Are RC Planes Considered As Drones? Here’s The Truth!

I enjoy flying my RC plane, just like you. But I have recently been thinking about the difference between an RC plane and a drone and related regulations. So, I did complete research on this topic, and I’m excited to share everything I learned. Let’s start! Are RC planes considered drones?

Technically, RC planes are not the same as drones because there are many differences between them, including how they are made, their features, uses, etc. However, as per regulations, RC planes, drones, and anything over .55 pounds are classified as Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS).

Are RC Planes Considered As Drones? Here's The Truth
A drone and a plane in the sunset

There is much more to RC planes vs. Drones and all other related regulations subject to RC planes. So if you are interested in clearing out all your confusion, please keep reading till the end.

What’s The Difference Between An RC Plane And A Drone?

DifferencesRC Plane:Drone:
Material:Made from less sophisticated materials, made from flimsy materials like foamMade of lightweight, sturdy materials, equipped with sophisticated technology
Shape:Airplane-like has fixed wings and one rotor, or sometimes twoUsually, have four rotors
Feature:Shaky flight because of its lightweight natureSmooth flight because of being sturdy
Accidents:More chancesFewer Chances
UsesMainly for recreational purposesRescue operations, emergency cases, etc.

By definition, a drone means an unmanned aerial vehicle that does not have any human pilot, passengers, or crew on board. On the other hand, an RC plane is a remote-controlled aircraft, a small flying machine that an operator controls remotely on the ground using a hand-held radio transmitter.

RC Planes: A Brief Overview

Now, let’s discuss a bit about RC planes. So as you may already know, RC planes are radio-controlled aircraft devices. 

RC planes are made from less sophisticated materials, and they are best for beginners who are learning to fly these types of devices.

RC planes resemble airplanes in design, and they don’t usually have the four rotors like drones. Some of the parts of RC planes include:

  • Electronic Speed Controller
  • Electronic Propeller
  • Nuts and Bolts
  • Battery and Battery Charger
  • Foam Board
  • Radio Transmitter
  • Receiver

RC planes can be relatively flimsy in structure and design and are usually unstable in the air. RC planes are mainly used for entertainment purposes.

Have you ever noticed that your RC plane goes backward when you fly it? Then I highly recommend you read my article about RC planes going backward, where I have explained the reasons behind it and discussed troubleshooting guides.

Drones: A Brief Overview

Previously, drones were used for military purposes. But nowadays, their uses have increased in various recreational and commercial purposes.

Drones are made of sturdy materials, but at the same time, they are lightweight to maximize their battery life and efficiency.

They are usually equipped with sophisticated technologies such as GPS sensors, infrared cameras, etc. Check out this guide to learn more about whether or not all drones have cameras.

Different companies use drones to perform various time-saving and money-saving tasks. Drones come in different shapes and designs. Usually, the quadcopter drone type has four rotors to lift things.

However, some drones may also use more arms and rotors, and some can also operate more like airplanes.

Some of the parts of a drone include:

  • Transmitter and receiver
  • Propellers
  • Frame
  • Camera
  • Flight and motor controllers

I highly recommend you check out my blog post on the sound levels of drones for insights on how much noise a drone can make.

Drones have many different uses like in rescue operations, in times of emergency when people need to be found or helped, monitoring anything suspicious from the sky, inspecting things, etc.

Read Related: Are All Drones RC?

Is It Legal To Fly An RC Plane?

As per regulations, it is completely legal to fly an RC plane anywhere below 400ft, provided you are not infringing any local laws and not flying it near airports, crowded or sensitive areas. You can fly your RC plane in private open land, RC flying clubs, and public lands where permitted.

Previously, there used to be a distinction between RC planes and drones. However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also considers model aircraft as any type of Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). This can also include RC planes and drones.

Moreover, apart from the FAA, each country has its own regulatory body related to RC planes. In addition to that, some city parks have their own rules and restrictions related to flying. So it is always best to research your local and federal state laws before you consider flying your RC plane.

Read my related article: Are RC Helicopters Considered As Drones?

Rules For Flying RC Planes

In the US, the Federal Aviation Administration looks over all the aviation activity, including drones and model aircraft. They have published rules and regulations for the operators of these small unmanned aircrafts SUA’s

If you are a commercial operator of an SUA, you need to follow the Part 107 rules. However, if you fly only for pleasure, then following eight rules set by the FAA should suffice, and you don’t necessarily have to follow the stricter rules of Part 107.

The eight rules of the FAA for recreational flyers can be summarized as follows:

  • You shall fly the aircraft strictly for recreational purposes only
  • The aircraft shall be operated in accordance with the safety guidelines of Community Based Organization (CBO) that are developed in accordance with FAA. FAA hasn’t yet developed a set of guidelines with CBO, so flyers are referred to its own guidelines that are based on industry best practice:
    • Fly only for recreational purposes and keep the unmanned aircraft within the visual line of sight.
    • Don’t fly in controlled airspace, and don’t fly above 400 feet in uncontrolled (Class G) airspace.
    • Never fly near other aircraft, public events, crowds of people, emergency response activity. And don’t fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • If you are operating the aircraft, then fly it within your visual line of sight.
  • Fly the aircraft such that no manned aircraft get interfered with it.
  • If you are flying in controlled airspace, make sure you gather all the necessary authorization from the designated administrator.
  • Don’t fly 400 feet above ground level in uncontrolled airspace.
  • Being an operator, make sure you pass the aeronautical knowledge and safety test and make sure you have proof of passing the test.
  • Make sure you register and mark your aircraft.

Do You Need A License For An RC Plane?

For flying your RC plane for recreational purposes, you don’t need a license. However, based on your location, you may have to take an online test and markup your RC plane model for identification.

If you are using RC planes for your business, you must have a license. But to fly recreationally, you are supposed to take online knowledge and safety through an FAA-approved partner.

Moreover, it is also advised to take proof that you have passed the test while you are flying your plane.


In short, although being different technically, both RC planes and Drones are considered Unmanned Aircraft Systems and subject to appropriate regulations. So as RC hobbyists, it’s our responsibility to follow all the recommended guidelines by the respective authorities and enjoy the hobby.

That’s it! I hope you found this article helpful to clarify all your doubts. Now, if you are a beginner RC pilot, I would highly encourage you to look at my complete article about whether RC planes are hard to fly, where I also share some tips for beginner RC Pilots.

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Paul Good

This awesome hobby has something for everyone, whether you like to build your RC from scratch and keep modifying till you've got it to just how you want it, to track racing. You might be out with a boat, or perfecting your skills with a plane. Are you taking some cool pics with your drone? I'm sure my site will help you on your journey.

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