Smart ESC Upgrade for the FMS Futura V2 EDF Jet

Smart Technology comes to the FMS Futura V2 80mm EDF jet.

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Spektrum Smart Technology Upgrade!

Smart ESC Upgrade for the FMS 80mm Futura V2 EDF
Aircraft:FMS Futura V2
ESC:Spektrum Avian 100 Amp
TX:8 Channel DSMX/DSM2 (AS3X & Reverse)
RX:Minimum 6 Channel with Spektrum Telemetry
Battery:6S 22.2V 4000 to 5000 mAh Smart Battery w/IC5 Connector
ESC Manufacturer:Spektrum RC
Available From:Horizon Hobby online or through your local hobby shop
Street Price:$89.99

Horizon Hobby previously sent an FMS Futura V2 80mm EDF Jet to RCGroups for Review and they included a new Spektrum AR637T Smart Technology AS3X receiver. The full Futura V2 RCGroups Review is available online. The AR637T Smart Receiver featured programmable AS3X stabilization and SAFE functionality as well as Full-Range Telemetry for Altitude and RX BEC Voltage data. However, the stock FMS ESC did not have Smart Technology capability so the majority of the critical Smart Battery and Smart ESC Data was not available through the Smart Receiver.

Check out the full Spektrum Smart ESC and Receiver Technology capabilities covered in an earlier RCGroups Review.

Horizon Hobby recently agreed to supply a new Spektrum Avian 100 Amp Smart Technology ESC for an upgrade to the Review FMS Futura V2 EDF Jet. This new Smart ESC should give full access to all the available Smart technical data for the ESC and Smart Battery as well as real time power loading data for the EDF system. Spektrum recently updated the firmware for the Avian series of ESCs and they are now programmable through your telemetry capable Spektrum DSMX/DSM2 Transmitter. This new programming even includes a provision for reversing the motor rotation from the transmitter.

First Impressions

My first impression was that the ESC cooling fan looked nice, but I wasn't too sure it was going to fit in the tight ESC passage molded into the Futura V2 fuselage. Luckily the fan appeared to be removable. Overall the ESC looked well made and the wiring appeared to be of good quality.

ESC Highlights

  • Spektrum Smart Technology Compatible
  • 100 Amp continuous ESC current rating
  • 8 Amp continuous BEC current rating
  • IC5 3-wire Smart device connector
  • SRXL2 telemetry available through the throttle servo connector
  • Programmable with Smart ESC Programming Box
  • Programmable through PC with SmartLink USB
  • Programmable through Spektrum transmitters
  • Removable cooling fan
  • Backward compatible with EC5 connectors and non-Smart equipment

Package Contents

Recommended Parts For This Upgrade

Removal of Stock FMS ESC

Before the new Spektrum Avian ESC could be installed, the stock FMS ESC had to be located and removed. After removing the wings and some serious fuselage twisting and turning, the stock ESC could barely be seen buried deep inside the fuselage.

A bit more inspection revealed the location of a removable cover used to access the ducted fan unit. After carefully cutting the decals and removing the two cover screws, the cover was removed and the EDF unit was visible.

Once the EDF unit was unbolted, the ESC recess and plywood cover were visible. It appeared that the stock ESC could easily be removed by sliding it out through the EDF compartment.

Because of the tight quarters and multitude of wires in the canopy area, a 24" servo extension was attached to the ESC servo lead to serve as a pull wire. The ESC servo lead and the battery lead were taped to this 24" extension. Once the ESC leads were secured to the extension, the ESC was easily pulled out of the fuselage. As soon as the servo extension pull wire was clear of the plywood brace, it was untaped from the ESC leads and taped to the side of the EDF compartment. It could now safely be left in place for pulling in the leads for the new Avian ESC.

Spektrum Avian Smart ESC Setup

Before installing the Avian ESC in the airframe, the ESC firmware needed to be updated to be sure the ESC had the latest telemetry and operational capabilities. Updating was accomplished using the Spektrum Smart ESC Programming Update Box. The online programming instructions were listed HERE. Within the site, there was a link for downloading the actual ESC Updating Program. Once the program was downloaded and extracted, I installed a shortcut on my Desktop for future access.

Here is an excellent Spektrum video illustrating the firmware updating process: Avian Smart ESC - How to Update

Once the Avian ESC firmware was updated, the various flight parameters and ESC functions could be set. One of the most interesting new functions was the motor reverse function. The latest firmware update allowed for thrust reversal at the flip of a switch. This feature could be a great help for slowing down slick EDF jets on short runways. Here is a Spektrum Video on using the Forward Programming function and a Spektrum Transmitter to set up the ESC and the Reverse Thrust feature: Avian Smart ESC - How to Program

Once the ESC was fully updated and programmed, it was time to install the Avian Smart ESC in its new home.

Avian ESC Installation

Tech Tip - Prior to installing the new Avian ESC, plug a 12" servo extension into the cooling fan plug socket. This will allow future ESC firmware updates without removing the ESC from the airframe.

After securing the new IC5 power extension, and taping everything to the 24" servo extension pull wire, the Avian ESC was ready to install.

Using the extension lead, the ESC wiring was gently pulled forward into the fuselage. The Avian ESC turned out to be a little larger than the stock ESC and it would not fit under the plywood shelf. Cutting small wedges of foam from the area of the EDF intake support allowed the new Avian ESC to easily slide under the plywood shelf and into position.

With the ESC/motor leads securely taped together, the ESC wiring bundle was pulled forward under the plywood shelf and the remainder of the leads were tucked neatly into the recess under the EDF unit.

The EDF unit was reinstalled and the EDF compartment cover was fastened in place. The ESC servo lead was plugged into the AR637T throttle port and the installation was complete.

Smart ESC Programming

Once the Avian Smart ESC was installed and connected to the AR637T receiver, various ESC parameters were accessible for programming through the Spektrum transmitter via the Avian Programming screen. This feature allowed ESC fine tuning at the field using just the transmitter. In addition, the thrust reversing function could now be programmed and the transmitter switch selected to activate the function.

Telemetry Data

Stock ESC Data

The Stock FMS Futura V2/Spektrum AR637T Receiver installation provided only limited data telemetry. Receiver Voltage and Baro Altitude were the only two items configured and displayed on the iX12 Transmitter. The receiver included a separate voltage sensor lead that would have allowed the display of total Flight Pack Voltage had it been installed.

Upgraded Smart ESC Data

The Spektrum Smart Avian ESC greatly expanded the amount of data collected and available for transmission to any telemetry capable Spectrum transmitter. This expanded data set now included real time total flight pack voltage, pack temperature, cell imbalance, and individual cell voltage. ESC data values included real time throttle percentage, motor RPM, ESC FET temperature, ESC BEC temperature, BEC Voltage, and ESC load Amperage.

That's an amazing amount of data! All of it is important and all of it is valuable for determining the optimum performance level of each component of our electric power system. The MIN/MAX values can give a snapshot and help us understand the maximum load and performance of different systems. In addition to helping analyze performance, these data numbers can also help warn the pilot of possible failure issues. Spektrum telemetry capable transmitters can set warning points for many of the data values and alert the pilot when these values either exceed the set point or go below the set point. Some helpful settings might include minimum pack voltage, minimum individual cell voltage, ESC over current, ESC over temperature, motor high RPM, high altitude, or low BEC Voltage.

Caveat: Even though this mass of data was available and could be displayed in real time, it should probably be recorded like in the Flight Video or stored as min/max data points, or used for warning alerts. Pilots should always pay very close attention to their planes rather than to the data display on their transmitter when their planes are in the air.

What About Non-Smart Batteries?

Yes, the IC5 connector and Avian ESC were fully compatible with all Non-Smart batteries. Any battery with an EC5 connector, or an adapter that terminated in an EC5 or IC5 connector, worked with the Avian Smart ESC. The Smart Battery data was no longer available, but the total pack voltage was still displayed and the pack Min/Max values were shown in real-time. The Pack voltage was transmitted continuously and the pack voltage alarm points were still active.

Flight Video

My friend Richard Nichols was ready with the iPhone aimed at the iX12 Transmitter display screen and the Futura V2 was all charged up and ready for its video. This was only the second flight of the upgraded ESC telemetry system and we weren't sure how the telemetry data video would work out. You may have to use your imagination a little, or maybe watch the reflection in the display window of the transmitter to understand what the plane is doing at any particular time. The important point is that the data is being displayed in real time throughout the flight.

Final Thoughts

The Spektrum Avian Smart ESC upgrade opened up a whole new world of performance information and data when it was combined with a Spektrum Smart Battery and an AR637T telemetry receiver. The real time data allowed warning alerts to be set for numerous components and systems. The best feature may have been the addition of ESC programming from the transmitter and the option for thrust reversal at the flip of a switch. I know my retracts really appreciate that reverse thrust!

It should be noted that even though this Review specifically addressed the installation of the Smart Avian ESC in the FMS Futura V2, this ESC upgrade could easily be installed in almost any existing airframe.

Pluses

  • Smart Performance Data in Real Time
  • Thrust Reversing
  • ESC Programming from the Transmitter
  • Critical System Warning Points Settable

Minuses

  • ESC Cooling Fan had to be removed to fit in the Futura V2

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Last edited by kingsflyer; Feb 04, 2021 at 01:53 PM..
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Feb 06, 2021, 05:36 PM
Never trade skill for luck
Great review Mike! Can't wait to get mine going, too.
Good job!
Feb 06, 2021, 05:52 PM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
Thread OP
Thanks for the kudos. Please post your results once you get your Avian ESC up and running.

McD
Latest blog entry: LEDs on my T-28


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