ESCs don't like cold weather - known problem?

Hi there,

today I went out to test the new 2.1 Arducopter firmware and was surprised, when all 4 ESCs made the motors beep on start-up,  (like beep-beep-beep... twice a second) therefore no spinning motors and no flying. :(

I went back home - surprisingly there was everything fine. Motors spinning without any problems. What did I change? Nothing?

Yes - I went inside, where it is warm. Outside we have around 1°C here in Berlin.

So I went back out, motors beeping again. Then I warmed the ESCs with my hand and after around 20 seconds the beeping stopped. I did this one by one and in the end everything was fine.

Is that a known problem? Which components do not like the cold?

Thanks

Joerg

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  • Hey guys - I've been facing the same issue with some cheap chinese ESCs. They would just start beeping when being taken out to the cold. So, after being quite pissed that I cant fly my drone and will have to redo all the soldering again, I've done a lot of research and bought the new ESCs. Now, I'm here to help anyone here facing the same damn issue.

    Best ESCs for the cold weather are these:
    ZTW Spider Series 30A OPTO

    Tested on my new build, no issues whatsoever. -20 Celsius? No problem! They work like a charm. Even when I had my drone left for quite some time in the cold, they would fire up straight away, no beeping, no inconsistencies. Very happy with the purchase.
    3702421549?profile=original


    Here's a link if anyone is interested:
    eBay

  • I experienced the same problem with 3DRobotics 20A ESC's.

    The first time I experienced the problem I was worried I had a rogue cold solder joint and spent an evening isolating and cooling every component in the freezer. I narrowed it down to the ESC's.

    I contacted 3drobotics to find out if this was an isolated issue, thinking the ESC's I had might be from a bad batch.

    This was their response:

    "The manufacturer has informed us that the ESC's should be used in temperatures above 20 degrees Celcius.

    We are not aware that this is an issue that other users have experienced with the ESC's, so it is difficult to say, without knowing the source of the problem, if the same issue will occur with replacement ESC's. I checked with our engineers, and they have suggested checking the connections to ensure that they are not becoming loose with the colder temperature when they are used outside or placed in the freezer. This might help to narrow down the problem. If you have any further questions, I will be glad to assist."

    Not so good for winter flying. Although, as discussed in the thread, they seem to work if they are hand warmed.

    I am looking for a way to keep them warm, some kind of insulation maybe? 

    I also briefly looked around for alternative ESC options without any luck. Turns out ESC can be pretty expensive and I was unable to find any that advertised cold weather functionality. 

    I would welcome others to discuss their experiences in dealing with the cold.

  • Moderator

    Oh, I came across almost the same issue -> http://diydrones.com/forum/topics/works-indoors-beeps-outdoors

    How do you warm up the ESCs, when you are outside? once warmed up does it continue to work?

  • It's certainly possible that your ESC's won't work in those temps, but it's not a sure thing.

    Last year I flew plenty in temps down to -20C.  No problem at all.  The batteries were warm, but I really don't think that mattered much.  The voltage doesn't drop *that* much.  Also, once in use, the battery warms itself.  My ESC, reciever, digital servos, and Flymentor system had no problem with the cold at all.

    It can be an issue that you must allow the electronics to acclimatize before attempting to go.  I used to leave my heli in the car for hours.

    On the other hand, I have a fancy digital electronic car battery charger that does not work in the cold.  Manual dumb charger, no problem at all.

  • No, the issue is LIPO batteries don't like the cold-thus they don't put out enough voltage or current, so the ESC "thinks" they are below the cutoff voltage. This is a known downside to the batteries. There is nothing wrong or changing with the ESCs in regards to temperature. They simply sense the voltage is lower, specifically below the cutoff.

    Either warm the batteries before use or set the cutoff voltage lower.

    You just have to follow the directions that came with the ESCs to set the cutoff voltage to the lowest value. I used a little servo from esky, and programmed my ESC manually, for each one.

    http://www.helicopterfly.com/esky-servo-adjuster-tester-ek20907-p-1...

    You can also do it with the receiver from the radio as well. Either way, be sure to take off the blades!!!

    See here, others with regular helis have the same problems in cold weather.

    http://www.helifreak.com/showthread.php?t=110017

     

    That said, it sounds like pre-warm the batteries inside, wrap them with aluminum foil shiny side inward, and it may work at the current temepratures. Much colder though and you will have to resort to other methods of heat.

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