’s good for sailplane flying, look at the sky. If you see some white, fluffy cumulus clouds scattered around, you can hope of catching some nice and steady thermals. Cumulus clouds are actually the product of hot air flows rising from the ground.

As you build up some experience in remote-controlled gliding, you’ll learn to “read” the shape of cumulus clouds as an indicator of thermals’ strength.


Birds are regular hitchhikers on these soaring hot air flows, so if you see some winged creatures going up while just floating in the air, direct your glider to that area.

If your sailplane suddenly dips left or right while cruising in the air, this means that your left or right wing has hit a thermal. In this case try to counterbalance the aircraft by making a large number-eight figure in the air. Thus, the glider will hit the thermal and soar up on it.

How to Gain a Long-lasting Thermal Flight?

If you want to make an attempt at breaking the world sailplane flying duration record, you’ve got to keep your aircraft in the air for between thirty-three and thirty-six hours.

Once you’ve found a strong and steady thermal, the air rodeo starts. The trick is to keep circling within, or in and out of the thermal so as to pick up altitude. As soon as you lose one thermal, your glider will start sinking, which means you’ve got to immediately catch another one. This accounts for a rather uneven and bumpy ride, hence the comparison to bull riding.

As the atmosphere is almost never steady, the length of your flight also depends on your skills to ride the moving air masses without actually losing your aircraft completely.

How to Improve Launching into Thermals?

As it was elicited above, launching your remote-controlled glider into thermals depends first and foremost on some key weather conditions.

If the terrain allows it, slope soaring appears to be the most straightforward way to launch your R/C glider into thermals. Mind you that the wind must be blowing against the slope which you’re planning to launch your sailplane from.

Hand-launching from a flat surface is also a good option, provided that there’s some steady wind blowing against you. This technique requires a strong shoulder and a steady hand, as you need to give your aircraft a good initial push.

It is also worth mentioning here that bigger and heavier models may need to be hurled forward with both hands. Also, when you hand-launch your glider into thermals from a flat surface, make sure that the nose is horizontal for maximum efficiency.

Some models of r/c gliders allow for the so-called discus launching.

The technique resembles discus throwing in athletics. The pilot grips a short pin on the tip of one of the wings and performs a 360-degree spin before slinging the glider upwards. This type of launching is perfect for thermal soaring and does not require much physical strength.

It is not a good idea to hand-launch into the breeze when it is picking up strength. This means that the thermal is already behind the aircraft. Better launch when the gust is dying out, so that the catch the next thermal that comes along.

 How to increase Time in the Air?

The air time of your remote-controlled glider depends to a great extent on the appropriate setup of its wings.  By adjusting the position of the flaps and ailerons with the remote control you can control the aircraft’s lift and speed.

Thus, if you take the time to perform a proper wing setup, you can virtually double the air time of your glider.

Fortunately, you’ve got the latest technology on your side, as well. Most of computerized radio-controllers available today allow you to mix the following basic functions to your advantage: snap flaps, camber, reflex and full-span ailerons.

Camber is when the flaps and ailerons simultaneously drop down a bit. With this function you can get extra lift without extra drag. Use this function to get the most out of the thermal you’ve just caught.

Reflex is when both the flaps and the ailerons move up a bit, thus giving your glider extra speed.

Snap flaps is a function that allows your R/C glider to attack the turns more aggressively. Essentially, when the elevators move up, the flaps go down thus increasing the aircraft’s maneuverability.

Speaking of the mixing capabilities of your radio, I recommend the latest DX8 version, as it maintains glider-specific wing setup options.

Final Words on Maximizing Thermals for RC Gliders

Listed above are some of the most popular tips and techniques related to the finding and exploiting thermals while piloting a remote-controlled glider. I have deliberately left out the wing functions Crow Braking and Full Span Ailerons, as they aren’t directly related to maximizing your glider’s air time. Should you have any further questions, do not hesitate to reach out to us!