• Welcome to the new Flite Test Forum home! Please note that the migration is still undergoing and certain content, user privileges or features may be missing or limited until the transition is complete. Thank you!

Applying LED lights to my plane.

#1
Earlier this morning I viewed a video on putting LEDs on a plane but it still is all to confusing. My goal is to put lights on a designed plane I am working on so that the lights will look like lights on the Night Vapor. My desire is to use all white lights to aid in the flight direction in the dark. :)
 
#2
Personally, I do not like the way the Night Vapor is lit. I have a friend who has one and I think it is too hard to see at distance. But that is a personal preference. Personally I like having more lights as it helps me see the plane as it gets further away. Here is an example of a plane I think is well lit:


Here is a link to some photos of my first attempt to light a plane (one of my E-Flite Apprentices). The problem I ran into with this lighting configuration is the tail was not lit well enough and I could not see it at a distance and I needed wing tip lights on top of the wing to help with orientation when I only saw the top of the plane. I need to get photos of my plane as it is now.

I would love to help you figure out how to light your plane and I hope these examples are helpful. It would also be helpful to know what plane you want to light up. Please provide more details and/or ask specific questions of the issue you are having or concerns you have so that we can better help.
 

French

Construire Voler S'écraser Répéter
#3
If you’re running a 3 cell battery (11.1V to 12.6V) you can just pickup a strip of 12V LEDs and wire them to your battery voltage.

5M 10.8W DC12V LED Strip Light 3528 300 LEDs White/Warm White/Red/Blue With DC female Connector https://banggood.app.link/Num6mZIozJ
Or
LE 16.4ft LED Flexible Light Strip, 300 Units SMD 2835 LEDs, 12V DC Non-waterproof, Light Strips, LED ribbon, DIY Christmas Holiday Home Kitchen Car Bar Indoor Party Decoration (Daylight White) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSF65MC/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_CMovAbF2KKSPA

You don’t need a waterproof LED strip, as it generally only adds weight. You can cut them to length (you’ll see where the lines to cut are) and solder on wires to daisy chain them.
 
#4
If you’re running a 3 cell battery (11.1V to 12.6V) you can just pickup a strip of 12V LEDs and wire them to your battery voltage.

5M 10.8W DC12V LED Strip Light 3528 300 LEDs White/Warm White/Red/Blue With DC female Connector https://banggood.app.link/Num6mZIozJ
Or
LE 16.4ft LED Flexible Light Strip, 300 Units SMD 2835 LEDs, 12V DC Non-waterproof, Light Strips, LED ribbon, DIY Christmas Holiday Home Kitchen Car Bar Indoor Party Decoration (Daylight White) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSF65MC/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_CMovAbF2KKSPA

You don’t need a waterproof LED strip, as it generally only adds weight. You can cut them to length (you’ll see where the lines to cut are) and solder on wires to daisy chain them.
French,

I have been thinking of this in my Versa Wing, as I'd love to have it visible for night flights at Flite Fest West (whenever it will be) as well as the Nov. AMA Expo West and various campouts at the field, flying after dusk. :)

Where I get lost, however, is running power TO the lights. I've seen people say, "Just connect it to your balance connector on your battery." Ok - do I solder a female 3S balance connector to the light strip end? I know, it's probably a REALLY basic question I'm asking, but when it comes to electronics and soldering, I prefer a "Do EXACTLY this," because I've found when I don't, I let the magic blue smoke out and then the electronics don't work for me anymore. :)

I'm not ashamed to admit I'm an idiot when it comes to this sort of stuff...
 
#5
French,

I have been thinking of this in my Versa Wing, as I'd love to have it visible for night flights at Flite Fest West (whenever it will be) as well as the Nov. AMA Expo West and various campouts at the field, flying after dusk. :)

Where I get lost, however, is running power TO the lights. I've seen people say, "Just connect it to your balance connector on your battery." Ok - do I solder a female 3S balance connector to the light strip end? I know, it's probably a REALLY basic question I'm asking, but when it comes to electronics and soldering, I prefer a "Do EXACTLY this," because I've found when I don't, I let the magic blue smoke out and then the electronics don't work for me anymore. :)

I'm not ashamed to admit I'm an idiot when it comes to this sort of stuff...
Are you doing this to white foam board or the water proof foam board? If white, you can put the LEDs inside the foam board (usually attached to the wing spar) and it lights up the Versa Wing great. Unfortunately the water proof foam board blocks too much light and so you should put lights on the outside of the water proof foam board.

Yes, you solder the outside two pins of a 3S balance connector to the LED strip end. I usually remove the middle two pins as they are unused for this and leaving them increases the odds of having a short that can be very bad. As for getting the polarity correct, the outside wires should be red and black (look at a battery if you get connectors without wires): red is the (+) positive side and black is the (-) negative side of the battery. If you get the pins backwards, you will not harm anything: it just will not work.

Feel free to continue asking these questions even though they may seem dumb to you, you are probably not the only one wanting to ask the question.
 
#7
Are you doing this to white foam board or the water proof foam board? If white, you can put the LEDs inside the foam board (usually attached to the wing spar) and it lights up the Versa Wing great. Unfortunately the water proof foam board blocks too much light and so you should put lights on the outside of the water proof foam board.

Yes, you solder the outside two pins of a 3S balance connector to the LED strip end. I usually remove the middle two pins as they are unused for this and leaving them increases the odds of having a short that can be very bad. As for getting the polarity correct, the outside wires should be red and black (look at a battery if you get connectors without wires): red is the (+) positive side and black is the (-) negative side of the battery. If you get the pins backwards, you will not harm anything: it just will not work.

Feel free to continue asking these questions even though they may seem dumb to you, you are probably not the only one wanting to ask the question.
Bitogre,

Thanks! Looks like I'm going to be placing an order with Amazon or HK in the near future to get some LED light strips for the Versa Wing I'm rebuilding (I killed the first one in a crash that broke the wing in half but left the electronics, motor, etc. unscathed), and this is going to help tremendously!
 
#8
Thanks for that tip, bitogre. I'd been wondering how to fit navlights without hogging a channel to get the power.

At least one glider will also be getting fairy lights
 

PsyBorg

Fly Angry
Mentor
#9
Be careful wiring lights to the balance connectors. Depending on your battery you could be draining one cell more then the others which is REALLY bad for Lipos.

LED strips are constant voltage, additive current draw for each LED added in the chain. You could potentially draw a serious amount of current from one cell and destroy batteries that way. It is best to pull power from a distribution board with a voltage regulator capable of handling the current draw for how many LEDs you plan to use. You can like in the case of my Versacopter where all four of my esc's had bec's use one or more of those to power light setups and not worry about unbalancing a battery and causing issues. I do not however recommend you do this on fixed wing since there is only one bec in most cases and too many leds will cause brownouts or worse.
 
#10
I saw Hobbyking's approach last night when hunting down light strips, and at $11 for a control board that allows the colors to cycle or fix it, and I can control it from one of the 4-6 channels on my receivers (I've got 1 OrangeRX and 1 Spektrum 4 channel receiver left; I'll probably use the 4 channel on my Versa Wing, which uses only 3 channels - left aileron, right aileron, and throttle, leaving the 4th for a switch for the lights), I'll probably go that route.

If I were building a Kraken? I'd probably just wire in a 2nd battery specifically for the lights...
 
#11
With the header pins most LED`s are 12 volt using a 3S lipo so you only use the 2 outside pins which is 12 volts. If using 4S or higher I can see where PsyBorg is correct. I kinds forget since most of my Electric planes are 3S but most of these LED`s draw so little power I still don`t believe it would not be of much concern.
 

PsyBorg

Fly Angry
Mentor
#12
Any LEDS I have dealt with for quads were all 4.8v and feed from a 5v circuit. If you only used a few of them specially the programmable ones you would have to put a diode in line to drop the voltage to allow them to talk properly. Usually the 12v leds were more like "Head lamps" then decorations type last I was messing with them.

I know the varying types of 2812 5v leds can draw anywhere from 33.5 ma to 45 ma each which adds up fast. I just read up a bit and saw that the 12v ones are pulling ~20 ma which comes out to 2 amps per 100 leds. So do the math and see how much your going to pull on average and decide how many and what voltage LEDS you wish to run. Use your head when designing alight system and pay close attention to how you are powering them so you dont make issues for yourself.
 

French

Construire Voler S'écraser Répéter
#13
Psy, most led strips are 12V as they use repeating sections of 3 LEDs in series. That’s why you can only cut the strips in certain sections.

 

makattack

Snow is Coming
Mentor
#14
PsyBorg's referring to the addressable LED strips such as these, that do have a 5V voltage requirement: http://a.co/3Pobte3

Those RGB strips you're referring to are not individually addressable, but rather turn the whole strip to different colors.

On multirotors, the addressable strips are used to make fancy turn signals, flight mode indicators, arm/disarm indicators, etc.
 
#15
Psy, most led strips are 12V as they use repeating sections of 3 LEDs in series. That’s why you can only cut the strips in certain sections.

In many ways, both you and Psy are right. In Psy's case, he is talking about 2812 which are addressable LEDs. These are very nifty as every LED can have a different color but they require a special controller to use (though almost all multirotor Flight Controllers have this ability but you can get a LED controller for these LEDs or create your own using Arduino or other similar micro-controllers).
For the 2812, yes, they will only work on a 5V source (+ or - about 0.5V) but they do come in strips very similar to the ones French is talking about. However, I do think that the 2812 addressable LEDs are not the most common version of LED strips and are a bit more expensive (at least twice the price).

The LEDs French is talking about either come as a single color or have the ability to change color (as the ones in French's picture show). These LEDs usually only work with 12V (+ or - about 1V) though I have a couple 24V strips (I just need a 6S plane to put them on). In many ways, the LEDs French is describing are easier to use, especially if you do not care about having the ability for the lights to change color in flight.
 
Last edited: