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airplanes & helicopters
You've more than likely seen the terms Bind-N-Fly or BNF if you've been looking around at rc airplanes or helicopters to buy, but what do the terms mean?
The name Bind-N-Fly is a registered trademark name for a type of plane and helicopter category sold by the radio control distributing giants Horizon Hobby, and the aircraft mainly come from the ParkZone, HobbyZone and E-flite ranges.
Essentially, BNF is a natural 'evolution' of the Plug-N-Play (PNP) planes and helicopters available. But instead of the PNP configuration of the aircraft being sold in Ready To Fly form but lacking transmitter, receiver and motor battery pack, a Bind-N-Fly rc aircraft is equipped with a 2.4GHz DSM2/DSMX technology compatible receiver, notably from the Spektrum range, and a battery pack.
In other words, a BNF model aircraft is closer to an RTF one than a PNP one in terms of what you get in the box - you only need a DSM2/DSMX compatible transmitter to complete it and get flying.
Above: inside my ParkZone P-51D BL BNF.
The AR500 Rx is supplied with this plane.
Just bind... and fly !
Bind-N-Fly rc planes and helicopters are an excellent product in my opinion (I've had a few...) and given that 2.4GHz transmitters are now commonplace, it stands to reason that more folks are being attracted to BNF aircraft.
As with a typical Ready To Fly rc airplane or helicopter there's not much to do to the model other than some very final assembly work and to bind the receiver to your own transmitter. Once this process is complete, usually a few seconds later, you're good to go.
The binding of receiver to transmitter is a fundamental part of flying on a 2.4GHz system, the process enables the Rx and Tx to lock together to form the impenetrable signal that has made spread spectrum radio systems so reliable. The binding process varies slightly between manufacturers but it's a simple process that is quickly done.
The Spektrum binding process should be carried out as per your Tx instruction manual, but essentially it involves inserting the supplied bind plug (shown right) into the appropriate receiver slot, powering up the receiver and then switching on your Tx while activating the bind function.
The Tx and Rx will then communicate with each other and bind after a few seconds; successful binding is indicated by the flashing orange LED on the Rx turning to a solid illumination. Once bound, you shouldn't need to do it again for that model although you can re-bind the two components at any time, for whatever reasons.
During the binding process the receiver learns the Global Unique Identifier code (GUID) that was programmed in to the transmitter during manufacture. There are 4.2 billion code combinations possible and this is one of the reasons why spread spectrum rc technology is so secure.
Incidentally, when you bind your BNF aircraft it's very important to have all the transmitter sticks and trims in their neutral positions, and more importantly to have any motor power failsafe setting set; common practice is to have the throttle stick and trim fully down when you bind. By doing this the motor will automatically power down if the RF link is lost between Tx and Rx whilst flying.
You should always check your failsafe before flight. Power up the transmitter and plane as normal and apply some power to the motor (always restrain the plane first), and then turn off the transmitter - if the failsafe is correctly set then the motor will stop as soon as the radio link between Tx and Rx is lost.
Here in the UK, and probably other countries too, setting the failsafe so the motor cuts is a legal requirement. Always check this feature and make sure it's working correctly.
Transmitter collection? Not any more!
Modern 2.4GHz transmitters commonly feature multi-model memory whereby a number of memory slots are offered. Each separate slot is used for each aircraft you have, and the obvious advantage here is that you can build up a collection of Bind-N-Fly rc airplanes and/or helicopters and use just the one transmitter with them all - no need to have ten different RTF transmitters sitting on the shelf!
Indeed, this is exactly why BNF aircraft were developed and are, generally speaking, aimed at the intermediate flyer who already owns a decent transmitter with multi-model memory.
But not all transmitters are BNF compatible - only the Horizon Hobby marketed ones that use DSM2 or the newer DSMX technology. At the time of writing this page, suitable transmitters are...
- Spektrum DX5e
- Spektrum DX6i
- Spektrum DX7 & 7S
- Spektrum DX8
- Spektrum DX9
- Spektrum DX10T
- Spektrum DX18
- JR X9303*
- JR 12x*
*Important Update: since writing this page Spektrum and JR have become two separate bodies with JR introducing a new and different technology, DSSS. Although the JR radios listed above are DSM2 based, please check with the seller for BNF compatibility issues if you are buying any new JR radio.
In addition to that, Spektrum have also upgraded their technology from DSM2 to DSMX but this doesn't actually effect the BNF compatibility because DSM2 and DSMX operate together, and newer DSMX transmitters are backward-compatible with older DSM2 receivers. Again, though, check with the seller or Horizon Hobby directly if you have any compatibility doubts or questions.
There's a multitude of BNF aircraft available these days, below are some popular product suggestions currently available. Click any of the images for more info...
I can personally recommend Bind-N-Fly rc planes and helicopters as a very convenient answer to enjoying some RTF fun, without building up an unnecessary collection of transmitters.
If you're in to flying rc aircraft and see yourself wanting to own more planes or helicopters in the future, and want 'RTF convenience', invest in one of compatible transmitters and put some BNF models on your shopping list!
RTF rc airplanes.
ARF rc airplanes.
Electric rc airplanes.