Seaplane ESC on fire
Last weekend I was testing a seaplane (Powerline Neptune) when the the ESC died and eventually caught on fire!
Motor (outrunner) and ESC were both MT brand, which Powerline carried briefly (I see the motors are now available through United Hobbies). Don't have the exact model # for the motor, but it is rated for 32A continuous, 37A for 60 sec, supposed to be an AXI 2826 clone. The ESC was the 60A model. I had it propped for 30A max, on 5S 4000 Lipos. It was the first decent flight of the setup. Before that, I'd had 2 very short (<30 sec) flights and an unsuccessful take off due to control problems, so the system had been run a few times, but probably never for more than a minute or so. Everything electric or electronic had been dunked in Aeroplate (similar to CorrosionX).
Took off, was just starting to get comfortable with the controls, seemed like less than a minute, when I suddenly had no throttle. Not only that, but almost as soon as I realized I was dead stick, I noticed I had a nice smoke trail. Landed as quick as I could, by the time I got the rescue boat headed toward the model, there were flames coming out of the motor pod. Not a roaring blaze, more like a tiki torch. When I got to the plane, I dunked the pod to put out the flames, fearing that I might do something bad to the electrics but not wanting to just let it burn. Batteries appear fine, not puffed, took a full charge no problem. One odd note, the prop nut was gone, even though the prop was still on the shaft.
Finally took the pod apart this evening. ESC and part of plastic pod burnt, motor appears fine, although haven't tried to run it, don't have a spare ESC with the right connectors. Many of the components of the ESC actually look fine, the 2 big cylindrical capacitors are a bit scorched on the outside but look intact and certainly not exploded. There apear to have been 2 or 3 separate circuit boards, and for all the flames, only part of one board is actually charred, but the components mostly melted off the others.
- Could losing a prop nut and letting the motor run propless at full throttle have cause the ESC to burn out?
- I know extending battery-to-ESC is not a good idea, but I had to extend the wires about 8 or 9 in. so I could have the ESC in the pod and the batteries in the hull. If I kept the ESC-battery wires short, the ESC would have had to be in the hull with no cooling. Could that have caused the burnup? I thought it caused battery problems, and I see no sign of that. I guess I could mount an ESC on the outside of the pylon supporting the motor, but then I'd have to put a new hole in the hull to run the wires in to the batteries, and I am a bit leery if getting it really soaked, even with Aeroplate. (Seems very unlikely that water could have gotten into somewhere in the ESC that Aeroplate didn't; I submerged the ESC in Aeroplate, and it was in a pod well protected from all water but a bit of spray that might have gotten past the motor and through the cooling holes in the firewall.)
- Any other ideas? I have seen 2 people smoke ESCs in hydrofoamies because they didn't CorosionX the ESCs, but those blew as soon as they got wet. This has been flown off water 2 other times, including one that probably caused a dunking. It looked like it was going to fly well, I am bummed that after solving the control problems, I now have a nasty power gremlin.
- - Dave
Busy with work & family stuff, haven't checked the mtor. Heard from a friend over the weekend that he had a 40A controller of same brand do the same thing for no apparent reason other than a possible prop strike on a bounced landing. His had about 8 or 9 flights on it. Assuming the motor works, we are inclined to think the controllers are bad (or overly fragile).
- - Dave
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