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Friday, October 14, 2016

Spektrum Alpha6 AS3X - Not Ready For Prime Time

I wanted to put 3 axis stabilization on the Waco, and was going for either the Futaba GYA-460, or the Spektrum Alpha 6 AS3X systems.  Being a Spektrum guy, I went Spektrum. Its advertised as ready out of the box, calibrate and voila!


Very nice in the box, the Alpha6 AS3X from AMainhobbies.

Solid, high quality build I expect from Spektrum. Nice metal case. 

Put a nice pad of gyro gel underneath it. Being on a gasser I wanted to isolate it as much as possible.

The wires are a rat's nest under the foam cover.

Installed on the nice CG centered platform, got all the wires going from and to the correct places. A little confused about the rudder having two inputs, R5 and R6 are the channels. One is Rate Only, the other Rate or Heading Hold depending on the gain setting. Ok... I know what these are on my heli, but I don't know how to use this on my airplane.

Well, its not working so well. I have the receiver and Alpha6 setup stock. As you go through the calibration you have to "Cycle the gain inputs and return to center."

What gain inputs?

I finally called Horizon Hobby-Spektrum Tech Support and they have no idea. Well, after some thinking and calling around, they figured that I needed to free up the GEAR channel, and connect a lead from the receiver GEAR Channel to G6 on the Alpha6. Then in the DX8 set the receiver  gear channel to the F Mode switch. Done. This "cycling" would be the F Mode from 1 to 0 to 2 and back to 1.  This would give me three settings, which from the RC Groups forum I figured out are "SAFE", ON and OFF (UPDATE: Thats wrong. Its RATE MODE-OFF-HEADING HOLD) .  NONE OF THIS IS IN THE MANUAL!  It also doesn't say what the default gain percentage is (is it even percentage?), nor how to adjust it. This basic gain setting should be programmable from the transmitter, or at least from the Alpha6, but it sounds like you have to link it to your computer with a cable you have to pay for and they don't say you need, and cannot change it in any other way.

So we did all that switching around, and still can't get past the blinking blue light of "not working". Can't get out of calibrate mode, so the unit is a $129 pass though device with a nice green light.

Now they are working on it. Really? This is THE MOST BASIC setup anyone will do, and it's not in the manual and it's not working. How did this leave the shelf without this basic setup functionality?

While they are bumping heads on this in Champaign, I had to free up the AUX1 channel to set the GEAR switch to AUX1 and use it as the remote ignition kill channel. Done. I had to Y-harness the ailerons, which is fine, I don't need duals, making them a one channel thing (though by doing so I lose the ability to set aileron differential), then plugged the ignition cut out into the AUX1. This changed the behavior and "0 centered"  of the left aileron for some reason, so I had to remove the servo tray for the left aileron, recenter the control arm, fine tune the control rod, and set the new zero, without subtrim. Now its all good. 

I did decide to stop at the "Gain Reverse Mode" for each control surface, and programmed the correct directions for un-commanded movement response, but you save them by... completing the calibration phase. So the surfaces don't move at all except in that Gain Reverse Mode". At least I know the MEMS is working.

As soon as the boys in Champaign figure out what's wrong with their setup they will call me, and we will see if this thing works.

Oh, and they are sending me a programming cable gratis.

With all of this I really want to be sure there is a switch to disable it in flight!

UPDATE  I spent a couple of hours on the phone with the Spektrum guys. They did a great job as we walked through various possibilities. We never repeated things, they were organized, and we remained baffled. I worked with Tyler who then kicked it up to Cody. Cody had me go through some interesting but logical tests that made it clear the Alpha6 isn't responding to signal in the G6 channel. Cody wonders if the channel was inhibited when set up at the factory, but we need the connection cable and the programming software to find out and if it is inhibited and reset it. He's shipping me a cable asap and will walk me through it,

Horizon Hobby Spektrum customer service rocks!

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