Mixing optical kill and Telemetry might be bad news…

I consider myself to be a fairly knowledgeable guy when it comes to electrical systems in RC airplanes.  Batteries, chargers and basic servo mechanisms and the like don’t frighten me.  I can solder a good joint, extend servo wires, create a voltage drop harness with a diode… no problem.  I don’t pretend to fully understand spread spectrum radios, short of an RF engineer no one really does but I feel I’m at least a fairly educated user and understand it well enough to cover the basics and have a fairly intuitive grasp on how to safely deploy the new technologies.

But, sometimes I push the envelope and try to make full use of multiple “new” technologies and bad things can occur.  Hey, if you don’t push the limits a little bit you will never learn anything new.  Add the reluctance of manufacturers to fully explain and publish information on how their technology works and occasionally we enter that part of the world that should be labeled “Here there be Dragons”.

Recently, a friend who relies on me to help him deploy the newer technology had a bad result with his Giant Scale P40.  We had setup the Spektrum telemetry system in his bird to provide (amongst other things) RPM readings.  We had done this by using a Y harness from the hall sensor on his DLE ignition.  In this same bird we had put in place one of the many brands of remote kill switches that is marketed as an optically isolated system but had used power from the same battery that powers his receiver.  In testing all seemed OK but we started to have issues with this configuration where the optical kill did NOT cause the airplane to shut down.  Back to the drawing board it appeared it might be possible the ignition was drawing power through this kill.  We swapped the kill to insure it was not failing and had the same result so we then tried eliminating the ground wire on that connection.  This seemed to help and we went merrily on.  We then went on to replace the engine on this bird to give it a bit more pull.  Shortly thereafter the plane started to die during flight and during one of these flights the dead stick did not go well and the plane was destroyed. While it is certainly possible it was something more basic like a bad servo extension etc… it seems as if this RPM sensor connection had some play in the crash.  The engine quit like a switch was being shut off, not like it was starving for air or fuel.  Plus test stand runs after with a much simpler electrical system worked flawlessly!

Eliminating the Telemetry on the test stand afterwards seemed to eliminate the problem and I can’t help but think it has something to do with this combination of Telemetry and ignition kill that caused the issue.  In the future, I think I will avoid using both and will either deploy a second battery for ignition, eliminating the optical kill or at least feeding it off a separate source entirely, or we will not deploy the RPM sensor (at least not by connecting via the hall sensor).

Please note I am not blaming either Spektrum or the kill switch manufacturer for the issue.  Using the halls sensor connection is not an approved method to make this happen… though some folks have made this work.  I will continue to pursue a better way to get RPMs working along with the use of an IBEC which is now my preferred method of running my ignition.  I have the magnetic sensor deployed on my DA 50 powered mustang and it doesn’t cause any issues but can also give erroneous high readings on occasion in mid flight so the search goes on for a better mouse trap!  I’d love to take advantage of the RCEXCEL RPM tap off of the ignition.  If anyone has ideas about how to make use of that to feed the Spektrum Telemetry I’d love to hear about it.  If I make progress on this, I will post and let you know.

In the meantime I’d discourage any use of the ignition hall sensor connection as a way to monitor RPMs, at least when you are running a single on board battery system and maybe just avoiding it all together is better.



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