“True Design is the art of simplifying without taking too much away from its form and function and ending up with something beautiful and effective. “
by Mario I. Arguello (MIA)
The experimental and recreational flying fad of the 70’s, when young daredevils took to the skies in ultralight homebrewed aircraft, called hang-gliders, and my affinity for unique lightweight aircraft, inspired my passion for these interesting and unique flying machines.
In the late 70’s, I embarked on a quest to find one in scale that could be flown via radio control, but I could not find one for purchase. The closest thing I found was a publication of a 1:6 scale Rogallo “kite style wing” hang glider model, made to fly with a modified GI-Joe toy figure, using 2 servos on the torso, for weight-shift control.
This publication was in an American Aircraft Modeler- April 1974 magazine, which I found in a local hobby shop’s “old magazine rack”, after having, literally, gone through all the magazines there, and purchasing many of them that looked interesting, while trying to find anything related to the subject.
The hobby radio transmitters of the time did not have mixing or programmability and thus the radio, used with this model, had to be turned at 45 degrees so to obtain a pseudo form of mechanical elevon mixing, to operate the model with some control.
After building the model from the magazine’s article, plan and photos, and trying several times to get the model to fly to my expectations, I gave up on it.
Several things contributed to these unsuccessful attempts. The control was poor, to begin with, and the model required a hill to be tossed from. One had to toss the model down hill and had to run down the hill to fetch the model and climb back up the hill to start the whole process again and again. This was very exhausting. In addition, the model suffered from lack of durability, being manufactured from hobby grade thin aluminum telescopic tubing, spruce, and a bunch of bits and pieces, as the plan called for. And although the cabling and rigging was made to resemble, in scale, parts on the real hang gliders of the time, it was simply too many small parts that either became loose, bent or broke, during use of the model.
Landings were not graceful, every time the model landed hard, while the rather heavy GI-Joe figurine pilot legs cushioned most of the shock, the wing structure would bend easily on impact. The sail, however, made for a nice kite material and I used it, as such, on breezy days.
A Better Approach
It is at this time, that I decided I would design my own and make it to my specifications, using a more modern wing design and better materials than what was called for on the Rogallo kite plan.
I designed and built several high aspect ratio wing prototypes, to test the wings. For simplicity, these were made from thin plastic sheets, and were rigged also with a king-post and cabling, but less complex, as I wanted to keep my designs simple and more importantly flyable and durable. At least until I got the design fine tuned.
Later on, my wings got more complex and were done in fully sewn Ripstop nylon and Dacron with the addition of rib pockets for battens to provide a more efficient airfoil flex wing. I also employed electric propulsion, so the model could be flown as a modern-day microlight, with a complete trike and sit down pilot figure which was also designed to control the model via the control bar.
This early large scale rc microlight model and pilot figure from the 80’s inspired present day MIA RC Microlights
Since that time, I have designed dozens of RC Microlights, in all types of configurations, with various forms of control, including but not limited to rigid, semi-rid and flex wings, with weight-shift and wing-warping via “Indirect and Direct Control”.
I refined some of my early designs to be sold as RC Microlight Kits, when I established MIA Micro-FLIGHT, back in 1999, basically the same time I started selling the world’s first RC micro helicopters, also in kit form. My original direction was to provide an uncomplicated RC Microlight “Trike” kit that could take advantage of the technology available at the time and be simple to assemble and fly. This meant cutting a lot of complexity, of my original designs, and making the trike and wing as light-weight and simple, as possible. The answer was the MIA Condor™, also know as MIA Angelis™ as seen on the following early video.
This model used a form of wing-warping control, based on how large birds fly, after studying them.
Some of MIA’s most prominent early designs with the intent for a Simple Kit
An early 2-in-1 MIA RC Microlight and RC Autogyro with Weight-Shift Control
This early bird, used a flex-wing loose sail with king-post, landing and flying wires, “luff-lines”, reflex and washout. Because of the similar control function “Weight-shift”, control link setup, as used on rc and full-scale autogyros and the way I designed the control block mechanism at the top of the mast, this lended itself to a 2 in 1 model, by simply exchanging the “lifting surface” the “fixed wing” in the case of the microlight and the “rotary wing” in the case of the autogyro.
Streamlining the Models
I’ve always been in favor of the KIS (Keep it Simple) rule, especially when I started selling kits. This has advantages from many points.
A king-post and cables on the early scale model hang gliders, microlights, ultralights, was something that I wanted to do without, because of the extra complexity in manufacturing, setup and maintenance. Not only extra parts, that protrude on the wing, rob performance efficiency, but can be also distracting and annoying, when traveling with the aircraft or storing it. A full-scale or model wing with a king-post and cabling requires a higher ceiling for storage and transport, wether it be in a real aircraft hangar or inside a car, respectively, unless it is completely disassembled.
Because of this frame of mind. I opted to streamline my wings on all my kits with “strut-braced topless” wings, removing all the complexity associated with the older style wing design approach, just like on modern-day full-scale hang glider, microlight wings.
Pilot Figures for increased Realism and Actual Full-Scale-Like Control
My early RC pilot figure of the 80’s was designed with the intent to fully control the rc microlight or any other similar rc aircraft. In similar fashion to the Flexi Flier GI-Joe modified pilot figure, but with added articulation control of the limbs. On full-scale microlights, the pilot controls the microlight via the control bar attached to the wing. This requires complex flexibility, rigidity and precision handled by the human anatomy, articulation in the joints. To mimic this, in scale form, with precision, and simplicity requires considerable thought and ingenuity. I have probably burned thousands of brain cells, in this process, alone. I designed various configurations in order to have something tangible that I could study the mechanics and feasibility, ease of manufacturing in kit form, etc., while I tested them in my rc microlight designs. Some worked better than others on some models, and some required a bit more complex geometry to obtain a more realistic form of control.
This video showcases 2 possible options of control employed on some of MIA RC microlight Kits for sale
Control Simplicity – Indirect Control
For added simplicity, on our MIA EZ™ 1.25 Trikes, the control is “mimicked” via a typical 2 servo elevon setup rigged via links to the wing, in much the same fashion as RC and full-scale autogyros are done, and the pilot figurine hands are simply attached “floating” to the control bar. We call this “Indirect Control”.
A more realistic form of weight-shift control – Direct Control
One of my greatest accomplishments, in the area of the RC Microlight, has been the development of a robotic pilot figure which can steer the model, just like a real pilot steers a real microlight, via his hands attached to the control bar. Similar to the typical 2 servos on the figurine’s torso, that was used to control the Flexi Flier, for simplicity in servo count, but with additional geometry and components imbedded into the design of the pilot body structure, so to yield a more fluid and realistic form of control, via the pilot figure hands attached to the control bar. We call this “Direct Control”
I employed this form of control on the MIA Robo™ Trike RC microlight kits, as well as other microlight and hang glider designs of various sizes. We do offer the full mechanical RC Microlight MIA Robo™ Pilot Figure, “Direct Control”, as part of the MIA Robo™ Trike Kits and as a custom option. This comes in various sizes and Mechanical complexity to match the particular scale and control geometry of the trikes and wings we offer.
MIA RC Microlights – Present Day
Today’s MIA RC Microlights have become very sophisticated in design and features. Present-day technology, in power and energy systems, has evolved tremendously over the years and has opened up the room for much more realism and performance, something that was very challenging to obtain in the past with older technology. MIA’s latest RC Microlight designs employ high performance brushless (BL) motors and metal gear servos for power and control and the result of this combination can be seen in the awesome flight characteristics of every single one of MIA’s RC Microlights and products, in general.