Interesting quad-specific power-train parts at Hobby King

HK has just released some parts specifically for quad or other multi-rotor use.

Interesting features:

  • ESCs support high refresh rate out of the box.
  • Advertised as being ATMEL based and firmware upgradable.
  • Overload protection... detects jammed propellor and will shut dow
  • System is being pitched as "solder free".  All wires come with connectors, and compatible extension/breakout cables are part of the system.

Another interesting point that I didn't think of is that their ESC programmer is jumper style instead of pushbutton style. This makes it easy to identically configure multiple ESCs to the same setting without a lot of button pushing, and presumably with much smaller chance of getting one out of sync.

The YT page has links to everything:

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Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on October 3, 2012 at 5:35pm

Yeah... I've been discussing these a bit elsewhere today.  They really aren't very great.  They are not MR specific, it's pretty much just a branding job.  If they were truly MR specific, they wouldn't contain UBECs which have little function on a MR.  Also, they still have a Low Voltage Cuttoff, which is bad on a MR.  

Using the wiring harness they sell would result in a WHOLE LOT of extra wire bundled up in the frame.  I'd rather solder.  

These do not have the SimonK firmware, and it's really not clear exactly what they mean by "high refresh rate".  HK isn't really going into detail about that.

IMO, this is a major fail for HK.  Let's get some real out-of-the-box thinking please.

Comment by bGatti on October 4, 2012 at 9:13am

Attacking a product because it retains serviceability for multiple applications seems unnecessary.

This would appear to be a reasonable modification of existing ESC designs to improve their performance for Quads; without sacrificing their general purpose.

The Wiring harness is both optional and reasonable (BTW imaged are several options, only one of which ends up in the frame itself).

As the firmware is up-gradable  I imagine the features one requires  - ie - a reasonable power down sequence on low batt - could be valued as feedback.

I would offer this is the change people have been hoping for - a platform ESC for which open source software can emerge; now get out there and do some Hacking.

by the way - we had founder of Raspberry Pi at our Hackerspace last night, and he was surprised to find they could produce the Pi in GB at the same cost as China, ... just saying ...

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on October 4, 2012 at 9:33am

Where is the modification?  It appears to be a completely standard ESC, with a new sticker.

You say it could be the change we are looking for, but where is the change?  It's the same as every other ESC out there, all of which benefit from the same open source software.  It's exactly the same, it's just bright green.

Comment by Flying Monkey on October 4, 2012 at 10:03am

Yeah, this is a giant fail for HK.  They've had time and opportunity to modify their FxxA esc's to remove the BECs, factory flash them with simonK-ish firmware and set all the features according to what multirotors want/need.  Instead they just rebrand an airplane ESC...?


Why would I want to use a multirotor specific ESC on an airplane??  Get the right parts for the right job.  Why would I want pre-soldered connectors? I don't even want wiring on them... The wiring should be custom to the build so that you don't have extra weight, RF noise and resistance... And if they put right angle pins for the signal/positive/negative than you'd be able to use custom length male to male jumpers to the FC... they could sell these in different lengths.  At the very least, solder the bullet connectors to the ESC like TBS does


Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on October 4, 2012 at 10:10am

Agreed.  At least at a minimum effort, they could take the F-** line, remove the BEC, remove the wires, provide a link to bulk wire in the appropriate size, and come pre-flashed with SimonK and give Simon $1 per ESC or something.  Done.

Exactly, why are they saying "we included these features so they can be used on an airplane too".  Why?  There are already Eleventy-billion airplane ESC's to chose from.  Why do we need another?  Doesn't make any sense.

It's not that there's anything WRONG with these, it's just that we've been waiting so long for something better, so this is a massive disappointment.

Comment by Mark Harrison on October 4, 2012 at 3:50pm

Hmm, the video's been made private... maybe they're taking your comments to heart and reworking the product line!  But in their defense, they do mention in the video that they're targeting people new to quads that aren't comfortable with soldering.

I like the fact that they're being advertised as being flash upgradable.  In the comments they mention that they've worked with SimonK on these items, but don't mention any details other than that they would post the appropriate firmware under the files section (my guess is that he may have verified they work when flashed?).

timecop weighed in on the comment thread below, and predictably was banned and scrubbed.

Comment by Mark Harrison on October 4, 2012 at 4:00pm

BTW,  R_Lefebvre has some great observations on the HK thread.  R, I hope you don't mind if I copy them here?

I especially like R's idea of running the FC from an independent power source as a standard thing.  This lets you power up the FC "normally" without providing power to the motors.

Just to back up what is being said about not running BEC's in parallel... I purchased 9 HK F-40A ESC's for use in an Octocopter. I was doing some bench testing, running two motors and ESC's at once, using a Y-cable to connect them to the Turnigy Digital Servo Tester. I should have known better, but wasn't thinking. After a few minutes of testing, the servo tester died. It is no longer functional. I checked for the problem, and found one of the BEC's appears to have failed wide open or something, and is now outputting 12V on the red wire, permanently. This over-voltage destroyed the $18 servo tester. Imagine what it would do to your flight controller! Furthermore, I think MR ESC's should not have a BEC at all. We should all be FORCED to power the flight controller independently of the ESC's. This allows you to boot the FC with no risk of inadvertent motor starts. Also, if you have an Octo or Hexa that can fly with one motor dead, if the one ESC you have powering the system is the one that dies, you won't also lose power to the FC which will cause a crash that could be prevented. It would be great if Hobby King made a small, cheap, reliable, 1 Amp linear voltage regulator, properly made with a TO220 package and a small heat sink. This would power the flight controller externally, and everything would be good.


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