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Radio Control Duck Decoy

I didn’t know that there was such a thing as an R/C Duck until I attended the Lake Havasu Float Fly last year.  There I saw a “duck” swimming  around an airplane that was about to be retrieved by the retrieval boat.  The “duck” swam madly around the plane interfering with the retriever in what I believed to be a protective manner. I even said aloud “hey look, that duck is protecting the airplane”!

In short, I was burned.  It looked so realistic from my view-point that even after I was told that it was radio controlled I had a hard time believing it.  I was immediately hooked on the idea of making one for myself–so I could burn someone else!

I started the build process by looking up R/C Ducks on the Internet.  There, I got a sense of what I needed and set out finding the materials.

Deciding on a plastic duck decoy made the “duck” part easy.  They are readily available and not that expensive.  The problem was that new ones are sold in sets of 6 – 12 which was way more than I needed.  I happen to live close to a Pro Bass Shop and went to check them out.  Luckily I stumbled on an opportunity to buy some decoys individually as they were discontinued display models.  I got three 17-1/4″ decoys for$15.00.

Next was finding the mechanical parts.  I started looking at inexpensive ready-to-run (RTR) electric boats to scavenge out the parts I wanted.  I found many on the Internet that looked close to what I thought I needed for as little as $15.00 up to $75.00.  However, the closer I looked at them the more I realized that they probably wouldn’t meet my requirements.

I wanted, above all, realism.  That meant the ability to control the movement and speed realistically. I found that the ready-to-run (RTR) boat speed controls were not fully proportional.  The cheapest ones had only one forward speed and steered in either full left or right directions.

The next step-up in price RTR boats had proportional steering, but only two forward speeds.  I thought this may work out but found these boats were just too powerful.  Both forward speeds were basically fast and faster.

I realized what I needed was a customized setup and knew that there would be a price to pay to get the look and feel I was after.

After searching a few custom R/C boat shops, I found that the setups I could most likely use were very high performance systems and would be hit or miss on getting the right combination of components.

Hobby-Lobby to the rescue. There I found simple solutions to the problems I needed to solve.  They carry a selection of boat parts that are intended for scale model boat builders and I found everything I needed for under $90.00.

I ordered a 15amp Jeti brushed ESC, a Graupner speed 400 brushed motor drive unit, and a large rudder assembly.

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Jeti Brushed 15amp ESC

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Graupner Drive Unit

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Rudder Assembly

Now I was ready to start building.

I cut a large access hole in the decoys back using a Dremel with as thin a cutoff wheel I had.

I situated the drive unit and rudder in an approximate location that just looked right.  Drilled holes and secured them in place.

Next I mounted the Hitec HS-65HB steering servo and fashioned a wire connecting rod.

The motor required a 7.2 volt battery and a friend made up a 2,300MaH NiMH saddle pack.  I placed the battery in a central location for proper balance which ended up being between the steering servo and rudder.

I used a Futaba R617FS 2.4GHz receiver and 4.8v 700MaH NiCd battery and that’s it for the electronic and mechanical parts.

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Finished duck with electronics and mechanicals installed

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Receiver is attached to the battery to try and keep it dry in case of a leak

I used silicon to seal the bottom of the duck and after several tests and touch-ups the duck’s bottom was water tight!

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Plenty of silicone keeps the duck watertight

To hold the cover in place without having any visible fasteners and using what I had lying around, I settled on magnets.  To secure the magnets I used 1/16th inch think rubber gasket material glued around the lip of the opening.  I then cut holes and glued the magnets to the rubber using CA and then CA’d metal washers to the back side of the cover.  Although this does not make a water proof seal, it is somewhat watertight and does protect against mild splashing.

Bottom of cover

Bottom of cover

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Ready for the water

I sneaked the duck into our club’s float fly and at first just cruised up and down the shore.  The ducks maiden was flawless.  It has plenty of “scale” speed and maneuvers crisply, and it has enough power to push a .40 size plane to shore.

It got plenty of attention and quite a few second and third looks.  I was very pleased when toward the end of the day many people still thought that the duck was real.  It was nice to see the smiles on their faces!

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Proud majestic Mallard drake cruising around looking for a friend!

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Score! Not really. Just pulling a female decoy

This was a fun and rewarding project.  Check out the video to see it in action.

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Comments
  1. Mark Gulizia says:

    Fantastic review. I had no idea that you did all that work. I thought you just bought a duck that was RTF (ready to float) 🙂

    Great job and a great effort. Watching that duck “swim” around certainly gave me a smile and was a good source of amusement.

  2. electricdan says:

    Thanks for the comment Mark. Glad you liked the duck.

  3. Mark says:

    Thank you for the reply. I did find the stuff you linked and put them on the Christmas list. Unfortunately I didn’t know what size rudder and I had the small rudder on the wish list. Oh well, it shouldn’t be a problem.

    This will make a ver nice Christmas break project and one I am quite looking forward to. How long you reckon it will run on a 3800mAh battery running at puttering speed, not full on all out speed?

    I’ll let you know the results of my build. I may even try to get the head on the decoy I have to rotate left and right. Haven’t figured out how to do it yet but amd thinking about it.

    Thanks again –

    Mark

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