Hobby Plane Static and Flashing Lights

Discussion in 'The Projects Forum' started by Yousuf Munshi, Aug 17, 2016.

  1. Yousuf Munshi

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jul 24, 2016
    Hi everyone

    Thank you so much for viewing this problem. I would be really grateful for any support you'd be able to give.

    I am a beginner in building model planes and cars. I have the following models I am going to be building soon:

    • 1/114 Revell 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft w/ Space Shuttle
    • 1/114 Revell Boeing 787-8
    • 1/114 Revell Boeing 747-8i
    • 1/114 Revell Boeing 777-300ER
    • 1/72 Revell BAC Concorde

    Basically, I want to fix battery-operated LEDs into these model planes which include static and strobe lights to enhance their realism and effect in the night.

    The unfortunate bit is that I am not an experienced electrician to achieve this, I’m really sorry :(

    I’ve included three images that shows the layout of three different types of planes the flashing and static set of lights will fit to: generic, Concorde and the 787. These planes have a different flashing scheme. To make it easier for the expert electrician, I've attached some videos of hobbyists who have achieved the effect I'm trying to score.

    I definitely know I will need a battery of a particular voltage, a very small circuit board, super thin copper wires, double-sided tape to keep the wires in place inside the wings, some LEDs (the smallest maybe 1mm size head), soldering gun and lead, resistor (would I?), and a component which alters the flashing timings for a set of bulbs as per the images (no idea what this is called). The circuit board itself cannot be any more than 2.5cm wide due to the width of the fuselage. Basically, the gap inside the fuselage where the circuitboard will sit is around 2.5cm width and height. I came across this circuitboard a couple of weeks ago on the Conrad website and was wondering if this is the right thing I need?


    What I wanted to ask was if I could be given advice on what other components I would need to be able to achieve this effect and how I would go about to doing it please???

    One thing I need to say is about the 787 flashing timings. These are the links to the best videos showing the 787s flashing scheme:

    You can see that the way the lights flash on the 787, they’re not really flashes. They’re extremely unique and very different to normal strobe lights from other planes like the 747, A380 etc.

    With regards to the Concorde, I was trying to achieve a flashing effect as seen in this video:

    Also, for planes like the 747, A380, A350, I wanted to achieve an effect similar to this video:

    So basically there will be:
    • Some static white lights powered directly by the battery
    • Static green navigation light powered directly by the battery
    • Static red navigation light powered directly by the battery
    • 2 (e.g. for 747, A380) or 3 (e.g. for Concorde) flashing red lights linked to a component which alters the flashing timings
    • Some flashing white lights (varying flashing frequencies) linked to a component which adjusts the flashing timings and powered by the battery – the flashing red lights will mirror the way the white lights flash
    • 2 (or probably even 1) long static LED strip stuck inside the fuselage to light up the interior of the cabin powered directly by the battery.

    I think in terms of the flashing, I need to be able to adjust how ‘quick’ the flash is by adjusting how long the power runs through the LED in one instance of a flash, and also I need to be able to adjust how long a gap there exists between each ‘flash’.

    Thank you so much and I’m really sorry if I’ve not been able to provide any more specific information. If you need any other information, I’m more than happy to provide it.

    Again I’m really thankful for any support you can provide to help me achieve this measure of perfection :)

    - Yousuf.
  2. wayneh


    Sep 9, 2010
    Most of this is no problem, so be happy about that. Any static lighting is trivial. The first chore is to identify the lights you like. LEDs vary in physical size, total brightness, and angle of dispersion. So for instance you might find an LED that is seems very bright but is focused in a narrow beam, and another that emits in a wide angle. The latter might seems less bright in any particular direction, but is making more light overall. It can take some research to sort out what you want.

    Then, you need a power supply that meets the meeds of the lights you choose. LEDs require a regulated, constant current supply. The simplest and most widely used approach is to use a constant voltage power supply (such as USB, or a wall wart, or a battery) with a voltage exceeding the LED's required minimum, and then limit the current with a resistor. For instance a typical LED can be run off a 12V battery thru a 470Ω resistor. Or you can put 3 LEDs in series and then use a resistor of maybe 100Ω or less. This series arrangement is more power-efficient than using 3 strings in parallel, but requires that all 3 LEDs run at the same current. This can be a good thing since brightness is proportional to current and you can make all 3 LEDs hold roughly the same brightness with a single resistor.

    A more advanced approach is to use a dedicated current-controller for each LED. I don't think you need this for your application, but we'll see. It's more common when there are higher power LEDs involved and the power-efficiency matters.

    Now about flashing. It will help folks here if you can define the flashing timing and behavior as precisely as possible. From my cursory reading of your post, I suspect you could use typical 555 timer-based flasher circuits. These would allow you to set the frequency and the duty cycle of the lights. Like on for 0.5 second every 3 seconds, or whatever. If it's a repeating on/off with identical on and off times, it's simple.

    If you need advanced effects such as throbbing (fading slowly in and out), or complex or variable timing sequences, then you might need a microprocessor. I suspect you will not, but it will be revealed by your detailed timing description.
  3. hp1729

    Well-Known Member

    Nov 23, 2015
    Battery and electronics in the base with fiber optics running up the stand.
  4. Yousuf Munshi

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jul 24, 2016
    Hi Wayneh,

    First of all, I want to say a huge thank you for replying back so promptly and I'd like to make a profuse apology for the late reply as work life has been very difficult recently.

    I've just skim read what you've said and I think there's a bit of technical stuff I'm going to have to properly sit down when I've got time and read through and understand what you've said which I think sounds very helpful. I'm not 100% sure a microprocessor will be necessary as what I'm trying to achieve is fairly simple. I'm just hoping it will be simple for the 787 because I'd like to think I'd be one of the very few people who would be able to achieve this (with the kind help of you good folks here on this forum).

    But I will sit down properly and read this carefully.

    Thank you once again, really appreciate your help :)

    - Yousuf.
  5. Yousuf Munshi

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jul 24, 2016
    Thanks so much for replying.

    I did consider the option of having fibre optics as opposed to direct bulbs, and the only problem with that would be the effective delivery of bright flashes which I think would be more realistic with actual LEDs than fibres :)
  6. Yousuf Munshi

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jul 24, 2016
    Sorry I also forgot to mention, when I sit down to analyse the requests you made, I will also provide you with the flashing timings (I think I included these in the images attached in the original post, although they're not totally specific so I'll definitely get round to getting that done).

    Also to just keep a consistent record, I understand that for this project, I will need to use the smallest LEDs available as the wings are almost at blade similarity so I've decided to use SMD 0603 LEDs. I will need to look further for the other necessary components (in particular the power supply, circuit board, and a component to manipulate the passage of electrical current to the LEDs to emulate the flashes with as much realism as possible).

    Thank you :)
  7. wayneh


    Sep 9, 2010
    In the stores at Christmas-time, I saw some battery-powered LED strings with tiny LEDs connected by very thin magnet wire - enameled copper. I think that could be a good wiring choice. Easy to find, very little width other than the conductor itself.
  8. Yousuf Munshi

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jul 24, 2016
    Hi Wayneh

    Thanks for replying back, and I'm so sorry for the late reply :(

    Yeah you're absolutely right, and this is also the wire in the videos used by the hobbyists! I didn't know they could make wires THAT thin!!

    With the wires being that thin comes the question of heat - would you say with, for example, the model of an A380 having about 15 SMD 0603 LEDs linked to a circuit board powered through batteries, would produce a lot of heat on 0.4mm enamelled copper wire? This concerns me because as we all know heat and plastic don't mix well (seeing as the wire will be taped onto the plastic wings). I'm going to purchase this wire:


    The SMD 0603 LEDs I'm considering purchasing:


    Considering they have white, red and green, I think they'd be the obvious choice. From the data of these lights, they say that:

    Forward voltage:2.8V~3.4V, AC or DC Compatible.
    Forward current (typ/max): 15mA/20mA.

    There doesn't seem to be a lot of data with regards to the wire, apart from:

    Temperature rating 180C
    Thermal class H

    Obviously the reason why I'm trying to go for the thinnest option possible is because the wings on the plastic model are so thin, and also once both the top and bottom parts of the wings become attached, then there's no way of taking them apart because they'll have become chemically bonded.

    I remember I said this would ideally be charged via a battery. It would also make sense that the stand have the battery compartment with the wire connection leading from the stand through a reasonably sized hollow steel tube (to also provide support to the plane) into the main fuselage where the circuit board would sit, and all wires connected to all the SMD 0603 LEDs. The switches for these LED sets would be dragged down into the stand, and a specific switch would be assigned for each purpose.

    • Cabin lights [interior static white LED strips]
    • Navigation and beacon lights [red and green statics; and red flashing lights at the top and belly of fuselage]
    • Taxiing and landing lights [white static]
    • Strobe lights [white; all flashing lights in general: wing and fin lights]
    • Engine (motor on/ motor off)

    For the Engine switch, I've discovered that you can actually get a small motor to fit into the model plane's engine, much like this gentleman has in this beautiful video:

    He shows this particular motor at 3:30. The wonderful bloke that he is, he's also put up a spec sheet of how his circuit looks. I'm not sure if he's using a specialist programme to achieve the lighting scheme, and if he is, then this is definitely not my territory and I would really need to go about it the difficult way of using other components.

    The main questions I need to ask is:

    1) Will a 0.4mm enamelled copper wire produce significant heat to cause damage to the interior of the plane's plastic wing? Will I need to use any resistors in this circuit?
    2) In terms of the SMD 0603 LEDs, ideally what circuitboard would be best to use for the width of 2.5cm? I know some people have been using card, circuitboard, or breadboard? Only problem with breadboard is that it's too big to fit inside the model - so would any circuitboard do if I were to use the breadboard as a practice board?
    3) For the flashing, I think some potentiometers will need to be used, as the circuit will need to be split between static, and flashing lights, and a part of the circuit will need to accommodate for both static and flashing lights (Navigation and beacon lights). Would this be the right approach?
    4) For the engine motor, is this the correct motor to use (I don't want to use one thats going to be EXTREME SPEED, otherwise there's a fear that the engine blades could come flying out being plastic and all):


    This is going to be one of the most complicating things I've ever done in terms of a hobby as I've never touched electricals in my life, and mixing this with a model plane is going to be extremely tough. I just need help in knowing what to connect where, and what to use to be able to control and manipulate the flashing.

    I'm really sorry if anyone thinks this has been written rash, but if there's anything unclear in this, please do tell me and I'd be happy to clarify.

    Thank you so much, I really would appreciate any help you could please provide :)
  9. Bernard

    AAC Fanatic!

    Aug 7, 2008
    Best that I can figure, .4 mm wire would have about .04 ohms per ft. or for a .1 V drop / ft. = 2.5 A, or no heat problem.
  10. wayneh


    Sep 9, 2010
    The answer to that depends on just one thing, the current through that wire. That's not clear at the moment so it's hard to know. But as @Bernard has estimated, it's probably not an issue.
    Can't tell yet.

    I don't know about the SMD parts. But for general prototyping and projects, I use protoboard. Others recommend strip board. There are also SMD to thru-hole adapters. Again, I'm out of my range with this.
    If you want to adjust the flashing rate after the circuit is built, then you may want some pots to accomplish that. But for a fixed flash pattern, you probably won't need a pot. Pots are often the most expensive par
    Not sure. That link does not mention the power requirement or the rpm. I suspect that for just looks, a less powerful and/or slower motor would be best.
    One step at a time is my advice. Learn how to flash an LED with a 555 circuit on a breadboard. Learn how to change the frequency and the duty cycle so you can get the on/off times you want. Once you've done it on a breadboard, you'll have confidence to move it into your model. Also, read data sheets. You need to know the details of the parts you are using. Size, power, max voltage and current, and so on. You can't design anything without the details about your parts. Take your time and you'll get there.