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To Be (2.4) Or Not To Be (2.4) That Is The Question.

With all due apologies to Shakespeare.

Not so much a debate of the 2.4 system, more a light hearted look at the radio control systems in general.

Chris Golds who writes for the Silent Flight magazine usually commences his column with a flash back moment from his RAF days. Just recently an occurrence whilst slope soaring caused such a personal flashback and started a chain of thought about the R/C systems that we use.

1. Complication for complications sake? Before starting I must confess that I, just like the majority of R/C users am a sucker for the latest shiny thing or gadget. But do we actually need the level of sophistication currently on offer. Over the past few years I have seen and experienced the sights of many various model flyers, myself included, bent intently over their transmitters desperately, the manual having been or course left at home, trying to either enter some new programming, or remove something that they had accidently introduced in the first place. Out of the thousands of persons who partake in and enjoy their model flying unless you are into complicated models requiring numerous and obscure multi-point mixing wouldn’t a simpler set suffice. Granted there are many functions which we now take as common place that I wouldn’t wish to relinquish however there are many more that I have no use for whatsoever.

In the seventies and eighties I was fortunate to have lived and worked in Germany and due to the very favourable terms offered by the German model company Simprop, I was a great fan and user of this system. Prior to the computer age this TX was designed for you to open up and basically play with. You brought a basic system and then equipped it with whatever mixers you required simply plugging them into a central board. This idea was further refined by Simprop with a TX into which you could plug in either a Glider, Aerobatic or Helicopter module. In short you had a TX which was not loaded with surplus features which whilst you had paid for, would probably never be used. One of my TX’s is a Futaba Field Force 7G which was purchased abroad. The normal FF7 TX was equipped with four modes, one aerobatic, one glider and two helicopter. The FF7G dropped the two helicopter modes and increased the mixing power of the glider mode. Of all my TX’s this one always accompanies me up the hills. At present it is on its sixth replacement battery and will continue in use until the facilities to service it disappear.

2. Which frequency, 2.4GHz or 35mHz. Now I run the risk of being truly burned at the stake. Again I possess both systems so I am not overly biased one way or the other. During the past three or so years we have seen the phenomenal growth of 2.4GHz. The advantages quoted being mainly that of freedom from frequency clashes and the ability to download information from the model. Could the ability to download and view information from the model be taken as further unwarranted complication? Mind you I use the word view lightly because in the majority of cases the viewing screen is set on the bottom of the TX and is almost impossible to view in normal use. Freedom from frequency clashes is an important safety issue and must not be taken lightly. However this was always an operator based fault rather than an electronics one. Users of Multiplex 35mHz systems will of course be aware that their sets could be equipped with a channel check system which prevented you the user switching onto a frequency that was already in use. If this was such a safety issue why did not other radio manufactures incorporate this function into their sets? Taking aside the pros and cons of both frequencies I feel that we are quickly sleepwalking ourselves into losing the use of 35mHz. This is after all a dedicated frequency solely for the use of flying model aircraft which is actually enforceable by law. On the other hand 2.4GHz is one of the most congested frequencies available being used for just about everything that requires a domestic radio link and will no doubt become even more congested in the future. So best not throw the baby out with the bath water just yet. With a advent of 2.4GHz radio another not so nice commercial practise seems to have emerged. About two years ago I and my flying companion took the plunge and purchased two sets of JR 9 channel 2.4GHz radio along with several receivers. Modellers of a certain age will understand the next part being old enough to remember the competition between two rival Video systems (Betamax and VHS, which VHS subsequently won despite being the alleged inferior system.). Within a few months it was apparent that we had purchased the “Betamax” version as JR promptly changed their operating system and of course the new system was incompatible with the old unless you decided upon the very top model in the range. To make matters worse my flying companion recently sold his JR set, at a loss and purchased a Futaba 12 channel 2.4mHz just prior to Futaba following JR’s example and yes the old system is incompatible with the new unless the 18 channel (£2500?) outfit is acquired. In all the years of 35mHz use the only change was from AM to FM and you had the option of having your sets converted. How many more times will we see 2.4GHz operating systems changed in the pursuit of supposed excellence?

With my entrenching spade in hand and my control line team racing pit helmet firmly on my head I will retire and prepare to fend off the incoming hordes of brickbats. Oh I nearly forgot, what was the reason for the flashback which prompted these purely personal meanderings. At the end of last year, the Winter solstice in fact, my flying companion and I were enjoying a very good days slope soaring. Flying with us was a gentlemen with three models which he flew without drama, fuss, complication or fear of frequency clashes for the whole of the day. He was flying on 27mHz without even the aid of servo reversing. Was his enjoyment any less for that fact, I think not.


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