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Welcome to Simply-RC!

Where RC is Made Simple

 

 

 

 

....They say the higher you go, the harder you fall ; not if you first learned how to land gently....

 

 

 

 

 

 





 

RADIO CONTROL

The R/C pilot controls the model by a radio link, which means by using electromagnetic radiation.  Basically the R/C equipment consists of a Transmitter operated by the pilot and the airborne units consisting in a Receiver together with one or more Servos depending on the number of channels used and a Battery pack.
 

The picture shows a nine channels RC Transmitter, Receiver, Servos and Battery pack.

 


A typical RC Transmitter has about 4 to 9 channels with at least 4 of them being proportional, which means the controlled surfaces or devices will move proportionally to the movements of the control sticks.  Additional channels may function only in "on-off" manner like a switch, and are usually used to actuate retractable landing gears, airbrakes, lamps, etc.



 

The example above shows a five channel RC Transmitter with two joysticks (left/right and up/down movement) enabling four proportional channels, while the fifth channel is of switch type (on/off).  The example shows the mode two configuration having the elevator control on the right joystick and the motor throttle on the left one.  The right joystick self centres in the both axis, whereas the left joystick only self centres in left/right axis and "clicks" in the up/down axis in order to allow the throttle setting.
 

The mode one configuration has the elevator control on the left joystick and the throttle on the right one.

Most modern RC Transmitters have "dual-rate" facility, which means the pilot may change the max throw angle of the control surfaces during the flight, e.g. the max throw may be reduced when flying fast and increased when flying slow.  The possibility to choose exponential movement may be featured in some types.  Many Transmitters have a servo-reversing feature, which facilitates the servo linkage assembly.  Other feature such as channel mixing enables V-tail configuration and flaperons.


Some Transmitters include a microprocessor and memory, enabling the user to save different model configurations and settings.

Another facility is the so-called buddy box, which allows two compatible transmitters being connected by a cable.  This is used for training purposes where a transmitter is held by the instructor and the other by the student.  The student may control the model as long as the instructor holds down a push-button on his/her own transmitter.  Should the student get in trouble, the instructor releases the push-button, and quickly takes over the control.

The RC Transmitter sends data to the RC Receiver by generating a modulated radio frequency carrier, while the Receiver is tuned to detect the Transmitter's carrier frequency.  The accuracy of sending and receiving frequencies are usually achieved by the use of crystals.  The Receiver detects data from the modulated carrier, decodes and deliveries it to the respective Servo.

There are several Frequency Bands allocated for Radio Control depending on the country.  Each Frequency Band is divided in several Channels.  In USA the Frequency Band for Model Aircraft is 72MHz, Channels 11 to 60 with
20KHz separation.  And for surface models (Cars, Boats, Robots etc) is 75MHz, Channels 61 to 90.  In most European countries the Frequency Band for Model Aircraft is 35MHz, Channels 55 to 90.  And for surface models is 40MHz (from 40.665 to 40.995).  Some Asia countries use the 29MHz band.
 

Channel Numbers on 35 MHz Band

Channel

Frequency

Channel

Frequency

Channel

Frequency

55

34.950

67

35.070

79

35.190

56

34.960

68

35.080

80

35.200

57

34.970

69

35.090

81

35.210

58

34.980

70

35.100

82

35.220

59

34.990

71

35.110

83

35.230

60

35.000

72

35.120

84

35.240

61

35.010

73

35.130

85

35.250

62

35.020

74

35.140

86

35.260

63

35.030

75

35.150

87

35.270

64

35.040

76

35.160

88

35.280

65

35.050

77

35.170

89

35.290

66

35.060

78

35.180

90

35.300

 

Channel Numbers on 29 MHz Band

Channel

Frequency

1

29.725

2

29.750

3

29.775

4

29.800

5

29.825

6

29.850

7

29.875

8

29.900

9

29.925

10

29.950

11

29.975

12

30.000

 

Channel Numbers on 72 MHz Band

Channel

Frequency

Channel

Frequency

Channel

Frequency

Channel

Frequency

11

72.010

24

72.270

37

72.530

50

72.790

12

72.030

25

72.290

38

72.550

51

72.810

13

72.050

26

72.310

39

72.570

52

72.830

14

72.070

27

72.330

40

72.590

53

72.850

15

72.090

28

72.350

41

72.610

54

72.870

16

72.110

29

72.370

42

72.630

55

72.890

17

72.130

30

72.390

43

72.650

56

72.910

18

72.150

31

72.410

44

72.670

57

72.930

19

72.170

32

72.430

45

72.690

58

72.950

20

72.190

33

72.450

46

72.710

59

72.970

21

72.210

34

72.470

47

72.730

60

72.990

22

72.230

35

72.490

48

72.750

   

23

72.250

36

72.510

49

72.770

   


It's possible to change the Frequency Channel by changing the transmitter and receiver crystals.  However, it is advisable to change only to a channel close to the original transmitter frequency, which was tuned by the manufacturer, otherwise significant reduction in range may occur.  This problem is eliminated if the transmitter has a changeable RF power module.  The drawback is that the RF modules are more expensive than the crystals.

 

Some manufacturers offer synthesised radios, which enable change of channels at the field without the need to remove modules or crystals. They are likely to be rather expensive though.
 

Most R/C systems today use frequency modulation (FM) as it better rejects interference than the earlier amplitude modulation (AM).
 

 
Frequency Modulation means that the Transmitter sends data by changing its carrier frequency with a deviation of for ex. +/- 1.5KHz from its nominal value.

The Transmitter RF power output combined with the Receiver sensitivity and selectivity are the main factors that influence the transmitting quality and the range limit of a particular outfit.

The Transmitter aerial is part of the final RF amplifier stage tuned circuit.  The aerial has a natural frequency resonance dependent upon its length.  Since at 35MHz the physical length corresponding to a wavelength is 8.6 meters, the designers choose alternatives of 1/2 or 1/4 wavelength aerials in order to be more practical for a hand held transmitter, despite the small reduction in radiation efficiency.


Aerial efficiency may be improved if the designer fits a loading coil to increase the effective length. The coil may either be located at base of the aerial inside the transmitter case or outside, part away along the aerial length.
The latter is more efficient but makes aerial replacement more difficult since re-tuning is needed.

There's a null in the radiation at the tip of a straight vertical rod aerial, so the pilot should avoid pointing the aerial tip towards the model when flying at a greater distance.

In order to achieve a good selectivity the Receiver design is often based on Superheterodyne principle. There are two types :


The Single Conversion and the Double Conversion.
The block diagram below shows a typical Single Conversion Superheterodyne Receiver.



The Receiver's RF stage is tuned to the transmitter's frequency and also may or not include a RF tuned amplifier.
A local crystal controlled oscillator operates at frequency usually 455kHz below the incoming RF signal.  The local oscillator's frequency is mixed with the incoming RF signal at the mixer stage and the difference of these two frequencies is amplified by several tuned Intermediate Frequency circuits IF.


In case of an AM receiver it is required an Automatic Gain Control (AGC) for the IF stage.  The data received is detected at detector stage and send to the decoder, which in turn delivers it to each Servo.

However, the Single Conversion Superheterodyne Receiver has some drawbacks that may cause problems in model control applications.


The mixer stage produces a 455kHz output from both the incoming RF signal and also from a signal 455kHz below the local oscillator frequency.  This signal is called the "image" and will cause interference if it enters the receiver.  There are also a number of other signal combinations that may cause the generation of 455kHz IF such as, Second, Third, Fourth etc. harmonics of the operating frequency and similar harmonics of the local oscillator plus and minus 455kHz may also cause problems.

Many of these drawbacks can be overcome by using a Double Conversion Superheterodyne Receiver. This concept uses two Intermediate Frequencies (IF) and two crystal controlled oscillators.


The first Intermediate Frequency is higher than 455kHz, typically 10.7MHz. Signals that could cause spurious responses are now beyond the passband of the RF stage.  A second mixer reduces the 10.7MHz to 455kHz to obtain a good selectivity.  Due to its complexity, increased costs and added weight, such a design is not widespread among the manufactured VHF equipment, but under some severe operating conditions it may give the only solution to reliable performance.

Receivers are available in different shapes, sizes and weights.
 

BlueBird 6CH Micro Receiver weight

<5g and has a range of >250m

This Mini Receiver weight

only 8g and has a range of >800m

 

PPM System

There are several data encoding/decoding systems on the market today.  The older one is PPM (Pulse Position Modulation).  That's just the way the data is encoded/decoded, since the RF carrier is often FM modulated on all systems.

The PPM encoding system consists of a data frame containing a synchronising pulse followed by a number of shorter pulses equal to the number of channels.  The frame duration is about 20mS, which means the data is being send at a frequency of about 50Hz.



 

The transmitter encoder circuit reads each control potentiometer's value and switch's position sequentially, converting each value to a pulse width.  The width of each pulse corresponds to the respective Servo position.  A control in neutral position gives a pulse of 1.5mS and in the end position may be either 1 or 2mS depending on which way the control has been moved.
 

PCM System

PCM stands for Pulse Code Modulation.  The position of joy-sticks, switches and pots, originally analogue voltages are digitised by an A/D converter to a 8 to 10 bits (256 to 1024 decimal) word.  For eight to ten servos means 80 -100 bits. With a further 16-32 bit checksum per frame, synchronisation sequences and failsafe values, and a bit number of 100 -160 becomes necessary for a complete frame.

A bit length of 0.3mS (JR/Graupner and Futaba/Robbe) will produce a 30-48mS frame time, considerably longer than about 20mS the PPM uses.  If even more secure bit lengths and 12 channels are used, this time is increased  to 55mS, e.g. Simprop (System 90), where only 6 channels are proportional and 6 are switched channels.

Actual PCM uses two systems to synchronise the transfer: an extra long starting pulse made up of so many "1" or "0" bits, that it can never be mistaken for data, or the so called half bit pulse, e.g. 2,5 bits, equally impossibly mistaken for data.  Usually this is followed by a synchronisation sequence, setting the receive-clock.  This is the clock that scans the middle of the bits upon reception.  This explains why, at the limits of the transmission range with PPM the servos start to glitch, as noise causes the pulse flanks to vary (up to+/-30 us), while PCM keeps them quiet, having half a bit (150 us) to play with.

The checksum in the shape of a 16 bit long CRC (Cyclic Redundancy Check) provides an effective way to detect bit errors, but in no way corrects them.  This in turn means that, even if only one single bit error has crept in the ca. 100 -160 bits total frame length, the checksum fails and the whole message is rejected.  The servos remain in their last correctly received position until the arrival of new, correct data. If this takes too long (0.25-1 Sec), failsafe will take place, and depending on the predefined settings, a chosen (and defined in the transmitter) failsafe position or the last correctly received position will be activated.

To reduce the failure time, JR/Graupner (S-PCM) and Futaba/Robbe (PCM1024) subdivided the frame using separate CRC checks.  This allows rejecting only a part of the faulty frame.

PCM Advantages

  • Servo movements without glitch, even if the model is far way.

  • Holding of the servo position during short glitches (Hold).

  • Moving the servo to a predefined position in case of a longer disturbance or even complete failure of the transmitter (Fail-Safe).

  • Fast transmission if S-PCM20 or PCM 1024 is used, similar to PPM.

  • Servos are not damaged by pulses that are too long/short, which could happen with PPM.

PCM Disadvantages

  • More expensive.

  • Sensitivity to adjacent channels is usually worse comparing with PPM receivers.

  • Care has to be taken when flying near to a transmitter from an adjacent channel.

  • Due to different protocols, only receivers from the same brand or even type of the transmitter can be used.

  • Checking the transmission quality can be difficult, because the hold-mode smoothes out small glitches.

  • The lack of early warning signs often causes trouble.

  • Control problems that build up gradually, e.g. of a technical nature, get noticed only when the connection fails completely, which may lead to a crash.

PPM Advantages

  • The PPM system is cheaper.

  • There should be no problems using different brands of receivers with different transmitter manufacturers.

  • Transmission is fast enough to operate even the quickest of servos.

  • With PPM, the end of the transmission range is shown by the servos starting to glitch. When the pilot notices this, he/she can probably still get the model back home safely.

PPM Disadvantages

  • Due to its simplicity, PPM system cannot detect errors, the receiver does not see the difference between valid and invalid servo pulses. When the range boundaries are reached, pulses get slightly longer or shorter because of noise.

  • Servos glitches. This may happen when antenna orientation is not optimal, when the projection of the receiver antenna is nearly down to a single point, the signal breaks down and the servos get false pulses.  These short glitches go unnoticed most of the time because they are smoothed out by the servo's and the model's inertia (response time).

Improvements can still be expected in the PPM sector, like the IPD system by Multiplex, Scan-PLL by ACT or Scan2000 by Simprop.  Using a microprocessor in the receiver makes checking RC-pulses a possibility.  Failsafe and Hold, exclusive advantages of PCM so far, are now also possible with PPM.

 DSR System
 

DSR stands for Digital Signature Recognition and is used by FMA's FS5 and FS8 dual conversion FM receivers.  It's claimed to provide the ultimate protection against crashes when used along with FMA's Co-Pilot Flight Stabilization System.

 

The DSR receivers block the interference by memorising the actual transmitter's unique signal frame and rejecting all the others, even if they are in the same frequency!


For further safety the receivers' Pre-flight Interference Check detects and warns the pilot if there's another transmitter on the same frequency.

When turned-on these receivers analyse the data stream and automatically checks for :

- positive or negative shift
- valid number of pulses (and stores this)
- valid frame length
- valid pulse widths

If a frame is damaged, the system invokes three levels of error correction to attempt to restore the data. If the data fails to be restored for 50 consecutive frames, the failsafe mode is enabled which sets the servos to either the "last
good frame" or the pre-set positions depending on the pilot's choice.


The Co-Pilot will hold the wings and nose level enabling the model to fly in a stable and predictable flight path, giving the pilot time to find the problem and/or to warn the spectators.

These receivers also include extensive flight data reporting capabilities via PC while the most critical data can be read directly from the receiver.

The DSR receivers work with any standard FM - PPM transmitter.

The Co-Pilot monitors an aircraft's relationship to the earth's horizon by using four infrared temperature sensors.  In the infrared spectrum, the earth is warm below the horizon, while the sky is cold above the horizon.


During the flight, the Co-Pilot senses changes in the aircraft's attitude relative to the horizon and sends corrective signals to the aileron and elevator servos in order to keep the aircraft level.  If an extra channel is available, the pilot may turn the Co-Pilot on and off, and adjust its sensitivity from the ground.

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