by Joe Papa
As a new pilot, it’s very easy to experience a bit of sensory overload. Managing to control your model can be enough for most, but when you add a camera, FPV monitor, an OSD (on screen display) and Ground Station waypoint capability, it can leave a pilot distracted and overwhelmed. It’s those few critical seconds that can make the difference between a successful flight and a really bad day. Another reason to consider telemetry is that you’ll never leave home without it. Many times I’ve flown for fun without a camera installed to make getting in the air easier. Not having to lug FPV gear, batteries, monitors, etc., can lighten the load. It also breaks your link to these secondary sources of information. As a new pilot, I also remember staring at the FPV monitor while I tried to decipher the gamut of information before me.
Recently, DJI modifi ed the fi rmware and eliminated the yellow 1st level warning that your battery voltage was getting low. If you fly with a LightBridge, that 1st level warning is eliminated. What if you are just too high or far away to see it?
Nearly all manufacturers offer radios with Telemetry or the ability to add it. Today I will be discussing the Futaba 14SG. This radio has become the standard for multirotors in the professional realm and has industry-leading telemetry capabilities. Most Futaba sensors are designed to plug into the S.Bus port on the receiver. To use more than one sensor, a parallel adapter is required.
The included 7008SB receiver has an external voltage port. By connecting power directly to this port with the optional cable (Futaba-CA-RVIN-700), the receiver will now send this info directly to your transmitter. You can set the voltage you would like the – warning to be triggered at and when it’s time to land, the 14SG will vibrate in your hands.
BACKUP BACKUP BACKUP
Yet another reason to consider adding at least battery level telemetry is for backup. In the event you go out of FPV range with your machine, you can feel safe knowing you’re not flying in the dark. Recently, a friend asked me to get some GoPro video of a rooftop party he was having. I packed my Flamewheel 550 with the new GoPro Hero+ and 3-axis Zenmuse. After the first flight I unplugged the little USB connector from the camera to remove the memory card and the ribbon cable broke in half. Without the cable, I had no video signal and no power for the camera. I literally had to fly blind and with the sun setting in the distance, I couldn’t always see the Naza M v2 LED. Having the telemetry screen with real-time flight pack voltage was a lifesaver. As soon as the radio began to vibrate, I knew I had roughly three minutes to get back and land. It allows me to keep my eyes on the copter, which is especially important when you’re piloting around objects or low elevation.
Futaba radios also off er S.Bus-compatible telemetry sensors for monitoring temperature, rpm, altitude, GPS, voltage and more. Connections are nearly effortless and the 14SG can display the data from 12 sensors on the telemetry screens. For each sensor you can choose the type of alert you would like as well as a maximum or minimum value to trigger the alert. Futaba even allows you to assign a switch to that particular telemetry sensor, so you can turn the alert on/off .
With this sensor installed, you can be alerted by voice, vibration or audio melody when your model is gaining or losing altitude. I personally witnessed a crash when a new pilot, completely mesmerized by his new FPV monitor accidentally pulled back on the throttle while turning his head to look at his screen. By the time he realized it was coming down, it was too late. The onscreen display was showing his altitude, but he was too busy trying to watch where he was going on the monitor. Needless to say, he landed in a tree at least 100 feet high. If his copter had this sensor, it would have played descending musical tones to let him hear that he was falling. This is great when you are piloting less than 20 feet off the ground and heading away from you, as it can be very difficult to determine if you are maintaining your altitude.
This sensor is great for keeping an eye on motor, ESC or battery temps. Since most flight controllers can’t be used below certain temps, this can also help you avoid flights in weather that is too cold.
The GPS module is capable of giving you warnings for speed, distance, altitude and vario (rate of ascent/descent). The GPS module is an information powerhouse. I personally own this sensor and in the event of a crash or lost model, I can easily pull up the latitude and longitude GPS data and use it to locate the model.
THE LAST WORD
Futaba’s telemetry is a highly evolved and precise set of sensors. Its elegant design intuitively keeps you aware of your model’s flight status and the alerts can be set to your taste and preference. The seconds leading up to a crash can be hectic or even panicstricken. These are the moments you are least likely to be able to think clearly. Radio telemetry alerts like audio tones, voice prompts or vibrations are nearly impossible to miss and that can be all the difference in the world when every second counts.
Help with other gear: Using Your GoPro
Edited for the web by Jon Hull