Many transmitters, such
as this Futaba 14SG, can
be updated using an SD
Left: Some gyros require their own USB adapter, such as this CIU- 2 for the Futaba CGY750
flybarless control system. Right: ESC programmers come in all shapes and sizes, such as these
three from Castle Creations (top), KDE Direct (bottom L), and Afro ESC.
One of the great things about he technology we buy for our helicopters these days is that
much of it is somewhat “future proof”—
specifically, most of the transmitters,
ESCs, and flybarless gyros that are
available. As with many things in this
modern age, our helicopter equipment
is more than just mechanical hardware.
There is a lot of software that goes into
them, which is also known as firmware.
The Wiki definition of firmware reads,
“Permanent software programmed
into a read-only memory.” This means
that after the software is installed, it’s
always on your device, even after it
has been switched off. The software is
what drives your electronic device. It is
the brain that tells your hardware how
to behave. It’s not something you can
reprogram directly (except for settings
that you can adjust by design), and you
don’t have direct access to the code.
When I refer to future proof, what I mean is that our ESCs and flybarless
controllers have the ability to be updated with new firmware. As manufacturers
develop new and improved software, they release these free firmware upgrades to
the public to bring their hardware up to date and possibly add new functionality.
This is usually accomplished by providing a file to download from the
The hardware varies from one manufacturer to another. For some, you can
simply plug one end of a USB cable into your device and the other end into
your computer. Others require some sort of USB hardware interface such as a
programming card. Either way, after you have connected your device to your
computer, you can run the manufacturer’s proprietary software to install the latest
firmware and get your device up to date.
Some will argue that jumping into the latest firmware version might not be the
wisest thing to do. Others, including myself, might procrastinate because they will
likely have to set up the helicopter again, or at least go through all of the settings
to make sure nothing has changed. Some people like to hold off on an immediate
release of firmware because the bugs have sometimes not quite been worked out
(multirotors are notorious for this).
Some pilots like to sit back for a few weeks and see how everyone else gets
along with the upgrade before performing it themselves. This way, if any problems
manifest, they will have been spared the trouble of going through it.
Most manufacturers have a great track record for firmware releases and you
are usually pretty safe to upgrade. Beta testers, who are often regular pilots like
us, are used extensively so that the
manufacturer can be sure that there
are no glaringly obvious problems with
the new software. Some manufacturers
allow you to revert to a previous
firmware version if for some reason you
don’t like the new version.
This system works out great for both
the manufacturer and the customer.
The manufacturer gets extended life
out of its current hardware, and the
customer gets value for his or her
money by having the ability to keep his
or her equipment updated and current.
It certainly seems like a win/win for all
Which camp are you in? Do you
upgrade right away, or do you wait for a
while to see how it pans out?
We are moving fast into May, and
at least for me, this means the start
103 Model Aviation MAY 2016