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Ace R/C GT5 3-Axis Flybarless System

Notes and setup information by Team Thunder Tiger America member Gary Wright

As I began to compile these notes on setup of the GT5 flybarless controller, some thoughts came to mind that apply generically to flybarless setup, not just the GT5, and in order to explain the method of Setup with the GT5, I thought it might be appropriate to share these thoughts. Just as there were constants in the setup of flybars, there are constants with the setup of flybarless systems both with the helicopters physical configuration and the general setup and behavior of the flybarless controllers. There are some items, however, that are diametrically opposed. For years we have used heavier blades, higher hiller ratios, lower rotor rpms, heavy paddles and softer damping to both stabilize and "smooth out" hovering by increasing the mechanical gyro gain ,...i.e. flybar, and lower the pilotcommanded control response. This was all due to the response characteristics of the hiller stabilization system. Flybarless systems change all that. We are now depending on the electronic gyros amplified electronically, using PID loops to create a fly by wire system. This type system is much quicker than a hiller system and offers both advantages and disadvantages. The primary disadvantage is that it cannot react the same to wind, however, when it senses acceleration or attitude changes it can correct for them far quicker than a flybar, so other than hovering in windy conditions it can be superior to a flybar due to its more precise and responsive nature . We do need to acknowledge one characteristic, however, that will affect the overall physical setup of the helicopter in many ways. The electronic system is far quicker than a flybar but it also relies on the physical control loop in flight to do its job in a timely manner. It can respond and make corrections much quicker than a flybar, but the mechanics and aerodynamics of the helicopter can undermine this and thus the flybarless unit can become "out of sync" with the helicopter thus making its job much more difficult to accomplish. Think of adding a physical delay in your radio system such that the servos would not begin to respond until 2 seconds after you give an input. It would be extremely difficult for you to fly the helicopter as your control inputs would be out of phase with the response. If we simply remove the flybar but don't replace heavy blades and soft dampers, we are essentially hobbling the flybarless controller in this same manner. The point is that anything and everything we can do to speed up the control loop so that the helicopter responds quicker to the flybarless unit,.. will drastically increase the effectiveness of the flybarless controller. If the fbl unit is then tuned to take advantage of this faster control loop, it is a win-win. Therefore, we should change our mindset on several things, and think of using lighter blades, MUCH harder damping, and possible even higher head speeds and quicker servos. We will see much more stability plus more precise pilot control. The only pitfalls are that the control loop may become so quick that we have to readjust the pilot inputs if we want smoothness, and lighter blades of course have less energy in autorotation, but there is generally so much margin there that it is a non- issue. Flybarless controllers and PID loops. What I have seen in most flybarless controller manuals is a description of some, or all, of the adjustments within the unit, but no specific procedure for configuration. To adjust a unit, fly, adjust something that might give you the desired outcome, and repeat,.. is a lengthy and laborious process. To compare this to typing, its the "hunt and peck" method for flybarless setup, only you don't have any letters printed on the keys. I like to develop a procedure, or logical method, for configuration so that it becomes quicker and more repeatable without taking "shots in the dark". After some basic thoughts and observations, I will take you through my procedure, specifically paying attention to the GT5 unit. Flybarless controllers utilize the common PID control loop algorithm (Proportional-IntegralDerivative) to do their job. Basically, there is a measurement that is compared to the commanded rate,

and if an error is calculated the controller will input a correction. For example, you are tumbling, hence commanding a rate of X degrees per second rotation. The controller senses the rotation, compares it to what you are commanding, and adjusts the servo positions to reduce the error to zero. Of course this all happens very very quickly. You tune its inputs with various "gains" which are the amplitude of corrective action it can use. Proportional gain is simply how much it inputs,.. Integral has a time value so it will vary the movement based not only on what it measures but what has been measured over time, and derivative is somewhat the predicted future needs which is generally used to damp out deceleration when approaching zero error. If you look at a correction via the PID algorithm, it looks like this:

amount of correction


An error is detected in which the motion, or lack thereof is not what is being commanded, so an input is given (P gain), then as it's evaluated repeatedly over time, the I gain adjusts that, then as it nears steady state again the Derivative gain adjusts the amplitude to "smooth out the stop" so to speak. In helicopter terms; P is the amount of correction, I is the adjustment over time, and D is how hard or soft it stops and/or if it oscillates at stop. The above diagram shows what would be a sharp input, quick return to neutral, and oscillation upon stopping. I like smooth flying so I attempt to achieve what is shown below. Smooth precise corrections and most importantly smooth deceleration to stop rather than oscillations, or hard stopping, i.e. "pop and lock" type flying.

amount of correction

We want to tune a flybarless system for maximum stability without any oscillations during stops. This means we want a lot of proportional gain, just enough Integral gain to make rotational rates constant , and fairly low Derivative gain (to smooth out the stops). Pilot feel When we get the flybarless system to the point where it works very well, is stable, and deceleration from rotations is smooth, then we need to assess the overall feel which is basically three things, the total rotational rate on each axis, the smoothness or harshness of the starts and the smoothness/harshness of the stops. Many of the flybarless units can tailor the feel in literally dozens of ways, but I personally prefer to do as much as possible within the transmitter rather than the flybarless controller, simply because it's quicker and easier to make transmitter adjustments than to make adjustments on the units themselves. For this reason, I like to get the PID loop parameters done, then tailor the feel with transmitter AFR, EXPO, and control delays all in the transmitter.

My FBL controller setup routine with specifics for GT5 The purpose of this GT5 supplement" is to assist with tuning and adjustment, not to explain the minute details of where each servo plugs in and such. The initial instructions accomplish that quite well so I will start with setup assuming everything is plugged in correctly according to the instructions that come with the unit. Basic navigation of the unit is rather simple using the touchpad for input. Simply place a finger on the lower section of the left side of the unit and slide upwards, holding pressure at the upper corner. The units display will change in a few seconds and you will be in what I will call programming mode. There is a menu of icons on the left side of the display. Simply slide your finger up/down the touchpad to scroll among the options. When the correct option is centered within the selection window, double tap the touchpad and that item is selected. Depending on the selection, another menu will appear, and the selection process is the same, scroll up or down to the desired item and double tap again. To change a value double tap and then slide up or down to change the value, then double tap to save your change. Within each menu there will be an arrow icon to go back one menu level, or the word exit to exit that set of menus. The Menu structure is shown below PI Swash P I I-d-stick D-sense Feed forward I-limit Hover exit Tailrotor P I D-sense Tail-D-DB Tail Symmetric Tail Stick Dynamic DMA cyclic DMA pitch Smooth stop Exit exit Swash Type Pitch Aileron Elevator exit Servo Center Reverse

Travel Limit Servo

exit Sensor Aileron Elevator Rudder Pirouette optimization Sensor deadband Filter intensity exit Stick Expo-rudder Expo-swashplate Swashplate stick dynamic d-tail-stick tail stick dynamic tail stick deadband swash stick deadband stick calibration tool exit Tools Ail sensor calibration Tail sensor calibration Elevator sensor calibration Time delay for auto exit Rx type Transmitter setting Binding Reset to default Data transfer exit Exit

Tail type Tail servo speed Tail servo frequency Swash type Swash servo speed Swash frequency exit

-Radio setup

Flybarless units do all the "mixing" required for CCPM thus the radio must initially be configured in a plain vanilla manner. If you were to connect servo directly to the receiver you would want straight movement from 0 to 100 on all channels independently, i.e. no mixing for the swashplate servos. Generally, on most radios, this is accomplished by selecting single servo mode for the swash. Now plug in the flybarless controller with all the servos -Initial GT5 hints The GT5 will automatically exit programming mode and return to the main screen if you do not touch the touchpad within a certain amount of time. This is an inactivity timer the same as a screensaver timer on your computer. It is quite short, I believe 25 seconds as a default. It can be increased up to 250 seconds within the tools menu under time delay for auto exit. I increase it to the maximum. However, you MUST remember to manually return to the main screen before flight. DO NOT TRY TO FLY WHILE IN THE PROGRAMMING SCREENS. -Ensure everything moves in the correct direction Check each servo independently and ensure it moves in the correct direction. This can be changed in the GT5 for each servo within the servo menu. I suggest leaving the centering and travel volumes at the default settings. Set the swash type (90/120/135). Set the total gyro gain in your transmitter to 100%, all gain adjustments will be made in the GT5. -set center Choose a servo arm spline that places the servo arm and pushrod at an exact 90 degree angle. If this is found to be completely impossible, it is Ok to use the servo center function in the GT5 by a very small amount, but try your best to achieve neutral with zero adjustment here, or at least within a few points -set travel volumes (endpoints) For best results choose a servo arm length that result in maximum desired pitch range without adjusting the travel volumes from default. Again, if completely impossible, adjust a few points, but all three swash servos should have equal numbers. For the tail rotor, you should select a rather long servo arm that results in reduced endpoints in the GT5. I have not determined a rule of thumb here except that the arm should be rather long resulting in only using part of the servo throw. It will have to be tuned during flying. On both my Titan X50 and my Raptor G4 I am using 17mm servo arms, plus 115mm tail blades on the large machine and 105mm tail blades on my X50. The travels are reduced a considerable amount in the GT5. I do fly considerably lower rpms than most, 2100 plus a touch max on the 600 machine and 1800 on the 700 class machine. I would suggest you use a very long arm and simply use shorter, more standard length tail blades if you spin the head really fast. -Set servo speeds and frequency in the GT5 If there is any one item that is the single most important basic element of GT5 setup, it is servo speed settings. This is setup under the servo/servo menu for swash servo speed and tail servo speed. The GT5 wants this number as travel speed for 45 degrees of movement. Most manufacturers list this as a speed for 60 degrees of movement so use of the manufacturers number. For example, if your servos published specification is .12 travel time for 60 degrees, this should be set to .09. If you set the GT5 for a lower number, say .08, you may find some strange behavior during flight as the servo speed is out of phase with what the GT5 is expecting. It is better to have the servo speed numbers slightly higher than slightly slower. If you tell the GT5 your servos are faster you will experience some odd behavior

in flight. If you tell it they are a little slower than they are, you will not have any odd behavior, so always err on the side of a slightly larger number,i.e. always round up rather than down when you compute of the listed speed. The servo type must also be set for the tail rotor. This is to set the center impulse on the servo. Generally this is either 1520 or 760. Consult the manufacturers specifications for your tail servo. Next, set the operating frequency for your servo. If the manufacturer does not state this, use the default which I believe is 166. Using all Futaba digital servos, I set these to the highest possible, then check servo temperatures after a flight. If the frequency is too high you may experience servo heating. I have not needed to lower this number from the maximum for any of the Futaba digital or brushless servos Ive used. -Swash servo ranges One initial note on GT5 settings when reading blade pitch with a gauge. You should be within the GT5 programming mode while doing this. If you are outside the programming mode, the servos will move to the extreme with any stick movement and you will not be able to get a reading. It is at this point I would suggest zeroing out the exponential in the GT5 itself (we will set that in the radio). This is under the stick menu in the GT5. You have expo numbers for swash and for tail. I then suggest putting in anywhere from 20 to 40 percent exponential in the transmitter, for both aileron and elevator to soften the center feel In the swash menu, there are four elements to be selected, type (electric or nitro), pitch, aileron, and elevator. Select electric or nitro, then select the pitch menu. With a pitch gauge, check your total pitch range. If you see vastly more pitch than you want, Please select slightly shorter servo arms (move the balls in a hole for example). You may lower or raise the number in the pitch option, its range is 0 to 127 and you want to select servo arms that result in a setting of 90 to 127. If you restrict the movement in this option below 90 the settings for the swashplate PID loop will become very critical (100 or above seems optimal). There are options for aileron and elevator within the swash menu but they do not change the measured movement, only the feel in flight so leave them at 100 to start To initially setup the cyclic pitch ranges, you will utilize the ATVs for aileron and elevator within your transmitter. Set the pitch to zero by moving the collective stick on the transmitter, then check your aileron and elevator pitch ranges. . Due to my desire to have a very very low rpm flight mode available, I need quite a lot of collective pitch available,..i.e. 15/15 on my G4 Raptors so I tend to have quite a lot of cyclic range available and must reduce it greatly with the transmitter ATVs. I have found that 9/9 cyclic is a good goal for cyclic pitch range and is a good base to replicate. If you fly very high rpm smack style with very high rpms I would suggest 7 degrees as a goal. Please do not go below 70% on your transmitter cyclic ATVs to achieve this range. Resolution will be lowered. If you find you need to drop your transmitter ATVs a lot, i.e. far below 70, then move the balls on the servo in one hole, and increase the pitch setting in the GT5 to compensate and recover the collective range you just mechanically changed,. Then check the cyclic range again with your transmitter ATVs at 70 or above. This may take a couple iterations of experimentation to find a servo arm hole that gives you the correct collective and cyclic ranges while pitch is within the 100~127 area and cyclic transmitter ATVs are 70 or above. These are my rules of thumb and it will definitely work with numbers outside these ranges, but Ive found these to be great starting points. -Sensor Directions Now you should check the gyro sensor directions. When OUT of programming mode, pick up your helicopter and rotate it quickly fore and aft and observe the swashplate. The swashplate should move opposite your direction of movement, i.e. the gyro is correcting in the right direction. Repeat for right/left. Repeat for yaw. If any of these are reversed, please change them in the sensor menu.

-note on piro comp Check pirouette compensation. Select the pirouette optimization option in the sensor menu. The options are normal and reverse. Note which option is selected, i.e. normal or reverse. With collective set to zero pitch and cyclic stick centered, double tap to enter selection mode. The swashplate will tilt in one direction as if you moved the cyclic stick to the extreme. Physically rotate the helicopter and watch the swashplate. It should stay in the same tilted orientation relative to the table. If it does not, select the other option and double tap to save. Now repeat the process to ensure that the pirouette optimization is set correctly by observing the tilted swashplate as you rotate the helicopter. If this is not set correctly, when you fly the helicopter it will wobble during pirouettes. Hover the helicopter! If it feels to "flighty" and not smooth and stable enough to go through the rest of the setup items, put some exponential on the ail/elev and reduce their travels in the transmitter until the controls are soft enough for you. -Adjust P gain hover wobble check cyclic P-gain or proportional gain is also the primary tuning element you will adjust. Everything else depends on this adjustment. When you initially hover the helicopter, look for a wobble in the skids. If it does not wobble, land and increase the swash P gain in the PI menu 20 points. (If your collective and cyclic ranges are set as noted above, it probably will not wobble). If it still does not wobble increase another 20 points. You will either begin to see a wobble at some point or reach 127 (maximum) on your P gain. If you achieve a wobble, decrease the number 10 points (half your last adjustment). If no wobble, increase 5, if it still wobbles decrease 5. Please do this until you set the P gain to 5 points below wobble. Tail wag check Repeat the p gain procedure with the tail rotor, until you reach a point where the P gain is 5 points below where the tail wags back and forth. Intentionally try to excite a wobble For this next item we will try to induce a wobble. Hover the helicopter again and sharply wiggle the cyclic stick back and forth on aileron then neutralize the stick. Repeat with elevator. If the stickinduced wobble immediately stops your P gain is Ok for now, if this procedure induces a wobble that does not damp out quickly then reduce the P gain 5 points and try again. At this point, set the I gain for swash and tail at 10 points below the respective P gains. We will refine it later. -Hovering tail rough- in We need to rough-in the tail now before moving out of hover. We have the initial P and I gain setting, now we need to trim the tail and adjust the Derivative gain (D-sense). If you have someone to assist you, hover the helicopter and have someone look at the servo arm and pushrod. They should be at a 90 degree angle. If they are not, adjust the pushrod so that they are. Now, pirouette in one direction at a medium fast rate and release the stick. Repeat in the other direction. If the stops are soft and not distinct, increase the D-sense 20 points and repeat. If you experience rebound on the stop, decrease the D-sense 10 points. You want to repeat this test and adjustment until you get a distinct stop with no rebounding or rubberband effect. Once this is done to your satisfaction, note if the stops are not identical or symmetrical, i.e. soft in one direction and too hard with rebounding in the other. If this is the case, adjust the pushrod on the tail a couple turns and repeat. Repeat the pirouettes and adjust pushrod until the stops are equal. You may get them equal but they are both soft and you can increase the D-sense a few points. You may also find that when they are equalized properly, you have a bounce in both directions, indicating you need to slightly decrease the Dsense (derivative gain affects the stopping behavior as noted in the first couple pages of this -Flying

document).There is a tail symmetry setting to accomplish what I am suggesting with the pushrod adjustments, but the pushrod method is far better. If you use the symmetry function in the GT5 you are masking a mechanical setup issue that may show up again in other maneuvers (pirouetting aerobatics will not be consistent), so take the time to do it right. It only takes a minute or two of flight time. Now re-adjust the endpoint adjustments for the tail rotor in the servo menu in the GT5 so that you remove the binding in one direction that has been created with this setup process. At this point adjust the tail rotor ATVs in the transmitter to achieve the full-stick pirouette rate that you want. Piro, land, adjust ATV up or down, repeat. Once the overall pirouette rate you want is achieved, you may have to tweak the D-sense up or down a few points. If you speed up the piro rate the D-sense may need to be reduced to stop rebounding, or if you slow the piro rate the d-sense can be increased if you want a harder stop. At this point we want to adjust the DMA pitch which is the tail rotor feed forward torque compensation. From hover, smoothly increase collective to full for a fast climb and watch the tail. If the tail moves and does not hold straight, land and increase the DMA-pitch number under the PI menu for tail rotor. While on the ground you can move collective up and down and watch the tail rotor move a little. This is the DMA pitch number you just changed. It goes positive and negative, so make sure it is adding tail pitch when collective is moved away from neutral, and not reducing the tail pitch. If so, go from a positive to a negative number, or vice-versa. If you repeat the vertical climb test, this number can be dialed in so that the tail holds straight at all times. I suggest changes of 20 points, then 10, then 5, as mentioned in earlier adjustments. Note*- if you run ridiculously low rpms sometimes and have a very aggressive governor, you may notice some tail movement that simply cant be coped with by the unit with sharp collective movements. More rpms and they go away as you speed up the control loop. At 1250 rpms on a 700 machine with 15 degrees of pitch I notice this at times. If I dont manage the collective well and move it sharply at the low revs I can get a 3 to 5 degree tail kick. Lowering the governor gain so it is not so aggressive eliminates it but I dont like the sag and overspeed . -Adjust rates and I and D gains for swash Now we will concentrate on control rates and the I and D gains for the swashplate. Climb to a comfortable altitude then execute a flip. If the rotational rate is slower than you would like, increase the elevator ATV in the radio. I would suggest only 5 or 10 point adjustments each time on this. When you have the overall elevator rate set to what you would like, repeat for aileron, again using transmitter ATV's to set the rate. When the total rolling and flipping rate are what you want, then either increase or decrease the exponential so the feel of the stick around neutral is smooth but not too soft. This is individual preference, and I like a LOT of expo, most folks do not. Now that the overall pitch and roll rates are set, and the feel around neutral, we need to set the D gain (d-sense for swash) to control the stopping behavior. When you execute a flip and release stick pressure, does the tail stop accurately, does it "coast" a bit then ease into a stop, or does it rebound like a rubber band. If your d-sense is at the default level it will probably have a smooth stop with some overshoot. Increase the d-sense 20 points and repeat the flip test. The stopping behavior should be much more precise. Adjust the d-sense in 20, then 10, then 5 point increments until you achieve the best precise stopping behavior without rebounding, or the rubberband effect. Lower numbers are softer stops that are less precise, higher numbers are more crisp stops but can lead to rebounding. -I limit and I gain The I gain, with its time-component, affects the consistency of movement about an axis. This also translates to holding a consistently straight line in fast forward flight without wandering. Smoothly accelerate the helicopter into forward flight and gradually make passes at a higher and higher speed. If at any time the helicopter starts to go up and down like a roller-coaster, immediately slow down and the oscillations will stop. Land, and increase the I-limit number and repeat, until the roller coaster ride is

gone, or you reach the limit of the I-limit (I usually end up maxed out). If you reach this limit and still have some of the wavy line forward flight, lower the I gain for swash in the PI menu. Try ten points at a time. Another way to set this is "from the other side". You can drastically drop the I gain until the helicopter no longer tracks very straight at high speed, then increase it until the helicopter just maintains a straight line without pilot input. If the I gain needs to be high enough that you experience some of the roller coaster ride, but any lower and it doesn't track, then increase the I limit 20 points which will allow a slightly higher I gain to establish good straight line tracking. Note* If you see a bit of tail bobbing, but not a "roller coaster" flight path, just a 3 to 5 degree, slow speed bobbing, this does not necessarily mean the I gain or I limit needs adjusting. It is indicative of the servo speed set incorrectly in the GT5. The GT5 is expecting a certain speed of response and not getting it, so the stabilization is out of phase. Try increasing the number for swash servo speed, i.e. telling the GT5 that the servos are slightly slower than they really are. -Control start/stop feel Now you have a helicopter that is flying pretty well, but we still need to do some tweaking to the unit to adjust the control feel and efficiency. We need to set the feed forward for the swashplate properly. This is the amount of uncorrected pitch change that is fed into the blades when you initially move the stick. The best way to check this is to listen for a loud and obnoxious blade noise with sharp commands. I find the four point roll to be a good place to start. If I hear the blades talk back loudly when I give the command for each point in the roll, I know the feed forward is too high and the blades are stalling slightly before the GT5 starts modifying the input. Drop the feed forward ten points and listen again. You want the feed forward just slightly below the point that initially stalls the blades and makes the loud noise. If you never hear the blade farts and the initial response to control feels good there is nothing for you to adjust here. If the response is too crisp for your needs, you can certainly lower the feed forward further to "soften" the control feel. You just want to have it below the point where you hear loud blade farts when applying a quick movement. Past this point and increased feed-forward does nothing for you. The blades initially stall and the rate of control does not increase when you feed more input forward and stall them even deeper. Summary: Basic GT5 setup -Mechanical setup, centered correctly, pitch X to X, cyclic 7 to 9 -check control directions and gyro sensor directions -check/set piro optimization. -zero out expo and put in transmitter Fly -adjust swash and tail P gain -adjust tail d-sense -adjust DMA pitch -adjust ATV's in transmitter for roll/pitch/yaw rates -adjust swash d-sense -adjust swash I gain and i-limit. -check/set feed forward Hints/notes/troubleshooting P gain is overall amplitude of correction I gain is consistency D-sense affects stopping behavior.

Servo speed setting in GT5 is Critical to proper performance Mechanical setup is extremely important as it creates the foundation Once the PID loop is tuned for swash and tail, and feed forward is set for cyclic, try to adjust things in transmitter like ATV and expo to control feel. If you P, then I and D may need to be adjusted as P affects them. Servo speed setting in GT5 is Critical to proper performance If you increase control rates you may have to lower d-sense or stops could rebound. The "hover" setting under the PI/swash menu not only controls stability and feel in hover, but affects the overall feel of the unit. I like 5. If you want a very aggressive setup and have exhausted the other options, exponential, stick dynamic, etc, you could lower this number and it will result in a slightly more aggressive feel throughout the entire flight envelope. Pitch range is set in the swash menu, ail/elev is set with transmitter ATV's Servo speed setting in GT5 is Critical to proper performance If you notice slow movements especially in hover, like a 2 or 3 degree tail back-and forth, that is not a wag from too high gain, then you can increase the deadband (tail-d-db in PI/tail rotor menu) The stick menu can tune the stick feel around neutral even further. I find it to be unnecessary, but if you fly in an extremely aggressive manner you may need to adjust the stick dynamics or stick deadband to control how "twitchy" you want the machine around neutral.