|Spektrum DX6 System Specifications:|
|Modulation:||DSM 2.4 GHz Digital Spread Spectrum|
|Weight (with battery):||1lb 11oz|
|Size:||39mm x 30mm x 9mm (1.53" x 1.18" x x.35")|
|Weight:||7 grams (.27 oz)|
|Antenna Length:||95mm (3.75")|
|Antenna Orientation:||90 degrees|
|Size:||(L x W x H): 23mm x 12mm x 24mm (.90" x .45" x .94")|
|Weight:||7.5 grams (.28 oz)|
|Torque:||17.2 oz/in (1.17 kg/cm) @ 4.8V|
|Operating Speed:||.12 sec/60 deg @ 4.8V|
|Available From:||Horizon Hobby|
Horizon Hobbies has recently announced their new park flyer 6 channel spread spectrum radio system. The Spektrum DX6 may look like any other radio, but rest assured it brings significant changes and advances to the aircraft Radio Control market.
System Package includes...
Why is this new system so different? First and foremost it transmits on a new frequency range in the 2.4GHz band. This is the same band many existing consumer devices use. Although originally developed for the military and government use, consumer products are allowed to design products that utilize that band. The largest consumer uses are for cordless home phones and wireless network devices.
Some of you may be concerned by that sharing of frequency space; however, the 72MHz range is also shared. Industrial and broadcast audio are near, and in some cases interspersed between our FCC allocated frequencies or channels. All of us have visited fields where they have "bad" channels. This can be from one of those other users whose equipment is slightly out of tune or equipment that transmits at such high power rates they affect RC designated frequency channels. Remember current 72MHz RC transmitters are FCC limited to 750mW. Other users may be transmitting at more than 50,000 times that power! One of many specifications for the 2.4GHz range of use is that these devices are limited to 1 Watt of transmission power. That is enough power for RC use and yet other users of that spectrum will always have the 1 Watt limit thus limiting interference.
So what exactly does all this stuff mean to me, Joe T park flyer? Let’s discuss that, and some of what makes this new system so unique. Three things are different and it is important to know what they are and what that means to us.
Hey – what channel are you on? With the Spektrum DX6 you don’t ever have to worry about this again! This new system selects your channel for you. It will not broadcast a signal until it has secured its own section of the 2.4GHz band to use safely. Likewise when the next person comes with their DX6 system turn on the transmitter, it too will go through the same process. It will see your use of the spectrum and select another channel for it to operate on. No more worries about shooting another pilot down, or having them shoot you down.
The ability to cope with interference is extremely important to our safe aircraft operation. Systems must have reliability and interference rejection built into them. The airborne equipment used in our aircraft can cause interference to our own receivers. For example the current 72, 50 and 27 MHz bands used can see EMF noise from the motor, ESC or controller, long servo leads and various other things. In fact incorrect or less than optimum installation of these devices can lead to those dreaded glitches. Good news, the 2.4GHz systems are above that – literally! This type of interference or noise is limited to under 300MHz, so the new 2.4GHz range is completely immune to all of that noise.
So what about all these cordless phones, wireless routers and wireless network cards on the 2.4GHz spectrum? When you turn on the Spektrum DX6 it scans that network, picks two open channels and uses them for transmission. This is similar to very high end 72MHz transmitters that check to see if the channel is free before it broadcasts. All this is included on the DX6 a $199 system!
To make the DX6 system even more reliable the Spektrum system uses Digital Spectrum Modulation or DSM™. This DSM™ combined with the direct sequencing on the 2.4GHz spectrum give this system the reliability we need.
For details on DSM™, direct sequencing see the Spektrum site.
Say goodbye to crystals, they are a thing of the past. No receiver crystals, no transmitter crystal because the DX6 uses a synthesized signal. This exists only in the highest end systems even in the current generation of 72MHz radio systems.
This transmitter looks and feels in every way like any existing RC aircraft two stick systems. In fact the only thing that gives you an idea that anything is different is the short stub antenna. Due to the wavelengths used, the antenna is much shorter. This should be a welcome addition for both for indoor use and in not forgetting to raise the antenna. The system includes a wall charger and 600mAh NiCad battery.
The DX6 transmitter does not have an internal diode, so fast peak charging can be accommodated through the case connector without removing the battery, this is always a big plus. It does use the typical JR® plug polarity with center being negative. Please note this is opposite of all other makers – make sure you use the right polarity plug before charging. The manual dedicates an entire page to this.
The transmitter does use a 5 year internal lithium battery to store your model data settings if the NiCad pack is removed.
This transmitter has a high quality grey case. Orange indicators on the switches and buttons are very visible. I realize that feel of a transmitter is very personal, but this is keeper. It has deep recesses on the back and has a very well balanced feel.
Stick gimbals and switches are well placed. Standard switch placement is welcome with flap on the right side and gear left. The switches are firm to trigger and have a very solid feel. Dual rate switches are short and stout my preference. All of them are placed in such a way to make them less prone to breakage. Sticks do have adjustable lengths, always a good thing. The gimbals are silky smooth and springs are very firm, perfect in fact.
It should be noted that our standard 72MHz (or other band) receivers can not be used with the DX6 transmitter. It will be necessary to purchase the AR6000 as it is the only compatible receiver made currently.
Anyone with basic computer radio experience will find this an easy task. Menus are well laid out and are very easy to understand. Perfect for the first time computer radio user. The manual begins with a “quick start” section for a basic 4 channel plane followed by a 5 channel mechanical mix helicopter. This was a nice touch and will be highly welcome to the first time computer system user.
The system is very easy to program. As a long time Airtronics guy I was in fact impressed by this. The two servo wing (flaperon) dual rates, expo, endpoint adjust, elevator to flap and flap to elevator mixing took less than 15 minutes.
The system mode allows you to control some of the initial setup elements for your aircraft. It controls the model type, aircraft or heli, resetting all the stored model data to factory defaults, switch assignment, wing type, model select and model name. Dual rate switches are very easy to re-assign based on personal preferences. System mode functions are controls that don't change frequently and are accessed by triggering switches on transmitter power up.
Contained in this menu offering are the more commonly used program elements. As you can see it has nearly everything we need, even programmable mixes. Two features are notably missing however. There are no timer functions or exponential control for the rudder. With the exception of the 3D gang many fliers will not miss the expo on the rudder. Timer functions allow us to land prior to low voltage cutoff for our batteries or time slope and thermal flights. I have been informed by the Spektrum team that these enhancements are top priorities.
The manual for the DX6 is easy to follow and gives clear, concise instruction. No issues or mistakes were noted, and it should be very easy for the first time flyer to program aircraft settings in this transmitter.
Spektrum has posted their manuals on their web site for us to access when needed. Any of us who might have misplaced a manual or need that data while on-line appreciate that. For those who can't wait for their system to arrive, you can read the 96 page manual now!
How does two for the price of one sound? Yes that is correct this is not actually one receiver, but two! In fact the DX6 system not only picks one open channel, it allocates two for its use. This is for the Spektrum DualLink ™ system. According to the Spektrum RC site:
When you turn on the AR6000™ receiver it scans the 2.4GHz band until it finds the unique transmitter code (called GUID) that it has been programmed to. Then it locks on to the transmitters global unique identifier (GUID) code. Then the second receiver finds the second transmitted code and it locks on. This process takes a couple of seconds. The receiver is locked to your transmitter via two separate channels. Impressive technology.
I weighed the receiver and found The 7 gram weight listed in specifications to be 6 grams! Two receivers for 6-7 grams is certainly appropriate for the light park flyer type aircraft.
Wiring on the servo output prongs is the industry standard Signal/Positive/Negative layout. Signal is closest the center of the receiver and is clearly marked on the case a welcome feature. The case is not notched for plugs with the Futaba™ tabs but they clear the case side so no plug modification is needed.
Another huge hit is the fact that there will be no more wires dangling from the model. The receiver uses two small 3.75” antennas, one for each of the two built in receivers. Neither of these will need to extend outside the fuse. Orientation of the receiver is non-critical, but it is recommended to leave the receiver antennas in a 90 degree orientation. This helps assure that one of the two receivers always has the best signal, even with the changing orientation of the aircraft.
This is something unique to this new system. Binding actually enables the receiver to recognize the GUID code that is unique to your transmitter. It is normally a one-time event. The system does come “bound” and ready to use from the factory. You will have to bind new receivers to your transmitter, but the process takes only seconds and it outlined on page 24 of the manual.
Another great feature in a system at this price point is the smart fail-safe system. When the receiver is bound to the transmitter you can program the failsafe throttle setting. If the signal is lost the receiver uses this stored setting until it receives the next good frame. This is a great safety feature. I would recommend checking your system to make sure signal loss drops the throttle to off.
I know the first question you will ask – can I use my existing servos with this system? Yes you can. I have tested the system with the supplied S75’ as well as GWS Pico’s, Naros, Hitec HS55’s HS81’s and Blue Arrow 4.3g servos. All worked flawlessly with no issues.
The S75’s are top notch servos. They are quiet, fast, light and strong. In fact the torque and speed are just what we need for most of our parkies. This little servo also comes with a coreless motor and they are priced right for the budget minded flyer. What more could you ask for?
I always start new system installation with range test, so for each of the three different installations I performed these important ground tests.
Prior to flight it is advisable to perform a range test. We all know this is a critical step and the Spektrum team has enabled a simple test procedure. From their site:
"It's easy. With everything hooked up and working, have a helper hold your model 30 paces away. Face the model with the transmitter in the normal operating position and depress and hold the bind button. This reduces the power output from the transmitter. You should have total control of the model with the button depressed at 30 paces."
And it was just as simple as that. Range checks all yielded that exact result, when I depressed the bind button full control of the model was maintained at 90 feet. Tests were conducted with the motor on and off.
As indicated this system is intended for park flyer use only. One of the tests will be a small glider. This allowed an excellent test of the actual air range of this system as the Skimmer has a 59” (1.5m) span.
From the Spektrum web site:
"This unit was specifically developed for sport park flyers use. It has plenty of range for park flyers. Just as we have a different product for airplanes than cars, we'll have a different product for sport flying aircraft that fly at a much farther average range than a park flyer. We wanted to keep this unit small, light and affordable - all attributes we felt park fliers need. Sport flyers have different needs - and we will have products for them, all in good time."
These planes will make up the real world testing. The following aircraft were chosen to provide the broadest test data and to determine the overall system reliability. The best way to do this was to fly the system in a number of different airplanes with differing airborne and power systems. Brushed, brushless and even a twin thrown in for good measure. The following models were selected:
TX setup: Flaperon, DR, EXPO, end point adjust, elevator to flap, flap to elevator.
This plane was selected as it had several somewhat advanced mixes that I wanted to do. It was a snap to program. You just select 2 servo wing flaperon, and follow the manual. Expo, and dual rates were both easy. Admittedly naming models, dual rates and expo are not difficult to setup on most systems, but it was also a snap to program flaperon plus two mixes -- flap to elevator mix, and elevator to flap mix. Total setup time was about 10-15 minutes. This was the first time I had the transmitter in my hands and I could not have been more impressed.
The flight went perfectly. The model was trimmed and flown without a single glitch. This included two or three climbs to speck height and several horizontal runs flying the plane as far away as close to the ground as I could. With this plane any glitch would be very noticeable as it is extremely sensitive to roll. No glitches, hits or any other issues whatsoever. So far so good!
I fine tuned all of the program settings without use of the manual at the field. One great feature is when you are done programing it remembers the last function you changed and when you re-enter program mode it goes right back to that same function. This is a nice touch for fine tuning values without having to re-scroll through menu items.
EXPO and dual rates on rudder and elevator, endpoint, Aileron to rudder mix
Now it was time for some indoor flying. The plane was intended to be flown indoors at the SWAC event held here in the Dallas Ft. Worth area. The flying area was a tad small for the O-2 twin so on to plan "B". I have always said what are you without good friends. So I asked a friend who had a brushless powered GWS Pico Tiger Moth. Ronnie gladly volunteered the use of his plane! Five minutes later we had the AR6000 receiver in the little Moth and about two minutes after that I had the Tiger Moth all programed!
The indoor flight environment here could only be considered harsh. There were usually between 15-25 other radio systems on. This included a vast range of 72MHz, 900MHz, 27MHz systems and one vendor using 2.4GHz video systems. As I recall this vendor had 4 transmitters all using 2.4GHz band. Who knows what other 2.4GHz wireless network devices were in range in the convention center. Once again there was not one single glitch or bump noted while flying the little Tiger Moth. Admittedly it was a bit odd to just switch on the DX6 system without even looking at the frequency board! This system will not cause any issues for other flyers. What great peace of mind.
Subsequent outdoor flights of the O-2 also were conducted. Once again not one single glitch was noted.
End point adjust on elevator and rudder
Now on to the air range check. So far the models have been small light aircraft all well within the "park flyer" class of airplane. I wanted a model that would stretch the park flyer classification and give a comfortable assessment of range. The Skimmer was selected for this task. This is a speed 400 powered glider with a 1.5m (59") span that is 31" long. While it is small for a glider, the 1.5m span can be flown further away from the pilot than nearly any park flyer can.
The test involved a number of flights with climbs to speck height. While conducting these flights the transmitter antenna was pointed directly at the aircraft. The tip of the antenna is the area of weakest signal transmission. Once again, not one single glitch was encountered. Continuing the range check I flew the Skimmer to about 300-400 feet and then out away from me as far as I could get while still maintaining eye contact with the model. Still no issues with glitches.
I am totally comfortable with the transmission range of this new system. It is clear this system is well tested and can safely fly any of our park flyer class models.
Testing was also performed on the following equipment on the ground. It is good to know that the new system will perform well with our existing equipment.
All of this equipment worked flawlessly with no problems noted. It appears compatibility will not be an issue.
I could not have been more impressed with this system. The price point is attractive for nearly any budget. It has enough channels for park flyer class aircraft. It allows 10 models to be stored in memory important for those of us with too many planes! Wait a minute can you have too many planes?
With not even one single glitch, the technology is very sound. It is clear this new DX6 system has been extensively tested by many experienced modelers prior to release.
Perhaps the best feature is the DX6 system provides us with a frequency that can be used nearly anywhere, with no concern of causing frequency conflicts with other flyers or established flying fields. The DX6 can comfortably be used while at the park or club field. It will not conflict with any existing 27MHz, 50MHz, 72MHz or 900MHz systems used today. It sure will be nice not waiting for an open channel or worry about someone shooting you down, or shooting someone else down. It will be great the next time when I am asked what channel are you on? My answer, "Well to be honest I really don't know - or care!"
In the time I have had the system I have gained full confidence in its use. It has been totally reliable and bulletproof. It is easy to program making it a perfect choice for the first time computer system user. It is priced right and will be available very soon. Order yours now, this new system is the future of our hobby!
For those waiting for this excellent system don’t forget to download the manual to keep busy with until yours arrives!
I have conducted a great deal of research for this article and found the following articles helpful. They all discuss the spectrum technology and show it to be a welcome addition to our hobby.
This first article from the July issue of Model Aviation should be considered required reading on spectrum radio technology.
Not only has the AMA covered spectrum technology radios, but they feel very good about the arrival of this technology for aircraft use.
Also the Spektrum RC website contains five detailed pages, include FAQ’s. It is well done and is a great resource for information about this new state of the art system.
Willfly - thanks!
The Skimmer was at least 1k feet, as I was having a hard time telling what direction the ship was heading. I flew it further than I have ever flown it away from me, so I am very pleased with the range. I just don't think we will find any range related issues with this system.
After reading the comments from Dave Brown (AMA President) I think this system is a dream come true for parkfliers and frequency control.
This is truly the future gang!
Good question Tipsy - actually yes the new technology did have an impact on the 600 mAh battery, but a positive one.
From all I can tell this new system uses about 20-30% less power than a "standard" transmitter. I am easily getting 30% more run time than on my other 600 mAh TX's including the very miserly Hitec Focus 3ch.
I don't think there will be a need to upgrade the batteries in this one....
One question not addressed in either the review or the on-line manual (at least not that I could find): When using a mix, does the trim of the slave follow the trim of the master? And, if so, are both trims saved?
Thanks in advance for any insights on this question.
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