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Old 02-15-2011, 02:15 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Helicommand 3A: A Noobies First Impression

I just got my Helicommand 3A in the mail yesterday and I'm quite overwhelmed. I've been studying the user manual for a while (long before I even ordered it) and still don't quite have a grasp on it. I'm hoping it will become clear to me once I start playing with it, just like all the electronics on my 450 baffled me initially.

My first problem (question) is where to put the sensor module. I've looked at a lot of pics and it seems like most people put it on the frame toward the back of the left side. I think I would prefer to put it on the boom but it seems like the strut would always be in the way. Plus I would guess if everyone is putting it on the frame, that must be a good place for it. I will just have to move my ESC as it is currently occupying that position. Having suffered numerous boom strikes it really isn't that hard to convince me not to put a $400 device on the boom.

I'm also trying to wrap my head around how I can control the modes (PILOT channel) with my DX6i. I have seen there is a thread on how to do that which I will study when I get to that point. But I'm guessing it requires using the Helicommand's built-in gyro, which I wasn't going to do because I heard mixed reviews about it.

Finally, documentation on how to use the setup software seems sparse, that is, I haven't found it yet. I found a set up video on the internet but it doesn't talk about the software much. I thought there was supposed to be a video on the disk that came with it but I don't see one on there.

Most of all, I would hate to have invested all this money in a very expensive rebuild, then buying the Helicommand, and then auger the heli into the ground because I didn't set up the Helicommand right.

So, I guess if anyone has read this far, I would just ask a few quick questions:
Has anyone mounted the Helicommand sensor module on the 450 Sport boom, is it a good idea, and does the strut cause a problem in position mode?
Is my DX6i up to the task? How about if I want to use an external gyro?
Should I just relax and use the Helicommand's gyro and quit worrying about it?
Is it possible to set up the Helicommand using only the software, and not using the button/LED?

Last edited by Montana; 02-27-2011 at 09:27 PM.. Reason: Added another question
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Old 02-15-2011, 02:49 PM   #2 (permalink)
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So, I guess if anyone has read this far, I would just ask a few quick questions:
Has anyone mounted the Helicommand sensor module on the 450 Sport boom, is it a good idea, and does the strut cause a problem in position mode?


Yes you can just need to locate the module in the correct position

Is my DX6i up to the task?

I
t will work but as a bare minimum Do not expect miraclesHow about if I want to use an external gyro?
No Idea if a 6 could handle it...Minimum I use is 7 ch Rx

Should I just relax and use the Helicommand's gyro and quit worrying about it?
Is it possible to set up the Helicommand using only the software, and not using the button/LED?
It is better to set up with the software
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Old 02-17-2011, 09:50 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I got the Helicommand hooked up at least as far as the swash. Haven't dealt with the tail yet. Got it talking to the computer and used the software to set it up, except for centering the transmitter sticks which I did by pushing the button. After watching the Heliguy video I think I need to program the full throws of the sticks, too, using the button on the HC. My sticks all move the swash in the correct directions and the HC seems to be correcting in the correct direction when I move the heli around by hand. The position mode seems to be hit-or-miss which surprised me because I thought my workbench and rug would have plenty of contrast. Maybe there just isn't enough light. Not worried about that yet.

So far so good.

I don't know why the swash isn't level when it's just sitting on the bench. If I power it up on the bench and don't move it, seems like the swash should be level. Mechanically it's set up to the gnats behind, so I guess I'm going to have to trim the HC somehow. I don't have enough TX channels to do autotrim. This will be tonight's project, and if that goes well, I'll put the tail on it.

Am I right in thinking that the swash needs to be leveled?
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Old 02-17-2011, 03:22 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Montana View Post
I got the Helicommand hooked up at least as far as the swash. Haven't dealt with the tail yet. Got it talking to the computer and used the software to set it up, except for centering the transmitter sticks which I did by pushing the button. After watching the Heliguy video I think I need to program the full throws of the sticks, too, using the button on the HC. My sticks all move the swash in the correct directions and the HC seems to be correcting in the correct direction when I move the heli around by hand. The position mode seems to be hit-or-miss which surprised me because I thought my workbench and rug would have plenty of contrast. Maybe there just isn't enough light. Not worried about that yet.

So far so good.

I don't know why the swash isn't level when it's just sitting on the bench. If I power it up on the bench and don't move it, seems like the swash should be level. Mechanically it's set up to the gnats behind, so I guess I'm going to have to trim the HC somehow. I don't have enough TX channels to do autotrim. This will be tonight's project, and if that goes well, I'll put the tail on it.

Am I right in thinking that the swash needs to be leveled?
Yes you are right it is necessary to relevel the swash,centre and set your pitch range after fitting HC. Do not use your TX trims to do this. Do it mechanically and with the software. This is the prefered method but personally I never adjust it mechanically I do it all with the software. So if I remove HC the heli is still set up, the danger in doing it this way is that you may run out of software trim, unlikely but possible.
Whatever method you decide on HC needs to be switched off during this setup to do this disconnect the pilot wire and set the pilot channel default to 0 in the software. Dont forget to reset to 70 when you are finnished.
You can fit the moduel on the opposit side from your esc, just tell the software where it is.
Read the sticking at the top for flymentor it is basically the same.
You should leave the pilot wire disconnected and use the software gains for your test flights because if your TX is controlling the gain and you have it set incorrectly it may cause a crash.
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Old 02-17-2011, 08:34 PM   #5 (permalink)
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is the software of the heli similar to the FM3D? gosh it took me 3hrs to level my swash, they didn't puro subtrims in the software! all the neutral slider are mixes!
if someone very good at aligning the heli in stock wil have a headache aligning in the software
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Old 02-17-2011, 10:41 PM   #6 (permalink)
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... I never adjust it mechanically I do it all with the software. So if I remove HC the heli is still set up...
That was my thinking exactly, so if I'm having trouble with the HC I can just change the plugs, select a different model on my TX and fly anyway...

So tonight I got my swash all leveled using trims and collective offset in the software. I discovered I can change the gains to make the stabilization less aggressive which I thought would be a good idea for the test flights (?), got the PILOT channel hooked up so I can select OFF or HOR modes, put on my tail and set up the gyro. Had a little trouble with that. I discovered (and the instructions confirmed) that the tail has to be trimmed with the TX. Problem was with a click one way the tail would creep to the right and a click back and it would creep to the left. Got it to settle down by setting expo but that seems like a pretty crappy solution.

Tomorrow I'll put the head on and spin it up with the main blades.

Thank you to all who are giving me good advice!
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Old 02-18-2011, 03:47 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Montana View Post
That was my thinking exactly, so if I'm having trouble with the HC I can just change the plugs, select a different model on my TX and fly anyway...

So tonight I got my swash all leveled using trims and collective offset in the software. I discovered I can change the gains to make the stabilization less aggressive which I thought would be a good idea for the test flights (?), got the PILOT channel hooked up so I can select OFF or HOR modes, put on my tail and set up the gyro. Had a little trouble with that. I discovered (and the instructions confirmed) that the tail has to be trimmed with the TX. Problem was with a click one way the tail would creep to the right and a click back and it would creep to the left. Got it to settle down by setting expo but that seems like a pretty crappy solution.

Tomorrow I'll put the head on and spin it up with the main blades.

Thank you to all who are giving me good advice!
Yes it is nice to be able to control gain from the TX but because of the difficulties of setting it up on Spektum radios I alway's recommend setting up useing the software at first so you safely learn what HC does, some have crashed because the TX was not set up correctly.
As for the tail yes the tail will creep very slowly and one click of trim will send it the other way but it's so slow that you only realy notice it in a prolonged hover, in flight you dont notice it. Not sure how you know this if you have not flown yet.
If you mean that the servo will creep to one end in HH thats normal and will not be a problem in flight. It corrects on lift off.
The servo will centre in normal mode ans so the tail should be set up in normal mode with just a little gain set. You need to position ther servo on the boom so the tail will hold in a hover without useing stick or trim. Then switch to HH and set gain.
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Old 02-18-2011, 04:30 PM   #8 (permalink)
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The HC thinks it is getting a yaw command from the TX even with the stick centered. I can see this on the diagnose page. If I press the button on the HC to set the center the yaw command indicates centered for a split second, then goes back to showing a yaw command. The only way I could figure to center the yaw command was to adjust the trim on the TX. BTW my collective is the same way, which I "corrected" using the collective offset in the software.

Since I can't completely center the yaw command, the HC accumulates the error and causes the servo to creep.

Let me know if I am doing something wrong centering my sticks.
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Old 02-18-2011, 05:17 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
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The HC thinks it is getting a yaw command from the TX even with the stick centered. I can see this on the diagnose page. If I press the button on the HC to set the center the yaw command indicates centered for a split second, then goes back to showing a yaw command. The only way I could figure to center the yaw command was to adjust the trim on the TX. BTW my collective is the same way, which I "corrected" using the collective offset in the software.

Since I can't completely center the yaw command, the HC accumulates the error and causes the servo to creep.

Let me know if I am doing something wrong centering my sticks.
It is normal to have to use collective pitch offset to centre the swash after fitting HC.
The tail problem I have not heard of before. Provided the sticks were centre during the learning process I can only think it's a TX problem.
Have you tried centering yaw useing trim in the software instead of useing TX trim ?.
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Old 02-18-2011, 05:43 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I couldn't find a rudder trim in the software. The TX monitor screen (on the DX6i) indicates the rudder stick is centered. Looks like it is going to be a crummy cold and windy weekend here so I'll have a lot of bench time to play with it. Maybe I'll come up with a better way to describe what I'm seeing because I don't think I've communicated it very well.

Thanks again for your help!
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Old 02-18-2011, 06:08 PM   #11 (permalink)
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RC and trim page you can move the sliders and send to HC. You also move these sliders to level the swash
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Old 02-19-2011, 12:35 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Quote:
The tail problem I have not heard of before. Provided the sticks were centre during the learning process I can only think it's a TX problem.
I have that problem too. I am using Futaba 9CAP and HeliCommand drifts but very slowly. When I installed GP750, I saw that I missed a tail that trims itself on the power up, and remembers it with a deadband in the flight.. I think HeliCommand guys don't mention but they used accelerometers to find level and correct cyclic drift, but they are not good at gyroscopes and they couldn't managed drift compansation on tail but they said: we did it intentionaly..
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Old 02-19-2011, 12:37 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Being said that I like the unit. It gave me the opportunity to fly really high with confidence.. I hope I won't loose the bird..
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Old 02-19-2011, 12:52 AM   #14 (permalink)
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I think that's what's thrown me- my only experience is with the GP780 and it doesn't behave anything like the HC gyro. If I could find a servo tester that I would trust I would use it to set the GP780 gyro gain and quit using the HC gyro.

I'm starting to lose the warm fuzzy feel for the HC.
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Old 02-19-2011, 02:04 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I think that's what's thrown me- my only experience is with the GP780 and it doesn't behave anything like the HC gyro. If I could find a servo tester that I would trust I would use it to set the GP780 gyro gain and quit using the HC gyro.

I'm starting to lose the warm fuzzy feel for the HC.
Unfortunatley you need a Tx with 7 channels to control HC easily and 8 if you want to use auto trim which is a very nice feature. It is also easier to set up useing a Futaba TX.
The HC tail gyro is useable but is only as good as a cheap piezo gyro.
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Old 02-19-2011, 05:23 PM   #16 (permalink)
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The HC tail gyro is useable but is only as good as a cheap piezo gyro.
No matter how many times this is re-iterated with regard to HC & FM, for some reason it is never acknowledged
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Old 02-19-2011, 06:44 PM   #17 (permalink)
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I don't know why HC touts itself as being the top of the line FS and then offers such a crappy "gyro". It just cheapens the product IMO. However, today I caught a few seconds of air with my heli with the FS off and let's just say the gyro was the last thing on my mind. I was glad to get it down even though I dug the tail into the grass. It was quite touchy but nothing a little adjustment on the throws can't tame.

Attached are some pics of my installation
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Old 02-27-2011, 09:43 PM   #18 (permalink)
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This weekend it was above freezing and the sun was out, and that means flying weather here in Montana. After dialing in a gyro gain I translated that into the software and moved my aux to the PILOT channel and that meant HC was in control! I took off with the HC in OFF and then once in the air, with great trepidation, I flipped on HORIZ mode. It didn't flip, plummet or crash. So far so good. After a few careful maneuvers, I really started throwing the sticks over to see how it would react. It tended to right the bird without any overshoot or oscillation, although some of the corrections seemed kind of "hard". The bird tends to drift so it still needs to be "flown" which is nice. I know the drift can be trimmed out, and to a little extent I did that. I can't say for sure how many crashes it saved me this weekend because I was doing things I wouldn't have tried otherwise without it. I flew higher and further away than normal. There were definitely at least two situations I don't think I would have been able to bail out of if it weren't for the HC. The nicest thing about it is that it gives me the TIME to figure out the heli's orientation and be able to correct it before it's too late.

Although the gyro is, uh, not so great, in the air it is not really noticeable at least with the kind of flying the HC 3A allows. If I can get a better TX I'll definitely quit using the built in "gyro." The drift is obnoxious.

With my DX6i I have two of the HC's arms tied behind its back, and still it does what I hoped it would do: give me confidence to learn new things. Is it worth $400? I bet it will save me that much in parts, but it still seems steep.

Anyway, that's IMHO.

Peace,
Montana
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Old 02-28-2011, 11:52 AM   #19 (permalink)
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If you set the tail up in normal mode so that it holds in a hover withouy stick or trim input and then switch to HH the drift will be so slow that you will only notice it in a long hover.
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Old 02-28-2011, 06:30 PM   #20 (permalink)
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I was out flying again today even though it was very breezy. The tail didn't give me any trouble but I have yet to see how well the system can hold on a calm day.

But it suddenly occurred to me, I've been looking for a way to simulate a signal to my GP780 so I can use it and still have a PILOT channel, but since I've been flying with the HC in horiz mode all the time, maybe I should just set and forget the HC mode. Even the gain, which I just set arbitrarily seems just about right. But if I ever get that calm day maybe I'll play with the gain a little. It seems like the POS mode is just a little more than a gimic. Why would you want to hover in a fixed spot over the ground, except just to say you can?
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