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Radio Control Strandbeest

The finished Strandbeest is ready to go.

Not long ago I became fascinated by Strandbeests.  These amazing walking machines are the brainchild of Dutch artist Theo Jansen, who has been designing and perfecting monumental scale versions for the past 25 years.  By all means visit Theo’s website to watch his captivating videos.  I found out about Strandbeests – Dutch for “beach animals” through one of Adam Savage’s entertaining One Day Build YouTube videos, and I couldn’t wait to build one of my own.  It turns out that kits can be purchased on eBay for just a few dollars, so I wasted no time in building a couple of them.

The basic Strandbeest is intended for wind power, and on a breezy day it’s very entertaining to set a couple of them free in a smooth parking lot to wander at will.  But these wonderful little mechanisms also lend themselves to radio control operation.

I must give credit for the radio control concept to my longtime friend and flying buddy Mark Wolf.  I made a few changes to make the drive system a little more compact and to improve handling.  Following are a few simple steps you can follow to build a Strandbeest of your own.

  • Parts List:
  • Mini-Strandbeest kit
  • 2 X sub-micro servos – Hitec HS-55 or similar.
  • 4 X 2.5K 100 milliwatt resistors.
  • Sub-micro receiver.
  • External BEC unit – Suppo 3A or similar.
  • 450-2S Lipo pack.
  • 3 X 8-3/4″ pieces of 0.078″ music wire.
  • 3 X 2″ pieces of 3/16″ styrene tubing.
  • 1/16″ Styrene sheet
  • 2-56 nuts (optional)

The only part of this project that’s at all complex is converting the servos from 45° travel to continuous rotation.  Online suppliers like ServoCity.com provide converted versions of some servos, but I haven’t found anyone offering continuous rotation sub-micro servos.  The following photo how-to shows how to accomplish this conversion, using Hitec HS-55s as an example.

Radio Programming:  The last step in in the project is to program the Strandbeest into your transmitter.

1. Program the Strandbeest using an airplane template.  Set the wing type to elevon or delta wing.

2. Connect the servos to the aileron and elevator outputs on the receiver.

3. Bind the receiver to your transmitter.

4. When you first turn on the Strandbeest you’ll probably find the legs slowly crawling in one direction or another.  Use the trims on your transmitter to adjust the neutral points so that with the stick centered the servos are stopped.  Depending on your brand of radio this will take some trial and error, adjusting both elevator and aileron trim.

That’s it!  Your Strandbeest is now ready to run.  Moving the stick up and down will make the Strandbeest walk forward and backward, and moving it left and right will cause it to pivot in place.  By moving the stick diagonally the Strandbeest will walk in a curved path.  While the Strandbeest can negotiate carpet, I advise running it on a smooth hard surface to minimize wear and tear on the drivetrain.

Be sure to check lipo charge level periodically; U-BEC units generally lack the low-voltage cutoff feature of a regular speed control, as they’re designed to power the radio no matter what.  I hope you find this project as enjoyable as I did.



Add a Comment
  1. What a fun article!

  2. Very cool idea. Can you provide a link to the kit you bought?

  3. Very cool science project for school project I like to try one for sure.

  4. Yes that would be a great idea so where is the link to getting the kit? Send me a email of it please.

  5. With the demise of Radio Shack, where’s the best place to buy the four resistors needed for this project? Think I’ve got everything else lined up now.

  6. Can I substitute 2.4k ohm 1/8 watt resistors for the 2.5k ohm 100 milliwatt ones specified?

  7. Brilliant! I have had my strandbeest for a couple of years and wanted to add electric power. Never would have thought of remote control! Thanks for the great/detailed article and the motivation to update my own ‘beest’ 🙂

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