The Ultimate Night Light Set Review

The Ultimate Night Light Set: for those who want the very best!

Splash

Introduction


Control Module:Custom Designed
Main Wing LEDs:Seven Colors
Auxilory LEDs:Fixed red or green
Manufacturer:R. Umberger Engineering
Available From:Bob Umberger
Price:$125.00

I have had planes equipped for night flying for years. My night flying started with the Curtek Navigation Light Set a set which proved great for park flying. I used it most in late twilight and the occasional predawn flight. I got my next set at the Arizona Electric Festival from Gorilla Bob's booth, and it lights up my HobbyZone Super Cub. I actually thought that would be my last night light set because how many planes do you need equipped to fly at night?

Then I heard that a fellow club member, Bob Umberger, had designed a new night light set controller, applied for a patent and was selling sets to club members. Now, I knew that Bob was a talented retired engineer but I didn't readily think there was anything that would cause me to want to buy another set of night lights. But Bob proved me wrong! At a summer club meeting he and four club members flew their Multiplex Easy Cubs equipped with different evolutions of Bob's night light sets. I was sold on getting a set as soon as I saw them in operation. I called the system the "Ultimate Night Light Set" so anyone taking exception to that be aware I named my set that. Bob didn't give it that name. The first picture below is Bob with his Easy Cub and the second has club members Mac and Kirk getting their planes ready in twilight.













Kit Contents

The Kit Contains

  • Custom designed module that plugs into the receiver and flight battery with special connector
  • Two main LED strips for the wing that change color
  • Two wing tip strips with one LEDs hard wired into the main wing strips
  • Two strips for the fuselage

Special Features of Bob's Light Sets

Special Features

  • 1) The main LEDs on the bottom of the wing change colors on command from the transmitter.
  • 2) The lights can be on solid or flashing.
  • 3) The wing tip lights can be programmed to be on or off to a limited extent.
  • 4) The module reads battery voltage and flashes a special sequence (red, red, blue on mine) as programmed to let the pilot know it is time to land.

The Custom Control Module

The heart of these light sets is a custom circuit board that Bob designed and that he has printed to his specs. He gets about five boards per sheet, and for his first run had three sheets printed. Bob then solders on the components to the circuit board. He uses quality components that are designed to handle more than twice the current they should be exposed to in actual operation to both protect the module and make the lights as bright as possible. The module is designed to work with a 3-cell 11.1 Volt Lipo battery pack. If limited to a 3-cell pack the module will work fine. The module comes ready to use with no assembly required. I just needed to plug in the LED connectors (four of them). I plugged the module into the receiver using channel 5. Finally, I connected the module to the flight battery. Bob's initial systems were all used in the Multiplex Cub. His module has two boards for the LEDs to plug into. The two main wing strips have a four prong plug and the fuselage strips have a two prong connector. This leaves room on the board to light two additional two prong strands of solid color LEDS. Having these plugs back to back on one side of the connector worked perfectly with the Multiplex Cub but not so well initially with my Radian where the wires come into the back of the cockpit coming forward from the wing and back of the fuselage. For the Radian, Bob thought it would be better if the plug in boards faced opposite sides so the wires from one wing half and that side of the fuselage could plug into that side of the controller and those on the other side could directly plug in on the other side. Bob followed through on this idea and made a new module with the wire boards facing opposite directions.

There is now Control Module 1 (Cub) with the two connector plug-in boards on one side of the module and Control Module 2 (Radian) with the plug-in connector boards facing opposite sides. This new design makes connecting the plugs for planes like the Radian much easier with no excess wire crossing over the controller to plug in. My Radian already had its lights on it when Bob designed the new control module, and I had worked out my cockpit system with the original module design so I stuck with it. However, if I was doing it over I would use a module 2 (Radian) version for my plane.

Connecting to the Flight Battery

The Cub pilots made life easy for Bob. They all used battery packs with Dean Connectors. There is a special plug on the market that allows the pilot to plug the Dean connector on the battery pack into this special connector. This special connector then plugs into the ESC to power the plane, and there is a powered JST connector that powers the control module and through that the LEDs.

I gave Bob another challenge with my EC3 connectors on my Radian . He made a converter plug that connects to both the battery and the ESC and has a separate JST connector to power the control module. (He actually had two JST connectors on my plug but only one is required to power the lighting system. My EC3 connecting plug is not part of Bob's system but the Dean model is commercially available, and Bob will include one of those with each system to give a complete system to the pilot. The EC3 model is easy enough to make with one pair of EC3 connectors and a JST plug.

Assembly

Wing

For my Radian, Bob made leads that would run from the bottom wing root up and into the back of the canopy where the control module would be secured above the battery pack at the back of the cockpit. Out at the tip of the LED strip Bob hard wired a strip of green LEDs for the Radian's right wing and red LEDS for the Radian's left wing. The red and green strips go off of the main strips at 90 degrees. Bob has used both connectors off of the main strip and directly hardwired the strips. Since mine were being installed at his house I had him simply hard wire the wing tip strips onto the main strip. Bob peeled the protective paper off the self sticking back of the strips and laid the strip right down the center bottom of the wing as shown below. With the main strip in position he next peeled the backing off the wing tip strip and secured it to the bottom of the wing, bent it and secured the rest to the top of the wing. The process was repeated on the other wing half. The leads were taped to the wing going forward to the cockpit. The lights plug and unplug from the module with the installation of the wing. I use a small piece of plastic white tape to secure the lead near the canopy for operation and remove the tape when disconnecting.

I have a second spare wing for my Radian that I custom painted which I use for daylight flying and my LED equipped wing for night flying. The LED wing could be used day and night but I already had my custom painted wing which protects the LEDs from damage during daytime landings.

Fuselage

The lights for the fuselage are three sets of three green for the right side of the fuselage (9 green LEDs) and the same number of red LEDs for the left side. They each have an 18" lead. After careful measuring and marking the backing paper was removed the LED's were applied near the back of the fuselage. The 18" lead was taped along the fuselage with periodic pieces of white plastic tape. It then plugs into the control module at the back of the cockpit. This process was repeated on the other side of the fuselage. It is my intention to leave the LEDs on the side of the Radian's fuselage at all times. I have a second spare wing for my Radian that I custom painted that I use for daylight flying, and I use my LED equipped wing for night flying. The LED wing could be used day and night but I already had my custom painted wing, and this protects the LEDs from damage during daytime landings.

Completion

My control module is the original design for the Multiplex Easy Cub with the connectors all on one end. I am sticking with it because I attached my LEDs with extra lead to make proper connection to my controller. If I were starting over with a new controller designed for the Radian I would have shorter leads and would mount the controller on the back wall of the cockpit area above where the battery is inserted. It would be a slightly cleaner installation with the shorter leads. The control module would be mounted where indicated by my fingers in the picture below, on the back wall of the cockpit in the Radian.

Here is the actual mount of my controller. It is slightly forward of where I would mount with a new unit but it is Velcro secured in front of the battery pack and behind and partially above the ESC. My special ESC connector plug is just in front of the controller. This position makes my Radian just slightly nose heavy which would not be ideal for soaring but has no ill effects in night flying when I fly my Radian as an electric plane with some stealth gliding.

Below is a picture of the LEDs attached with the module installed and the plane and LEDs on and ready to fly. It is a flash picture so the LEDs got washed out in the picture.

Night Flying

Basics

I always recommend that night flying be started at twilight by the pilot new to night flying. At twilight the pilot can see the plane and it isn't much different from flying during day time. By starting the flying session in twilight the outline of the plane is clearly visible and you get used to flying as it gradually gets darker and the plane becomes less visible. The lights, of course, become more dramatic the darker the sky. Remaining properly oriented is the key to enjoyable night flying. A second of lost orientation can cause a real panic in some pilots, especially those new to night flying.

Taking Off and Landing

The Radian is always started with a hand launch and that is no different with or without lights. Making the landing into any breeze with the wings level is more important to protect the LEDs but I haven't had a problem thus far. The Multiplex Cub can be hand launched or taken off from a runway or dirt infield as seen in the video below.

A pilot can land whenever he wants but the lights are programmed to flash a warning when the battery is low to let the pilot know it is time to bring the plane down. This warning sequence is flashed when the lights are first turned on. For my Radian Bob programmed red, red, blue as the warning sequence. This is a nice feature. It lets me stay up and get the most "SAFE" flying time possible before I land.

The Available Lights

As seen in the video my module has my warning sequence of flashing red, red and blue. This can not be activated by me except when I first turn on the main lights. After I sequence out of them they will not show again unless I get to a low voltage battery situation. I have flashing red, white and blue and solid blue, green, red, white, white/blue making a lighter blue, purple and yellow. Flashing I have red, green, blue and white.

My set has solid red for the left side of the fuselage and solid green for the right side of the fuselage. I have red and green wing tips lights that sequence on and off. They are on for blue and white main lights.

Is This For a Beginner?

No! Night flying is not for the true beginner but rather is for the intermediate pilot or better. This is because disorientation is a greater possibility during night flying and beginners have enough problem with orientation in the day time. First time night fliers should start in twilight when they can see both the plane and the lights and that helps with orientation. Transitioning into the growing darkness is much easier then starting in darkness the first time.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery












Downloads

Downloads

Downloads

Mike's Art Gallery of Blurred Photos

For once I am intentional posting pictures that came out blurred. I found them interesting!






Conclusion

I think Bob has created a terrific product with his command module for his night lights. Multiple pilots can fly and simply select the color they want to use of the ones available and have it on solid or flashing. The low voltage warning system is used by all of us to fly as long as we can on nice nights. We know until the warning sequence flashes we have power. When the warning flashes it is simply time to land in a safe manner. I do like to change my colors in flight and like my red white and blue flashing sequence especially. If you like what you have seen in this review you can contact Bob by e-mail and order your own set if you wish. He is not mass producing, and the availability and price is subject to change, but for now it is available on a limited basis. I think it it a wonderful system. Everyone I have shown my lights to on my Radian thought the price was reasonable for what I got and I certainly feel that way. I purchased my lights and did the review because I thought the product deserved to be shared with my fellow E-Zoners. Unless you see Bob in person at a sailplane competition this is for now an E-zone exclusive. You won't find it in any stores at this time.

To e-mail Bob about the night lights write to: [email protected]

Pluses

  • Flashing low voltage warning pattern lets me know when I have to land
  • Lights are very bright and easy to see in twilight or at night
  • I have a choice of six colors, several flashing colors or my red, white, and blue flashing pattern
  • Easy to install and easy to connect up at the field for night flying
  • Choice of connector boards at one end of module or opposite each other

Minuses

  • Not all of the colors are available as flashing colors on my module

My thanks to Sherry for use of her "Three planes" photo at the start of this review and to Bob Umberger for his assistance with this review.

Last edited by Angela H; Sep 14, 2011 at 03:22 PM..
Thread Tools
Sep 14, 2011, 03:46 PM
When pigs fly rc
rcrich's Avatar
very cool!
Sep 14, 2011, 08:36 PM
Blew out my flip flop
David Hogue's Avatar
Quote:
The Available Lights

As seen in the video my module has my warning sequence of flashing red, red and blue. This can not be activated by me except when I first turn on the main lights. After I sequence out of them they will not show again unless I get to a low voltage battery situation. I have flashing red, white and blue and solid blue, green, red, white, white/blue making a lighter blue, purple and yellow. Flashing I have red, green, blue and white.

My set has solid red for the left side of the fuselage and solid green for the right side of the fuselage. I have red and green wing tips lights that sequence on and off. They are on for blue and white main lights.
Mike,

I couldnt follow what you were trying to say here, can you clarify?
Sep 14, 2011, 08:47 PM
Registered User
Michael Heer's Avatar
Thread OP
I think if you watch the third video, the one with my Radian, it will all become clear. Mike
Sep 14, 2011, 10:28 PM
Registered User
mouser electronics has everything you will ever need for what ever it is your building/fixing electronic wise.
Sep 15, 2011, 07:32 AM
I hate waiting for parts
Mike_Then's Avatar
That's pretty cool! Thanks for posting! I would think that this is targeted for the hardcore night flyer, due to the price. But the features seem to be very nice.
Sep 16, 2011, 05:29 PM
Registered User
Michael Heer's Avatar
Thread OP
Actually Mike, when you get a system that you like and have confidence in you tend to become more of a hardcore twilight or night flyer. Confidence and remaining oriented are very important in night flying.

There are two empty sockets on my control module and I just ordered two Super Bright 19.5 inch light strips to add to the Radian's leading edge. That will complete my Radian. I have flown the Radian higher in the night then in the day as I can see her further away on a dark night then in the daytime. Mike H
Sep 19, 2011, 08:31 PM
Registered User
Michael Heer's Avatar
Thread OP
To e-mail Bob about the night lights write to: [email protected]

Bob is the one to contact if you want to order a set of these lights. Mike H
Sep 22, 2011, 01:59 PM
I want to believe
mdine1us's Avatar
Looking forward to hearing back from Bob on a set of these! They look great!
Sep 24, 2011, 09:18 AM
I want to believe
mdine1us's Avatar
Hmmm . Still no word back from Bob. Any other way to contact him to order a set?

Thanks,
Marty
Sep 26, 2011, 10:25 AM
Registered User
Michael Heer's Avatar
Thread OP
I heard he went on a cruise. He should be back this week as I am sure he plans to practice for the Visalia Fall Soaring Festival. I will send him an e-mail tonight from home. Mike H
Sep 26, 2011, 11:17 AM
I want to believe
mdine1us's Avatar
Yep. He was out of pocket, but sent me a nice email this morning. Thanks for following up.

Regards,
Marty
Sep 28, 2011, 09:53 AM
Registered User
Michael Heer's Avatar
Thread OP
I will not be adding any more LEDs to my Radian until I get together with Bob after the Visalia Fall Soaring festival this weekend. We will test the draw and make sure I don't demand too much juice. I will report more after we get together. The system as sold can handle all the LEDs supplied but we want to make sure that it can handle 38 more or else I will modify or go down in number for my extra LEDs. I want to make sure I don't do something stupid and more importantly post something stupid and have one of you copy me. Allow two weeks for me to report back as life has a way of getting in the way of my science projects. Mike H
Sep 28, 2011, 01:48 PM
DFC~ We Do Flyin' Right
Vapor Trails's Avatar
Michael, as you wont risk something stupid, I will ask a few stupid questions:

I am curious what measurement tool you use to determine how much your lights pull out of your battery pack?

Or do you usually just check to see how much your charger puts back into the battery after several minutes?

Right now, I am running lights off my main battery pack using the same red deans connector/JST thing that shipped with your lights.

I was curious, at what quantity would you recommend I put my lights on a separate ESC? ....like, say for example, if I had 500 lights would it be bad to run all that off my main battery and esc?
Sep 30, 2011, 08:48 PM
I want to believe
mdine1us's Avatar
Got my set today, and they look great! Very professional package nicely done Bob. Super fast turnaround. I'll post some pictures when the project is installed!

Thanks again,
Marty


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