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Nov 26, 2006, 10:24 AM
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Getting started in Radio control #6

Radio, receiver, servos minimum requirement

In the last few years new technology has changed. We used to have to watch and check frequencies but the new radios don't interfere with each other. I got the new Spektrum DX6i that is one of the new 2.4 gig radios and I think it is the best radio I have ever owned. I also think that it is an outstanding deal for a radio with this many features.

The Spektrum radios do not have an assigned frequency but code themselves with the receiver when you turn them on. So far in the group they have operated well even with 50+ flyers in combat at the same time. The Spektrum comes with both large and small recievers that have been some of the most reliable I have used.

Be careful with some of the older radios. I know there are older radios out there you want to dig out and fly with. Many of these older radios get interference form the electric motors. I learned this on the hard way with my "gold sticker certified" Futaba AM Attack 4 radios. If you are trying an older radio cutting the throttle will usually stop the interference problem if it is from the electric motor and speed control. It is advised you stay with FM newer model radios or the new Spektrum line of radios.

Futaba and JR radios are also common. Make sure receivers, servos, batteries are readily available in your local hobby shop for what ever brand you buy. You need to plan so that all of your accessories are compatible with the next radio you want to buy. Choose carefully.

Please make sure you don't interfere with frequencies that are already in use in your area. Consider which frequency you buy. We have a frequency list posted on our RCGroups club site. Before you buy check the frequency list. Spektrum radios do not have an assigned frequency so if you buy this type of radio you don't have to worry about the frequency.

Radio needs to have:

1. elevon mixing,
2. servo reversing,
3. dual conversion receiver or a Berg or Spektrum receiver.
4. mini servos (micro servos don't have enough torque)
5. base loaded micro antennas for receivers recommended Spektrum radio already has micro antenna.
6. trainer cord option requires you to have 2 radios of the same brand
7. transmitter charger


See what good fliers in your area are flying and copy what they are using.

I always use a "Prop Saver" that allows you to hold the prop on with an "O" ring or a small piece of surgical tubing. Electric props are weak and break easily. The "O ring gives a little flex and reduces the prop damage. It also makes changing the propeller easier and faster. It has saved me money to go to the prop saver and also to use the stronger APC props.

Motor technology has changed as much as battery technology. There is always something new to try. The days of the gear box is past because of the development of the 3 phase motor and the outrunner configuration that will turn a bigger prop with equal power. It is also more durable with fewer wear points.

Diagnosing a power problem

One of the skills that has to be learned is how to quickly diagnose an electrical problem in the field. Look for problems after a wreck. Don't be too anxious to get back in the air without checking out your plane. If something isn't working right on the ground don't take off. It can cost you a plane and all your electronics.

Do a "range check" on the ground. Turn the transmitter and receiver on and walk away from the plane while moving the sticks of the transmitter. See how far from the plane you can get before the radio stops working. On the standard radios we do this with the antenna down and get about 50 foot range. The Spektrum transmitter does not have an extendable antenna so you have a range check mode you have to use. If there are glitches in the surfaces and motor revs and you are within 30 feet you have problems.

Look for broken wires especially in plugs and motor wire connections. I have broken several wires off of the motor and they are hard to repair. Check your receiver antenna for breaks. The insulation on the wire may be intact but can hide a break. A receiver that won't work could have broken the crystal and servos are known to strip gears. All are available at the local hobby shop or on line.

Throttle problems can be a bad motor not ESC. A bad motor can burn out an ESC. A weak battery can also cause the ESC to do strange things like cutting out as you feed in throttle. Start with a freshly charged battery. Batteries are the weakest link. Often the quickest way to diagnose more complex problems is to start trading parts out.

I have a three wire extension cord so I can run a motor on one plane off of the battery receiver and ESC that is still in another plane. I don't even hesitate to trade the ESC and battery to see if the problem continues. The antenna is usually secured so I usually end up leaving the receiver in the plane and testing it in place. As you get to know your equipment diagnosing problems is easier.

How to solder wires and plugs

Soldering is simple but it takes a little practice. I've seen some pretty scary solder connections. Always use heat shrink tubing. It may save your plane some day.

Cut wires to be soldered to the plug the same length. If this is on a battery don't short out the battery by cutting them both at once but cut the wires one at a time.

Twist the wire strands together and make a good end for soldering. Make sure all wire strands are the same length.

Strip just enough of the insulation off the wire to expose the wire the length of the tab to be soldered to.

I clean the tip of the soldering iron and remove the build up from previous use with fine sandpaper or a little emery cloth. It is easier if the iron is hot.

Always use electrical flux and get the right amount of solder on each part to be soldered before soldering them together. Flux is the magic ingredient. Flux is like a wax that melts and vaporizes as you solder. It sucks the solder into the wire and makes the solder want to stick to the plug tabs. Flux makes the solder flow. Flux both the wire and the plug tabs to be soldered. I use more flux than most but I am confident with the joints I solder.

This is the point you decide how much solder you want in the connection. It doesn't take very much solder. More is not better especially on a circuit board.

Don't hold the soldering iron. Put the soldering iron in a vice and bring the work to the iron. Most of our parts are so small it's easier to do it this way. It's like having three hands. I also do better if I am sitting down and resting my elbows on the table. It makes my hands steady.

On small plugs I will plug the plug to another plug to act as a heat sink to keep the plastic parts from melting.

Put your heat shrink tubing on the wire If you forget you have to unsolder and re-solder the connection which can make an ugly connection.

My favorite soldering iron is a 30W pistol styled soldering iron sold at Radio Shack. Bring the wire and plug to the iron instead of the iron to the wire. I usually place the wire on the tip of the iron and wait for the solder to liquefy and then touch the plug to it and lift both off as soon as the solder flows together.

Look for any stray solder or wires that might be connecting the tabs being soldered to. Stray solder can short the plug. If there is any question of the integrity of the solder joint I will do it over at this time.

Slide the heat shrink over the connection and shrink it with a lighter. If you are soldering a plug on a battery, solder and heat shrink the first connection before starting the second to prevent accidental shorting.

Most people use too much solder and most people don't use flux.
Last edited by Lee; Mar 23, 2010 at 01:43 AM.
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