Since the drones SE site did not make the cut, I think that this site would be the closest for many questions involving hobby-aircraft. I would like to ask what is the community consensus as far as questions relating to:

mechanical configuration (i.e. frames, propeller location and orientation, weight distribution) for helicopters, multi-rotors (quadcopters/etc.), and fixed-wing aircraft

Propellers - materials, pitch, balancing, etc.

Motors - Kv ratings, power, torque, weight, efficiency, etc.

Electronics - Flight controllers, RC units (transmission procotols, i.e. bluetooth, wifi, radio, etc.), video capture and transmission, etc.

Sensors - accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers, air pressure, GPS, temperature, uses, limitations, configuration, placement, etc.

I would be especially interested in where "The line is drawn" as far as what is accepted on this site and what would be better asked on Physics, Electrical, Radio, or Arduino, and if there is a "void" where there are questions that don't fit on any of the current SE sites (and if that void is intentional or not)

related question, but the answers are vague: rc plane design on-topic?

looking around, there seems to be a few "overly broad" questions already such as this, but also some "good" ones such as this or this


6 Answers 6


The general policy regarding suitability of questions on all Stack Exchange sites is that a question is on-topic if the community decides it is on-topic. There's no formal process for this: mostly you just have to post the question and see what the reaction is.

That said, questions about model aircraft or drones can cover a wide range of topics, some of which would not be on topic here.

Drawing from your list, I'd suggest that mechanical configuration and propellers are in (but don't ask for product recommendations) while much of the electronics (particularly RC units and video capture) is not specific to aviation and is therefore probably out.

Your list of sensors also covers many that might be appropriate (specifically GPS, air pressure) but a detailed question about the limitations of a magnetometer is possibly not.

There are many grey areas, but you can always test the water in the chat room first.

Lastly, there is a proposal for a RC & Scale Modelling site currently listed in Area 51 which is looking for support and would certainly be a great place to ask about much of what you've listed here.

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    $\begingroup$ The "community decides on" part is why I posted here, as the chat is more of a hit-and-miss depending on who is on at the time $\endgroup$ Oct 18, 2015 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ Well, I guess the answer to the question posed in your title is 'No', but some aspects might be. You'd have to raise a specific question to get a more definitive answer. $\endgroup$
    – user11516
    Oct 18, 2015 at 21:09
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    $\begingroup$ I'd say even that questions on the materials and balancing of props are probably not on-topic, since, as far as I know, the materials and processes used for RC aircraft props are completely different from those used for manned aircraft. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Oct 20, 2015 at 19:58
  • $\begingroup$ @reirab so you suggest only manned aircraft is on topic here and aviation-related UAV (or any unmanned) questions probably off-topic? $\endgroup$
    – vasin1987
    Oct 21, 2015 at 10:55
  • $\begingroup$ @vasin1987 No; I agree with mins' answer. UAVs on the scale of, say, an MQ-1 are designed, operated, and maintained in pretty much exactly the same way as any normal airplane, with the exceptions of more of the flight control being automated and the operator being somewhere other than on board. The important thing about that being that the knowledge and the community involved are mostly the same. This is not at all true for RC/hobbyist scale stuff, though. I do really think a separate SE is a better solution. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Oct 23, 2015 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ @reirab i agree. Rc.SE would best fit them. We have to make do with what we have now..... $\endgroup$
    – vasin1987
    Oct 23, 2015 at 15:37
  • $\begingroup$ @vasin1987 See the answer I just posted. There is an active proposal for that site and they need questions, so sending RC questions there seems like a win for everyone. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Oct 23, 2015 at 15:54

This is a huge grey area but since we accept questions about military and commercial UAVs and about unmanned flight in general, it's hard to see why we should completely reject questions about hobby-grade UAVs. At least in cases where the only difference is size. Like it or not, the entire aviation industry is moving more and more towards unmanned flight in all sorts of shapes and sizes and we can't just ignore that.

I think there's some genuine concern here that if we allow/encourage hobby UAV topics then we'll end up answering questions about radio controllers, model construction etc. but that's not a reason to say that hobby drones should be completely off-topic: some things can be on-topic and others can be off-topic. And as always, whatever guidelines and rules we may have, in the end the community judges each question individually.

Having said all that, one practical 'sanity check' could be, if we replaced "hobby drone" with "military UAV" (or whatever) in the question, would we answer it? If we would, then the question is on-topic. And obviously some areas like aerodynamics are the same for anything that flies, whereas others like construction techniques are not.

My (incomplete!) suggestions for on/off-topic would be:

Usually on-topic

  • Aerodynamic questions and calculations
  • Propellers
  • Design questions about the principles and pros/cons of designs, if they're widely relevant in aviation, e.g. t-tails vs v-tails or whatever
  • Engines/propulsion, if the question has a general aviation application/relevance
  • Electronics, same as engines/propulsion
  • Sensors, but only "how do they work?" questions about the principles of operation and use
  • Legal issues about operating drones in national airspace systems

Usually off-topic

  • Generic electronic and electrical questions (should be on electronic.SE)
  • Generic engine questions (could try mechanics.SE)
  • Radio-control techniques that are not specific to aviation, e.g. generic RC controllers, actuators, components that might also be used for RC cars, boats or anything else

Always off-topic

  • Specific design decisions, e.g. "should I use 3 props or 4?"; the general pros and cons of the decision could still be OK, though (see above)
  • Buying or availability recommendations
  • Fabrication, construction and painting techniques (although even here there's some potential overlap with kit built aircraft)

engineering.SE could be another place to direct some 'generic' questions too, especially about materials or construction. And if the RC site proposal is ever accepted, I think we'll end up discussing this whole thing again.

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    $\begingroup$ Honestly, saying "the only difference is scale" seems like a rather significant understatement to me. Saying the "only difference" between an RC airplane and a 777 is scale is like saying the only difference between a salt water fish tank and the Pacific Ocean is scale. The issue is that the scale is so different that it changes almost everything, including the aerodynamics. I don't think it's really fair to compare RC quadcopters with military UAVs, either, since the latter are usually on the scale of a normal, full-size airplane and, thus, have the aerodynamics of normal airplanes. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Oct 23, 2015 at 4:50
  • $\begingroup$ @reirab Yes, of course that's true, but the bottom line is that both an RC aircraft and a 777 fly! They have to generate lift, they have considerations about weight and balance, payload, fuel, range, navigation, airspace etc. But so far we seem reluctant to discuss these issues for anything smaller than a military drone and that's what people are finding difficult to understand. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Oct 23, 2015 at 13:06
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    $\begingroup$ They do both fly, but so do paper airplanes and birds. I think we have to draw a line a scale somewhere, even if that line isn't 100% rigid. Military drones on the scale of the MQ-1 and the like are designed, maintained, and operated using mostly the same principles and by mostly the same people as normally-piloted aircraft. The scale difference between RC and normal aviation is so different that only a small subset of the knowledge is transferable between the two and the communities are mostly disjoint. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Oct 23, 2015 at 15:31
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    $\begingroup$ The salt water fish tank and Pacific Ocean are both salt water habitats, too, but that doesn't mean fish tanks would be on-topic at an oceanography SE (or vice versa.) $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Oct 23, 2015 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ @reirab Well, we do have a paper airplane tag and several questions with upvotes and answers, so how do they fit in? :-) Anyway, I think we both agree this is about where to draw the line and that isn't at all clear, hence the need for discussion. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Oct 23, 2015 at 16:48

In general, I still agree completely with Bret Copeland's answer to Are remote controlled aircraft on-topic? from 2 years ago:

I think they would be on-topic if the question is regulatory in nature, such as "can I fly this here?"

Questions about UAV's would almost certainly be on-topic since they are an important concern for pilots.

Questions about construction or operation of small RC airplanes/helicopters/quadcopters are probably outside the scope of this site since it's unlikely we'll maintain a solid base of experts in that area to answer those questions.

IMO, this issue boils down to the fact that, as a result of the scales involved, almost everything including the community is different between normal-scale aviation and RC/model scale aviation. Our experts here are primarily pilots, engineers, and mechanics. This works out fine for answering questions about UAVs on the same scale as normal aircraft, since the scale and most of the knowledge is the same, but I just don't see it working out well for RC.

Another issue here is that there is an Area 51 proposal for Drones.SE. Personally, I'd rather see people post questions about RC-scale aircraft there, which will make that proposal more likely to succeed. They currently have enough followers, but need 16 more questions with a score of 10 or more in order to advance to the next stage, so sending questions their way will help out!

The people here who are also interested in RC can, of course, participate in both communities, but I do think that they'll work out better as separate SEs rather than trying to combine them into one. As with most related SEs, there may be some overlap of what's on topic, but that's fine. I think questions about RC and modeling are really more likely to get a better answer at an SE dedicated to that than they will here and having separate SEs will also help to keep this one more focused.


A side effect of answering a question is that it may draw more of the same kind, and more of somehow similar (or really not similar, but perceived as similar by the poster).

Conversely closing a question, and explaining why, should deter additional ones of the same type.

The ratio of similar vs somehow similar questions should by influenced by the message we want to send to the posters.

It seems to me this consequence of a strict or loose selection has to be accounted for as more quadcopter questions have been seen in the last 30 days.

That said, my personal criteria to select / close a question would be how the answer would be common to manned aviation. If the question is about how an electrical motor or a RC radio works, I would suggest closure to prevent questions about brushless vs brushed motors or RFI between radio channels. If the question is how attitude can be controlled without a horizontal plan, I would keep it.

Questions about RC turbine engines would definitely be on-topic, and anticipated to be of great interest.

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    $\begingroup$ The thing I have noticed though is that the close reason of "off-topic" is usually all that is said and it's never really explained "why", or which aspects in particular are/are not on topic, which is particularly unhelpful when that information isn't available elsewhere (i.e. the help section) - for example, I might find a question about RFI between radio channels on-topic, as larger aircraft still use radio for communications, and there are real interference issues (or percieved/debated ones, such as from phones/etc. that are not in "flight mode") $\endgroup$ Oct 23, 2015 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ @user2813274 Regarding the off-topic close reason, that's a good point. Once a consensus is reached, it probably would be a good idea to update the on-topic page to clarify what that consensus is. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Oct 23, 2015 at 15:35
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    $\begingroup$ @user2813274: I usually try to explain (example), unless it is obvious. About RFI example, I was thinking for aspects more specific to RC, e.g. What can I do to ensure nobody uses the same RC channel than me, but if this is about polarization of the receiver antenna it would be ok. I would be careful to not invite to post any question about how to fix a radio problem. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Oct 23, 2015 at 19:29

Adding another answer for listing questions that I think are really off topic and for which we should vote for closure, explaining politely this is not on-topic. Feel free to edit and add other examples:

  • $\begingroup$ While this could be useful (once it has a few more examples), I think it should also include questions that are considered on-topic - also, what exactly would happen to "link rot" if your questions get closed? would only mods/etc. be able to see them after a certain amount of time? $\endgroup$ Oct 30, 2015 at 2:22
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the comment, agreed. Deleted questions (example: quadrotor/helicopter building [closed]) remain visible to users with 2k reputation. The title usually provides a good idea of the question intend. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Oct 30, 2015 at 10:01

Drones are often referenced here. It makes sense to put them in this area, because drones are aviation. Good job asking, though.

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    $\begingroup$ Leaving aside the petitio principii (that's my quarter for trying to be clever), this statement would put on the same line asking for the release date of an airliner and the release date of a quadcopter. While the former could be answerable and has an interest, the later is not really a "good" question. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Oct 23, 2015 at 7:15

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