The 10 Best RC Boats
We spent 35 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top picks for this wiki. Just because it'll be a few more years before you can afford that yacht you've had your eye on doesn't mean you can't get out on the water in some kind of style today. With one of these remote controlled vessels, you'll find yourself in thrilling, breakneck races or gently cruising around the pond, all depending on what type of RC model floats your boat (groan). When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best rc boat on Amazon.
A Brief History Of Radio Control
Not long after that in 1903, Lonardo Torres Quevedo built the first RC apparatus at the Paris Academy of Science, the Telekino.
He used electromagnetic waves to remotely control a robot, running it through a serious of commands.
Radio control is an old technology that has been around since the 1898 when Nikola Tesla designed the first ever radio controlled boat and demonstrated it to a stunned crowd at Madison Square Garden. Not long after that in 1903, Lonardo Torres Quevedo built the first RC apparatus at the Paris Academy of Science, the Telekino. He used electromagnetic waves to remotely control a robot, running it through a serious of commands. WWII prompted further development of the technology when Archibald Low created a radio controlled aerial drone plane for the Royal Flying Corps in 1917, which was to be used as a guided bomb.
Later on in 1937, William and Walter Good constructed the first RC airplane, "Big Guff". They pioneered the vacuum tube-based control system and paved the way for hobby RC crafts. Starting in the late 1940s, a number of other RC designs emerged and the RC craft hobby market was born.
The initial focus of early radio-controlled vehicles was on boats and airplanes, but 1967 saw the beginning of RC hobby car racing and then in 1968, Dr. Dieter Schulter built the first RC helicopter. RC hobby technology continued to develop into the 1970s when integrated circuits allowed for the production of smaller and cheaper electronic control systems, helping RC crafts gain mass popularity.
Radio remote control systems continued to miniaturize and become more affordable well into the 1990s, and by the 2000s RC became commonplace for even the smallest and cheapest of toys. Nowadays, RC is so advanced that it is being used for interplanetary exploration vehicles like the Mars rovers.
Types Of RC Boats
There are 6 main types of RC boats you will find for commercial sale, and most of the powered types can be found in gas, nitro, or electric-powered models. Fun sport boats are by far the most common and the most popular among casual hobbyists. In the past, gas-powered RC sport boats were faster, but with recent advancements in lithium polymer batteries and brushless motors, electric-powered models can be just as fast these days.
There are also RC scale boats, which are exact replicas of full-size boats and, as the name implies, built to scale of their larger counterparts.
High-end electric hobby quality sport boats start at around 20 MPH, with some capable of speeds over 40 MPH right out of the box, and reaching over 60 MPH with some modifications. At the toy-grade level, RC sport boats often top out at 15 MPH.
RC sailboats are wind-powered, like their larger brethren. In addition to using radio waves to control steering, they also utilize it to adjust the position of, or trim, the sails. Both RC sailboats and RC sport boats are available in racing models, with the racing of RC sailboats being governed by the International Sailing Federation, which is the same organization that governs full-sized crewed sailboats.
There are also RC scale boats, which are exact replicas of full-size boats and, as the name implies, built to scale of their larger counterparts. They range from miniature models small enough to fit into the palm of your hand to large, trailer-transported models. While it is categorized as a different type of RC boat, scale model tug boats are similar to other scale model RC boats, but these generally often include a scale drive system.
An interesting offshoot of RC boats is the competitive combat boat. These are built like real warships and designed to fire some kind of projectile at opposing ships in the hopes of damaging or even sinking them. These models are often simplified as they tend to need repairs on a regular basis.
Choosing The Right RC Boat
Deciding which type of RC boat is the best choice is a personal endeavor, and depends entirely on where and how you want to use it. If you are buying one as a gift for a child or to use periodically on the weekends when you take your kids to the park, a toy-grade sport boat is usually a good choice. They are easy to control and can be found in nearly every price range.
They require the least amount of maintenance and can be the most fulfilling in terms of boat-handling skills.
On the other hand, if you enjoy speed, plan on using your RC boat regularly and are willing to spend a little more for something that really flies over the water, you might want to look at hobby-grade RC boats or RC sport racing boats. Mechanically inclined people who enjoy working on engines, might prefer gas-powered models as they have working combustion engines that may be easy for them to maintain and modify.
If you are in pursuit of a more leisurely repast, an RC sailboat is probably your best bet. They require the least amount of maintenance and can be the most fulfilling in terms of boat-handling skills. As with full-sized sailboats, they require you take things like wind direction and speed and water currents into account. They can also be great practice for people looking to improve their real life sailing skills, as they can help you gain a deeper understanding of the best sailing techniques and tacking approaches.
If you are a military buff, then you'll probably have the most fun with an RC combat boat, you may just want to look into RC combat boat clubs in your area first, as a combat boat with no opponents might get boring pretty quickly.
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