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A Controlling Interest -- November 2005

So many choices!!! A look at brushless motor controller programming options and how they are set, from simple to really complicated, and to computers-make-it-simple again.

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Here we go again, delving into those little collections of electronics between the motor and the drive battery in our models. As promised last time, this edition’s topic is a look at programming controller options and the seeming myriad of ways it is done. Before I get to that, though, here's a brief follow-up to that August 2005 column.

I don’t suppose it’s news that what I call “lithium-awareness” is now solidly mainstream with speed control makers. Now even the big US distributors have gotten on the bandwagon. Recently a new line of brushless controllers from Great Planes under the ElectriFly brand has been released and even their inexpensive-but-good brushed controller line has been updated with improved ratings and lithium-awareness (and some other new features). I’ll have more on the brushed ones in a future column and will say a more about the brushless ones this time. But now let’s get on to….

Cutoffs and Braking and Timing, Oh My!

Once upon a time, back in the days when all we had to power our planes were brushed motors and NiCds, if there were any options in a speed control’s operation, most likely it was whether or not the prop brake was active. Even then, there were many different ways to choose that one option from jumper plugs to cutting jumper wires to various sorts of programming with the throttle stick on the transmitter. In some cases, you could program the brake once and the controller would maintain that setting. In other cases you had to do it every time (for example, the “start with the stick high” method that several German makers used to select “brake off”).

But now there are so many other functions to select and set. We have brushless controllers that give options for motors that have differing timing requirements. We have different drive battery chemistries with different requirements for setting the Low Voltage Cutoff (LVC) value. And we still need to choose whether or not the prop brake is on. Besides that, some ESC makers give us a choice of different switching frequencies to better tailor the system efficiency for different types of motors. Some give several variations between “on right now” and “off” for the prop brake. Some give the option to have the LVC slow the motor down progressively rather than just shut it off (“soft” vs. “hard” cutoff) when the drive battery voltage reaches the desired cutoff voltage. Some give the option to have a linear or a reverse-exponential response to the throttle stick position. Some give the choice to have the controller either learn the transmitter’s endpoints every time or assume some fixed values, or even learn and store a custom set of endpoints. Some give choices on how quickly the motor is started or how hard it is pulsed to get it going (“soft” vs. “hard” starts). Some have several choices for how the current limiting function is engaged. And there are choices of throttle and governor settings for helicopters. Just recently I learned of a new one that allows you to program the temperature at which the over-temperature cutoff engages. A few controllers have almost ALL of these choices in one unit.

With all these options to set, the user interface for setting them can get more than a little convoluted. The way this is typically done is by various movements of the transmitter’s throttle stick, combined with feedback by tones from the motor and/or an LED. Two or three positions of the throttle stick are used, in various sequences, to select from the available options to be programmed. Once there are more than just a couple of options it’s just about impossible – at least for me – to do this without the instruction manual at hand. The more options, the worse it gets, especially if all you want to change is one near the end of the programming sequence. For example, changing the low-voltage-cutoff from the default “hard” to “soft” on a Castle Creations Phoenix controller requires you to program/reprogram the five options ahead of “cutoff type” just to GET to the cutoff type selection.

Furthermore, when you have all these choices how the heck do you know what settings are already in force in a given speed control?

Recognizing this, some ESC makers have begun to offer external means to set several options quickly (such as Castle Creations’ Phoenix-link computer interface) and some others have tried to make the transmitter-stick interface much faster and easier to use. Still others have decided that fewer options and fewer choices for each option is the best approach. What follows is a survey of current examples of each of these approaches, drawn from samples of brushless ESCs I have in hand for testing. I think you’ll see that there is quite a bit of diversity here. Perhaps I can follow up along these lines with some brushed controllers in a future column. While there aren’t as many options there are still enough to lead to some interesting design choices, shall we say?

The examples that follow are grouped by the programming interface, starting with the usual transmitter-stick method, followed by on-board or external hardware programming and computer-based programming.

Fewer options: (listed top to bottom) More options: (listed top to bottom)

ElectriFly Silver Series 25

E-flite 20A

Jeti Advance Plus 18

CC Thunderbird-18

Cool Running A-10

Align RCE-BL25A.

Schulze future-12.46We

Kontronik Beat 55-6-18

Hyperion Titan-20

Castle Creations Phoenix-25.

Stick Programming Variations - First Approach: Keep It Simple (and Assume the Rest of the Settings)!

One school of thought has always been to set things up so that you can just take the controller out of the package, plug it in, and go fly. To do that with today’s power systems, a controller’s maker has to choose most of the parameters for you and leave only a few for you to set yourself. Then, of course, they have to try to come up with default settings for those remaining options so the chances are good that you don’t have to do anything but hook it up and go. And, of course, there are connectors that have to be dealt with.

One programmable option – Electrifly Silver Series

Among current offerings, the ones that come closest to “open package, plug into airplane, fly” are the Great Planes ElectriFly Silver Series line of controllers (five of them from 8A to 45A). These have only one programmable option and it has only two choices – whether or not the brake is active (default is “off”). Simple transmitter stick-based programming is used to change the state of the brake.

ElectriFly also makes a good attempt to have the Silver Series be truly plug and play by putting quality power connectors on them – a pleasant surprise. The smaller ones (8A and 12A) have mini Deans on the battery side and a small bullet (which must be used by some motors sold by Great Planes) on the motor side. The 25 and 35A units have Deans Ultras on the battery side and the common 3.5mm bullets on the motor side. These have a good chance of being able to drop in many folks’ airplanes without having to touch a soldering iron. The 45A unit has larger bullets on the motor side that are far less common. Of course, putting particular power connectors on them still means many of us will have to resort to the soldering iron to make them ready to use if we normally use something different, but I applaud ElectriFly’s decision to use quality connectors.

The assumptions for the other parameters are:

  • low voltage cutoff is soft and fixed at 67% of the initial drive battery voltage – a little low for high discharge rate lithium batteries (about 2.75V per cell) but plenty high enough for nickel-based batteries.
  • The instructions warn, more than once, that batteries should always be fully charged at the beginning of the flight when used with these ESCs.
  • Timing is automatic.
  • The switching frequency is 8.5 Khz.
  • The throttle endpoints are set every time you power up.

Like the older Electrifly brushed controllers such as the C-30 I looked at near the end of my February 2001 column, you have to take the throttle stick from low to high to low again before the controller arms. You get good audible feedback for this process – a nice touch.

I’ll have more to say about these in a future column – and I’ve been flying the 12A unit quite a bit recently.

Two Programmable Options – E-flite 20 and 40 V2 and Jeti Advance Plus Line (via stick programming)

E-flite

Next comes Horizon Hobbies’ two brushless controllers under their E-flite brand – a 20A and a 40A unit. The current versions of these (V2) have two programmable options, each with only two choices – brake on or off, and Lithium or nickel battery chemistry. Getting into program mode is a little more difficult with these (quite a bit of transmitter stick twiddling), but once you’re there, setting the two options is not difficult at all.

The E-flite controllers have no connectors on the battery side (so you have to add your own.) On the motor side there are 3.5mm motor connectors mounted directly to the controller’s circuit board (like Schulze in Germany has done for many years). The mating connectors are supplied, as are three short lengths of wire in case you want or need to extend the motor leads to reach the ESC.

These units also have automatic timing, and set the throttle range every time you power them up. They have a soft cutoff that is fairly subtle in operation (hard to hear it kick in). ] I've only just bench run one of these briefly, so can't comment too much more on how they work just yet. They come up armed and ready to go if the throttle stick is low enough, like a number of other ESCs out there. According to the documentation, the default settings are auto-lithium and brake off. In my short bench test I saw auto-lithium (with two beeps at power up to indicate two cells correctly detected) but the brake seems to be enabled.

The manual for these is here.

Jeti Advance Plus

The Jeti Advance Plus line (in a bunch of sizes from 4A up to 90A) also have two programmable options, each with two choices that can be explicitly programmed via the transmitter stick wagging method. One is, of course, the brake on or off. A twist is that you also choose whether the low voltage cutoff is hard or soft with the brake selection. Brake on gives hard cutoff, brake off gives soft. The other explicitly selectable option is two choices of motor timing, termed “soft” and “hard”. The hard timing choice is one with more advance and is aimed at higher pole-count motors (like many outrunners). Out of the package the brake is on and the timing set to “soft”.

The smaller Advance controllers come with no power connectors supplied (4A through 18A). Starting at the 30A up through the 77A (at least) the motor side has 3.5mm bullets installed and mating connectors supplied. Battery connectors will have to be added in any case as none are supplied for any size.

The low voltage cutoff is set automatically and is said to be sensitive to the battery type. In my tests the values have been reasonable for all batteries tested, but for lithiums they are a little lower than 3V per cell. As with the others I’ve mentioned so far, the throttle endpoints are set each time the system is powered up. When you power up you get an audible indication of the brake state (one beep for brake on, two for off). If you wait at least five seconds without starting the motor it will also tell you with beeps which timing mode the unit is in – single beeps for “soft” and double beeps for “hard” timing. This is something I’ve always liked about these – indication of the state of the settings without having to just reprogram them (or hook ‘em up to a computer).

Jeti now also have a neat little external card for programming other settings and combinations of settings on the Advance Plus controllers. I’ll get to that a ways down in the column. The manual for the Advance Plus controllers is here.

Three programmable options – Castle Creations Thunderbirds

Castle Creations’ new budget line of controllers called the Thunderbirds (currently in 9A and 18A variants) adds the ability to reverse the motor to the brake on/off and battery Li/Ni choices of the E-flite controllers. Programming them is similar as well.

With these the brake is off and the battery selection is set to lithium by default. No connectors for either end of the power circuit are supplied, so some soldering is required to put a Thunderbird into the air.

The motor timing is automatic, the low voltage cutoff is soft, and the throttle endpoints are set every time you power up with these. I’ve a couple of hours of airtime on one of the 18A units driving a geared Castle CM-2054 motor in my Mountain Models SmoothE and it has performed without any fuss so far.

One other feature of note: If the motor system is powered up and at low throttle for at least 30 seconds you’ll get a “reminder beep” just to let you know things are still “live”. This repeats about every 30 seconds as long as the throttle is off and power is supplied.

The Thunderbirds can also be programmed via the Castle-Link computer interface hardware and software. More on those items when I get to programming by computer interfaces further on.

Stick Programming Variations - Second approach: Streamlining the Throttle Stick Programming Interface

Cool Running

Cool Running USA is a relatively new entrant into the speed control game. They currently have a line of three airplane and two dedicated helicopter controllers. One of their goals is to make programming by the transmitter stick both faster and easier than it has been before with a rather unique approach.

First of all, to get into programming mode, rather than going through some sequence of stick moves, you simply switch the unit on, off, and then on again very quickly. At this point you get an audible “program mode” signal. Once in programming mode, instead of going through the choices one at a time with a confirmation step each time, they’ve created a way to basically program all options essentially at once. An option is set each time you move the stick away from the center. Each of the four options (battery type, cutoff type, brake and timing) has two choices. One end of the stick’s travel is one choice, the other end is the other. Each time the stick moves, it goes on to the next option – and you only have to move the stick to (or through) the center position to make a selection. For example, with the stick in the center upon entering programming mode you’d go to low, which would select Lithium, then to full, which would select hard cutoff, then to center and back to full which would select brake on, then to low, which would select soft timing. Four choices made in five moves of the stick.

The final option, the low voltage cutoff value for lithiums, is programmed by the stick position and tones in such a way that you set the desired choice – seven values ranging from 2.4V to 3.0V per cell - by the stick position from low to high. As you pass each step, it beeps and counting them tells you where you are. Once done, switch off.

By the way, factory defaults are:

  • lithium battery,
  • soft cutoff,
  • brake off,
  • “nominal” timing (the lower advance choice),
  • cutoff at 2.6V per cell for lithium.

This is more complex to explain than to do, but it IS disorienting if you’re used to stepping through to an option, making a selection, waiting for confirmation tones/blinks, then going on to the next one. The manual for their airplane controllers is here. The helicopter controllers have a couple fewer options but there’s a clever way to match your transmitter’s endpoints to the ESC’s fixed range in the heli programming sequence.

Oh, since I’ve been mentioning connectors supplied or not – Cool Running does not supply any power system connectors with their ESCs, so you don’t buy ones you don’t need, but you do have to install your preferences. I had more to say about these in a sidebar to my Sig Kadet EP-42 review.

Align

Align Corporation, a Taiwanese electrical appliance company, has also entered the RC market with motors and speed controls and more recently the T-Rex electric helicopter. Among their products is a line of four brushless motor controllers (10-35A).

Their approach to programming options is to have three choices per option, selected by stick low, centered or high positions. The four programmable options are the stick endpoints, brake (off, soft, hard), timing (low, mid, or high) and battery low-voltage cutoff values of 70%, 65% or 60% of the initial battery voltage.

The default values are:

  • brake off,
  • mid-range timing
  • LVC at 65% of initial voltage (this value is then very close to the ElectriFly Silvers’ fixed value).

The actual cutoff is of the soft type and, like Jetis, is so soft that you can’t really tell it’s engaging. Supplied with the unit but not installed are both the male and the female sides of the motor to controller connectors (yet another different size of gold bullets) but nothing for the battery side.

The actual selection process is sort of between the Jeti and Cool Running approaches. The unit is set to programming mode by simply powering up with the throttle stick high. After a short period you’ll get the confirmation tones (rising, then falling, then rising and falling again tones). This also sets and stores the high-throttle endpoint. Next, pull the stick low. Again you get the confirmation tones and the “off” point is now set. Then you will get a series of five single beeps and during that time should set the stick to low, middle or high to select the desired brake setting. You get a confirmation tone and then a set of five double beeps, during which you should select the timing value. Finally, triple beeps denote the LVC selection period. Once this is done you can pull the stick to low and the unit is armed and ready to fly. As near as I can tell from some informal testing, you have to go through the entire sequence and reset them all every time you want to change any one of them.

The Align controller signals the state of the brake, timing and LVC if you wait long enough after the arming signal. You’ll get beeps corresponding to the option choices in order.

I note on their web site that they have added a fifth option – a choice of airplane or two governor modes for helis (not surprising, given all that activity surrounding their T-Rex helicopter) to these units now. That version of their instructions is here.

One other little unusual feature of these is the “plane finder”. If the signal is lost (say transmitter switched off) for more than 30 seconds, a beep about every 3-4 seconds is sounded, which could very well help you find a plane lost in tall vegetation.

Stick Programming Variations - Third approach: Everything But The Kitchen Sink – But Keep Those Instructions Handy!!

But what if you want to set things that the above controllers don’t allow you to alter – such as a choice of switching frequencies, or some nuances with the brake other than just on or off (a delay, or a lesser level of braking)? What about current limiting or helicopter governor mode settings? Well, there are controllers out there that have over half a dozen different options that can be selected, and often with more than three choices, so that using the transmitter stick position as a selection indicator (like Align does, for example).

Castle Creations Phoenixes

The most widely known example of this, at least in North America, is the Castle Creations Phoenix line. These currently have seven to eight different options you can set, with up to five choices each.

The options are:

  • low voltage cutoff value (or automatic lithium mode),
  • sensitivity of current limiting,
  • brake type (four different ways for it to be on as well as “disabled”),
  • fixed or auto-calibrating throttle or one of two governor modes,
  • three timing choices,
  • hard or soft cutoff,
  • three startup options,
  • (in the larger models) switching frequency.

Because of this myriad of choices, I find it is required to have the instruction sheet at hand whenever I want to change one of these options. Between the sequence used to get into program mode (which does pretty much guarantee you won’t do it accidentally) and then having to step through all the choices for each one of the options to get to the one I want to change, I just have to have the information in front of me. It can be done, but one has to be patient and careful, and if you miss the one you wanted to change or do it incorrectly, you just have to start over. There is no way to just go to the one you want to change.

Feedback is via motor beeps and flashes of the LED on the Phoenix telling you what option and choice you’re looking at (each has its own pattern of flashes/beeps) as well as whether or not the choice has been captured and you can move on.

There is also no way to know what the current state of the options are (other than if in auto-lithium LVC mode, you get the cell-count signal between the two portions of the usual Phoenix startup “song”). So, you just have to go reprogram them all if you’ve forgotten how they’re set and you might want to change them.

This, of course, is why there is the Castle-Link hardware and software – to allow this to be done much more simply and to allow you to go directly to the option you want to change - via your Windows-based computer (presuming you have one). More on that a little further on.

I will say that as complex seeming as the Phoenix stick-programming process is, it does work and does allow the great flexibility the Phoenix software brings to brushless controllers. By the way, all the various manuals for the Phoenix controllers (as well as the rest of their products) are on this page.

Hyperion Titans

Another relative newcomer to electric powered radio controlled model equipment is a company in Taiwan called Hyperion HK. Their Titan ESCs also have eight programmable options with between two and four choices for each one. Their approach is a little different from Castle Creations’ in that there is a distinctive sound pattern for each of the individual choices. The tonal pattern for each choice is sounded five times and you pull the throttle to low somewhere during tone pattern that corresponds to the option you want to set. To get to the one you want to set, you wait for it to come up in the pattern (brake, battery type, cutoff type, soft start, timing, frequency, rotation direction and governor mode choices, in that order). You can only set one option each time you enter into program mode (which is done just by setting the throttle high on power up and waiting for 5 seconds) and only that option is changed in that power cycle. In order to set more than one you have to power off, wait a few seconds, and then start over to set the next one.

While in some ways this is easier to do than the Phoenix method, you still need the instructions at hand to decode the sound patterns and it still means you have to wait as the controller cycles through every possible choice to get to the one you want to set. Then, if you have another one, you have to do it again. As with the Phoenixes, there is no way to query the controller to get its current settings. The manual for these controllers is here.

(NOTE: The visually very similar Hacker X-series of controllers, according to instructions available on line here, program exactly the same as the Hyperion Titans, so the same comments apply to them. They do not, however, have the external interface connector.)

Not surprisingly then, the Hyperion Titans also have a computer interface for programming. They also have something better and much more portable – programming via connection with the Hyperion Emeter multi-function test meter and tachometer. More about this further on.

Kontronik

The German Kontronik company has had lots of options in their controller software for quite a few years now. Their approach is simpler to use, but more limiting. What they have done is create sets of various combinations of options and call them “modes”. Each is intended for a different application: glider, “motor plane”, car, helicopter, etc. Selection of a given mode is quite quick with the use of a little jumper to put the controller in program mode and one throttle stick selection (pull the throttle low when the number of beeps corresponding to the desired mode number comes around). As long as the predefined combinations of brake, cutoff type, over-temperature/over-current protection, throttle endpoints and so forth suit your needs, this works well.

Onboard Hardware: schulze's bank of DIP Switches

Another German firm, Schulze, used to have a fairly complex stick-programming interface for programming the options in their Future series of controllers. A couple of years ago they abandoned that for a much more direct approach. There is a small bank of DIP switches (or on the smallest ones, some solder jumpers) right on the controller for selecting options and families of options. The first is “air” or “land”, the second for air is “wing” or “heli” and the options beyond that depend on the first two choices. They’ve retained the stick programming for the throttle endpoints (set every time you power up).

For more information on these, the manuals for all schulze equipment can be found under the "downloads" pick from the menu on the left at their site.

External Programming Devices

All of the discussion to this point has been about programming the ESC via the transmitter stick (or a servo driver such as the Astro Flight unit), using the stuff that would otherwise be part of the power system in your plane anyway, or things that are part of the controller itself. Now we’ll take a look at three very different approaches to using some kind of external device to program the controller. They provide ways to both provide more options than can be done via the stick-programming methods and ways to do it much faster and more easily than can be done with a transmitter stick.

External jumper bank

The least expensive to buy ($8) and by far the quickest to use of all the external programming methods is the little device called the “Prog-Card” from Jeti, for use with their Advance Plus series of controllers. This little gadget has six sets of jumper plug-selected options, each with two choices: battery type, brake on/off, hard or soft cutoff, low or high timing advance, two voltage cutoff value choices (3.0 or 2.7V per cell for lithiums) and a choice of linear or reverse exponential (or logarithmic) throttle curves. The first four of these are available in a couple combinations via the stick-programming method as mentioned above. These last two options are only available via the Prog-Card.

Using it is very fast and easy. You simply put the six jumpers in the appropriate positions to select the options you want the controller to have, then plug the receiver lead from the controller into the card where indicated. Apply power either by connecting a drive battery to a BEC-equipped Advance Plus or by connecting a receiver battery to the Prog-Card where indicated. The controller will beep the motor once. Turn off, disconnect the Prog-Card and plug the throttle back into the airplane’s receiver. You’re done. It can be done in less time than it takes to describe how.

I like this method very much. It is in some ways a compromise because it is limited to only those six options and only two choices for each one, but for the sorts of flying I do, that’s just fine. The Prog-Card works with the entire line of Advance Plus controllers from the 4A unit up to the 90A. Instructions for the Prog-Card are on Jeti’s site here.

Connect Your Controller to Your Computer - Interface Hardware and Software

Castle Creations Castle Link/Phoenix Link

When there are lots of options with lots of choices, the idea of interfacing the controller’s software with that of a personal computer is a natural one. The pioneers in this approach, so far as I know (for products readily available in the US, anyway) are the folks at Castle Creations. In late 2003 they released a small hardware device that served as a Universal Serial Bus (USB) interface between the Phoenix series of controllers and a Windows-based PC. Along with the hardware interface is a USB cable and software that you download from the Castle Creations web site. Brian Chan reviewed this package on the Ezone in late 2004.

Not only does this hardware/software package let you set the various options you could otherwise set with the throttle stick interface, it also added the ability to explicitly set a custom low-voltage-cutoff value. It also lets you connect a controller and read out what the current settings are so you can know whether or not you want to change them.

And, unique to the Castle products, you can also update the actual onboard firmware on the ESC, so as new capabilities or options are available in production controllers from CC (such as the new choice of how long before the brake engages with a delayed brake over a range of 0.1 to 1.0 seconds). With this you can install this later firmware on your controllers rather than sending them back to Kansas for an update.

I have had the Phoenix-Link hardware/software package pretty much since it came out but found that it was very fussy about working properly on the family’s Windows 98SE computer. Basically I had to connect the hardware up and make sure I had a good indicated connection, start the Phoenix-Link software, make my changes, save them, close the program, then disconnect the hardware. If I did things in any other order I’d lock at least the program up. My favorite computer to use is the Apple 12 inch G4 Powerbook I’m writing on right now, but of course, Phoenix-Link doesn’t run on Mac OS X.

Since Brian did his review, Castle Creations has replaced the software, also called “Phoenix Link” with a smoother-functioning version called “Castle Link”. They’ve also renamed the hardware portion to “Castle Link” as well. The newer software also interfaces with the Thunderbird line of controllers (and gives access to a braking option that is not available via stick-programming) as well as CC brushless controllers for surface models. The Castle Link software package requires the installation of the Microsoft “.NET Framework” (about 24 MB) on your system so it takes awhile if you have to download the whole works.

I recently got a cheap Windows XP Home-based PC on sale at Fry’s to set up in my hobby room for use with things like the Medusa Power Analyzer Pro and the Emeter’s data logging software. I installed Castle Link on that machine (I did have to download .NET) and there it works quickly and smoothly, just as it should.

I also managed to install Castle Link (and .NET) on a Virtual PC (version 7) running Windows XP Pro on this Powerbook. It took a loonnnnnnggggg time to get it installed, but now that it is there it does seem to run OK, albeit more slowly than on the hobby room PC. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to get Castle Link to run on the Windows 98SE box at all.

Castle Link operates pretty much as the older Phoenix Link software did (as described in Brian’s review) with the settings divided amongst three different screens in addition to the new info screen. The latest version gives you a choice of firmware versions suitable for the particular hardware connected which makes it easy to go back if you find a newer one doesn’t happen to get along with your particular motor/battery/prop/gearbox combination. It also has the ability to save a settings file so you can transfer the exact setup to more than one ESC easily. I haven’t played with that yet.

Here are some screen captures from my Powerbook running CastleLink in Virtual PC.

Hyperion Titan ESC PC Interface Software

Hyperion also has made available a Windows PC-based programming interface for the Titan controllers that is similar in basic concept to Castle Link. Like the Castle Link it allows you to read out a controller's current settings and change any or all of them as desired. But, so far as I know anyway, there is no capability to update the firmware on board the controller.

It differs from Castle Link in a couple of other ways as well. First of all, there is no separate hardware device to act as an interface between the computer and the controller itself. Instead you connect a special serial interface cable directly to a dedicated 4-pin connector on the controller. This implies, at least, that you could reprogam the controller while it’s installed in the airplane without disconnecting it from the receiver. This 4-pin connector, by the way, is also used for the Emeter interconnect (see below). Also, this is a serial, rather than USB interface. As such I haven’t been able to get it to work on my Powerbook, which has no regular serial ports. But it may be that the cheap serial-USB converter I bought just doesn’t work with Virtual PC.

Besides being serial rather than USB, you have to provide power to the Titan controller (connect a motor battery to it) for the interface to see it. This differs from the Phoenix/Thunderbird connection to Castle Link, where external power is only needed if you’ve disabled the BEC on the controller.

At any rate, on a PC (I’ve run it on both the Win98SE and XP boxes) the Titan interface software works quickly and easily. You do need to get the special serial interface cable ($18) to use this method. Some user info for this is here. That page also contains a link to an Acrobat-format manual.

Here are screen shots of the Titan interface software, one from each computer.

This same serial interface cable, by the way, is also used to connect the Emeter to your computer for data logging, or for updating the firmware of the Emeter. Which leads to:

External electronics other than computers -- Hyperion's E-Meter

The slickest way I’ve seen so far to handle programming more than two choices per option, with portability nearly as good as that with the Jeti Advance Plus Prog-Card, is the ability to connect the Hyperion Titan controllers and the Hyperion Emeter multi-function meter with a little $3 interface cable. The Emeter then acts as a programmer for the controller using its LCD screen and simple four-button interface.

When the two are connected together and you turn on the Emeter, right after the initial screen that gives you the Emeter’s software version, instead of going to Tacho mode (the usual intial screen on the Emeter) the message “Hyperion Titan ESC Programmer” appears briefly and then you go to the first of ten screens or pages. On each of these you can set one of the controller’s options using primarily button “B”, labeled on the display as “Cfg” to change a given option.

The options are:

  • brake (off, soft or hard)
  • battery type (2s or 3s Lipoly or NiCd/NiMh)
  • low voltage cutoff (LVC) value per cell for nickel
  • LVC value per cell for lithium
  • LVC type (hard, soft, called “reduce”, or none)
  • soft start on/off
  • timing (auto, soft or hard)
  • switching frequency (8 or 16 KHz)
  • software motor reverse (off/on)
  • “RPM Control” (off, range 1, range 2, or range 3).

Note that the choices of voltage-per-cell for low voltage cutoffs are not available via stick-programming.

On each page the current value is shown and you can cycle through the available choices by pushing the “Cfg” button. Then you press button “D” (labeled “Next”) to go on to the next page. Stepping through and setting them is easier than typing this up. When you’ve set all the options you wish to you just press button “A” (labeled “Esc” on the display) and the Emeter tells you to turn it off and unplug the ESC. Slick.

The Wrap Up

Whew!!! Thanks for making it this far. As you can see there are many many choices out there when it comes to brushless controller options, from very simple to very flexible, and lots of ways to go about making them do what you need them to do.

Next time I think I’ll take a closer look at the ElectriFly Silver and the E-flite brushless controllers, and perhaps also the updated ElectriFly controllers for brushed motors. I also have a separate review of the Hyperion Emeter in the works, which will likely appear before the next Controlling Interest. Have a good Holiday season!

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Nov 25, 2005, 03:31 PM
Spittin' Sparx forever...
DougB's Avatar
Nice work Bernard...I sure learned a lot about some of advantages I already have in my hands without even being aware of them. I'm going to let Richard at Pacific Models (www.rcmodels.ca) know about the Jeti "Advance" programmers...Excellent. Wishing you and your family the best this Christmas season.

DougB
Nov 25, 2005, 05:34 PM
BEC
BEC
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Thanks, Doug.....Have a good Christmas.

Those little cards for the Advance Plus controllers are a slick way to go, I agree.
Nov 26, 2005, 09:05 PM
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What a great article. Keep up the good work.
Nov 28, 2005, 03:24 PM
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Nobert's Avatar
Bernard
Nice, concise article. Great job.
Neal
Jan 19, 2006, 06:14 PM
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Great article!!!! Lots of pics but unfortunately Ok I'll explain . I have a speed controller that I need identified. It does not seem to match the number on the bag that it came in and no one at my local hobby shop seems to know the brand .

This article was my last hope but I did not recognize any of them as the one that I have. Mine is a 10 amp and it has yellow red and black motor wires. There are no electrolytic caps soldered to it.

Another clue in case one of you can be of help. When the battery is plugged in the controller plays something like a trumpet charge. The problem is that occasionally it fails to arm itself.

Thanks

Poobs2 pmorera@ij.net
Jan 19, 2006, 06:32 PM
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Nobert's Avatar
Poobs,
Sounds like it might be a Tsunami from HET. Don't know who sells them in US.
Neal
Jan 19, 2006, 11:47 PM
BEC
BEC
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Got a picture?

I'm not familiar with any ESCs that play songs on arming....I had a charger once that played "When The Saints Go Marching In" when it was finished. It was amusing the first few times.....
Aug 30, 2006, 02:04 PM
BEC
BEC
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More recently I had some samples of ESCs that played a song when arming - they were OK, but the motors from the same maker weren't all that great, so the distributor who had me look at them declined to carry either line.

That doesn't really help solve your now old problem, though.


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