Realistic Flying Effects for RC Model Electric Airplanes and EDF jets

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Gunter Zielke created the first integrated smoke system for an EDF jet with support from Schübeler Technologies.

Electric motors are increasingly being used in aeromodelling projects to achieve a more realistic sound, feel and flight. In order to achieve the same accurate effects as conventional combustion models, ingenuity and extensive technical know-how are required. Gunter Zielke faced these challenges and enhanced the results by combining a smoke system for electrically powered model airplanes. Together with Schübeler Technologies, he created the first EDF jet with an integrated smoke system, in which the smoke can be switched on and off. The result: an electric model RC extreme jet airplane that can hardly be distinguished from a real airplane, both visually and in terms of the flight sound.

German engineering with a passion

Gunter Zielke always had a passion for flying RC model planes and jets. The German engineer began his aeromodelling career at the age of 15. Today, Gunter is the CEO of Smoke-Systems EL. His company developed a smoke system designed for RC model planes and jets. Working closely with the team at Schübeler Technologies he was able to integrate the first EDF jet with his patented smoke system. If you are looking to add realistic smoke effects to your model plane or jet and want to learn how you to integrate electric ducted fans from Schübeler Technologies, Gunter is your man.

First steps in the development of smoke systems

In 2009 Gunter started to plan, design and build his first big electric airplane. “Big engines were already available as were the first big batteries,” Gunter said. “But there was no electric smoke system for an electric airplane on the market.”

Combustible engines were able to incorporate a smoke system from the start. “You only had to inject oil into the hot Exhaust system, and then you will have steam”, explains Gunter. “But in an electric airplane, there’s no combustor engine and therefore, you have no hot gasses.” So, he decided to create his smoke system to give aeromodellers with electric jets the chance to enhance their flight with realistic effects. But it wasn’t an easy project. “I was told it is physically impossible to do because the power you need is very, very high, for a liquid to become steam,” said Gunter. “You need much more power than is available.”

Schübeler Technology enhances the vision

Gunter had to make various enhancements and fine tune his smoke system to get it working correctly. After some attempts, he decided to put the smoke tubes in the wingtips. On real airplanes, the vapor trails spin off the end of the wingtips. Gunter considered this and realized he could design the smoke system to simulate the vapor trails by implementing a G-Force Sensor.

“When you think about real jets and when they do high-G maneuvers in very sharp curves, you will see small white trails at the wingtips”, says Gunter. “I could simulate that in the jet. And that was the reason why I need a jet to show this effect on the air shows.”

As he started building an EDF jet as a demo model for the smoke system, he searched on the web, what kind of electric-driven fans are available and soon discovered Schübeler Technologies. He got in contact with them in 2018 and explained what kind of jet he would like to build. Schübeler was immediately interested. “They told me they would like to work with me,” Gunter explained. “They said, ‘Tell me what you need, and we will find a solution.’” The solution they settled on was to build a large-scale Eurofighter with electric-driven fans. “Together with Schübeler, we built the whole setup of the impellers, controllers and the battery packs.”

Working with Schübeler helped speed up the progress of Gunter’s EDF jet.  “I produced the computer drawings, and they built the thrust tubes for me,” said Gunter. “The tubes Schübeler delivered were very light. I think 70 grams, very low from the weight. And they fit perfectly in the location where it should fit in the fuselage.”

Another important point was the selection of the motor in the fan. Schübeler and Gunter discussed requirements like flight time, weight and speed. They put together all data and Schübeler recommended the best engine for Gunter to use.

And he is fully satisfied with this solution: “From the maiden flight, everything works perfectly. And we’ve flown over a year with this jet and have had no problems with the engine overall. It’s been up and running right from the first time.”

Gunter is not the only pilot that can take his passion to the next level. Other aeromodellers can also benefit from Schübeler’s know-how. “If anyone wants to build an EDF jet, it doesn’t matter how big it should be, go to the Schübeler website and see what kind of engines they have. This is made in Germany and it’s running very well”, recommends Gunter. “If you have any questions talk to them, they will give you the outright answers.”

Quick and easy smoke implementation

It’s very easy to outfit an existing model with the Smoke-EL system: “If you have an electric airplane, you already have a big battery to fly the plane and you can use the same battery for the smoke system. The implementation is very easy!”, assures Gunter. “We did it already on the airfield in less than three hours. You only have to install a small box, a SmokeDriver™which controls the whole system, a small pump and a very small tank.”

All of this equipment is housed in the fuselage. On the wings, the system requires one hose and one cable to get attached – the hose for the oil, the cable for the power. Small smoke tubes get mounted at the wingtip. The receiver requires one free channel, to activate the smoke system. Another benefit is the fact that you only need 100 to 300 milliliter oil within one flight.

A Small sacrifice for a great effect

The implementation of the entire system adds nearly 800 grams, including the oil, to the weight of the model. 1000 mAh of power are required from the battery per flight. So, if you have an electric airplane like the Schübeler jets, you expect to sacrifice one minute of flight time. “You lose nearly one minute of the flight time. But I think it’s worth it to create the great smoke effect on the wings,” affirmed Gunter.

There are no specific enhancements or additional maintenance people need to buy if they go with the smoke system. However, you do need to use the special smoke oil from Smoke EL. “It takes more than one year to create this oil because the oil has a very low steam point. The steam point has to be very low to save electric power”, explained Gunter. “Otherwise, users have to clean the tubes sometimes. That’s it.”

Future Plans

Gunter is now exploring how to create colored smoke. “People all over the world ask me which different colors are available. For now, the only answer is white, because it is steam and steam is white. So, I am looking for a solution to create colored smoke,” announces Gunter.

Impressive live performances

To get a good impression of this outstanding system you have to see it in the air. Gunter had a great opportunity in Austria to demonstrate its capabilities. “This year it was very difficult for us to present our solution. We didn’t have many air shows. However, with the Eurofighter, I was able to participate in a great demonstration in Austria,” says Gunter.

At this show, his jet flew in formation with two other Eurofighters, but only Gunter’s was electric. As the organizer realized the speed and performance of the electric Eurofighter, he allowed Gunter to fly within the program. “We flew a formation with three jets, two with gas turbines, and mine with two EDF engines. There was no difference in performance and my jet was definitely not the slowest!”

Furthermore, the air show in Austria showed that the sound of the Eurofighter is great. “It sounds like a silent turbine, and you can’t hear that it is electric-driven. The sound is very cool!”

Next year Gunter will also try to fly in other countries. The EDF-Jet from Schübeler will probably be presented at air shows throughout Europe. Until then, you can see videos at www.smoke-systems.com or www.smoke-el.de. There is also a movie of the jet to download or to see at the https://www.edf-jets.de website. “I encourage you to watch these videos,” Gunter teased. At first, you might not be sure if you are looking at a full-sized jet or an aeromodel.”

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