Thursday, October 19, 2006
Prepare For A Revolution!
No no no, not some hokey assed political revolution. No Mel Gibson movies will be made about this one, but it's pretty damn exciting news for anyone involved with radio controlled airplanes.
Horizon Hobby has just announced the release of the Spektrum DX7 radio system! I know, no one gives a shit, but this is actually really big news.
Didn't I just mention in response to a comment on my last post that this would likely be introduced soon? Gee . . . I must be psychotic.
For a year or so now, those of us that stick mostly to small, electric powered park flyers and micro helicopters have been enjoying the benefits offered by the Spektrum DX6 Parkflyer system. I have one myself and absolutely love it. This is a fully programmable, 6 channel computer radio system that operates on the 2.4 GHz band like wireless internet does, but it's only approved for use with smaller planes since it lacks the range of the higher powered FM systems. With the introduction of the DX7 system however, the parkflyer restriction is a thing of the past, and I wouldn't be surprised if, in a few years, every other manufacturer of RC equipment has either gone out of business, or introduced similar technology. This is truly a revolution in the industry. Besides having the range to fly everything from foamies and micro helis to giant scale aerobats and 3 meter sailplanes, the new DX7 system also includes more advanced programming features than the DX6 as well as a seventh channel to play with.
What it means is that unlike with traditional 72 mhz FM systems which have been the norm for decades, RC flyers no longer have to worry about which frequency they're on, and more importantly, they don't have to worry about someone else turning on a transmitter on the frequency that they're already using and having their plane shot down by some idiot that's too lazy to ask around as to what channel everyone's using. The Spektrum systems automatically scan all 80 channels on the 2.4 GHz band when they're powered up, and then lock on to the 2 clearest channels. That way there's always a redundant dual RF link between the receiver in the plane, and the transmitter on the ground. The 2.4 GHz band is inherently less receptive to unwanted interference and RF noise than the 72 mhz band as well, which means that no longer will a metal pushrod rattling against a metal screw head be enough to send a plane out of control as it has been in the past. This also allows a lot more freedom for modelers as to where they route servo and motor wires since in the past one had to use caution to avoid picking up interference that way as well.
As if that isn't enough security, FCC regulations require anything operating on the 2.4 GHz band to incorporate "smart" technology. What this means is that each device, be it a wireless router for your computer, a cordless telephone, or a Spektrum RC system, is assigned a GUID (Globally Unique IDentifier) code so that devices will only recognize other devices that they're designed to operate with. With a Spektrum radio, the receiver in the plane has to be "bound" to the transmitter that it's going to be used with, and once the binding process (simple 5 second procedure) is completed, that receiver will only recognize that transmitter regardless of how many Spektrum systems or other 2.4 GHz devices are in the immediate vicinity. Since there's over 4.2 billion possible GUID codes, the chances of any two being on the same one are nill to none. I've been flying a Spektrum in all of my planes except the Sky Fly for several months now, and I'm happy to report not a single glitch, these things really work.
Another neat feature of the DX7 is that it will work with all existing Spektrum equipment. The DX7 system includes the new AR7000 dual receiver for use with larger aircraft, but it will also work with the smaller AR6000 micro receivers that I have in my planes, which is big news for those of us that wish to upgrade from our DX6 systems. Spektrum receivers aren't the cheapest ones on the market, but they do compare favorably in price with the higher end FM micro receivers. From what I've been able to find out so far, the price for the transmitter, one receiver, and four large "standard" servos, or a complete system in other words, is supposed to be around $350, which is comparable to similarly equipped FM systems currently available. The DX6 system is $200 with four micro servos and one receiver, so for an extra $150 you get a lot more programming options, a 20 model memory as opposed to 10 with the DX6, and more importantly, you get a lot more aircraft options as well as the aforementioned 7th channel.
The DX7 system also incorporates a feature called "Model Match" that will not allow you to attempt to fly a plane with the wrong model selected on the screen. That way you can't try to take off with your Piper Cub if your radio is still set to fly your Mugi Evo, which is a big plus if you're scatter brained. Luckily I haven't done that yet, but I'm told that pretty much everyone does it sooner or later.
This might just be the thing that will get me to dust off one of my old glow powered planes, or at least it will if I can get my hands on one. Unless Horizon already has a warehouse full of these things, I wouldn't look for them to be too easy to find at least for the next several months. With a little luck, the supply will catch up with the demand by the time flying season really kicks into gear next spring. John and Clay are at the hobby expo in Chicago where Horizon made the release announcement, maybe with a little luck they'll bring a few back with them.
7 channels. That's enough to not only fly the plane, but add flaps, retractable landing gear, and a bomb drop. No interference, 20 model memory, 1024 resolution, what's not to love? I wants me one!