Armattan Quadrocopters Tricopter 258 CF
|Construction:||2.0mm and 4.0mm heat pressed and CNC milled carbon fiber; laser cut 6061 aluminum tail mechanism; nylon landing skids with rubber feet|
|Weight:||14.8 oz (419.5g) less battery|
|Control Board:||Naze32 Afro Acro, programmed by Armattan Quadrocopters|
|Tail Servo:||9g metal geared dual-ball bearing digital; brand may vary|
|Transmitter:||Hitec Optic 6 Sport six-channel spread spectrum aircraft|
|Receiver:||Hitec Minima 6L six-channel spread spectrum aircraft|
|Battery:||Hobby People 2200mAh 11.1V 3S 30C lithium polymer with Deans Ultra-Plug connector and JST-XH balancing tap|
|Motors:||Three RCX D2822-12 brushless outrunners; 1800Kv|
|Propellers:||7x3.8 multirotor, brand not specified|
|ESCs:||Armattan 30A brushless with SimonK firmware|
|Operator Skill Level/Age:||Intermediate/advanced; 14+|
|Manufacturer:||Armattan Quadrocopters, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan|
|Price:||TBA; email Armattan Quadrocopters for details|
If one were to choose an all-time-great RCGroups success story, one can make a very strong case for Chris Leroux of Armattan Quadrocopters.
Chris started out building custom quadcopters for folks on this very site; this remarkable Canadian is now running a successful side business at his home in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan. So successful is Armattan Quadrocopters that Chris is now an RCGroups.com sponsor.
My first experience with Chris, his incredible products and equally incredible customer service began with a simple inquiry as to the availability of a bare frame for review. He took it one better and sent me one of his CNC 258 high-performance quads, reviewed here at RCGroups in August 2013. The review created a huge demand for the model, almost more than he could take on, but take it on he did.
This review will focus on one of the most unique - and fastest - multirotors on the market, the Armattan Quadrocopters Tricopter 258 CF. Designed by Andrew Meyer, aka "MayMayDay" here on RCGroups, the 258 CF is based on the successful CNC 258 quad.
It's now available in both aluminum and carbon fiber versions, the latter of which will be the subject of this review. The CF version is presently a limited edition, but will soon be a permanent and readily available part of the Armattan lineup.
This amazing tricopter is as stable as a quad with its advanced Naze32 Afro Acro control board and its new Armattan 30A ESCs flashed with the famous SimonK firmware. With one less motor and a gyroscopically controlled tail tilted from side-to-side with a 9g metal-geared digital servo, it consumes less battery power and is easier to keep oriented at a distance than its four-motored bretheren.
Best fasten your seat belts, friends. This is one fast ride we're about to investigate.
Armattan ships all of their products in custom printed cartons and the 258 arrived well packed in just such a carton with the tail section mounted atop a foam block wrapped with heavy plastic wrap. The props and collets, two reverse rotation and one regular rotation, were equally well protected in their own ziplock bag. A wiring harness for the receiver was also waiting in the bag.
The following items are needed to complete the model:
This was simply one of those models which took my breath away the moment I first laid eyes on it. This custom built beauty, like the quad before it, resembles a work of industrial art.
Since it's all black carbon fiber, it's a rather sinister work. If not for the cheerful bright green propeller at the tail, it could pass for some sort of Imperial drone straight out of Star Wars.
Chris was kind enough to produce a nearly twenty-minute-long video showing some of the features of this very model. It also shows the proper installation of the propellers and the proper receiver hookup. For the record, the reverse rotation black prop goes on the left front when viewed from the rear. This was more than a courtesy to help me get the tricopter flying; all buyers of Armattan multirotors can count on custom videos of their own models to be posted to a private YouTube link.
He further went on to explain that the props were a new but unspecified brand he wanted to try; they're better molded and better balanced than the ones which came with the CNC 258 and Armattan might just be providing them as original equipment.
Chris declared the 258 CF to be his favorite model to date, one which is light, fast and virtually indestructible. In the demo video, he's promised free replacement center sections should I actually break either piece! That's a solid promise; Chris has yet to sell a single replacement part for any of his CF models.
Not that I'm actually going to try, mind you. This is just too nice a piece of work.
Other 7" and 8" multirotor props will work as well. With seven-inch props, the model is capable of lifting a GoPro camera and the frame is designed to accomodate its mount. I can only guess at how hairy looking video footage shot from a screaming multi such as this would look like!
As for the receiver, that came courtesy of Suzanne Lepine of Hitec RCD, Poway, California. It's a full-range Hitec Minima 6L which is the perfect compliment to the Hitec Optic 6 Sport radio I'd planned on using. My experience with this radio on three previous high-performance review subjects has been nothing short of perfect and I knew it would be a perfect fit on the Tricopter 258 as well.
Since the Tricopter 258 comes as a receiver-ready package, all that really needs to be done other than the prop installation is to install the receiver and set up the transmitter. The board is already programmed and, of course, other boards may be substituted thanks to the Tricopter's universal mount. Programming the Naze32 board requires a USB interface and software download and as such, is outside the scope of this review.
The Minima 6L is a tiny thing and with the aid of a bit of hook-and-loop fastener and a couple of black zip ties to help secure the aerials, it was installed just forward of the Naze32 board. A harness which plugs into the board in turn plugs into the receiver. Only channel one needs power; the other functions are connected via leads with signal only. In this instance, the gear channel is active and used to switch the self-level mode on and off. Three of the ten leads were unused and easily removed from the plug.
If one is looking at the board from the side, the pin configuration is as follows:
Unlike the 258 quad, the Tricopter arrived with an XT60 battery connector. Since almost all of my batteries use Deans Ultra-Plug connectors, it was an easy task to desolder the XT60, set it aside and replace it with a male Deans.
Like virtually any multirotor, the 258 is set up in the transmitter as an airplane. Chris explained that the Naze32 board needs to see a lot of control surface throw in order to initialize; he recommended that all throws in all directions be set to 125%. No exponential was added and no channels required reversing.
The tail rotor deflects in the opposite direction of an airplane's rudder, something I soon discovered and which I easily corrected.
Slinging an easily obtainable 2200mAh 3S lipo beneath the Tricopter is made easy by a rugged hook-and-loop strap. Once the props are installed and the transmitter is turned on, it's time to connect the battery.
Armattan recommends a 40C li-po for most of its models including the Tricopter. I'd purchased a pair of Hobby People li-pos not long before the Tricopter arrived, but they're only rated at 30C. Chris emailed me to explain that the 30C would work just fine given the lack of a third motor.
The model must be placed on a level surface before the battery is plugged in. Once plugged in, the model must not be moved until the board beeps three times.
There is no LCD display like that found on the KK2 since the Naze32 must be programmed via computer. No problem since there are a number of LEDs which indicate the board's status. Flipping the gear switch on the Optic 6 Sport turned the self-level function on and off with a red LED signifying that the function was active.
It took a bit of experimentation to actually arm the board since it wasn't indicated in the video, but I should have guessed sooner than I did that the Naze32 arms just like a KK2, i.e., by holding the throttle/rudder stick to zero throttle and full right rudder. Disarming is just as simple with the stick moved to zero throttle and full left rudder. A green LED indicates the system is armed and ready.
Chris was right about the fact that the Tricopter hovers virtually hands off, even with the unusual tilt of the tail rotor of about five degrees to the left. This is almost certainly due to the fact that the single rear rotor has to compensate for a lack of a mate directly next to it. Despite the tilt, the Tricopter hovered beautifully and the yaw response was quick and accurate.
My first tentative flights took place in front of my house and it didn't take me long to realize that flying the Tricopter wasn't fundamentally different than flying a quad. After three or four flights spent hovering, flying forward and backward, turning and stopping, I had become quite comfortable flying the model. Chris told me that the Naze32 board was more precise than the KK2 and I found myself agreeing with him. As I'd mentioned earlier, Chris stated in the video that the Tricopter was his favorite model to date. A strong statement to be sure and again, I could certainly see why.
Here was a model which weighed less than a pound and clearly capable of much faster speeds than my limited test space allowed. Further weight reduction came in the form of the ESCs themselves.
These 30A beauties ordered to Armattan's specifications and flashed with Simon Kirby's amazing SimonK firmware are roughly the same size as an ordinary 20A ESC. I have two quads with SimonK ESCs and that firmware is truly one of the breakthrough inventions of the burgeoning multirotor hobby.
Later test flights at the Coachella Valley Radio Control Club prior to the video shoot certainly didn't disappoint. This is where I had a chance to open the throttle some more, but since I had no video footage as of yet, I didn't go quite as crazy as I could have.
Not only did the 258 perform well, it performed even better than I'd anticipated thanks to the Naze32 control board. The KK2 is a fine board, but I could tell a difference in the control with the Naze32. It truly had a finer, more precise feel even at higher speeds which was especially impressive given the lack of a fourth motor.
Some fast blasts down the center of the runway were easily halted with the throttle and elevator. The tricopter simply tilted back and came to smooth, fast stops with very little drama.
Video was shot on a busy Sunday morning at the club with the aid of club videographer George Muir. Since the field was so busy, I wasn't able to use the runway. Instead, the video was shot at the club's combination helicopter and U-control pad. It's a fairly large space, but one which didn't allow for the kind of speed of which the 258 CF is capable. Despite the setback, I was able to fly some relatively fast circuits which do a great job of showing just how well the model flies at any throttle setting. It's a very graceful and easily controlled multirotor which means that it's a heck of a lot of fun to fly regardless of the area in which it's flown.
As with any multirotor, flips are as easy as setting up one's radio and board. Even with 125% throws on all channels, the board on my example wasn't set for flips. That's just as well; I've never attempted to flip a high-end machine like this and I don't do so well even with micros and nanos in that department. Hovering, pirouettes and fast forward flight are my things and the 258 doesn't disappoint.
Special flight performance can be easily summed up: This multi has the potential for some of the most insane speeds imaginable as evidenced by Chris Leroux's own video.
While a beginner with some multirotor experience should be able to successfully hover and fly the tricopter, this is a very fast and very pricey way for a raw beginner to learn the basics. Someone considering this model should be comfortable with forward flight, pirouettes and forward turns in any direction before attempting to fly it. This was my first experience with a high-performance tricopter, but I already had some stick time on both large and small quads. Even Chris himself is a relative newcomer to tricopters, but again, he's an expert quadcopter pilot.
That said, Armattan Quadrocopters has some of the most affordable and rugged receiver-ready platforms on the market today. If one wishes to skip over RTF micros and jump right in to learning to fly a large multirotor built from discrete components, there's no better source than Chris Leroux.
Here's the video which Chris produced of this very model prior to shipping. Talk about love at first sight.
|For Ralph2 (19 min 49 sec)|
Yours truly takes the controls:
|Armattan Quadrocopters Tricopter 258 CF (2 min 14 sec)|
Chris really cranks up the fun with this nicely produced demonstration video. The animation was done by RCGroups.com user "sonicweapon:"
|Armattan tricopter 258 (5 min 47 sec)|
After a whole lot of stick time on Armattan's aluminum 258 quad, I had a feeling the Armattan Quadrocopters Tricopter 258 CF would be just as much fun and it is. It's not only the perfect first tricopter, it's the perfect second, third, fourth and so on. All the airframe components are of the highest possible quality and all of the electronics are carefully and professionally installed. Plug in a receiver, set up a radio, attach the props, hook up a battery and the 258 is ready to rock.
Brothers and sisters, this model rocks.
It will likely be priced quite high for an entry level user looking to learn the basics of multirotor flight, but that isn't the marketing demographic. This is a no-compromise, no-holds-barred performance flyer for the serious multirotor user.
My one suggestion would be to order some extra props along with the model if one's local hobby shops do not stock this particular size of propeller; neither of my local shops carry 7x3.8 multirotor propellers and most of the online shops which I found are offshore. I know from experience that 8x4.5 units from the new line of APC multirotor props are a perfect match to the RCX motors, but they're not available in any color other than gray. They should work well, but my recommendation would be to apply some sort of contrasting color to the tail.
As for the future of Armattan Quadrocopters, it's a rosy one. Chris's collaboration with Andrew Meyer promises a whole slew of innovative products, including a dedicated FPV platform. Improved CNC milled aluminum frames, the backbone of Armattan's success, will soon be in the pipeline. Andrew in turn is working on selling his own line of Armattan branded multirotors out of Canada. Plans include a mini-tricopter designed by Meyer. His RCGroups tricopter discussion thread - including some early engineering drawings - may be found here. As for Chris, he's teaming up with T-Motors in China to produce a line of custom wound Armattan multirotor motors.
Two thumbs up as high as I can give.
My thanks go to Chris Leroux for his peerless product and his outstanding customer service. Technical support was as close as a quickly answered email away. Andrew Meyer did a superb job of designing the 258 CF and it won't be long before more of his world class designs will be available. Chris wanted me to send a special round of thanks to RCGroups.com user "Creepy1" for his aid with the graphic design. It's always a pleasure to work with Suzanne Lepine and the crew at Hitec RCD and I thank all of the folks from Hitec out near beautiful San Diego for the Minima 6L receiver.
Angela Haglund is, as always, the RCGroups.com adminstrator who proofreads and posts these reviews. All of us here at RCGroups.com are privileged to review the latest and greatest model aviation products for you, our worldwide audience.
Thanks for visiting and enjoy your stay at RCGroups!
The only real minus:
|Apr 08, 2014, 07:21 PM|
Enjoyed reading the review but it left me with a question:
I'm a fixed wing guy who over the past year or so has bought a Proto and a 1SQ. I love flying both and can generally keep them in the air but they're small, neat for what they are but not all that wonderful outside in wind...
Is this tricopter a good "next step" if I want to continue to grow my skills and have a machine which can handle a bit more wind without getting tossed all over the place? Just wondering because you mention that it's for the serious fanatic... I typically translate that into "advanced level flyer"
|Apr 08, 2014, 08:15 PM|
I was amazed at how much it flies like a quad and if you can handle the Proto X and the 1SQ, I'm confident that you're ready to step up. Those quads are small, but they're more difficult to fly in many respects when compared to a regular sized quad. I happen to own both of them myself.
Chris has some affordably priced quad platforms which would be a terrific next step, but if you have your heart set on the tricopter, I think you'll be happy. It's very responsive at 125% rates and no exponential, but some expo and the self-leveling ought to smooth things out.
Check out www.armattanquads.com for the product lineup. He has some truly fantastic stuff!
Good luck and above all, have fun.
|Apr 08, 2014, 08:18 PM|
|Apr 08, 2014, 08:21 PM|
email@example.com. I understand that he's already received a tremendous number of orders since this review went live.
As for mine, I'm going to reprogram the Naze32 for flips at some point.
I hope you'll get one of your own. To say that I'm enthusiastic about Armattan products is an understatement, even when viewing them through the jaundiced eye of a reviewer.
|Apr 08, 2014, 08:23 PM|
|Apr 08, 2014, 08:40 PM|
PS. "Elf" is da bomb!
|Apr 08, 2014, 09:33 PM|
It does look very nice
|Apr 12, 2014, 02:15 PM|
First and foremost, I want to send many thanks to Maymayday, AKA Andrew, for all his hard work. Andrew has helped me so much, there are no words to describe how thankful I am. In no uncertain words, he has helped Armattan move forward to higher heights with his intuitive and thoughtful designs. We do collaborate together when it comes to designs, and I do have my 2 cents to contribute here and there. Maybe more than 2 cents sometimes... but... At the end of the day, the designs are very much his own creations. He has taken every single one of my request and brought them to life with his own creativity and extensive knowledge of quadcopters/tricopters/V-tails dynamics as well as with his understanding of material strength, weight and limitations. In short, the man is on the ball and I feel truly blessed to have him on board. Thank you, Sir.
Secondly, I want to thank Dismaying Observation for his thorough review. I am happy to hear you like your model and I truly enjoy reading your skillful reviews, whether it is about one of my models or about other models you review. Your kind words are also appreciated, of course. It's a true pleasure to send you material for review purposes. Your attention to details and thoroughness is duly noted.
Thirdly, I want to thank the whole team at RCG. None of this would have happened without RCGroups. As mentioned by Disnmaying Observation, Armattan started right here on RCGroups. I never thought it would become the small business that it is now. But one thing leading to another coupled with a lot of dedication and hard work, Armattan is now a fully fledged business and I am honestly short for words here... Special thanks to the moderators and Jim T. Graham for putting up with my antics from time to time. What we have here is "work in progress" on many levels.
I want to also thank Creepy1 and sonicweapon for the graphics designs. You guys have helped a lot. It all adds up.
Finally, I want to say thank you to all of you who invested their trust in what it is I do. I'm pretty certain I hold the world record for building almost 1000 scratch build multirotors to this day. No other companies in the world can make such claim at this point, and none of it would have happened without you guys. So thank you, and rest-assured that it is not going to be forgotten anytime soon. I will continue to offer the same personalized service simply because I think it's the only way to pay it forward and to give back a little to all of you who contribute to Armattan Productions success.
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