2ICRC XPO 6 Channel Wireless Buddy-Box Review

A little thinking outside the box and a dose of innovation has produced a device that brings some very handy changes to a very old idea.

Splash

Introduction


Width:3.3 in
Length:1.7 in
Height:1 in
Weight:1.8 oz
Channels:6
Transmitter:Any!
Receiver:Any!
Manufacturer:2ICRC
Available From:2ICRC

The instructor/student "buddy box" system has been around for quite some time and has been a staple for many clubs and instructors to progress beginner pilots through the skills required to fly model aircraft. The idea is simple enough; connect two radio systems, and give the instructor control over whether or not the student is in command of the aircraft. The instructor can do the hard maneuvers like taking off and landing, and if the student gets into trouble, the instructor can take control and get things back onto the straight and level.

The idea essentially has gone unchanged since it came about. However, over the years the radio manufacturers have diversified, changed their technologies, and what has arisen is a challenge of finding compatible systems in order for them to connect. Nowadays, there's little chance that a student can front up to the field with their equipment and expect to be able to fly their own plane with their own gear by way of buddy box.

Thankfully, not everyone takes things at face value. Some are willing to take on the challenges required to improve situations. One such company is Second In Command Remote Control, or 2iCRC for short. They have developed an ingenious little box that makes this invaluable bond between instructor and student possible with the use of different brands and technologies. The box is the bond between the two systems; it rides along in the plane and connects two receivers to the servos and electronics. Using a spare channel the instructor controls which system is in charge of the aircraft. Sounds great, let's dig deeper.


PACKAGE CONTENTS

The package comes in a plastic bag with all the parts nicely separated. The pack contains the control unit and all wires and extensions needed to connect the system to the two receivers. With these contents you only need learn how to connect it up as you have everything you need.





It is relatively simple to set up, and the instructions do take you through it all. However, the instructions tend to make things out to be a little more complex than they need to be. The confusion to some degree carries into the strange three-headed y-leads provided in the package. I found these to be a little confusing at first but you can work through it. The details are that the "y" leads plug in across the plugs effectively connecting up three channels at a time. It works, but I cannot say I became comfortable with it or liked using it that way.

I did operate the system in this manner, but in a slight breech of review etiquette I changed things around: I opened up the plugs in the three-headed leads and split them out to be basic leads with a male plug at either end. What this does is make one lead and plug position per channel, as we have come to expect with our radio equipment. With that done, using the system is trivial and also makes it easier to explain to others and take explanatory photos for this review. Changing the plugs from 4 y-leads into 12 double ended leads took 20 minutes or so of lazy couch-bound activity.

 the XPO unit...
the XPO unit...

 ...with single leads
...with single leads

SETUP

The way it all works is this: The servos plug into the bank of plugs in the center of the XPO, and the two receivers plug into the banks of plugs either side (slave receiver on the left, master receiver on the right). The plug on the far right of the device is for the channel which tells the XPO which receiver to listen to, and the last plug on the far left is for any flight pack batteries (if using an external flight pack). The receiver information is being fed into the XPO continually, and it simply directs the signal to the servos depending on what the controller channel is saying.



The simple explanation is that there are three banks of pins; secondary rx, servo output and master rx. Their positions relate to each other. If you plug elevator servo into the first position, then the receivers need to plug their respective elevator channels into the first position. Connect up ailerons across all three into the next position, and so on. Order is not important at all, but they do all have to match (the important example is that JR and Futaba have different channel positions). With the plugs separated in a way that we're used to it really is easy, and there is barely the need for instructions at all: Plug in your servo, plug in each receiver to the respective channel and then move onto the next.

The instructions fill out the banks from right to left, but my testing showed the positions you use as unimportant. You can use the middle plug positions as long as you do the same for servos and receivers in respective fashion, but it's easier to keep organized by going left to right or right to left.

 one channel connected
one channel connected

 four channels connected
four channels connected

In the photo above, one channel is connected, in this case the rudder channel. To explain the plugs from left to right: secondary receiver connected into the rudder channel, rudder servo connected into the middle, master receiver's rudder input and finally, the channel which controls the XPO to switch channels plugged into the master receiver's auxiliary channel. The photo next to it shows all four channels being controlled and switched through the XPO.

As you can also see in the photo I have done the previously impossible: buddy-boxed a Futaba and Spektrum system!

Power

The only plug position on the XPO not mentioned so far is the plug on the far left. This is for external power. Most important for those that fly glow and gas powered models, as their battery pack will plug into that location to power the flight system. For the electric guys, if you run an external BEC you can plug it into there. If you use the internal BEC of the speed controller, it's just business as usual: Simply plug it into the servo bank, and forget about it like you always have.

For situations like the single channel example above, the way the power circuits of receivers and the XPO work, if there's power getting into either receiver or the XPO you will have power for your servos and everything else (in the photo, the power will be going through the master receiver by way of internal BEC of speed controller). I did perform tests of the XPO using the power plug, but nearly all my operations were internal BECs connected just as explained here and often just through the master receiver. In short, it's easy. There's nothing to worry about.

INSTALLATION

The installation of the XPO is simple. Connect it up as explained, mount it into the plane however it will fit. With larger planes you can formally mount with velcro or sponge rubber. The XPO was tested across a few models of various sizes small to large and the smallest cabin area was that of the Multiplex EasyStar. It was snug but I was happy to see it fit in such a versatile plane with relatively little internal cabin area. The majority of testing was however done with a plane that used to resemble a Parkzone Trojan.

ugliest plane in a review maybe?
ugliest plane in a review maybe?

<br>

gear with XPO installed
gear with XPO installed

Throw the XPO into the plane, connect the servos and receivers in order, make sure your auxiliary channel is changing control from one receiver to the other, and we're good to go!

IMPORTANT NOTE: as with all buddy box setups, each transmitter needs to be set up for the plane individually. It is a good idea to fly the plane with each receiver without the XPO so you can ensure that each transmitter is setup properly to fly the model. You don't want to flick the switch either way and have an incorrect setup.

FLYING

The process of flying with the XPO is excellent. Flick the switch, and your student is in control whenever you need him to be, and you can steal control back as required.

instructor
instructor

 student
student

 instructor
instructor

 student
student

 instructor
instructor

 student
student

 instructor
instructor

 student
student

 instructor...
instructor...

You get the idea. The workings of this through the XPO was always smooth, solid and predictable. If you're new to buddy-boxing, it is a superior way to provide instruction. Give yourself time to get used to managing that trainer switch and you can allow students the chance to fly out of trouble without putting the model at risk.

Alternative Uses

The XPO’s ability to manage the switch between two completely separate radio systems and opens up other possibilities over the traditional buddy-box setup...

Fewer Channels

Because you can decide whether a servo is plugged into the XPO or the master receiver, you can decide as to how much control you want to relinquish to the student. You could teach one control surface at a time for very gradual and progressive instruction on general flying or even aerobatics training.

A specific example is in learning how to hover: The instructor could hand over one control surface, like the rudder, so the student can get used to it while the instructor manages the rest, including the all important ability to punch-out and abort. Hover practice this way I found to be effective, but it does take some getting used to on the part of the instructor as to when you abort and how you go about it. For this purpose I trusted my most treasured airframes to the control of XPO without problem.

 the lowest we got it,<br>student has the rudder
the lowest we got it,
student has the rudder

 one channel setup<br><br>
one channel setup

Separated Pilot Locations

There is no cable between the transmitters, so you can be separated by the range of the radios themselves. This was the most fun to test. With the help of the neighbor and his EasyStar we separated ourselves into different fields, locations A and B in the photo below.

the map
the map

I launched from location A and flew towards B. Using mobile phones with handsfree headsets, we communicated the intentions to switch control. The plane came into sight and within a comfortable flying distance, and we switched control. The neighbor landed the plane at location B, put in a small payload, and relaunched. Flying back towards A the plane came into sight, control was returned to my system and brought it back. Payload received and distance traveled was about 2000 feet between locations. Control was solid and steady the entire time and seemingly the plane was never at risk.

Split Receivers and Daisy Chaining

While a little more complex, it's easy to see how systems can be linked, split and daisy chained. You could link another XPO as a secondary receiver so you could pass control to a student, and with two switch channels on the master receiver, control which of the two students has control. Why would we do this? "Try and Fly" events are popular at some clubs, and the general idea is to allow as many people as possible the chance to fly an RC plane. The basic functionality is most important for this, although a daisy-chained XPO you could allow more students to fly: one student can fly as you get another comfortable with the control layout.

I didn't get the opportunity to daisy chain an XPO, but what I did try was splitting control between two receivers. There's a game I caught wind of on the web of sharing simultaneous control of a plane between two pilots. I set up a similar situation with the XPO on a sturdy foam plane. One aileron and elevator to one system, opposite aileron and rudder to the other. The objective is to get the plane to pass a line on either the left or the right. The XPO actually allowed the game without crashes; when the fight got down too low the master receiver (or referee) takes control back, brings the plane back up to altitude and lets them have it again.

It's a nonsense fun game, I'm sure someone will sort out the rules and the most ideal airframes for it, but the XPO really allows for a smooth operation of a referee with much less "down time".

 channels split between<br>two secondary receivers
channels split between
two secondary receivers

Is this for a beginner?

Yes! Using buddy-boxes is the most ideal way for beginners to get their start into RC. With the XPO, they will have no worry about finding an instructor with a compatible system. Similarly, instructors with an XPO will be able to buddy-box with any student that turns up with a plane in which the XPO can fit (read: anything with equal or more room than an EasyStar) regardless of the technology of the radio system.

Conclusion

This is the most feature-complete buddy-box setup on the market, and the ability to work with any radio system is a huge win. My own testing proved flawless operation with Futaba FASST, Spektrum DSM2 and 72Mhz equipment. With this ability clubs and instructors with an XPO can expect to easily train all newcomers with the benefit of using their own equipment. Even with a club trainer, students can use their own transmitters so they can learn the feel of their own gear. As such, I feel that any club or instructor serious about teaching all newcomers should have a serious think about how the XPO could improve their service.

Considering its extra abilities to provide individual channel control for hover training, playing games and a host of other things maybe not even imagined yet, it becomes an easier decision to make. The XPO is a great little device, and I'm excited about this company's innovations now and into the future.

This XPO allows the smooth transfer of control through 6 channels. 2ICRC is also working on producing an XPO with 3, 9 and 12 channels. They have also produced a "XPO Control Switching Upgrade" which allows the transfer of control of the master channel allowing the slave system to become the master and vice versa. With this and other out of the box innovations, I'm excited by what we may see from 2ICRC in the future!


Pluses

  • Works great!
  • Any receiver and receiver/transmitter technology can be used
  • No issues running electrics with internal BECs or separate packs/BECs alike
  • Able to hand over control to one or more receivers including daisy-chained XPOs
  • ...the ideas still haven't stopped on how to use this handy little device!

Minuses

  • instructions as written are a little complex for something so easy to use
Last edited by Angela H; Feb 15, 2010 at 08:22 AM..
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Feb 14, 2010, 11:52 PM
BadPilot
badpilotto's Avatar
KM,

For being around a long time I have never heard of this cool little item but or course I never really looked for something like this either.

Great review and you make it sound so simple to use.

Thanks
Feb 15, 2010, 02:53 PM
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theKM's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by badpilotto
KM,

For being around a long time I have never heard of this cool little item but or course I never really looked for something like this either.

Great review and you make it sound so simple to use.

Thanks
Thanks. It looks easy to use 'cuz it is
Feb 16, 2010, 01:01 PM
Registered User
mexico's Avatar
Try and fly sounds like a good idea but you need to have the radios setup and trimmed for the plane before don't you? Making sure no channels are reversed etc.
Feb 16, 2010, 04:18 PM
XPO
XPO
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Creator of the XPO Wireless Buddy Box


Quote:
Originally Posted by mexico
Try and fly sounds like a good idea but you need to have the radios setup and trimmed for the plane before don't you? Making sure no channels are reversed etc.
Yes, there are two receivers on-board therefore they must be programed/trimmed individually. So, forward/reverse of the servos absolutely have to be set correctly. The individual programming is a plus in the way of accommodating the need/skill level of the pilots. The teacher can have quick responsiveness while the trainee can have high exponential, easy dual rate ranges and so on....you could have one pilot be using gyros while the other doesn't...and so on....

There are so many applications for this product and variations ranging from the very beginner to the professional using aerial photography for a living. My product has been commercially available since April of 2009 and was tested for ~1.5 years where most of the test flying was done at my home field here in Bowie, Maryland throughout 2008.

-----------------------------------------------------

I would like to introduce myself. I am the creator of this device and have a few more ideas under development.

I am an Aerospace Engineer with Undergrad and Masters both from the University of MD. I work here at UM now, teaching among many other things...my Masters background is in Carbon Composite Molding. I have been involved in several projects where we designed, built and flown all carbon composite aircrafts - built by means of Vacuum Assisted Resin Transfer Molding that I developed here at UM...

I have flown UAVs here for UMD and always wanted to come up with a way of sharing full or partial control of a vehicle to another (human/artificial) pilot SAFELY (without the use of a computer that can power down at any time!)...other requirements were also to be able to use any technology & brand name out there....there is more to this story but I will leave it here. The product I am now selling comes from my previous experience flying our UAVs...

-----------------------------------------------------

I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have, either here in this discussion or via PM or my email through my 2icrc.com website.

While this review is the most complete review of my product to date, there are just so many applications that it would be hard for a reviewer to tackle them all. Thanks Arron for the very thorough review. It seems you had lots of fun and I hope you find more great ways to enjoy my product!

Evandro Valente
www.2icrc.com
Product Developer

Take advantage of our PROMOTION - BUY ONE XPO GET ONE FREE. See details at our website.

Also

FREE RC Model World Magazine, Jan 2010 Issue with XPO Reviewed in the Plane Talking Column by Clive Hall, with purchase of the XPO.
Last edited by XPO; Feb 19, 2010 at 01:34 PM.
Mar 03, 2010, 10:31 PM
XPO
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FPV Application for the Wireless Buddy Box


I received some emails inquiring how the XPO can be used for FPV flying. I created this video to illustrate one of the possible setups. I will be making more videos containing variations of this concept.

The basic idea is to have the left hand control the camera while the right hand can fly the aircraft for the FPV pilot. The primary pilot can grant/deny flight control to FPV pilot at any time.

See video for more details....

XPO (Wireless Buddy Box) - FPV Intro Setup I by 2icrc (3 min 54 sec)


XPO Co-op Piloting System (Wireless Buddy Box) by Second In Command http://www.2icrc.com
Last edited by XPO; Apr 07, 2010 at 06:13 AM.
Mar 19, 2010, 03:49 PM
XPO
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FPV Application for the Wireless Buddy Box Follow-up


This is a follow-up video to the XPO FPV Setup I video. This video shows how mixing can be used to further enhance the flight capabilities of the FPV pilot using the XPO system.

XPO (Wireless Buddy Box) - FPV Intro Setup I Follow-up by 2icrc (2 min 17 sec)
Apr 07, 2010, 06:11 AM
XPO
XPO
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Customer Testimonial - 'Doc' NALF Fentress Field, VA


NALF 'Doc' Testimonial - XPO Co-op Piloting System by 2icrc (9 min 59 sec)


Thank you all from Fentress for the great hospitality! It was great spending Easter Sunday flying with you guys! I am glad I made the time to come visit, provide customer support and record the great success it was.

Thank you Doc, I look forward to seeing the XPO installed in your jet!

XPO Co-op Piloting System (Wireless Buddy Box) by Second In Command http://www.2icrc.com
Last edited by XPO; Apr 07, 2010 at 06:29 AM.
Apr 12, 2010, 09:45 AM
XPO
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Redundancy Setup I - Automatic Fail-Safe using Programmable Fail-Safe Tx


XPO Co-op Pilot (Wireless Buddy Box) Redundancy Setup I by 2icrc (5 min 25 sec)


There are more Redundancy Setups as well possible with the XPO....see other videos on youtube.
Apr 14, 2010, 06:38 PM
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theKM's Avatar
New idea was generated for the XPO during a drunken stupor at the after-hours Toledo show... err... I mean a brainstorming session during the Toledo show. Essentially team precision aerobatics


...will crop up on the FlyingGiants at some point, will link here if it turns out to be plausible.
Apr 20, 2010, 11:11 AM
XPO
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FPV - Fly or Spy Modes


XPO FPV Setup II (Line of Sight and FPV Mode) by 2icrc Part 1 (8 min 28 sec)


This setup of the XPO is for the FPV flier that wishes to toggles between flight and FPV mode of controls (Fly or Spy). Therefore, there is only one tx on ground to two rx's on-board. See video for complete explanation, part 1 and part 2.

Other FPV applications with the XPO can have two tx's with two rx's where two pilots on the ground are needed and are strategically located in separate locations.

More videos conning soon showing the installation of this setup in an aircraft.

http://www.2icrc.com
Last edited by XPO; Apr 20, 2010 at 11:27 AM.
Apr 28, 2010, 09:18 AM
XPO
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nuff said


Gentleman, if the previous reasons weren't enough...I'll deliver my final blow.

The "Coup De Grace"...

XPO Co-op Pilot Master Override Upgrade (MOU) by 2icrc (6 min 8 sec)


Master Override Upgrade (MOU)

Master pilot can make corrections to secondary pilot in real time!

If you are in the area, come to our open house at PGRC in Bowie MD, May 8th 2010. I will be demonstrating the XPO for FPV application (in-flight) and for training (in-flight) using the MOU upgrade. Watch video above till the end to see my PT-19. Visit www.2icrc.com for open house deatils and direction to our field.
Apr 30, 2010, 02:03 PM
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that's cool. yet another "no other system can do it" feature for the XPO. well done!


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