Looking for a new hobby?

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Looking for a new hobby? You might consider joining the many remote-control enthusiasts who are flying their small (and sometimes not so small) model-sized aircraft and helicopters on beaches and in fields in and around Pattaya.

Paul Rosenberg, a local musician and businessman, spoke to the Pattaya City Expats Club at their Sunday, April 5, meeting about one of his favourite hobbies; remote-control aircraft. Paul runs a laser light show business in the U.S. and travels occasionally, but prefers to play drums, piano, organ, flamenco guitar and even tuba with local farang bands. Paul is a member of a local remote-control club that runs an online forum at www.rc-pattaya.club.

Paul Rosenberg shows his PCEC audience one of the remote-controlled quad-copters he brought with him. He noted that this particular model is manufactured here in Pattaya was not expensive and could be fitted with a camera. With a monitor affixed to the remote control device, it is almost like being on board as you soar through the air.Paul Rosenberg shows his PCEC audience one of the remote-controlled quad-copters he brought with him. He noted that this particular model is manufactured here in Pattaya was not expensive and could be fitted with a camera. With a monitor affixed to the remote control device, it is almost like being on board as you soar through the air.

Pattaya is a fascinating place to be for remote-control enthusiasts for several reasons, Paul explained. First, there are many places in and near Pattaya where people can fly their remote-control aircraft. Second, the city encourages the practice and even built runways for them to use. Finally, there are many factories in Thailand, including Pattaya, where remote-control devices are manufactured (and can be purchased).

The officially sanctioned places in the Pattaya area where people can fly their remote-control aircraft include the fields near the Elephant Village and the sports stadium, and the field near Soi 5 on Second Road. Remote-control enthusiasts use other (non-sanctioned) places as well. The authorities don’t seem to mind as long as they are not bothering anyone.

There are several clubs in Pattaya for remote-control enthusiasts, each catering to a different specialty, such as boats, sea planes and quad planes.

Technologies like Bluetooth and GPS have made it much easier for remote-control enthusiasts to operate their devices. Paul demonstrated how this works using a small DJI Phantom quad helicopter. He showed how the helicopter, in addition to responding to commands from the remote control, can hover in one spot in mid air and balance itself using GPS coordinates. He also showed how the helicopter is programmed to return to where it took off if it ceases to receive a signal from the remote.

It has become so easy to operate these aircraft remotely that sometimes you will see the aircraft flying overhead at one of the area’s beaches and you won’t be able to spot the people who are operating them. That is because the operators are in their air-conditioned cars some distance away. The range for the remotes is about 3-5 kilometers. It is even possible now to use smart phones as remote control devices for the aircraft.

The new technology is so sophisticated that operators of the remote-controlled devices never run into interference from other operators. This is accomplished by programming the devices to constantly be changing the frequencies they use to communicate with their remotes.

Master of Ceremonies Richard Silverberg presents the PCEC’s Certificate of Appreciation to Paul Rosenberg for his interesting talk and demonstration of remote-control aircraft.Master of Ceremonies Richard Silverberg presents the PCEC’s Certificate of Appreciation to Paul Rosenberg for his interesting talk and demonstration of remote-control aircraft.

Paul said it is perfectly legal to fly remote-controlled aircraft here. There are currently no regulations in Thailand; however, the government has indicated that it is planning to require that operators obtain a permit. Further, while the authorities are quite tolerant of the practice of flying these devices, there are some obvious places that are out of bounds, such as the Grand Palace in Bangkok and Suvarnabhumi Airport (or any airport for that matter).

Many countries do have laws or regulations governing the use of remote-controlled aircraft, Paul said. Invasion of privacy concerns are usually the reason these laws and regulations are enacted because the remote-controlled aircraft can be fitted with cameras. Paul said that he has videotaped jet skis in operations many times. He added that they sometimes race with the jest skier since the remote-control aircraft can fly faster than the jet skis can move in the water.

It is a lot of fun flying these devices – so much so, Paul said, that you can get lost in the moment and forget to check if there is enough voltage in the aircraft’s battery to get it back home. Many aircraft have been lost because they ran out of battery power. They end up being found by people who then list them for sale in places like E-Bay and Craig’s List.

Paul said that the aircraft are not expensive in Thailand because they are manufactured here. The DJI Phantom quad helicopter that he demonstrated sells in the factories for about 1,700 baht (camera included). They sell for a few hundred baht more in retail shops. In the U.S., Paul said, you would pay about five times that price.

There is a factory on Soi Khao Talo in Pattaya’s east end, run by an Australian company that makes these aircraft. They have sold some of them to Discovery Channel and other television networks. For example the aircraft can be programmed to follow (and film) skiers in a competition. Paul said that there is a factory outlet on Pattaya Second Road between Soi 14 and Soi 15. There is a retail shop on Pattaya Tai Road opposite Tukcom.

Paul recommended for those looking to get into this hobby to spend some time online where they can practice on simulators using their computer keyboard. Paul mentioned that many remote-controlled aircraft enthusiasts have learning cables for the remote controls for novices to use. These cables allow the experienced enthusiast to over-ride the commands being sent by the novice if they are experiencing problems.

There are plenty of videos on YouTube that show how the remote-controlled quad helicopter devices work. Search for “quad helicopter rc” or “DJI phantom.”

After the presentation, MC Richard Silverberg brought everyone up to date on upcoming events and called on Roy Albiston to conduct the Open Forum, where questions are asked and answered about Expat living in Thailand, especially Pattaya.

For more information on the PCEC’s many activities, visit their website at www.pcecclub.org.