Eco Piccolo Micro Indoor/Outdoor Helicopter

Upgrade n Mods (chronological order of technical discovery):

 

Please note: DO NOT take too much notice of the mods mentioned here as new products and technology has moved on since 2003.

 

Alternative Gallery plus upgrade info

Orion Elite motor (£50) 8T-10T pinion or G310 12T-13T pinion
Hornet CF/GF Blades (£30) & paddles (£10) (Midland Helicopters UK)
Ball Swash Plate insert (£12) (www.helinut.com)
Ali hub (£7) (www.helinut.com)
Skysports 6 (£50)
2 x 1020mAh Kokam cells (£7/cell £30 specialist charger)

Motor - Orion Elite Modified (Brushed)

Orion offers better efficiency, more power and long life span if properly setup (blades/pinion/weight/battery). No real maintenance just don't cook it! Don't stress the little motor too much n fly a light setup; no heavy lifting or body kits.
The Orion is very quiet compared to the stock G-310. Remember that the 6v/5watt Orion will ALWAYS be a low voltage motor option and u can NOT ever safely/realistically use any pack greater than 9v (brush burnout). In a Piccolo it is pushed past spec to run ~9v/~2A/~20watts. Where as a brushless motor has a future flexibility for higher voltage usage. some may say that the 'Orion is a false economy' very true, a good motor and easy to fit etc. but be prepared as u'll probably out grow it in a few months.

Consider the following upgrade path/setup for a great little heli:

Essential:
- Bearings Upgrade Kit! (if you bought the Fun Pic) $30 or a lot less
- Ball in Swash Plate Mod $12 or less

Motor and blades:
- Orion Elite Modified (+ mounting plate + screws) plus 8T (and $9 10T) metal gear. $60 or less
OR Brushless motor plus speed controller $140+
- Hornet Fixed Pitch Carbon Fiber blades (+ screws n washers) $38
OR cut blades mod $0 if u can cut straight

Maybe:
- Ali rotor hub before stock breaks $15 or less
- 2x1024 Kokam pack $25 + charger $45
- MIA retro fit landing gear $18 or less


All for improved flight characteristics, duration, durability, control n stability.

Orion - setup

Ruff guide for Orion Elite 2x1020 kokam cell powered (A.U.W. 200-240g) FP Pic (near stock Eco) with Hornet CF/GF blades. 50-75% throttle at hover out of GE:

50%, high current 'hot' dangerous motor(s), 10+T/100T, 12-25mins, ~90% cell capacity used.

75%, low current high motor rpm warm safe motor(s), 8T/100T, 8-14mins, ~60% cell capacity used.

Gearing is down to personal choice and as MS blades do seem to differ in pitch from one pair to another, u may have better success adjusting pitch. i aim for ~1550 rotor rpm, out of GE for stability.

Orion - performance (specs)

Better than my 310, ~20% more efficient, 2997rpm/v, quiet, small yet can be fragile and voltage restrictive. Brushess can burn out, over revin and heat will melt resin core.

Out doors the other day, i really gave the Orion Elite (Hor*** CFs ) on 2x1020 Kokams some stress and have to admit that climb out was a bit poor but the ship did respond eventually (4amp limit for these 7.2v nominal cells maybe?). Even with a high or low loaded Orion gear-blade setup that hovers at 80%(8T low load) or 50% (10T high load) throttle, I can see that in a few months i will be wanting more power, maybe brushless n separates. Saying that, it does fly good enough for my learning curve at the moment.

Money would have been better invested in a brushless motor, something like a Mini AC 1215-20 (49g 3000rpm/v) + Pheonix 10 + Y cable n pinion from www.e-flight.co.uk £100 + change.

Blades - MS Hornet FP

Prefer Hornet Carbon Fiber or Glass Fiber blades (FP Pic G310 motor), as they are more stable for the confined space hovering i do at home BUT i had to up to a 13T metal pinion gear (i think 12T might have been a better choice) as the CF/GF blades have less pitch than the stock Piccolo and a higher head speed is required to hover. I saw some where that a stock Pic FP is 1400 rpm and the Hornet is closer to 1900 rpm, 1400 * 100T/9T = 15555 motor rmp, 1900 * 100T/13T = 14615 motor rmp. Caution, i couldn't get any flight duration out of ground effect with a G310 and 10T pinion, it's just too under geared for the head speed required for lift off.
Anyway, i prefer them as they are weighted and with the higher rpm the heli has a better gyroscopic resistance (i think that's how u say it) meaning that there is more angular momentum in the blades at hover, giving me more stability (less susceptible to ground effect, low altitude hover is ok-ish).
Another feature that i think will become apparent as my flying improves is a higher head speed with give slightly more response and control during a decent.
Remember! a higher head speed means more damage when you hit something, they hurt more when u fly into u'r own legs ;{ (so don't do it!) and the GF blades are more likely to break up (mine are full of chips n holes re-sculptured in CA glue, new ones needed soon).
Flight duration is slightly less, maybe because i'm on a 13T gear??? oh and i like the noise they make.
One thing i noticed (being a novice heli tweaker) the higher head speed reduced torque output (?? terminology), resulting in a reduction of work the tail motor has to do compensating heli spin and my tail motor brushes haven't burned up since. Maybe too much reduction as tail control is very sensitive now on the stick. They are stiffer so i also expect better forward flight characteristics.
Note: rpm maths figures may be wrong as my Pic is quite light and closer to 1600rpm and they are based on heavier Hornet data.

Longer metal screws and washers required for blade mounting, i mount mine on top of the rotor head. When mounted on the top side of the rotor head they sit very flat with a plastic washer and an appropriate screw that just beds into the existing hole. Or u could remove the divit that sticks out of the under side but i never did as i was sure i would need to use stock blades at some point but never did.

Mount on top of the rotor head

OR
Mount on underneath of the rotor head
(for much reduced cone angle in flight)

Batteries - Kokam Lithium cells (Lithium Polymer User/Safety Manual)

2x1020 kokams flying for 10+mins with light setup (210g)flying/hovering before cells at 6v minimum. Kokam 1020 weighs about 20g per cell. so 2x2x1020 (4ah!) = 85g with wires (3oz), which is lighter than my 3.2oz 8cell 700mah twicell Nimh pack and would expect 20-40mins flight times if pushed and motors not over heating.

Fly 210g with 2 kokams for 8-14mins+ but being lighter slightly increases ground effect stability and i like to fly in GE at home so sometimes prefer to use a heavier battery pack. It's a trade off between flight duration, stability and motor stress. one advantage for running a light setup is cooler running motors.

Wes-Tek Kokam charger board: had a problem when i tried to charge 2 cells in my car (12v). sometimes it would charge and other times i had to start the car up to kick the cycle it into life. ??? so it does work but may be marginal. fine for charging one cell at a time as the voltage difference is greater, takes too long tho.

no good for 3 cells even on a bit dodgy with a 13.8v 3amp mains supply. for 3 cells i use 15v 800ma AC adaptor i found laying about. of course it never charges 3x1020mah cells at more than 800ma but it gets there ~10mins later.

found that the Wes-Tek charger puts in slightly more charge if u charge individually. As this extra charging is at the end of the charge cycle, the current is very low and takes a long time to achieve. it seems that the cut off voltage is less accurate (lower cut off) when charging 3 cells in series.

initially charge all cells individually, then top up charge all cells individually every month or so to rebalance.

 

I notice a slight power/voltage drop off over the first 30secs of use and sometimes nudge tail/rudder trim a click(s) to compensate. The cells then discharge pretty close to what the documentation says. At the end of a discharge, power falls away quite suddenly (over 20sec) as load voltage drops off 6.5v...6.0v.

Please read the Lithium Polymer User/Safety Manual

Duration

Before tweaking pitch, WD40 on bearings and gearing I could achieve 12 mins out of GE then 3 mins in GE. Now accurately timed 4x5 min hovers and one 4 min weak hover until unable to climb out of GE, with 5-10min rest periods between flights (for me and the Orion). Total of 24 mins and 16 secs.

Moving up a gear (Orion with 10T) and adjusting pitch with tape under mounts I can completely utilize the 2x1020 kokam pack until 5-6v (under load) in GE. This causes my Orion to get quite warm after 5 mins of hard 3ft hover at ~1/2 throttle with a head speed of ~1500-1600 rpm. At which point I chicken out and let the motor cool (40-80 deg.C, hot to the touch but not as hot as a fresh cup of tea), tail motor is fine tho. 2 cell kokam pack supplies 1 amp for 60 mins so 60mins / 24 mins = 2.5amps average hover current (assuming the cell is drained).

There's no hard fast rules, it's very dependent on personal setup, blade/pitch/motor/pinion/heat stress/weight etc. to get maximum efficiency. 12 mins of safe flying may be cheaper and more desirable in the long run.

Flight Characteristics (see also Flying)

I've managed to hover quite well n solidly in calm air by dumbing down the Pic responses, using 'dual rate' set very low, increasing rotor speed (low pitch blades, higher stability) and smaller control paddles (Hornet, Pic paddles are too responsive). whoops, almost forgot the swash plate ball insert mod. All help to enable very small precise inputs n corrections without over compensation. confident hovering in confined 4 ft square areas even in ground effect as low as 4 inches. but in confined spaces with high surrounding I'm not so happy due to increasing back washing turbulence.
I was worried that this would render my Pic useless when flying outdoors but found it to be ok and within my current flight abilities. Maybe later I will need faster control responses and go back to the Pic control paddles.

With current setup I noticed 4 still blades, at 10" in ground effect, under what i think was a 50Hz strip light (UK 240v at 50Hz).
I make that 3000 flashes per minute from the light and if i observe 2 still blade pairs every other flash, RPM is likely to be 1500? My blade tips are at 26cm, 1 rotation covers 1.65m, 148 km/hr or 92 mph+ in hover.

Piccolo FP (165g/5.8oz no batts), Orion Elite motor 8T/10T pinion or G310 12T/13T pinion, Hornet GF/CF Blades & paddles, Swash Plate ball insert(www.helinut.com), Ali hub(www.helinut.com), Skysports 6, 2 x 1020mAh Kokams(45g/1.58oz).

Pushing the G310 on 3 cells (10.8v nominal)

3x1020 Kokams (original type) 2 up front and 1 under main gear centre (plug n play).
G310 with ali-tape heat sink fins otherwise red hot in 2 mins
10T/100T (my personal probably inaccurate guide: 9v * 2000rpm/v = 18000 / (100T/10T) = 1800rpm - loss, stuck in GE at ~1550rpm)
HCF blades, tight but move.
Head stiffener (home made)
Pic+ board (85% gyro, 70% tail mix)
Stock tail motor n blades with home up rated brushes with ali-tape heat sink fins
50% throttle rotor at 1500rpm but heli is light on ski's
55% throttle at 2ft hover
60% climbing
100% throttle rotor at ~2100rpm (my personal probably inaccurate guide: 12v * 2000rpm/v = 24000 / (100T/10T) = 2400rpm - loss)

MIA landing gear, Ball in Swash mod
Flybar steel 150mm, stock paddles
Main shaft steel
Stronger tail boom + carbon fins
Weight with batts estimated 260g
Duration yet to time, estimate 20-30min range

Looking at the numbers, i can't see how my heavily mod'd FP Pic+ G310 and 12v supply can duration hover cool, without killing any performance gains? i just expect a trade off, that there is going to be a heat management problem that i can live with (land every 5 mins if hovering at room temp) for the given
benefits. which are only realised when flying around outside in the breeze when a bit of climb power comes in handy, especially after mid way through a pack, doesn't over heat either. for hard indoor hovering u don't really need a 3 cell setup.

Using a metal flybar does add some slight stability as u will have more mass rotating and swash plate inputs take a little long to respond.

For good FF for a FP u want a flat blade profile (no cone angle) and the faster the head speed the better. try stiff low pitch carbon fiber blades and head stiffener mod (eg. FP H**rnet 080 with correct gearing).

For bodging the stock tail motor brushes i use the heat of a soldering iron to force fit bigger brushes into the plastic end bell. the hard bit is bending the new brush leaves to get a similar angle of com contact to the original brushes. getting it wrong effects the timing or may spin backwards or just short circuit. so make a quick sketch of the originals and test with a single cell direct. to begin with the tail motor did run slightly rougher than stock but now i don't notice it.


Top Speed n RPM

If only we had some decent weather in the UK... anyway last time i was outside i reckon at ~1600rpm i was able to get ~30mph in still air. where as stock blades at 1100rpm should get nearer 20mph.

i don't know how to work out all the theoretical maths involved. it has something to do with stable lift remaining on the retreating blade. somat like 1/3 of speed at wing tips.
1600rpm * 60mins * (22/7 * 51cm diameter) = 15387428/100000 = 154Km/hr or
95.6mph * 1/3 = top speed of ~31 mph

51cm wing span 1100rpm Piccolo = ~20mph forward flight (stock blades)
51cm wing span 1600rpm Piccolo = ~30mph forward flight (HCFs)
50cm wing span 2600rpm Pic Pro = ~45mph forward flight

Near full throttle on a full charge of 3 cells my 310 can pull ~2000, so at best i might reach 35mph... one day.

Alternative head speed tacho, look through the rotor disk at a flashing light source of known frequency to observe still blade patterns.

50Hz TV screen or 50Hz UK fluorescent light
3000 flashes/min u should be able to see still blade pairs ('X' shape) at
1500rpm

60Hz US fluorescent light
3600 flashes/min u should be able to see still blade pairs ('X' shape) at
1800rpm

70Hz monitor screen
4200 flashes/min u should be able to see still blade pairs ('X' shape) at
2100rpm

Approximate rotor rpm u can work out motor rpm, 96T/9T * 2100rpm = 22,400 motor rpm


Kokam 3x1200mah HDs (5C or 6 amp peak discharge)

I'm not sure what the life span of the old 1020 cells is supposed to be. I bought 3 cells 11 months ago. The performance was ok with 12-16 mins of good power and the remaining 8-12 mins ok for hovering about. It's hard to say how many cycles the cells have had, estimate 200+. Not always a discharged before charging.

Anyway, over time the cells began to fade more quickly, that is even after hovering for just a few mins the cells would be noticeably soft on power and no reserve power for climbing etc. bringing the cells to this point and watching a volt meter i could see the voltage was dropping to 9v prematurely and unable to supply the current required. Assuming the Westek and supply is charging and working properly. i now have a new pack of 3x1200HDs.

Had to cut my front retro fit landing gear mount back and managed to hang the cells from on the heli in the conventional manor, like u would with an original NiCd pack. with a beat up canopy just fitting around them, for good CofG (with stock like tail motor).


Direct Drive tail

After chatting to Hogster i ordered one from e-flight uk for £9.50 and fitted using two 1 inch pieces of TV coax cable cover, one to slip over the tail boom and the other cut open to hold the motor and joined by glue to the other. Then painted it all black with white blade tips (couldn't stand the orange).
Apart from being cheap and easy to make, this prototype can be easily removed if the geared tail is ever required.

I'm not sure whether the DD tail draws more current over old my geared stock tail. after i got the prop the right way round (all opposite), i had to reduce the mix on the Pic+ board quite a bit, so it should be drawing less juice in hover, right?
I also had to back off the gyro gain from 100% to 70% to stop tail wag.

First indoor impressions... i'm getting used to it... i always thought the geared tail blades looked way too big, had got used to them, now the tail looks way too small. makes a buzzing noise now but the tail response is very sharp, quick to respond and solid.

Current setup:

Piccolo FP
Pic+ board (receiver, 2xESCs, gyro and mixer)
G-310 main motor
Direct driven mini prop tail with carbon brushes motor
Hornet MS080 CF blades
10T/96T gearing
3x1200HD cells

Ball in swash mod, white CNC anti-rotation
20 cm CF flybar, Pro paddles
Retro fit landing gear
CF black fins x2
CF boom support

Hover 1550 rpm. Outdoor average 1700 rpm. Max throttle briefly 2100 rpm
Total weight estimated 275g
Flight duration estimated 15-25mins


The Next Step

Current brushed motor:

Orion Elite Modified 42g, 2996 rpm/V - F/P Piccolo

Moving up to a brushless main motor plus additional ESCs costs £££?

Hacker B20-41S 40g, 2195 rpm/V - F/P Piccolo
Astro 010 801 M 32g, 2300 rpm/V - F/P or C/P Piccolo
Hacker B20-36S 40g, 2500 rpm/V - C/P Piccolo
Hacker B20-31S 40g, 2903 rpm/V - "Hot" C/P Piccolo
Mini AC 1215-20 49g, 3000rpm/V - "Hot" C/P Piccolo

Model motors US or www.e-flight.co.uk, Hacker motors

Separates Fixed Pitch wiring diagram here

Brushless Fixed Pitch wiring diagram here (JJ ;) or Pic board only here

Brushless Collective Pitch wiring diagram here

Piccolo component reference for Rx's, Gyros, ESCs, Mods etc. here (Mozza;)

CD ROM brushless motors DIY here


Himax 2015 2800rpm/v (48g) + Phoenix 10 $100 combo April 2004

The good news is that I will soon have my hands on a budget brushless Himax 2015 2800rpm/v (48g) + Phoenix 10 $100 combo... www.toddsmodels.com in the post. I've heard some bad reports about Himax motor's efficiency from private individuals on the other RC groups but decided that those results may not be that accurate. A $50 motor may not be as light and efficient as some of the competition but at that price I'll live with it :). Also a 2 mm shaft will save money by using my old pinions. The G310 has had a hard life at 11.2v and I hope a smoother motor will help achieve slightly better altitude control in hover.

I'm so locking forward to road testing it. my soldering iron is on standby whilst I wait for the post to arrive (tax man 'get ya hands off!'). respect is due to the old G-310 holding up so well beyond spec. other than the axel bush clogging up with carbon particles (removed with a WD40 wash), it's lasted well.

...

Himax 2800 brushless vs G-310 in an FP modified

Himax 2015 2800 rpm/v + Phoenix 10 combo - $100
$111 with post (~£62 at 1.8 to 1 exchange) + £13.5 import tax :( and took just under 2 weeks to arrive via the British postal service.

Ripped it all out the bag, slapped on a 2 mm 8 tooth pinion, made a 4 mm riser motor mount, soldered up. disable ESC brake and cutoffs, ready to roll.

One tip for the 'Y' cableless, extract the signal pin from the Phoenix servo connector, take a normal sowing pin and push it through the signal connector and piggy back it onto the throttle signal pin from the Pic board to the Rx. an easy bodge that is working so well and secure, I'll probably leave it that way.

Real RPM: I did a quick max blade rpm test using a microphone to sample the blades at 44100 Hz, then counted the samples taken between 2 peaks (one revolution). eg. for my current ~310g Airwolf FP setup's hover rpm: 44100 samples per second / 1506 samples per rev = 29.28 per sec. 29.28 X 60 = ~1756 rpm. In the process I had a little scare as I managed to hit the mic with the blade tips ;)

 

 

I should have the patients to wire up a multimeter and measure the Amps so here's the only comparison I can currently give:

Both setups hover around 60-70%.

G-310 10T/96T on pic+ board, 11.2v
100% throttle 2080 max blade rpm (121 mph on blade tips)

Himax 2800 8T/96T on Phoenix 11.2v (standard timing, auto calibrate throttle range or fixed range)
100% throttle 2280 max blade rpm (133 mph on blade tips)

200 rpm (+9.6%) doesn't sound like much but it makes quite a bit of difference when you need to climb out in a hurry. the amount of extra energy required probably increases by the square of the blade velocity increase.... mmm yea, some one might find the numbers useful?

using the correct gearing?
11.2v X 2800rpm/v = 31360 motor rpm theoretical no load
2280 X (96/8) = 27360 motor rpm actual loaded


P10 'auto calibrate throttle range' setting gives me a full Tx throttle range and seems better suited to my setup as I'm still using the Pic board for tail mixing. To my surprise with 8T/96T the tail mix behaviour across the throttle range is pretty much the same as when using a G-310 10T/96T.

good news for anyone out there who accidentally switches off their Tx before powering down the Pic board, now it doesn't go full throttle n wiz off, the brushless ESC shuts down.

Feels like an Orion with more grunt on demand and a bit smoother. Don't yet know about duration and efficiency and still gets quite hot inside and Airwolf kit. So far so good.


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