Putting 300 Watts Of LEDs On An RC Plane

Being a member of the FPVlab forums, [HugeOne] is really in to strapping a video camera to RC airplanes and flying around by the seat of his pants. He’s also in to flying his plane at night. Combine these two interests, and you’ve got 300 watts of LEDs flying around at night, most likely causing a spike in UFO reports in [HugeOne]’s native Quebec.

The main issue with putting 16 CREE XM-L LEDs in such a confined space is the issue of heat; even though these LEDs are amazingly efficient, they still produce a good amount of heat. [HugeOne] solved this problem by soldering these LEDs to a piece of copper pipe and connecting two radiators to his plane for liquid cooling.

The result is a small, lightweight LED array capable of producing more than 20,000 lumens flying around the wilds of Quebec. This greatly improves [HugeOne]’s night flying ability (video after the break), and has surely annoyed the local police department with an increase in UFO reports.

Does anyone know how bright the nav and landing lights on single-engine passenger airplanes are?


35 thoughts on “Putting 300 Watts Of LEDs On An RC Plane

  1. I used to use GE’s Q4509 100W landing lights as driving lights on my motorcycle. They are not rated in lumens, but candlepower, which does not directly compare. For comparison purposes, they are a pencil beam (~10 degree spread) and projected about a mile down the road. The scatter off to the side was brighter than the stock headlights! There is now a HID replacement for these that produces more light at only 35W. http://duckworksav.com/ZENITH-Kits.html

    1. And when I go blind and drift left of center, my windshield devouring you like the glassy maw of a steampunk demon, please enjoy the irony of how much safer you thought those lights made you.

  2. So this is to be used with an FPV system? Looking at the result through the onboard camera it strikes me:- why not just use infrared LED’s. There’ll be a minor red glow but less people will notice. Easy to locate using a mobile/cell phone camera to see the insanely bright infrared light (as well as the mild red glow to the naked eyes)….

    1. Do they make IR LEDs like the Cree XM-L? There is a large market for extreme bright white light LEDs, but probably not so much for IR models. So finding 300W worth in a doable, affordable package could be difficult.

      Now, you could use IR lasers… but that would be bad for anyone on the ground looking up.

    1. Looking at the videos, two very high RPMs are displayed. I am guessing it uses twin brushless motors. I would guess its a twinstar (a very poplar model for FPV). With some decent props, hes probably running 60-75 ounces of thrust. The plane pulls 20 amps on climbout, so its not a hotrod.

    1. Not much different than the hunting morons around here hitting me with their spotlights when I am on final. I fly a G-111 Albatross and when landing I almost always get lit up by morons who think I’ve crashed.

  3. A few people suggested making this IR so it would be less noticeable.

    I’ve always wondered about this. Suppose one were to look at an IR LED array of equal size and intensity, at arm’s length, for a few seconds to view what appears as a dull red glow. Without pupil response to protect you, is eye damage possible?

  4. In order to be putting out 300 watts through 16 XML LED’s, you would have to do major over-driving. They don’t gain all that much light past 3-3.5A output with a Vf of 3.5v or so. Being extremely generous, let’s say each one is receiving 16 watts. You’re still nearly 50W short of the 300W claim. Cool build though.

  5. In forum where this project is listed, there’s a video of a test flight at dusk where the plane flies in one direction for quite a distance. It made me wonder, what kind of radio is used for the video and control, and what kind of range does it get?

  6. For those who talk about IR and low lix camera, this is not a plane with light on it. This is a light with a plane around it, the plane is the accessory :)

    The XM-X T6 have been tested at 1250 lument @6A. In order to achieve this you can’t use a MPCB star, you need direct soldering of the heatpad to a copper block or in this case a pipe with liquid flowing. I tested to blow-up point at 8A using the above cooling technique. The LED array been tested at 6A per LED for a total of over 320W. However, it is true that little is gain over 4A so I capped the max at 4A per LED or 16 A for the whole light.

    The complete light including coolant weight a mere 170g which my twinstar airplane don’t even feel.

    Range is achieved by a UHF radio for control and high gain antenna for video. Maximum possible range is limited battery at 10Km, but video and control link are capable of over 40Km.


    1. Ahh gotcha. I figured the 300W was an absolute max handling; those LED’s are subject to diminishing returns past a certain current level, even with active cooling. I’m still totally impressed with the build though. That is some serious output at 4A x 16.

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