When my son began flying RC five years ago, I started him with an electric powered aircraft. Not that there's a right or wrong when it comes to glow vs. electric, but I wanted something simple for HIM to operate. I figured that starting and tuning a glow engine might be more than he could comprehend at 8 years old. Fast forward five years to the present, he's still flying electric - but his planes are getting much larger, swinging increasingly larger propellers.
While covering the Toledo Expo this year, I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing David McCormick, the owner of Dave's R/C Electronics. In addition to fabricating the electronic controller boards for Century Jet Models' Retracts, David also develops and distributes his own electronics to the modeling community. This year, David and I talked about his new SafeStart system.
SafeStart is an electronic safe guard that lets the modeler plug in his or her battery and have full control of the model, without having to worry about the throttle being advanced accidently. This makes it easy to make adjustments to control surfaces on an airplane or adjust steering on an R/C car or truck. But enough from me - let's have a look!
Adds an Extra Measure of Safety for Electric Aircraft
The SafeStart is a simple system, comprised of a small circuit board, two servo leads, and a lighted switch. The SafeStart is installed between the receiver and the electronic speed control (ESC). Though this system looks complicated with all the equipment in the middle picture, it's easy to install! I'll be installing the SafeStart in my SIG Kadet Senior Sport EG ARF.
Once installed, using the SafeStart is easy - the flight battery is connected to the ESC. Power is sent to the receiver (and the SafeStart). At this point, the SafeStart is sending a 'no throttle' signal to the ESC, and the lighted switch is glowing red - the throttle is disarmed. When the aircraft is ready to be flown, the lighted switch is pressed for three seconds, and the color of the switch changes from red to green. This means that the throttle is now armed, and the motor will run with throttle advancement.
My SIG Kadet had lots of openings from which I could mount the switch. I chose a large slot in the left side of the fuselage. I was thinking about simply cutting a hole in the covering and gluing the switch in place, but decided to recess the switch inside the fuselage. Not only did this make for a clean installation, but I didn't have to cut any holes in the beautiful translucent covering. After a quick measurement, I found some 1/4" square stock and glued a 1" piece to each side of the hole.
A second quick measurement told me that I had to add a little more wood, so a 1/4" by 1" piece of 1/64" aircraft plywood was added to the square stock - this put the switch just under the covering, but still easily pressed from the exterior of my Kadet. Make sure to leave enough space between the covering and the switch if you install it this way - the covering can vibrate enough to press the switch and disarm the ESC after take-off. The switch was simply glued to the aircraft plywood with a few drops of thick CA. With the switch mounted, I disconnected the ESC from the receiver and connected the SafeStart to the ESC and receiver. With that, I was ready to try it out!
The single page manual included with the SafeStart is great - I picked mine up at the Weak Signals' Toledo Expo, so they may have been in color for the show. The manual does a great job of explaining the product, how to install it, and how to operate the SafeStart. There's even a chart that explains the different colors that the switch will glow, and what the colors represent.
I think that the SafeStart is a great piece of safety equipment that should be on nearly every electric powered aircraft. For $35.00 you get a product that will prevent accidental motor starts - which could lead to a prop strike. And $35.00 is a lot cheaper than a trip to the Emergency Room for stitches!
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