Extreme RC by RSi S-8G Coaxial Helicopter
|Main Rotor Span:||21" (533mm)|
|Main Blade Length:||9.75" (248mm)|
|Flying Weight:||20.28 oz. (575g)|
|Construction:||Metal frame, tail boom, skids, flybar and simulated tail support rods; flexible plastic main blades and tail rotor; plastic tail fins; plastic skid grips; plastic blade grips; nylon gears; polycarbonate canopy|
|Transmitter:||Proprietary 3.5-channel 27MHz aircraft with analog trims and dual tail rotor rates|
|Receiver:||Proprietary receiver/ESC/gyro combination|
|Battery:||1500mAh 7.4V 2S lithium ion with JST power connector and JST-XH balance connector|
|Motors:||Brushed 370 main motors; brushed N20 tail motor|
|Recommended operator age:||14+|
|Minimum Skill Level:||Beginner|
|Typical Flight Duration:||Up to ten minutes|
|Available From:||Select Circle K convenience stores across the USA|
|Distributor:||Extreme RC by RSi, 930 East Lewiston Street, Ferndale, Michigan 48220 USA|
|Suggested Retail Price/Sale Price (USD):||$229.99/$99.99|
It seems as if a lot of non-hobby sources are getting on the R/C aircraft bandwagon and it's easy to understand why.
I'd done an essay here at RCG about little point-of sale toy helicopters and whether or not they were worth purchasing. In that case which involved a clone of a tiny Picoo-Z, my reaction was somewhat mixed. I managed to get my twenty bucks' worth out of it; I flew it rather frequently up until the tail motor died.
In December 2012, I did a blog entry here about some small IR controlled helicopters which I'd seen displayed at the registers of some local Circle K convenience stores. These didn't appear to be a Circle K promotion but rather that of a third party.
My conclusion was that the idea was a good one, both from a marketing standpoint and as a way of sparking an interest in radio controlled flight since the helicopters were of far better quality than that of the little clone.
By April 2013, the small coaxials had made way for some rather large R/C coaxials with a sale price of $99.
Meet the Extreme RC S-8G 3.5-channel coaxial helicopter, a big, impressive coaxial backed by what I would later find to be world class customer service.
Still, how good could these be?
I know most of the crew at Circle K #0770 on California State Route 62 in Morongo Valley, California where I first saw these helicopters and I couldn't resist a playful challenge for "pink slips" between one of these impulse buys and my 450 Pro clone.
This got me to thinking: Why not review one of these and see what they're really capable of and if they're worth it?
A phone call to the Circle K western regional office in Corona, California connected me with Category Manager Rex Abacan who loved the idea and promised me a sample.
Make that "samples."
FedEx delivered three large packages over a two-day period from the folks who both market these helicopters as well as providing US-based parts and support.
The folks at Extreme RC by RSi in Ferndale, Michigan clearly liked the idea as well, forwarding two of the helicopters along with two toy 4x4 trucks and two toy drift cars. Half were packaged, the other half were not, although the unpackaged ones were new. The first package to arrive contained, to my puzzlement, one unboxed car and one unboxed truck and a packing list promising two more boxes which arrived the next day. They contained a boxed car and truck in one box with boxed and unboxed helicopters in the other.
As someone who comes from a background which includes broadcast marketing, I found this company and its mission statement to be fascinating. Founded by marketer/promoter Bert Bruselof, the company is run by he and his business partner and part owner Mike Steingold. R/C enthusiast Ariel Woolf (whom I learned was responsible for sending so many samples) is Mr. Bruselof's assistant. Extreme RC by RSi doesn't provide these products to box stores or other more traditional venues for these products. Rather, they're provided to convenience and grocery stores as point-of-sale promotions. Even more remarkable is the customer service. Not only are parts and service available through their headquarters, so too is lead technician and designer Jason VanLoo who can help troubleshoot problems over the phone or repair the models if need be when returned. Any parts shipped to the user under warranty or via sale are handled by warehouse manager Nicole Burke. Everything is further protected by a sixty-day warranty, but a $19.95 surcharge is leveled against the buyer if the problem is not one due to a factory defect.
I called the several times during the course of the review, once to see if the warranty would cover these models if necessary and again to thank Mr. Steingold for shipping the models. The phone was immediately answered by a charming young woman who was able to answer my question about the warranty (the models are covered despite being samples) and who later cheerfully connected me with Mr. Steingold's extension.
I also spoke directly with Jason VanLoo and Nicole Burke regarding a couple of actual warranty claims; more on that later.
So, grab a big Circle K Polar Pop fountain drink in the size and flavor of your choice (any size up to 44 ounces for just 89 cents!), then sit back and relax while we see what this little chopper can do.
There's a lot in that eye-catching package:
All that is needed are:
I admit to being amused by the claims on the box and the display card of this model being "professional grade," "3.5-channel" and by the suggested and sale prices. The box also does a good job of making the S-8G look like a CCPM helicopter by partially hiding the top blades.
Beginners note: That "half a channel" is, based on my research, little more than a marketing term. It's used for lights or, in the case of the S-8G and similar models, the tail control. It might be used because "four channel" might be misconstrued for describing a more advanced model.
Terminology notwithstanding, this is one big coaxial, every bit as large as a 450 at nearly two-and-a-half feet long and larger than a 250. It looks the part with its metal tail boom, metal tail support rods, polycarbonate canopy in either candy apple red or candy apple blue and the Align-like horizontal and vertical tail fins. They look like carbon fiber at first glance, but they're actually plastic with simulated carbon fiber stickers.
The helicopter itself may look like a T-Rex clone when first glimpsed in the box since the upper rotor is hidden by the front of the box, but the S-8G is actually made by Syma and Extreme RC proudly declares the fact on their website. It's nearly identical to the Double Horse 9118, otherwise known as the Volitation.
It looks well made at first glance and has some nice touches such as nylon drive gears instead of cheaper plastic. I found out later they run very nicely, an important consideration for a 3.5-channel model which uses no servos.
Yup. No servos which means no banking and no cyclic. More on that later.
Another source of pride is genuine RoHS or Restriction of Hazardous Substances quality certification. This is a certification of the chemical compliance of electronic products with varying standards worldwide.
Unpacking the model is as easy as removing a couple of twist ties from the rear of the shipping tray. From there, it's a simple matter of charging the preinstalled 1500mAh 7.4V 2S lithium ion battery, installing eight AA-cell alkaline batteries in the transmitter and powering up for flight.
The metal frame and tail boom are covered in a protective film of light oil which will need to be wiped off. It'll wipe off with a paper towel.
The battery's connectors are the familiar JST power lead and JST-XH balancing tap. It's charged through the balancing tap and takes about 90 minutes to bring up to a full charge right out of the box. I'd hoped to use my ElectriFly Triton EQ charger instead of the supplied charger, but the battery has a third lead which plugs into the motherboard. Not wishing to tempt fate by removing a connector with such thin wires, I opted for the factory charger. It's simple enough to use; a red LED signifies power and a green LED signifies whether or not the battery is charged. It blinks during charging and glows a steady green when finished.
Another nice touch is the female JST connector on the model which is attached to the inside of the left frame panel. This means it isn't going to flop around and eventually suffer broken wires from frequent handling.
In this day and age of affordable 2.4GHz technology, I was amazed to see a 27MHz AM radio in the model. Perhaps it was to keep the price down in light of some of the more expensive touches such as the lithium ion battery and nylon gears.
Transmitter on, battery plugged in, power switch on the model turned on, allow the gyro to stabilize for a few moments and it's good to go.
Adding to the fun are a bright white LED searchlight under the canopy and a bright blue LED searchlight beneath the tail rotor.
All that fun doesn't mean much when compared to the real fun of flying, so read on while we put the S-8G in the air.
Experienced helicopter pilots should know off the bat that the S-8G doesn't fly like what one may be used to. The "3.5-channel" design does away with servos and a swashplate. It flies more in the manner of which R/C car drives with the left stick being throttle only and the right stick rotating the nose. The "cyclic" is the same on the right stick with up for forward and back for reverse, only instead of adjusting the main rotors, it proportionally kicks in the tail motor.
There's a free standing display card at Circle K which claims the S-8G will fly indoors. That's not a problem, assuming one has a very large indoor area available such as a gym. It's too large to fly in a living room or even most garages. The box more accurately states the model is best flown in calm outdoor conditions in a minimum 40' x 40' (12 x 12m) area such as in a park or a large back yard.
Beginners, the key word here is "calm." Coaxial helicopters don't like wind, not even a slight breeze. Read on to learn why.
The lack of servos means no ability to bank. For example, a tail-in hover in a confined space might find the model drifting toward a wall. Instinct tells your thumb to move the right stick away from the impending wall, but instead, the nose rotates right while the model continues to drift in the original direction. That in turn means having to bump the tail motor control to clear the obstacle, assuming one isn't already at the point of no return before it smacks a wall.
I'll jump ahead and share some good news: I never smacked a wall.
Weird as the non-standard stick configuration may be to an experienced pilot, it makes sense for someone who is unready - or unwilling - to learn how to fly with both sticks in coordination. My initial attempts to hover the S-8G were a bit scary, simply because I was trying to fly by instinct. After trimming it with the trim knob on the transmitter and a bit of practice in the garage, I started to get the hang of it. One thing I noticed right away was the smoothness of the gear train and the lack of vibration at the main rotors. Extreme RC was correct in pointing out the advantages of the nylon gears and the overall impression was one of quality as it lifted off. Head speed is relatively low, making it far less intimidating for beginners.
Beginners who have seen a CCPM (cyclic/collective pitch mixing) helicopter in action no doubt noticed the seemingly insane speed of the main rotor. By comparison, the S-8G lifts off at a far lower speed.
There's a dual rate switch on the upper left faceplate of the transmitter which does add tilt; I had to use some real care in the garage to make sure it didn't meet an untimely end. The regular rate adds quite a bit of tilt in calm conditions as well, but it isn't quite as aggressive.
My first attempt at outdoor flight came on a nearly dead calm evening after work in the parking lot. I chose a well lit area between the building and the carport I was parked beneath to give it a try.
Though the area was a bit narrower than I would have preferred, the S-8G did pretty well, that is, when I remembered to try and drive it like a car. In fact, it seemed to do exceptionally well when compared to other large coaxials I've attempted to fly outdoors, ones with far higher price tags than that of the S-8G.
It will do coordinated turns with some practice, but one has to be alert to drops in altitude. Since the helicopter steers by rotor speed differential, it had a tendency to lose altitude if I didn't compensate with the throttle.
Even in an almost imperceptible breeze once past the building, the S-8G made little headway when flying into the wind. Flipping the transmitter switch to the "quick" rate helped somewhat, but it mostly just hovered. Keeping it in the driveway between the building and carport resulted in some surprisingly fun flying. The thought of crashing atop the carport forced me to keep things about waist high, but even this low altitude proved fun with the spotlight and taillight doing a fine job of illuminating the asphalt. Power dropped off after about ten minutes, ending the fun.
These photos were taken during the video shoot in the parking garage of the publishers of Palm Springs Life, a high-end glossy magazine extolling the good life in Palm Springs and the surrounding resort areas. The building is also the new home of Kaminsky Productions where my friend Ken Alan works. Ken shoots a lot of my videos and stills to his infinite credit. I chose the garage in an attempt to avoid the breeze, but the windy conditions outside created just enough of a breeze inside to make things interesting:
Somewhat less successful was my first attempt to fly the S-8G at a local park.
After several days of Santa Ana winds smacking Southern California, I finally got a chance to fly it in a wide open space.
Same almost imperceptible breeze, same results. It sort of just hung there without a lot of forward momentum, drifting away from me on the breeze at its own lazy pace. Again, dead calm conditions are necessary. Slight breezes will cause the model to simply wander about while following them.
I also discovered that the radio doesn't have a heck of a lot of range, losing signal at only about 70' (21m) downrange, resulting in a crash into the grass surface.
I unwrapped the receiver antenna for another shot at flying the S-8G. The range seemed to be somewhat improved, but then, near disaster struck.
The wind shifted from my back to my left and picked up in intensity. Nothing I did was going to bring that helicopter back to me. Tacking sideways against the wind didn't do much except to blow the model sideways toward a soccer goal and a clump of trees. I had no place to even attempt an emergency landing.
Throttling up didn't do much except to cause the model to climb.
I was now facing the first flyaway since losing my very first two-channel trainer due to its lack of elevator and under much the same conditions.
As the helicopter continued its backward trip over the trees at roughly 50' (15m) up, the signal was lost again which caused it to crash in the concrete yard of the municipal water treatment plant next to the park.
A groundskeeper who saw what happened offered to jump the fence to retrieve it.
This is where the bad news ends and the good news begins.
Now, a crash of this magnitude from this height would have turned any helicopter of any price into a pile of spare parts.
Not so the S-8G.
Except for a cracked and scuffed canopy, a scuffed landing skid and a slightly bent flybar, the S-8G survived. Not only that, it still flew fine once I straightened out the flybar!
I was not just impressed, I was floored.
|Extreme RC by RSi S-8G R/C RTF Coaxial Helicopter (1 min 36 sec)|
The Extreme RC S-8G is something of an oddity. It's certainly better than most toy choppers on the market in terms of construction, but its flight capabilities are limited by the toylike 3.5 channel layout. Unlike most toys, the S-8G has a tremendous advantage with its US-based marketing, distribution, tech support and service.
Unfortunately, it's far too large to be flown indoors unless it happens to be a very large area such as a gym, tennis court, etc. Outdoor flight is limited by the coaxial design and the underpowered tail rotor; a flyaway is a very real possibility as I discovered. The non-standard controls are fine for getting a beginner airborne, but not for teaching the basics of real R/C helicopter flight.
On the other hand, both this model and the very similar Double Horse Volitation have their fans as evidenced by discussion boards here at RCGroups. Issues such as tail rotor modifications, alternate batteries and additional nose weight for improved forward flight are hot topics. Jason VanLoo suggested a modificaton he'd done which involves cutting 50mm off the tip of each of the spare blades and attaching the cut tips to the tail rotor blades with epoxy. It's outside the scope of this review, but I plan on trying it since he and Nicole Burke were kind enough to forward some cosmetically flawed blades I could use.
Tinkerers note: There are a lot of YouTube videos dedicated to modifiying the similar Volitation which can be applied to the S-8G. They can be found here.
That said, I like it despite nearly losing it in a flyaway. It's a big, friendly, unpretentious model which looks like a far more expensive and complex helicopter and which almost anyone can fly after a bit of practice, but again I must stress that outdoor conditions must be ideal to do so. One has to keep the limitations in mind. It's perfect for simply buzzing about the front yard on a calm summer evening or if one is fortunate enough, to fly in a large indoor area year round.
Before anyone comments, I know there are any number of nano- and micro-sized helicopters and quadcopters in this price range, but their superior manuverability is somewhat offset by the possibility of crash damage, an important consideration for the general audience this model is aimed at. There are no servos, therefore no linkages to adjust. It's fixed-pitch like all small coaxials, therefore no need for a pitch gauge or having to service or repair a more complex CCPM setup. No inverted flight, no tic-tocs, no blenders or funnels. Not a lot of forward flight either, sacrificed for stability and simplicity of basic flight and a faster learning curve.
It is, however, backed by excellent technical support and an inexpensive line of replacement parts unlike most toys and at a level rivaling some dedicated hobby companies. Circle K clearly did their homework before joining forces with Extreme RC which reflects beautifully on both companies. It's insanely rugged, shrugging off a horrific crash that would have destroyed any other helicopter and it may well be a good stepping-off point into more complex machines if - and I cannot stress this enough - one keeps its limitations in mind.
I'm not the only one who thinks so. According to Rex Abacan and store manager Jessica Torres, that rural Morongo Valley Circle K store is one of the top sellers of the S-8G. Within days of the model hitting the sales floor, only one candy apple blue version was left and it was being kept out back.
If you ask Jessica nicely, she might sell it to you since I think she may be considering the possibility of buying it for herself! I might add that your chances are likely to improve if you're a Buffalo Bills fan.
Many thanks are in order beginning with Rex Abacan of the Circle K Convenience Stores western regional office. Ariel Woolf of Extreme RC by RSi was the gentleman who arranged to have all of these models shipped for review; I am truly blown away by his generosity and his help in making this review possible.
Jason VanLoo is the head tech at RSi, the man responsible for an immediate warranty adjustment on the bad motor, sending me both motors and a new motherboard just in case. This is typical of their customer service, by the way. Jason was a tremendous help after the crash as well. So too was warehouse manager Nicole Burke. Everything was shipped quickly, was well protected and the thank-you cards sent with the motors and the crash parts were very impressive and professional gestures. Since the crash happened before the video shoot, there would have been no way to shoot video had it not been for Jason and Nicole.
Jessica Torres manages the Circle K store where I first saw these neat little choppers and I thank her and sales associate Jody Godden for taking time out of a busy schedule for photos. If you ever find yourself on Highway 62 between the Palm Springs area and points east such as Joshua Tree National Park, the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms or any of the Colorado River resort areas in California, Arizona and Nevada, swing by. You just might walk out with a new S-8G helicopter with that hot dog and that Polar Pop fountain drink!
Ken Alan of Kaminsky Productions in Palm Springs is a longtime friend and colleague who took time out of a busy editing schedule to shoot the stills and the video in the parking garage of the Palm Springs Life building.
Angela Haglund is our tireless administrator who make all of these reviews possible for you, our worldwide audience. For all things R/C and at all levels of participation, there's no better place on the internet than right here at RCGroups.com!
There are a surprising number of pluses to note here:
|Apr 30, 2013, 03:06 PM|
I do have one correction to make and I'll make it on the article itself once it's kicked back to my control.
Ariel Woolf is actually Bert Bruselof’s assistant. Mike Steingold is not a technician but is rather Mr. Bruselof's partner and part owner.
My thanks to Extreme RC's Brent Nieb for pointing out the error.
|Apr 30, 2013, 05:33 PM|
Joined Apr 2013
I just saw this RC helicopter in the Circle-K on Adobe Rd. in Twentynine Palms this morning i was intrigued but hesitant to buy it. I quickly started to look up info on it and found your review, it was very helpful and informative... thank you. I decided to go buy it, I flew it for about 15 minutes it was a blast, until the wind picked up.
This is my first RC helicopter!
|Apr 30, 2013, 06:14 PM|
Welcome to the site and welcome to the hobby! I know the exact store you're talking about. I'm just glad that the review was helpful to you. As long as you keep the limitations in mind, it's a fun little machine.
Your testimonial is fantastic; it proves that someone with no experience whatsoever can get this model in the air. In your case, you managed to run an entire pack through it before the wind kicked up. That's incredibly good news. Thank you for the kind feedback.
If you ever need technical advice, Jason over at Extreme RC is terrific to work with.
Have fun with your new S-8G!
|Apr 30, 2013, 11:34 PM|
I've actually had skeptical but irrefutable success with "3.5 channel (that's rich, huh)" helis. Some just drift around listlessly in everything but complete flatness, but some (keeping in mind that these are all servoless and involve vertical tail rotors,) actually performed amazingly, even in quite a bit of a breeze. One in particular actually made itself a favorite- it maneuvered on a dime, and stopped feeling awkward after I moved one of the potentiometers in the tx to the other stick- but, quite to my amusement, the battery arrangement is sort of where it shot itself in the foot.
The thing was set up with a 2s, 500mAh lipo, which was awesome, but my feelings dropped when I realized it didn't come with a balancing charger. I just went with it, and the heli flew great. Of course, the natural thing to do then was to hop it up with a properly balanced pack. This actually proved to be a mistake, surprisingly. I powered it up and felt a gigantic increase in power, let go of the tail, and watched the tiny ship shoot into the clouds like a rocket. I panicked and immediately dropped the throttle to the lowest setting, but it actually kept climbing. The only thing for it was to let it fall, pick it up and let it fall again, but when I tried that the thing went into a violent tumble that left it in 3 pieces on the ground. It was easily fixed, but it perplexed me that the thing was actually designed to use a totally crapped-out battery.
|Apr 30, 2013, 11:51 PM|
The 1500mAh pack in the S-8G does have some leeway in its mount and I may pull it forward to see if I get any more forward pitch. I'm just amazed this setup works as well as it does. Jason at Extreme RC told me that his modification actually adds so much forward pitch that using the "quick" setting on the transmitter is too much. I suggested during the course of our conversations that he speak with the factory about tooling up for a more aggressive tail rotor to be shipped with each unit as an option. Once someone is comfortable with the stock rotor, switch to Super Rotor.
A more aggressive motor than an N20 might help, but that might require both mechanical and electronic engineering. One guy on YouTube rigged his Volitation with a sort ot T-bar at the tail and an extra motor, gearbox and prop. I'm assuming he wired it in parallel, but I didn't watch the whole thing. Said it worked great.
I kinda sorta watched mine almost go bye-bye, but at least my situation had a happy ending.
Was your little rocket a Volitation? I think that has a stock 500mAh pack if memory serves.
|May 02, 2013, 09:25 AM|
|May 28, 2013, 11:47 AM|
I have an important correction to make:
The "third lead" which I thought was coming off of the battery is actually a power lead for the LED under the nose.
I just now pulled the battery so that I could safely charge it with the li-ion setting on my Triton EQ. It's just like any similar li-po or li-ion with its JST power lead and balance tap. I might pick up a spare from Extreme RC now that I know that it's standard stuff connector-wise.
Up until now, I've charged it while on the model but not without some trepidation. The factory had no such qualms since it's held in place both by its attaching strap and some double-sided foam tape.
Sorry that didn't get caught in the proofreading. However, I did have a great time flying it around the garage prior to my discovery.
|Jun 13, 2013, 01:19 PM|
Germany, BY, Hohenfels
Joined May 2013
A good friend of mine ordered this chopper form amazon as his first heli. It's fairly durable. He has crashed a few times, and all is well. What I didn't like about it is that when trying to fly forward or backwards for that matter it will move in the desired direction on momentarily then just stop. It is really easy to fly, but pretty boring to fly as well.
|Oct 11, 2013, 10:21 PM|
Joined Oct 2013
Dissappointed with this Heli
I enjoyed your review of this cool heli by ExtremeRC/RSI/Syma. I watched the video several times over and then spent the next couple of days searching YouTube on what others have said and to watch how others enjoyed flying this heli.
I talked with a 7-Eleven store manager on last Tuesday morning about coming by today to get one and she said that she would give me 10% off. Well, I broke the wife down and she said to go get it Thursday night and then Friday morning, so I did exactly what my wife said and bought it.
I also decided t get 8 rechargeable batteries since you said it took 8 and my other 3 helis (Syma S107 Yellow and Red 3-ch and my newest Blade MSR X 4-ch) didn't really consume them as much yet.
You might want to look at these two sights because this $99 is not a deal...and to get the real Syma ones and not just distributed by Syma:
I tend to think of myself as an beginner/intermediate. Intermediate for 3-ch and beginner for my first 4 channel Blade MSR X...she is still challenging me at times. I didn't realize she had to have constant attention.
Anyways, I have read a lot that you need to power down prior to hitting the ground either on the skids or crashing and this has saved me a lot of problems and never have I damaged my helis.
Since the S-8G is quite large, I figured that I could sit her in my 3" soft grass. I played with her a couple of times to see if she would veer either way. I know that my Blade MSR X has to be kindof stated at 40% and then jumped to 80% to stabilize her. But the Syma's seem to be easier on liftoff. She had tipped a bit back and form, but she never fell over with blade spin. I then took the next step to get her off the ground. I used a slow to 40 then jumped her to 80% because I don't run them at 100% until I know what they are going to do and had her on low. I was happy that she lifted off nicely. She hovered easily so I bumped her to 100%. Sadly it only raised to about 6 ft off the ground. I did charge it completely the 4hrs and this was the first flight. I figured that it was probably due to requiring to be broke in. I wasn't too worried about it at this point. I then flew it around for another 5 minutes and landed it softly 3 times. On the 4th time of powering up the blades, the top two blades came in contact with I guess the bottom two and the top ones shattered. I was quite surprised after reading the box that they are better blades and would flex a lot. I had went through my normal liftoff procedures that I always use and this happened.
I contacted ExtremeRCbyRSI and was really disappointed in the customer service that I received. She said that I either hit something hard or blade slapped. Heck, the website states that you have to call for availability of the blades. She said she could send some out on Monday for $5 (used) cause they have had a lot of orders for them lately.
After this, I started comparing your with mine. 4AA instead of 8; different tail fin, different landing gear, TX has a cheap 2 inch plastic antenna; no LEDs on bottom of fuselage or tail, inside under fuselage totally different.
I seem to believe that they cheapened these up a lot for some reason and I think that new blade unavailability proves it. I would take it back, but since the top rotor blades are broken, I don't know if they would allow me.
I do know that after the issue with the blades and customer service, I probably will not be purchasing the RSI helis again.
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