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DJI Innovations Naza-H - Review

DJI Innovations new flybarless controller for helis, with built in self leveling and optional GPS module.

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Introduction


MC Size:45.531.5 18.5 (mm)
GPS Size:46 (diameter) x9 (mm)
LED Size:2525 x7 (mm)
BEC Size:3927.5 x12.7 (mm)
Gyro Type:Flybar or Flybarless
Supported Swashplate Types:H1,120,140,Four Servo 90
Supported Helicopter Types:450,500,600,700 Electric Helicopters
Manufactured By:DJI Innovations
Available From:Hobby Retailers
Price:$269 - $459

DJI Innovations is known for it's world class Ace Waypoint, Ace One, Wookong, and Naza multi rotor flight controllers, used in multirotors and helicopters. Recently, they introduced their first 3D capable helicopter gyro, the Naza-H, which also features some of the same self stabilizing technology, and GPS functions of it's Wookong counterpart.

At a fraction of the price of the Ace and Wookong systems, the Naza-H can be used in a couple of different ways. You can use it as a stand alone flybarless or tail only gyro, for 3D and/or sport flying helis. You can add the optional GPS module and use the system for flight training, or for building an aerial photography platform. Scale helis can enjoy the Naza-H's stability, and help the pilot to relieve some of those initial nerves when flying his/her model for the first time. Or, you could be a beginner starting out with a 450 sized heli, and use the Naza-H to help you learn new orientations.

Whatever the uses, the Naza-H will have you covered.

Features

The Naza-H is packed with a lot of cool gadgets. As well as being a 3 axis gyro, it also has damping controllers, accelerometer, and a barometer inside the main controller. It's firmware is upgradeable by the user through it's assistant software. It supports both flybarless and flybar configurations, as well as 400 - 700 sized electric helicopters. You can add the optional GPS module for accurate position hold, and there is also a BEC available with real time voltage monitoring. The Naza-H's remote LED communicates with the pilot via a series of colored flashes, letting the pilot know it's current status and voltage warnings.

The failsafe is activated when the transmitter signal is lost, and the Naza-H will put the helicopter into a stationary hover. The Naza-H also supports S.Bus compatible receivers, as well as standard receivers. The algorithms used in the Naza-H have been proven in DJI's other flight controllers, and DJI claim that the system is accurate even in a high vibration environment.

Flight Control Modes

There are three flight modes available with the Naza-H.

Normal

Normal flight mode is the same as flying any other flybarless helicopter. It is a manual setting, that lets the pilot fly the helicopter as if it were using a standard 3 axis gyro.

Atti.

Attitude mode activates the self stabilization features of the Naza-H. In this mode, the helicopter will respond much like it's multi rotor counterpart. If you push on the cyclic stick, the helicopter will start to advance in that direction. When you let go of the stick, the heli will level out, but remain coasting in the direction it was traveling. To me, this mode feels like flying a large coax heli.

GPS Atti.

This is the same as above, but with the optional GPS module, the heli will hold it's position, accurate to within +/- 0.8m vertically, and +/- 2.5m horizontally. The Naza-H also has what they call "intelligent switching", where if the Naza-H detects a problem in GPS mode, it will automatically switch back to Atti. mode.

In The Box

The box contains the Naza-H and accessories, which were all packaged in anti-static bags. You get the Naza flight controller (also referred to as the IMU, MC, or FC), the remote LED, and extension cable for the remote LED, a USB cable, several short servo leads, and a couple of pieces of foam tape.

The optional GPS module comes in a small white box. Again the parts are all bagged in anti-static bags, and includes the GPS puck, extension cable, boom mount, some mounting foam pads, and a few strips of alignment decals.

Another optional extra is the DJI BEC. Used in conjunction with the Naza-H, this BEC will alert the Naza-H when the battery voltage reaches a predetermined number, at which point the Naza-H will enter it's failsafe mode. You can also switch the output voltage from 5.8v to 7.4v.

Obviously the cost of the unit depends on the accessories you choose to use. Starting at $269 for just the Naza-H, all the way up to $459 for the entire setup as shown above. It's versatile in the sense that you can start out with just the Naza-H, and not have to pay for the extras up front, but still have the ability to add to it later if you wish. Even without the GPS puck, the Naza-H still features attitude stabilization, and so is a good place to start.

Installation

Installing the Naza-H takes very little time. I decided to use the Naza-H on my Goblin 700, which was already set up correctly and flying great. Because of the fact that my Goblin was a known good configuration, it made it a great starting point for me to test the Naza-H. It is important to note that even for beginners, a basic understanding of proper helicopter setup is required. Even though the Naza-H is a "do all" gyro in terms of performance, it relies on a correctly set up helicopter to function correctly. Time should be taken to make sure that your helicopter is mechanically sound before attempting any software setup.

With the Goblin 700, I found that the gyro platform was too high for the Naza-H to sit on. The cables that came out of it for the GPS puck and the remote LED interfered with the canopy. A good friend of mine, who is a machinist by trade, made me a set off stand offs for the gyro platform that were half the size of the originals. This let the Naza-H, and all of it's related cables, sit neatly under the canopy without any interference.

With the gyro now in place, I routed all of the wiring, making sure that none of it would be chafing on any sharp corners. When I was happy with the wiring, I heated up my hot glue gun. I placed a few dabs of glue right where the connectors plug into the gyro. This ensures that the wires don't accidentally disconnect during flight, and is something I've learned from flying 3D helicopters.

I then turned to the GPS installation, and ran into another snag. Because of the unique shape of the Goblin's boom, the included GPS mount would not fit. The GPS mount is designed to sit on a traditional round boom, so I had to figure out a way of making it work with the square tapered boom of the Goblin. My solution was to use some smoke fuel tubing that was left over from one of my planes. I cut a couple of lengths, the same length as the GPS mount, and split one side open. I then slid the split end onto the bottom of the GPS mount, on both sides, and C/A'd them in place. Once the glue was dry, I then zip tied the mount to the boom, the new rubber feet preventing the mount from moving around.

To get the most accurate use out of your GPS unit, DJI have built in magnetic declination calculations for most areas. Most multi rotor users will be familiar with this, and what it boils down to is calibrating your GPS puck slightly off center to take into account magnetic north vs. true north. You can go to the National Geophysical Data Center online and use your zip code to see the variation of your location. In my case it was about 8 degrees. I was experiencing a little "toilet bowl" effect in GPS mode initially, where the heli would kind of drift in a small circle when in GPS mode. I read up on the effect, and found that to remedy it all I had to do was rotate my GPS puck slightly. I rotated it counter clockwise a few degrees, and this eliminated the drift. There are a couple of strips of decals included that you can use to put on your GPS puck, to aid in aligning it correctly with the front of the helicopter. The foam tape is very strong, but you can carefully pull the GPS puck off of it if you need to reposition it. You just have to be careful not to put any pressure on the top or bottom of the unit.

The final part of the assembly was to find a location for the remote LED. I installed mine under the boom, towards the front of the helicopter. I was then able to route the cable through the helicopter without the use of the extension. Where ever you decide to install the remote LED, it has to be visible in flight, as this little device is how the Naza-H communicates to you. It uses a series of colored flashes to let you know it's status, and what mode it is in. Kind of like it's own version of morse code. The remote LED also acts as a gateway to programming the Naza-H, via it's USB port on the side of the unit. This is a nice feature, as you don't have to remove the canopy of your helicopter to get at your gyro for programming.

Setup

Setup is done mostly through the Naza-H assistant software. I started with a new model in my Futaba 8FGS, and set it to single servo swash mode (H-1). I knew my mechanical setup was already good to go, so I moved on to the software setup. I plugged the USB cable into my computer and into the remote LED, and then powered on my transmitter first, heli second. I run a separate battery for my receiver, so I opted not to use the BEC. This also meant that I didn't have to worry about my motor accidentally starting during setup. It's a good idea to disconnect your motor, just to be on the safe side.

The screen shot above shows the first page you are greeted with when you open the assistant software. The top tabs are common, setup, tools, and info. The common tab is the screen displayed above. It gives you a quick overview of gain settings, battey voltage and warning voltage, receiver info, and a channel monitor.

To start the setup procedure, you have to click the setup tab, and the assistant will warn you to make sure your motor is disconnected before proceeding.

The start tab of the setup screen shows a basic wiring diagram and instructions to make sure that everything is hooked up correctly. You can restore your Naza-H back to factory settings from this screen, or you can continue the setup.

The receiver tab lets you pick the type of receiver you are using. The choices are traditional, where you will run wires for each servo from the receiver to the gyro, and D-Bus, which lets you take advantage of Futaba's S.Bus system. I used D-Bus.

The next tab is the mode tab, and perhaps the most important step in the process. This is where you set the switch that you will use to activate the three different flight modes. It's also where you set the failsafe. You need to use a three position switch, and by using the endpoints you make sure that the toggle corresponds to the three different modes on the channel slider. By switching the transmitter off, the channel slider should then jump to the fail safe boxes.

The next tab, cali., is where you calibrate your transmitter for using the software. You're actually teaching the software the limits of your transmitter's travel on all of the sticks.

The mount tab is used to tell the software the orientation and location of the Naza-H. It is also important to measure from the center of the main shaft (usually the center of gravity), to the center of the Naza-H. Behind the main shaft results in a negative number being used, where as in front of the main shaft needs a positive number. It's important not to mix them up. When you click the advanced button, you are given the option for entering the distance from the unit to the top/bottom CG. I wasn't exactly sure where this point was on my Goblin, so I left it blank.

The rotor tab is where you choose the main rotor spin direction, and also pick flybar or flybarless configuration.

The swash tab is where you specify the swash type. If you are unsure of your swash type, you should refer to your heli's instruction manual. In the advanced part of this tab, you can specify your servo type (analog or digital), and adjust the swash rotation angle.

The servo tab is used to make sure that all of your cyclic servos move in the same direction when giving a pitch input (i.e. moving the throttle stick up and down). The direction is not important, nor is direction of the aileron or elevator at this point, you just need to make sure that the three servos are travelling together in the same direction.

The trim tab is used for adjusting each cyclic servo to level the swash. You can also offset the swash from here as well. My servos were already adjusted mechanically to get a level swash, but I did have to offset the pitch a little to get zero degrees pitch at mid stick.

The mix tab is used for adjusting the swash mix. Here you check your aileron and elevator directions. If they are going the wrong way, you can reverse them. The same with pitch changes, you can change the direction if your pitch changes reversed.

The cyclic tab is where you set the maximum amount of cyclic pitch. I figured out that this is not an indication of how fast your heli will flip/roll. That is controlled by the cyclic rate in the flybarless menu on the common tab. The assistant suggests that for a 700 sized heli, you use 7 - 8 degrees cyclic pitch. I initially set mine to 8 degrees, but had a few problems dialing the gains in. After talking back and forth with DJI, I reduced my cyclic pitch to 6.5 degrees, and this solved the problems that I was having. Again, this setting doesn't affect the flip/roll rate, so don't worry about lowering this number if you have to.

The tail tab is for setting the left and rigth limits of the tail rotor, as well as rudder output direction and servo type. It's pretty much the same as any other tail gyro out there.

The final tab of the setup menu is the feedback tab. This gives you an animated picture, which indicates the direction that the blades and swash should be moving in. If it doesn't match what your helicopter is doing, you can reverse it's direction.

The tools tab at the top of the page reveals options for importing/exporting settings, as well as a button for restoring the Naza-H to factory defaults. This is also where you can check the status of the IMU (FC, MC), to see if it needs recalibrating. If it does, you can do so from this screen.

The final tab is the info tab. This is where you will find all of your user info, hardware and firmware ID, serial number etc. You can also check for software updates from this page.

Flying

When you first switch on the helicopter, you have to let the boot sequence finish before moving the helicopter. This is indicated by a series of lights on the remote LED. Once the sequence is completed, you can watch for the red flashes, which indicates that the GPS may not have a lock on all of the required satellites. The GPS found all the satellites it needed pretty fast each time I've used it.

The first thing I had to do, was to calibrate the compass. To do this, I had to power up the receiver (my main motor battery was unplugged), and then toggle the manual/atti./GPS switch back and forwards ten times. The Naza-H then enters into a calibration mode, as indicated by a constant yellow light on the remote LED. I then had to hold the helicopter level, and rotate around 360 degrees. The ligh then turned a constant green, and I had to point the heli at the ground and rotate around another 360 degrees. The light then went out, indicating that calibration was complete.

I then had to put the heli into trim mode for the initial flight. I had to wait a few days until the wind was calm enough to do the trim flight. To enter trim mode, I had to assign a switch to my tail gyro, so that I could toggle between rate mode and heading hold mode. On the 8FGS this is known as normal or AVCS. With the switch set, I had to toggle it back and forth several times to activate trim mode, which was indicated by a solid red light on the remote LED. I then tried to take off, and found that my tail gain setting was way too high, and the Goblin shook quite violently. I had set my tail gain to about 80%, and through several flight attempts, I ended up with it at 20% on my 8FGS, which also matched the value in the assistant software. It is worth noting that other brands of transmitters could have a very different value from mine, and you must test your tail to get the right setting for your transmitter.

With the tail gain set correctly, I made sure I was in trim mode and lifted off into a hover. The goal was to keep the helicopter as steady as possible, with minimal input from me. After a couple of minutes the red light went out, indicating that the trim flight was complete.

I then flew a couple of test flights in normal mode so that I could dial in my gyro gains for the flybarless side of things. After I was happy with the settings, and found the helicopter was flying as I would expect it to, I was ready to try some of the more advanced features of the Naza-H.

Rembering the warnings in the manual, I always made sure that I was taking off and landing in manual mode. I put the helicopter into a hover, and switched to Atti. mode. Immediately the helicopter leveled itself, and my inputs felt very soft. To move the heli around I had to lean on the sticks to get it going in a direction. Once I let go of the stick, the heli would level out and continue drifting in the direction it was going. To me it felt like a large coax heli, and was a little unnerving at first. I was not used to my Goblin practically flying itself! I could see how this would be a great flight mode for scale helis, without the over exaggerated and jerky stick movements associated with model helicopters.

Next I tried the GPS mode. The helicopter behaved exactly as it did in Atti. mode, only this time it would not drift the way it did in Atti. This was the most "autopilot" like feeling that I got from the Naza-H. The helicopter would hover exactly where I put it, with very small movements around it's position. I could literally put my transmitter on the floor, and the Goblin would not move around. This time if I let go of the sticks while the heli was moving, it would immediately arrest it's forward motion, and lock into the position it was in. Is was immediately clear that this would be a perfect mode for an aerial video platform, as even in windy conditions my helicopter held it's position remarkably well. Again though, it was a little eerie having my Goblin fly on it's own!

Manual mode was a blast to fly. The Naza-H works extremely well as a 3D flybarless gyro. Despite the odd looking low tail gain setting, the tail held rock solid through all the maneuvers I could throw at it. The pirouette compensation was awesome, it kept the rotor disc extremely flat during pirouetting type maneuvers. Overall I was very happy with the gyro, and couldn't keep my batteries charged quick enough to keep flying!

When changing from normal mode to either of the two Atti. modes, it was important to come back to a stable, level hover, before switching modes. Therefore, these modes should not be viewed as any kind of bail out feature. The manual also noted that it was important to take off and land in normal mode, which I did/do every time.

Throughout all my flights with the Naza-H, I became appreciative of the fact that I could plug my laptop into the Naza-H, adjust some settings, and then fly again, all without having to cycle the power to the receiver. This made adjustments a lot quicker to do, so that I spent more time testing rather than programming.

Media

Hopefully this video can help explain a little better the various flight modes. The first half of the video deals with Atti. and GPS modes, while the last part of the video shows some 3D flying in manual mode. The day this video was shot, the wind was blowing 16mph, with gusts of 21mph.

DJI Naza H - Goblin 700 (9 min 40 sec)

Conclusion

The Naza-H is a great addition to the heli market. It's versatility allows it to be used across a broad range of heli applications, whether you are a beginner, a scale pilot, 3D pilot, or aerial photographer. It's self stabilizing features work extremely well, but note that they are not meant as any kind of "bail out" feature. I have many flights under my belt with the Naza-H, and am looking forward to seeing what DJI has in store for us in the future.

Rather than a traditional pros and cons list, I'd like to say that the obvious pros are the versatility of the gyro, and of course it's self stabilizing and GPS features.

As far as the cons list, there aren't really any cons per say, more like observations. I've heard, and read, where people have mistakenly thought that the Naza-H has a bail out feature. This is not the case, as described above. I've also noticed a trend where a lot of beginners are using the Naza-H as their first flybarless gyro. While there is nothing wrong with this, and it will indeed help beginners, they must first have a basic understanding of how a helicopter should be set up. Otherwise, an incorrectly setup helicopter will yield odd results in the three different flight modes. The Naza-H has a steep learning curve for the complete novice, but anyone with any heli experience should be able to breeze through the setup without any problems.

Last edited by CSpaced; Mar 20, 2013 at 11:47 AM..

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Old Mar 20, 2013, 01:00 PM
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topgearuk's Avatar
United Kingdom, London
Joined Dec 2003
3,272 Posts
Excellent review, very professionally done.. Good to see this being put through it's paces.
Very pleased with mine so far and it will be used in a scale helicopter, totally other end of the spectrum, hope to have it properly set-up over the weekend. (Famous last words!)
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Old Mar 20, 2013, 01:06 PM
Cranky old fart
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Germantown, WI.
Joined Oct 2007
21,442 Posts
I own a DJI Phantom and ATTI mode and GPS mode sure seem like bailout features to me. If you let go of the sticks and it levels itself and coasts or just sits there, that seems like all you could ask for in a bailout. Anyway, great review!
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Old Mar 20, 2013, 01:16 PM
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Oak Ridge, NC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Balr14 View Post
I own a DJI Phantom and ATTI mode and GPS mode sure seem like bailout features to me. If you let go of the sticks and it levels itself and coasts or just sits there, that seems like all you could ask for in a bailout. Anyway, great review!
I was comparing it more to other 3D gyros on the market that have bailout features. In those terms, the helicopter can be upside down, in any orientation, and when you flip a switch it will right itself up instantly, and some gyros will even command the heli to climb.
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Old Mar 20, 2013, 01:53 PM
Cranky old fart
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Wow, I didn't know those things actually worked. This is plenty of bailout for most beginners and they are the ones that need it most.
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Old Mar 20, 2013, 02:55 PM
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Very nice review! Thank you for the contribution.
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Old Mar 20, 2013, 04:33 PM
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Cspaced, see you in IRCHA ....
Great review.
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Old Mar 20, 2013, 06:36 PM
Chris Reibert #78
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Joined Dec 2008
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Great review!
Mine just came in the mail today, can't wait to get it onto my new scaler.
Thanks for taking the time to do this
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Old Mar 20, 2013, 11:19 PM
KK6MQJ
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Superb photography and media Chris. A nicely laid out, informative and comprehensive review.
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Old Mar 21, 2013, 10:36 AM
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Thanks guys, glad you enjoyed. And yes, I will be at IRCHA
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Old Mar 21, 2013, 01:02 PM
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nice review !

so if one wants to use this as a "recover from any position" flying 3D , would you have to flick a switch or center the stick ? (like the sk720)

as far as response can you compare it to other FBL units?
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Old Mar 21, 2013, 01:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joliecoeur13 View Post
nice review !

so if one wants to use this as a "recover from any position" flying 3D , would you have to flick a switch or center the stick ? (like the sk720)

as far as response can you compare it to other FBL units?
It doesn't have that ability, there is no bail out feature the way you are thinking. If you are in normal mode flying 3D, you must bring the heli into an upright stationary hover for a few seconds before entering either of the stabilization modes.

As far as response, it is definitely up there amongst some of the best gyros that I've flown.
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Old Apr 06, 2013, 10:02 PM
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Can I use my Spektrum DSMX satellite receiver with this gyro or do I need a regular receiver?
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Old Apr 07, 2013, 10:13 AM
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You will need a regular receiver.
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Old Apr 07, 2013, 06:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Tahoe Ed View Post
You will need a regular receiver.
Thanks mate
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