Horizon Hobby Spektrum Smart Technology ESCs and RXs Review

Horizon has recently announced that Spektrum Smart Technology has expanded and is now available in their new line of Avian and Firma ESCs as well as in their new line of telemetry receivers.

Splash

Introduction

In September we looked at the new Horizon Hobby Spektrum Smart Technology Batteries and Chargers. Horizon has recently announced that Spektrum Smart Technology has expanded and is now available in their new line of Avian and Firma ESCs as well as in their new line of telemetry receivers. There was more good news as Horizon announced that some of their existing receivers were already Smart Telemetry compatible and only needed a firmware update to operate with the new ESCs.

This Review will look at some of the different Avian ESCs, two of the updated receivers, and one of the new telemetry receivers. The receivers that were tested were the Spektrum AR410 and AR620 receivers with the October 31, 2019 firmware updates. The updates allowed these receivers to communicate with the Smart Spektrum ESCs and supply "fly by" telemetry information to my existing telemetry-capable Spektrum transmitters. The third receiver was the newly available Spektrum AR6610T with full-range telemetry and altitude data capability.

This review will utilize three different Spektrum Transmitters that represent three very different levels of users. The first transmitter is the basic Spektrum DX6e entry level transmitter. The second is the new iX12 touch screen Android based advanced level transmitter. The third transmitter is the discontinued DX18G2 upper level transmitter. All three of the transmitters were updated with the October 2019 firmware updates to properly receive and display the Smart Data from the Avian ESCs. These updates were available by logging in to the My Spektrum account. It was very encouraging that Horizon Hobby had extended this new Spektrum Smart Technology universe to include so many of these different levels of Spektrum transmitters.

Smart Receivers

The new generation of Smart Receivers serve as the primary telemetry link between the Avian Smart ESCs and Smart Batteries and the various Spektrum telemetry-capable transmitters. During the Bind process, if the receivers are connected to a Spektrum Smart ESC and Smart Battery, the receiver will launch a Telemetry Auto Configure process in the transmitter and populate several new data screens. In this review, two legacy receivers have been updated with firmware that will utilize their fly-by telemetry capabilities to deliver that Smart Data to those new telemetry screens. Likewise the newly released AR6610T full-range telemetry receiver binds and then launches a Telemetry Auto Configure process. As always, the manual Telemetry Configuration option is still available on the transmitters.

Smart ESCs

Horizon has released an extensive lineup of new Smart Avian air ESCs. These powerful ESCs are well made and include nice heat sinks and firmware update capabilities. The larger ESCs include dedicated cooling fans to provide an added margin of protection. These design features alone would make the Avian ESCs a very good value, but Avian ESCs also include Spektrum's exclusive Smart Technology making them unique in the industry. These amazing Smart ESCs capture a huge array of data and send it along to the Smart Receivers through the Throttle servo lead. In addition to controlling the output of powerful brushless motors and providing generous receiver power, these Avian ESCs collect and catalog information on motor current, battery Voltage, motor RPM, ESC FET temperature, ESC BEC temperature, BEC output Voltage, Throttle % input, and motor % output. When Avian ESCs are paired with Spektrum Smart Batteries, they also collect Smart Battery data and pass along battery information on instantaneous overall pack Voltage, pack temperature, and discharge current. If that wasn't enough, Min/Max values for all of these battery values are also passed along as well as battery cell imbalance Voltage, and even the number of charge/discharge cycles on the battery.

The Avian 15 Amp ESC may be the smallest of the Smart ESCs, but it has all the robust data collection capabilities of its big brothers as well as 3S and 4S battery compatibility. In the middle of the lineup we find the Avian 30 Amp ESC, the Avian 45 Amp ESC, and the Avian 60 Amp ESC. These ESCs are all 3S to 6S capable and have sturdy BECs rated for 7 Amps continuous current and 20 Amps maximum surge current. The upper end of the Avian lineup sports the Avian 80 Amp ESC and the Avian 100 Amp ESC. The Avian 80 Amp is rated for 4S to 8S batteries and the Avian 100 is rated for 3S to 6S packs. The BECs in both of these ESCs are rated for 8 Amps continuous current and 25 Amps surge current. All Avian ESCs have firmware update ports or leads and all but the Avian 15 have adjustable BEC voltage capability.

Smart System Installation

I resurrected my faithful Tower Hobbies Cherokee EP Rx-R as a test bed for this review. The Cherokee already had a Spektrum AR410 receiver and all it needed was a firmware update to be Smart Data compatible. The stock 40 ESC was replaced with an Avian 45 Amp Smart ESC that would allow the Smart Data transfer from the ESC as well as any Smart Battery. The Avian 45 Amp ESC was a perfect fit in the nose of the Cherokee.

The Spektrum AR410 receiver was easily updated to the latest firmware version through the Data/Program port. Since all the Smart Data transfers occur through the standard ESC/Throttle servo lead, no additional wiring was needed.

Smart Data Screens and Information

A very nice feature of the latest Spektrum Smart Receiver firmware updates was that the receivers initiated a Telemetry Auto-Configuration process whenever the receiver was connected to a Smart ESC and Smart Battery during the Bind process. All of the data transfer capabilities were cataloged and listed on the various Telemetry screens on any Spektrum telemetry-ready transmitter. This process worked flawlessly on all three of the test transmitters. This was a very painless installation and since the plane was already flown and trimmed out with the DX18G2, all that was needed was to copy the model to the DX6e and iX12 transmitters and start enjoying Smart Data information on all three.

New Smart Data Screens - DX6e Transmitter

Here are the new data screens that were generated on the DX6e transmitter.

All these same DX6e Smart Data Screens were also generated on the discontinued DX18G2. Since the Dx6e and DX18G2 Smart Data Screens were pretty much identical, this Review will now concentrate on using the DX6e for the remainder of the Review evaluation.

Major props to Horizon for including even their discontinued telemetry-capable DX series transmitters in their new Smart Technology Universe.

New Smart Data Screens - iX12 Transmitter

Here are the new data screens that were generated on the iX12 Transmitter.

AR410/AR610 Fly-By Telemetry Ground Range Test

Since the telemetry on both the AR410 and AR610 receivers was classified as "Fly-By Telemetry", it was unclear how close the plane had to be flown in order for the data to transfer to the transmitter. A ground range test seemed like the best option to initially explore limits of the telemetry. The first test involved marking off 50 feet, 100 feet, 200 feet and 300 feet along a measured test strip at the flying field and marching out to see if the data transfer would work at these distances.

At the 300 foot mark, all the data was still being displayed for all the active elements on the screens. Even though the plane was on a flight stand close to the ground, the fly-by data telemetry seemed to be working very well at this distance. For an operational test, the display was scrolled to a fresh display screen and the throttle immediately moved from idle to the 100% position. The screen was observed to see if the various data elements were properly displayed as soon as the screen came into view and then each active data element was observed to see how long it took to update the values once the throttle was moved. Except for the Smart Battery data values, all of the rest of the active elements updated almost instantly. The battery fuel gauge pictorial and the individual cell voltage values took from 4 to 10 seconds to update. This same update delay was observed even when the transmitter was next to the plane on the flight stand. Therefore the slower Smart Battery data updates appeared to be a data streaming issue rather than a fly-by telemetry range issue.

Here are the two DX6e battery screens during the throttle test.

Here are the two iX12 battery screens during the throttle test.

AR410/AR610 Fly-By Telemetry Airborne Range Test

The next step was to fly the receivers and see how the telemetry worked in the air. The plan was to fly the Cherokee around the normal flight pattern and then try high speed and low speed passes in the pattern at about 100 feet altitude and then the same passes down on the deck and right down the runway.

The range of this Fly-By Telemetry was amazing! Almost all the Smart Data was shown and instantly updated throughout the entire flight. Only the Smart Battery Data required a slower and lower fly-by for the screens to update. This may have something to do with the fact that the battery information had the slowest refresh rate of all the Smart Data. In all the tests, the battery screens took from 4 to 10 seconds to update. While that seemed like a long time when waiting for the data, in reality the battery data screen updates were probably just fine for normal applications. Even though the screen displays seemed to take a while to update, the actual data values must have been coming in at higher rate. When a fully charged very cold Smart Battery pack was installed and flown, a low voltage warning was displayed shortly after takeoff. The alarm was reset and the plane gently climbed to altitude. Full throttle was applied and the warning returned almost instantaneously. This cold weather low voltage condition under load has been a know issue for most LiPo batteries. Once the pack warmed up, the warning did not reoccur. It appeared that the actual battery voltage data and the associated warning settings worked at a higher refresh rate than the screen displays for the pictorial battery fuel gauge and individual battery cell voltage screens. Quicker warnings seemed like a good choice.

Smart Data Screens - Airborne Test - DX6e Transmitter

Airborne Data shown on the DX6e Smart Screens.

Smart Data Screens - Airborne Test - iX12 Transmitter

Airborne data shown on the iX12 Smart Screens.

AR6610T Full Range Receiver Telemetry Test

The new Spektrum AR6610T receiver came into stock towards the end of the Review testing, so it was included and run through the same testing as the AR410/AR610 receivers. Maybe the full-range telemetry would improve the battery data information updates. The new built-in Altitude Data feature was fascinating and maybe it could help answer the burning question "How high is 400 feet really?"

Once the Ar6610T receiver was in place and bound to the DX6e, all the original Smart Data telemetry screens from the AR410/AR610 receivers were back as well as two new Altitude Data Telemetry screens.

Rebinding to the iX12 transmitter had a similar result. All the previous Smart Data screens were back as well as two new Altitude screens.

Back at the flying field, it was time for more bench testing and flight time. First the Cherokee was set back on the flight stand and the transmitters walked out to the 300 foot mark to test the full range capabilities and data refresh rates for the Spektrum AR6610T receiver. Once again the Smart Battery data was the slowest to update, but it only took about 2 to 4 seconds for the updates with the AR6610T receiver.

In the air the results were the same as on the ground. The Smart Data values were constantly updated and instantly displayed no matter the location or attitude of the plane anywhere in the pattern. When the transmitter screen was scrolled to the battery screens, there was still a short delay before the values updated, but it was quicker with this AR6610T full-range telemetry receiver.

Smart Data Screens - Airborne Test - DX6e Transmitter

Airborne data shown on the DX6e Smart Screens.

Smart Data Screens - Airborne Test - iX12 Transmitter

Airborne data shown on the iX12 Smart Screens.

We Got The Data - Now What

Our local flying Club is used to seeing its share of RCGroups Review models. Rather than the normal OOHs and AHHs, this time it was a mixed bag of reactions. Some flyers were overwhelmed by the amount of data that was available and were not sure how they would ever use that much information. Some were very interested in selected portions of the data, and some were ordering Smart products from their phones at the field. At least everyone agreed that 400 feet above the runway looked higher than most would have guessed.

So what are we going to do with all this data? The first thought that comes to mind is that we could use it to set alarm points. Setting ESC temperature limits, ESC current limits, battery cell voltage limits, and even altitude limits may be very helpful to keep us aware of possibly dangerous conditions. Reviewing the Min/Max values at the end of our flights could give us valuable insight into performance parameters for the components of our flight system. Real time observation of the data could give us valuable insight into how well a particular motor/prop combination performs under various flight attitudes. TLAR (That Looks About Right) and Seat-of-the Pants flight observations can now be replaced with concrete data points to evaluate system performance during each phase of a flight. Now we can see exactly what the system load values are when hovering or how much current a particular motor/prop combo pull during extended vertical maneuvers. The mind boggles at the possibilities. The more these Smart Products are used, the more uses we will find for the information. I can't wait to see what's next!

Final Thoughts

The new Spektrum Smart Technology system of products has opened up easy access to a huge treasure trove of data and information. The data is available without any complicated sensor installations or frustrating data programming. The Smart components are simply plugged together and they just work. Smart Batteries plug into the power leads of Smart ESCs. The Smart ESCs servo lead plugs into the normal throttle channel of a Smart Receiver and the Smart Data flows to the transmitter. All that data is then clearly displayed on any Spektrum telemetry-capable DX or iX series transmitter. It is very impressive that Spektrum Smart Technology is now available across such a broad range of telemetry-capable Spektrum transmitters from the entry level DX6e all the way through the new iX20.

Pluses

  • Compatible With DX and iX Spektrum Transmitters
  • Plug-and-Play Simplicity
  • One-Wire Telemetry For Smart Components
  • No Additional Sensors To Buy
  • No Complicated Wiring
  • Transmitters Can Auto-Configure Data Fields
  • Smart Data Screens Have Lots Of Data

Minuses

  • Smart Battery Display Data Updates Took Longer Than Expected

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Last edited by kingsflyer; Jan 10, 2020 at 01:21 PM..
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Jan 21, 2020, 12:08 AM
Registered RC NUT!
The Snake's Avatar
nicely done, still waiting for larger esc's like 130 and up and or HV air packages for like 8 to 12s setups for the IX12.
Jan 21, 2020, 12:20 AM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
Thread OP
Yes, the Avian 80 is the largest for 8S at this time. I'm pretty sure there's more to come. Stay tuned!

McD
Latest blog entry: LEDs on my T-28
Jan 21, 2020, 12:52 PM
Registered User
Will any of the transmitters read out any of the data as the plane is being flown ? It would be great to be able to hear the altitude while flying rather than have to look at the screen, which is a very bad idea.
Jan 21, 2020, 01:38 PM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
Thread OP
All of the “voice” G2 and up transmitters should be able to set up voice alerts for most all of the data values. I believe you can set time interval reports or min/max value reports.

McD
Latest blog entry: LEDs on my T-28
Jan 21, 2020, 02:24 PM
Registered User
rpstar's Avatar
Can the data be logged to a file for review afterwards? Being able to look at the data offline at the PC would be the most helpful for analyzing performance of props/batteries, etc... I would expect the most useful info about the battery (not individual cells of course) would be available for even non-smart batteries. Could be useful for deciding when to retire a particular battery or knowing just how degraded it is relative to newer ones.
Jan 21, 2020, 03:00 PM
Registered User
JPJI's Avatar
---
Jan 29, 2020, 01:36 AM
Registered User
FoxProGT's Avatar
How does one go about changing the bec output voltage like from 5v, 5.5v to 6v ect?
Is there a separate program card?
Adjustments through the transmitter sticks?
It looks like we should be able to use a usb computer program cable to make adjustments but not completely sure.
Last edited by FoxProGT; Jan 29, 2020 at 01:43 AM.
Jan 29, 2020, 04:23 AM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
Thread OP
The BEC settings can be adjusted using the Spektrum Smart ESC Programming Box.

https://www.horizonhobby.com/smart-e...irma-spmxca200

Here is the link for the Programmer Manual.

https://www.horizonhobby.com/pdf/SPM...-Manual-EN.pdf

Here is the link for the general Smart ESC Manual that includes instructions for programming the ESC through the use of the Transmitter throttle stick.

https://www.horizonhobby.com/pdf/Avian-Manual-EN.pdf

Hope this helps.

McD
Latest blog entry: LEDs on my T-28
Jan 29, 2020, 04:41 AM
Registered User
FoxProGT's Avatar
Program card it is.
Thanks.
Feb 17, 2020, 10:47 AM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
Thread OP
It looks like Horizon has incorporated Smart ESCs and Receivers into some of their newest BNF Basic models. This newest P-51D 1.5 looks really interesting.

https://www.horizonhobby.com/product...ic--p-efl01250

McD
Latest blog entry: LEDs on my T-28
Mar 17, 2020, 04:10 PM
Registered User
alex24's Avatar
Hi All...
Check out this Smart Technology survey for a chance to win a $250 Smart Technology shopping spree! Ends March 25th!
Find the Survey here -> https://bit.ly/2IQXFEB

See the terms and conditions for the sweepstakes here:
https://www.horizonhobby.com/media/p...VIOYzcm1QqKfwM
Mar 23, 2020, 09:16 PM
Registered User
hondaboy92hatch's Avatar
Hi all,
I need help. I just purchased one of the 100 amp escs and the program box. I cant get it to go past connect to esc. I need to change a few things to get this esc to wrk with my motor. The guy at the hobby shop did his job and sold me something but so far this init is irritating. Going to hook it up to my computer and see if I can download anything to get it to work.

Thanks
Joe

I can't get past this screen.
Last edited by hondaboy92hatch; Mar 24, 2020 at 01:38 AM.
Mar 23, 2020, 10:17 PM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
Thread OP
I haven't had an opportunity to use the programmer box or PC program, so I'm not going to be much help, but I'm sure Horizon Support should be able to answer your questions. I have the 100 Amp ESC and the program box, I'd be happy to work on it with you if all else fails.

McD
Latest blog entry: LEDs on my T-28
Mar 24, 2020, 10:32 AM
Registered User
hondaboy92hatch's Avatar

Program box


Thanks to the tech team at Horizon. For anyone else that has issues with the esc and program box you have to use the Male to male connector and plug into the fan port.

Joe


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