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Even without ailerons or flaps, the Night Radian FT is a fun model with a wide performance range.

Written by Terry Dunn
Go soaring day or night
Product Review
As seen in the April 2019 issue of
Model Aviation.


e-flite night radian ft 2.0m bnf


Bonus Video

At A Glance

Specifications

Type: Electric sailplane

Wingspan: 78.7 inches

Wing area: 551 inches

Length: 44.7 inches

Radio: Spektrum iX12 transmitter; Spektrum AR636A receiver (included); two ParkZone PKZ1060 mini servos (included)

Components needed to complete: Four-pluschannel (five-channel for SAFE) DSM2/DSMX transmitter; three-cell 1,350 to 2,200 mAh 30C LiPo battery

Minimal flying area: Sport field

Price: $199.99 BNF Basic; $179.99 PNP (does not include receiver)

Power system: ParkZone 480B BL 960 Kv brushless motor (included); E-flite 30-amp ESC (included); 9.75 × 7.5 folding propeller (included); E-flite 3S 2,200 mAh 30C LiPo battery

Power output: 21.8 amps, 251 watts, 107 watts per pound

Flying weight: 37.6 ounces

Flight time: 10-plus minutes

Wing loading: 9.8 ounces per square foot

Pluses

  • Fun, broad flight performance.
  • Includes lights.
  • Durable construction.

Minuses

  • Cluttered radio bay.
  • Requires significant nose weight.

Product Review

Horizon Hobby Has released several versions of the Radian electric sailplane throughout the years. The models in this series have wingspans ranging from less than 30 inches to more than 100 inches! Of all of those variants, the original ParkZone Radian with a 78.7-inch wingspan is the favorite of many hobbyists. This electric-powered sailplane was simple, tough, and had great flight performance as a glider or a sport model.

Those who were sad when the original Radian was discontinued now have reason to celebrate. E-flite’s new Night Radian FT is based on the beloved 2-meter Radian. The design has been updated with some cool new features that make it even more versatile than before!

As the name suggests, the Night Radian FT is equipped with dozens of LED lights that illuminate the airframe and allow you to fly at night. These aren’t just your average, run-of-the-mill, single-color LEDs. They are programmed to flash dynamic, multicolored light patterns while you fly. It’s almost like flying your very own fireworks display, only much quieter.

The "FT" in this model’s name is a nod to Flite Test, the RC superstars of YouTube. E-flite partnered with Flite Test to make the Night Radian FT a reality. A huge Flite Test gremlin logo on the wing adds unique character to this model. It is also a handy visual cue when flying.

the night radian ft is a molded-foam model
The Night Radian FT is a molded-foam model that comes out of the box mostly prebuilt.

E-flite offers two versions of the Night Radian FT. The Plug-N-Play (PNP) variant includes foam airframe components with the installed LED system, two servos, a 480-size brushless motor, folding propeller, and 30-amp ESC. You only need to add a four-plus-channel receiver with a transmitter and a three-cell flight battery.

This review covers the BNF version. It has all of the features of the PNP model but adds a Spektrum AR636A receiver with AS3X and SAFE Select stabilization. Hobbyists who purchase the BNF model will need a DSMX/DSM2-compatible transmitter with five or more channels and a flight battery.

Assembling the Night Radian FT

Little work is required to get the Night Radian FT flight ready. The first step is to slide the horizontal stabilizer into place and secure it with the provided tape. What looks like a servo plug is actually a connection for the LEDs inside of the horizontal stabilizer. I taped down the excess wire so that it would not snag anything in my shop or flop around in flight.

Next up is the two-piece wing. The wing panels slide over a carbon-fiber spar and are locked into place with 3 mm screws. Once again, standard servo plugs are used to connect the LEDs in the wing panels. These plugs are routed through a small channel in the wing root to a junction box near the elevator and rudder servos. A hinged plastic hatch opens for access to all of these components. Space is slightly tight, but it all fits together well.

When linking the AR636A receiver to your transmitter, you must decide if you want to have SAFE Select active or disabled. With SAFE Select enabled, you can engage SAFE stabilization using a toggle switch on your transmitter. This limits the maximum pitch and bank angles of the Night Radian FT and the model levels itself when you release the controls. It’s a useful safety net for less-experienced pilots. I wanted to explore the effects of using SAFE, so I enabled SAFE Select when binding my Spektrum iX12 transmitter to the Night Radian FT.

Radio setup is easy. The appropriate settings are preprogrammed into the AR636A receiver. After the transmitter and receiver were linked, I only had to verify that the throttle and control surfaces responded correctly. Everything worked perfectly.

When you remove the magnetically attached canopy, you’ll find the motor, ESC, and receiver secured in their relative locations. There are also several free-floating components related to the lighting system. This conglomeration of gear makes the radio bay seem cluttered and disorganized.

I spent a few minutes tidying things in the radio bay. I removed the mechanical power switch for the LEDs. I felt the switch was unnecessary because I can simply plug in the lights to turn them on. I used GOOP adhesive to attach the loose LED components to the inside walls of the radio bay.

a plastic hatch on the bottom of the fuselage
A plastic hatch on the bottom of the fuselage provides access to the rudder and elevator servos, as well as a junction box for LED lighting plugs.

The thin, plastic bulkhead behind the motor was a good location to mount the light control board. This board has three push-button switches that allow you to select the LED sequence that you want, as well as the speed at which the pattern repeats.

The assembly manual suggests powering the Night Radian FT with an E-flite three-cell 1,350 mAh 30C LiPo battery. I installed one of these batteries as far forward as I could, but the model was tail-heavy. The balance situation improved when I stepped up to a heavier 2,200 mAh battery, but the airplane still required 1.5 ounces of nose weight to achieve the suggested center of gravity (CG) location. I attached steel weights to the fuselage behind the spinner.

Flying the Night Radian FT

My initial flights with the Night Radian FT took place during the day. The maiden flight was about as stress-free as I could ask for. There is plenty of area to grip the Radian’s fuselage below the wing for launching. I launched several times with and without SAFE activated. Either way, the model climbed away without any hiccups.

The airplane’s power system provides strong climb performance. Just point the nose up and go! After you reach a nice soaring altitude, cut the throttle and the propeller blades fold back. The Night Radian FT will settle into a nice, flat glide. Now it’s time to go searching for thermals—or maybe just see how long you can stay airborne without nudging the throttle up.

Control authority is good for both the rudder and elevator. Combine that with the airplane’s low wing loading and you have a nimble airplane that can be contained within a small flying area. Even basic aerobatics are possible. Loops and stall turns are easy to pull off. Even inverted flight is possible. Who says you need ailerons to have fun?

The Night Radian FT handles well with the CG at the suggested location, 2.5 inches behind the wing’s leading edge. Other Radian pilots have said that they prefer to balance the airplane at 3 inches. I plan to experiment with my model’s CG by gradually removing nose weight.

You will probably see the wing bend upward as you guide the Night Radian FT through tight, speedy turns or other high-G maneuvers. The tail feathers flex slightly as well. This flexibility doesn’t seem to significantly impact the model’s handling qualities. It simply absorbs the abuse and springs back into shape. I’m sure the airframe has a breaking point, but I haven’t found it yet.

The Night Radian FT is an aerodynamically stable airplane by design, so activating SAFE does not make a huge difference. Rookie pilots will probably appreciate the extra help that SAFE provides. With an experienced instructor to help guide you, I think the Night Radian FT could even be a great first model.

Veteran pilots will likely prefer to fly without the artificial stabilization of SAFE. I found that SAFE can be helpful while gliding. I sometimes have trouble determining my model’s pitch when soaring at high altitude. I can activate SAFE in those situations and it will keep the nose level. Is that cheating? Nah, not when you’re flying just for fun.

I prefer to fly this model when the wind is light. It has sufficient power and control authority to be flown when the breeze picks up, but this lightweight airplane gets bounced around in the turbulence.

Night flying introduces a whole different way to enjoy the Night Radian FT. The layout of the LEDs provides good in-flight orientation. The only blind spot creeps in when the airplane is flying directly toward you.

this view of the night radian ft sitting
This view of the Night Radian FT sitting on fresh snow between flights provides a good sense of how bright the lighting system is.

the manual recommends a three-cell
The manual recommends a three-cell 1,350 mAh LiPo battery (top). The author’s Night Radian FT required nose weight to achieve the suggested CG, even when using a heavier 2,200 mAh battery.

I’ve flown many night-flying models before, but this is my first with lights that create patterns, and it is spectacular. There are a lot of varied patterns from which to choose. I prefer the light sequences with many alternating colors. Don’t be surprised if you attract an audience when flying at night!

The LEDs on the Night Radian FT are useful during daytime flying too. It can be tough to see and orient your airplane in the gray, sunless days of winter. I’ve found that the lights help this model stand out in such conditions. Now I can fly on drab-looking days when I would normally stay home.

Final Approach

The Night Radian FT retains the charm of the original 2-meter Radian and adds a few significant upgrades. It is still a rugged, great-flying machine that can be appreciated by pilots of all skill levels. The new onboard lighting system means that your flying doesn’t have to stop when the sun goes down. In fact, that might be when the fun is just beginning!


Manufacturer/Distributor

E-flite

(800) 338-4639

www.e-fliterc.com

Horizon Hobby

(800) 338-4639

www.horizonhobby.com

Sources:

Spektrum

(800)338-4639

www.spektrumrc.com

Flite Test

www.flitetest.com

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