|Battery Capacity NiMH:||5-12 cells|
|Battery Capacity Lipo:||2-4 cells|
|Adjustable SBEC:||5.0V, 5.5V, 6.0V @ 5A|
|Start Up options:||Yes|
|Cut Off Options:||Yes|
Hobby Lobby has released a new line of electric speed controllers (ESC) with which they promise high end programmabilty but without the high price. Hobby Lobby asked our editor if any RC authors wanted to put one of these controllers to a test, and I volunteered. Now if I was brighter I would have requested the largest and one of the most expensive controllers to test in one of my existing planes. However, I didn't think of that until after I made my request and started writing this review. DOH! I requested a 35 Amp model to test as I am reviewing a new plane, and I needed a 35 Amp ESC for it. I will be powering the plane with a 450 motor and the 35 Amp ESC should handle the load. But that plane isn't ready for testing so for this review I will use my Heer Force to find test planes for this review.
Here is a list of all the new eRC controllers. The information from left to right is as follows: model part number, model amperage, current maximum constant and burst, maximum battery pack cell counts, weight (grams), BEC output, size(mm) and programmability.
Selection available of the new controllers
Tools Needed for Assembly
Fortunately, the ESC came fully assembled. I only needed to add connectors. No connectors of any type came with the ESC but that was not a problem. All of the motors I considered using in the upcoming review came with connectors already on the motor. Those connectors were male 4mm bullet connectors. I had a number of female 4mm connector sets in my toolbox. I got out a set of three 4mm female bullet connectors and I soldered them onto the controller. For the battery attachment I went with EC3 connectors from E-flite as I have a number of their batteries that I can use to power the new project plane and many planes in mt Heer Force.
For the bullet motor connectors I wrapped the end of the three motor wires with very fine solder as my iron was heating up. I inserted the solder wrapped wire into the connector and touched the tip of the soldering iron to the connector about where the end of the wire was inside. I needed only a few seconds and all of the solder had melted and been drawn into the tip of the inside of the connector. I repeated this process with the other two wires and then placed heat shrink over the wires and connectors and using my covering gun I shrunk the heat wrap, red, white and blue.
For the EC3 connectors I used the larger size of my solder and cut two 5/16" pieces of solder.
I shoved the bare wire tip from the ESC and the two pieces of solder into a metal female connector. I applied my hot soldering iron to the area where the front of the wire stops inside the connector. In a few seconds the solder was drawn to the front of the connector and this included the portion of solder that was outside the connector when I started. I let the connector cool down and then repeated the process on the second wire. When it was cool I pushed both wires into the plastic EC3 blue connector. I used a phillips #0 screw driver to push the connectors all the way in until each had clicked in place. My eRC speed control was ready to use.
I got out my Radian electric glider and swapped out the controller that came with the Radian and installed the new eRC controller. A quick check and I needed only one programming change for the controller. I turned on my transmitter with the throttle on full and then plugged in the battery to the controller and programmed on the hard brake. (I will explain the process below.) With everything again off I turned on the transmitter with throttle off and powered up the plane. The controller's Battery Elimination Circuitry (BEC) was working as the receiver powered up and I had control of the servos. I next ran up the motor and she jumped to life so everything was good to go. I had a nice flight at the local park. the controller gave nice proportional control to the throttle input from my transmitter and powered the receiver and servos throughout the flight. The ESC's brake worked as the propeller stopped spinning and folded back when I turned the throttle off. The flight test was a success.
The following items are Promoted Features for this eRC ESC
My thoughts on the Promoted Features.
They advise that it will work with Lipos, NiCads, NiMHs and Lifes. I still have some working NiCads and NiMHs and confirmed that the ESC worked with them. It also worked with 2, 3 and 4 cell Lipos but other than for battery tests all operational tests were done with 3 and 4 cell Lipo packs and 90% of that was with three cell packs.
My ESC came with default programming. Many pilots will find the default settings to be just what they want and will never need to program their controllers. I will cover these default settings and the other settings that can be programmed.
The eRC ESCs default setting was with the brake off and that proved to be the case as discussed above. However, the brake can be programmed on and it has three settings: soft 30%, mid 60% and hard brake 100%. Since I fly a number of electric gliders and will try to glide a number of my electric "planes" I programmed the brake on and off during this review. The brake function worked! The hard brake did a very good job of stopping the propeller when the power was throttled down. I had absolutely no windmilling even with the plane flying at a high rate of speed.
The controller came set for Lipos but can also be programmed for NiCad/NiMHs and for LiFe.
The default setting was 3V/60% but it could be lowered to 2.8V 50%, raised to 3.2V 60% or turned off with no cut off protection.
The default setting is to reduce motor power when the limit is hit to give you a sign it is time to land. The other programmable sign is to cut off motor power completely. I prefer the later setting when using the controller with an electric glider. Otherwise I prefer reduced power vs power off.
The default motor timing came at 15" and could be changed to 2", 8", 22" and 30." I found 15" worked with all the planes and thus all the motors that I used during the review and found no reason to change this setting.
My 35Amp controller for this review came set at 5V/3Amps. This means my receiver gets 5 volts at 3 amps. The programmability starts with the next larger controller at 45Amps. Accordingly I could not test this feature. The default setting for the larger controllers is 5V/5A and the other available settings are 5.5V/5A and 6V/5A.
Did not test with a helicopter as discussed elsewhere. The default setting is listed as RPM off with the other settings available as: 1" soft start, 2" soft start, 3" soft start and governor mode.
This was listed as being on Forward as a default setting with reverse available. I found it actually depended on how I plugged the motor wires into the controller if it was really turning forward or not. Being an old dog if it was going in reverse I changed the wires and not the programming. Call me old fashioned. However the one time I changed this setting the motor did reverse.
Here the eRC controller had 9 available settings and the default setting was in the middle at 30%. The others available was 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%, 35%, 40%, 45% and 50%. I found the 30% a nice start up for all the planes. I did try the 10% and found that to soft/slow for my liking on electric planes but not bad for most of my electric gliders which I start with a hard gliding toss in the first place. In truth though I will probably go with the default in all my uses.
Those are the programming choices and as I said at the start many pilots will never feel the need to program. In truth the only feature I will change regularly is the braking function. Any plane I might try and glide will get either the mid to hard brake setting. Just like Baskin Robbins has 31 flavors and I like chocolate mint or strawberry; when it comes to programming I am brake on ... brake off. But it does have all the function of other high end controllers.
After taking safety precautions so in case of accident I would not be hurt. I programmed my controller using my transmitter. To do this I turned the transmitter on and moved the throttle to the full throttle on position. I connected the battery to the controller. After about 2 full seconds I heard four short double beeps and the programming sequence started. After One beep I moved the throttle down and was rewarded with a melody from my controller letting me know I had selected a programming mode and confirmed it was braking with one beep. It started beeping with first one beep, then two beeps, three beeps and after four beeps I moved the throttle back up to full throttle to select brake on hard 100%. I was rewarded with another musical melody letting me know I was successful. The controller remained in programming mode and I ran through the options with each having its own number of beeps short or long. However, I was done so I simply unplugged the battery from the ESC. I had successfully programmed the brake on hard when it had been off when I started. If I had wanted to program something else I would have simply lowered the throttle again after the right series of desired beeps had played and then selected the proper position to raise the throttle when per the instruction manuals chart I was at the desired program position. For most pilots who only occassionally program their controllers this transmitter programming works well and costs nothing extra.
Hobby-Lobby was nice enough to supply the programmer for me to test and for those who like to program their controller, this is the way to go! I simply plugged the controller into the programmer and connected the battery to the controller. In two seconds the programmer was on and operating. The function menu and values were listed on the front and back of the programmer. I pressed the left of four buttons the "Menu" button. It started to cycle through the available functions. When back at the start I was at Brake my desired function. I pressed the second button the "Value" button. It started to cycle through the list of available settings for that function. When the desired value was showing I pressed the third button, the "OK" button to apply the setting to the ESC. I could continue on with my programming or simply unplug the battery from the ESC to end the programming session. That was really clear to me but in case I lost you here is a video of me programming the ESC from brake off to brake on hard using the programmer.
Besides the test flight discussed above I wanted to do some bench testing (Hold the fuselage and run the motor) to get some readings of the motor. I did most of this testing by myself but I drew the line at testing, holding the fuselage and trying to take pictures at the same time. So for what I thought would be my ultimate bench test I had my friend Dick Andersen help me with a bench test before we went to a meeting. More on that later in this section.
Once I had soldered the connectors onto the controller I had limited my options to what I could use in my Heer Force. Having installed 4mm female bullet connectors I was limited to testing motors with 4mm male bullet connectors as I had no conversion connectors to plug in and use other motors. For battery I was primarily going to use battery packs with Dean Connectors as my Astroflight Watt meter is set up to use batteries with that connector for the power source while I do have an EC3 connector adapter to connect with the ESC.
For the first test plane I grabbed my Radian Pro and ran the motor with the E-flite speed controller that came with the plane. The Voltage was at 12.1 Volts a few seconds into the test and the Amp reading was 13.8. I was pretty surprised because this was a 3-cell 30C battery pack and the Radian Pro came with a 30 Amp controller so I expected full throttle would have a greater draw than it did. I switched to the eRC controller it tested out at 12.2V and 13.9 Amps and that difference could be explained by the battery charge. Upon further reflection while I was disappointed for testing purposes that the Amp draw wasn't higher it helped explain why I could get such long motor run time with only a 1300 mAh battery in flight. As for this review it was a positive that the reading for the eRC controller was so close to a controller I have relied on for a long time.
I tested two additional motors in two different planes. I first connected the current controller and tested it and then I removed the present controller and installed the eRC 35A controller into each plane and tested it. The motors had time to cool down as I charged the battery pack and started the tests shortly after the pack came off the charger.
Plane two's initial voltage draw with a fully charged 3-cell 2200mAh battery just off the charger was 12.2V. With the battery recharged using the eRC controller the initial reading was 12.4V. the Amp readings were 14 and 14.3 The readings were equally close but lower after two minutes and four minutes of run time. I varied the speeds during the run time but didn't specifically time the throttle settings and thus my testing was not fully scientific. However, I went back to full throttle at two and four minutes with both controllers. Readings were within .4 Amps of each other and motor operation was smooth through out.
Plane three had a larger motor and initial voltage draw was 15.6V and 28 Amps with original controller and 15.4V and 25 Amps with the eRC. Again the readings were consistent with one another and motor operation was smooth throughout. This was using a 4-cell Thunder Power Lipo pack.
Plane four was my new Sonic electric glider and its readings were again close to one another within a tenth of a point of one each other at 14.5 and 14.6 Amps. I also performed the brake test using the Sonic. At the original setting the prop kept spinning after the throttle was killed in both bench test and flight. With the brake setting on 4 for hard brake it stopped as soon as the throttle went down in both bench and flight testing. With the brake off it was necessary to climb with the motor off to get the prop to stop spinning and fold back. No such trouble with the brake on.
For my final test I got out a big electric glider in which I had a 50 Amp speed controller. I set it up and Dick Anderson held it and I moved the throttle up to full power. Papers were blown all around the room and it made quite a racket. However, when I looked at the Astrometer the readings were much lower than I expected. Again the reading from the original controller was very close to the readings on the eRC controller.
My bench testing failed to test it at the upper ratings of its listed Amp draw capacity but otherwise I felt my testing confirmed it was functioning well with readings similar to several other quality brands of speed controllers.
I found the eRC controller to be programmable by transmitter and easily programmed with the available programmer which I strongly endorse getting if you will be doing programming of eRC controllers. I found that the controller I tested matched up well with it's competition by consistently giving readings that virtually matched those of the other brands. Its advertised features that I tested worked and worked well. Having made myself familiar with the line I will likely buy some of the 45 Amp size controllers as they supply 5 amps of power to the BEC and I like radio power security for my plane's receiver and servos. Based on my limited review of one controller I have no reservations in recommending the 35 Amp eRC controller. I believe the series should work well and will try the 45 Amp when needed for the higher BEC Amp setting of 5 Amps vs 3 Amps.
I gave an honest review of the product. I made one mistake about the SBEC voltage (as pointed out by sgomes). Otherwise I stand by my findings. I and my fellow reviewers try hard to give all readers an honest and complete review of the products we test and write about. I don't apologize for my review and definitely not for what has PROVEN to me to be a good product. Michael Heer
Well rated BECs is a good selling point, which is why I started using TBirds, Dynams, and a few other brands with 3A BECs. IMO any ESC at roughly 18A and over should have a 3A or higher BEC. Some brands such as Eflite used to cheese it with their BEC chips, which is the only ESC that cost me an airplane, being a nice twin 262. Cost a number of folks their Super Airliners also, where they would still have them if Eflite had used a 3A BEC chip.
I should be able to offer some data soon.
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