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Futaba FF9 Radio


Futaba FF9 Radio

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Futaba FF9 Radio
Tom Wilkinson reviews the very versatile                                                 be assigned only to Switches Sw-A
                                                                                         through to Sw-H and if assigned to the
                                                                                         three-position switches Sw-C and Sw-
and user-friendly Futaba Field Force 9.                                                  E the associated servo will only move
                                                                                         from end to end, the servo will not
                                                                                         stop at neutral when the switch is in

       ne of the first Field Force 9 sys-   radios being supplied with manuals           the centre position. The 9th channel
       tems to arrive in the UK was         poorly translated from the Japanese)         cannot be assigned to a stick or any of
       made available to Traplet              A year ago I became the proud owner of     the five variable controls. The only
       Publications by Ripmax plc, the      a Futaba 9ZAP-wc2 so I have become           menu item recognising the 9th channel
UK distributors. The promotional            familiar with the “mighty 9Z”. I cannot      is the AUX-CH from the [BASIC 2/2]
material supplied with the system           comment on the claim that the software       page, where, apart from assignment to
makes the following claim:                  functionality matches all but the 9ZAP       switches, the only other facility is to
 “Futaba’s dominance of the comput-         because I have no in-depth knowledge of      reverse the servo direction. The 9th
er system market is once again              systems other than Futaba. What I can        channel cannot be mixed or pro-
emphasised with the release of the          say is that the FF9 gets close in many       grammed in any other way.
new generation FF9. Never before has        ways to the 9ZAP, sitting somewhere
there been a computer system with           between the 9ZAP and the FF8. In terms       Throttle Mode
such ease of selection or simplicity of     of control sticks, switches, knobs and
programming, and yet with the soft-         levers, the FF9 even has one more than       conversion made easy!
ware functionality to match all but         the 9ZAP!                                      The review sample was supplied in
the mighty 9Z.                                The transmitter holds completely inde-     Mode I configuration and as I am only
 “Using its rotary ‘Jog Dial’ pro-          pendent memories for eight different         capable of safely flying in Mode II it
gramme, selection is a twist away -         models, and if additional storage is         appeared that the review was stalled
press to select and twist again to          required memory for another six models       before it started. My previous experi-
select and adjust. The FF9 is so sim-       can be added using the DP 16K CAMPac         ences of converting transmitters from
ple to programme that the manual is         module. The CAMPac module is avail-          Mode I to II have involved much fid-
almost superfluous, being the perfect       able as a separate extra. Prices quoted in   dling with springs and ratchet fingers. I
system for those baffled by previous        this review do not include the cost of the   was therefore very pleased to find that
computer systems.....”                      CAMPac.                                      the conversion of the FF9 simply
                                                                                         involved taking the back off the case
The FF9 (on the right) has an extra rotary control knob over the 9ZAP.                   and removing a cover plate (secured by
                                                                                         only two screws), from the back of the
                                                                                         current throttle stick and transferring it
                                                                                         to the other stick. The cover plate has
                                                                                         an extension that pokes forward into
                                                                                         the stick assembly and activates a
                                                                                         ratchet while de-activating the spring
                                                                                         centring. So the non-centring throttle
                                                                                         stick is always associated with this
                                                                                         rather clever cover plate.
                                                                                           All that remains to change throttle
                                                                                         mode is to make a software change by
                                                                                         holding down both the Mode/Page
                                                                                         button and the End button while turn-
                                                                                         ing the transmitter power on. This
                                                                                         reveals a 2-line programming option
                                                                                         called ‘Tx Setting’. ‘STK-MODE’ can
                                                                                         be set from 1 to 4 by turning the Jog
  I have come to the conclusion that                                                     Dial then pressing the lower Select
the FF9 is worthy of the above claims.
                                            Nine Channels - what                         (Cursor), the second line ‘THR-REV’
The review sample was so new to the         does this really mean?                       can be toggled between NOR and REV
UK market that the manual was very            The FF9 is only a nine-channel sys-        with the Jog Dial. The significance of
much in draft form and obviously not        tem when PCM modulation is used.             the ‘THR-REV’ selection is that the
for public consumption. So I had to         When PPM modulation is selected the          throttle sense is reversed such that the
complete this review with minimal ref-      transmitter controls only eight chan-        throttle trim is only effective when the
erence to the manual. The program-          nels and none of the programmes even         throttle stick is pushed forward if the
ming is so intuitive that I really did      mention a ninth channel. When in             REV option is selected. Just to make
find the manual unnecessary; that’s         PCM mode the ninth channel becomes           that clear let me state what I think the
one claim justified. (The manual now        available but it is only capable of being    majority of users will program. Low
supplied with the radio is very good, a     switched, with no facilities for end-        throttle will be the position where the
far cry from the early days of computer     point adjustment. The 9th channel can        throttle stick is pulled back towards

14 RCMW April 2002
                                                                                                       FUTABA FF9 RADIO

  Mode I (throttle right).                                           Mode II (throttle left).

the bottom of the transmitter and            from the PARAMETER menu. The                   Digital trims - love 'em
‘THR-REV’ will be selected to NOR.           model TYPE can be ACROBATIC,
                                             GLID(1FLP), GLID(2FLP) and                     or hate 'em!
The Jog Dial - Futaba’s                      HELI(SWH1), HELI(SWH2),                          The FF9 is equipped with digital
                                             HELI(SWH4), HELI(SR-3) and                     trims on all four primary control func-
new programming                              HELI(SN-3). The model type appropri-           tions. I firmly believe that digital trims
secret weapon!                               ate to jet flying is ACROBATIC and             are a positive contribution to safety
                                             hereon in I will only refer to the pro-        because they ensure that the trims can-
  A most useful aspect of the FF9, which     gramming options presented by the FF9          not be displaced from their previously
sets it apart from any other system that I   with ACROBATIC selected. The model             set positions without the operator
have come across, is the Jog Dial. This      name can have up to eight characters,          knowing and on switch-on the trims
innovative item is used to highlight         both upper and lower case letters              are always where they were left when
menu selections, adjust numerical val-       together with the numerals 0 to 9, 22          the transmitter was previously
ues and return individual settings direct-   other characters and a blank space are         switched off. Opponents of digital
ly to the factory default values. I will     available, all selected sequentially by the    trims are often heard to complain that
give specific examples of its use            Jog Dial when programming the model            trim position cannot be felt, without
throughout the review. One example of        name.                                          looking, and that digital throttle trims
its useful nature which is relevant to         The accumulative power-on timer, in          are too slow. In the FF9 Futaba have,
many menu items is that, when setting        combination with the battery voltage           in my opinion, addressed these con-
numerical values by turning the knob,        display, give the operator no excuse for       cerns.
the factory default (for example END         attempting to fly with a discharged              Operation of the trims is accompa-
POINTS are factory set to 100%) can be       transmitter battery. The transmitter will      nied by a beeping sound. If a trim is
returned to quickly by pressing the knob     also display a low battery symbol after        moved and immediately released one
for more than a second.                      the model name and emit a continuous           beep is heard and the trim position is
                                             beeping if the battery voltage falls below     moved by one increment. If the trim is
Back to the beginning                        8.5 volts.                                     moved and held over a single beep is
                                               The function-activated timers are            heard followed by a stream of beeps.
  Having praised the ease with which         labelled S1 and S2 and both display            Each beep represents one increment of
the Throttle Mode can be changed I           minutes, seconds and tenths of a sec-          trim position change. The size of a
should get back to describing the nor-       ond. Those two timers can be very use-         trim increment can be varied in the
mal operation of the system. On switch-      ful for the power flyer as one can be          [TRIM] menu by setting the value of
ing the power on the user is presented       activated when the throttle is moved           STEP from 1 to 40 with the Jog Dial.
with a very informative Switch-on            above a pre-set level and the other when       The trim range is defined as 120 inter-
Screen displaying model number and           the throttle is below that value, thus         vals each side of neutral. The value
name, modulation (PPM or PCM),               keeping separate records of time spent         that STEP is set at defines the number
transmitter battery voltage, accumulative    at high and low throttle respectively. I       of these intervals travelled in one beep
transmitter on-time, two function acti-      will come back to programming the              or trim increment. If STEP is set to 40
vated timers and primary control trim        timers after describing access to the var-     the trim will move very quickly, going
positions. There is also an aircraft sym-    ious menus.                                    from neutral to either extreme in three
bol to indicate the model TYPE selected                                                     beeps and taking only 1.8 seconds to

                                                                                                                April 2002 RCMW 15

go from one extreme to the other. This       Dial is then pressed to enter the menu          any of these channels the Select (Cursor)
setting can be very useful for the throt-    item’s screen. The menu lists also move         buttons are first used to highlight one of
tle trim as it divides the trim range into   automatically from page 1/2 to 2/2              the channel numbers and the Jog Dial is
only seven positions.                        when the Jog Dial takes the selection           then turned to select the particular chan-
  When STEP is set to 1 it takes 28 sec-     beyond the bottom item of page 1/2.             nel that is to be programmed. As the
onds to go from one extreme to the           The End button is used to leave any of          channel number is highlighted the
other. The default setting of STEP is 4,     these four pages to return to the               description on the line below changes to
giving an end to end trimming time of        Switch-on Screen.                               reflect the channel name and the associ-
8 seconds. Another way of looking at                                                         ated switch position.
this facility is that the user can opt for   Dual Rates and                                    The value of rate and exponential can
very fast and coarse trim operation                                                          be selected by the position of any of the
right through to very slow and fine.         Exponential - real ver-                         switches A through to G and also with
  Not only are the trim positions dis-       satility!                                       the position of the four primary control
played on the opening screen but,                                                            sticks. The significance of the setting of
when being adjusted, the beep sound            I have to admit that I find the FF9 dual      rate and exponential by the position of
is altered to a lower tone when the          rates and exponential facilities much           the throttle stick, for example, may be of
neutral position is met.                     easier to program than the 9ZAP. The            particular interest to the high-speed flyer.
                                             four primary channels Aileron [CH1],            It means that large control deflections
Special Mixer Alert                          Elevator [CH2], Throttle [CH3] and              could be made possible only when the
                                             Rudder [CH4], as expected, are associat-        throttle was below a certain point.
Warnings                                     ed with these facilities. To programme          Limited elevator deflection whenever the
  The transmitter has two LEDs that
are normally continuously lit when the
transmitter is on. The green LED indi-        Menu list.
cates that the r.f. module is healthy.        BASIC(ACRO) <1/2>
The Red LED serves as a power-on                     MODEL
indicator and as an alarm. If the red                D/R, EXP
LED is flashing an alarm state is indi-              END POINT
cated. There are two levels of alarm.                SUB-TRIM
Silent alarms (red LED flashing only)                REVERSE
occur when some mixers are activated                 TRIM
after the transmitter has been switched              THR-CUT
on. Audible alarms (red LED flashing                 IDLE-DOWN
and beeping sounds) occur when some                  F/S    (only seen if MODUL>PCM selected in [PARAMETER] menu).
mixer switches are in the ON state            BASIC(ACRO) <2/2>
when the transmitter is switched on.                 AUX-CH          (CH5 to CH8 PPM mode, CH5 to CH9 PCM mode).
The mixers that activate these alarms                PARAMETER: RESET>Execute
are confined to THR-CUT, IDLE-                                       TYPE>Acrobatic/GLID(1FLP)/ etc.
DOWN, AIR-BRAKE and SNAP-                                            MODUL>PCM/PPM cycle power!
ROLL. The screen will indicate which                                 ATL>ON/OFF
mixers are activated and can be cleared                              AIL-2>CH5&6/CH6or7
by switching the offending mixer off. If             TIMER
it is required that the mixer causing the            TRAINER
alarm must remain on then the warn-                  SERVO
ing screen can be cancelled by simulta-
neously pressing both upper and lower         ADVANCE(ACRO) <1/2>
Select (Cursor) buttons to return to the           PROG.MIX1     (Default          =   Aileron➔Rudder)
Switch-on Screen. The word “Mix”                   PROG.MIX2     (Default          =   Elevator➔Flap)
will appear beside the model name in               PROG.MIX3     (Default          =   Flap➔Elevator)
the Switch-on Screen whenever any of               PROG.MIX4     (Default          =   Throttle➔Rudder)
these four special mixers remain acti-             PROG.MIX5     (Default          =   Rudder➔Aileron)
vated                                              PROG.MIX6     (Default          =   Rudder➔Aileron) with 5-point mixing curve.
                                                   PROG.MIX7     (Default          =   Rudder➔Elevator) with 5-point mixing curve.
The Menu structure                                 FLAPERON
  The programming menus are accessed               AIL-DIFF
from the Switch-on Screen by pressing
and holding the Mode/Page button for          ADVANCE(ACRO) <2/2>
more than one second. The                          AIR-BRAKE
Mode/Page button is used to toggle                 ELEV➔FLAP
between the ADVANCE and BASIC                      V-TAIL
menus. Each of these menus has two                 ELEVON
pages <1/2> and <2/2> that can be                  AILVATOR
toggled between with either the upper              SNAP-ROLL
or lower Select (Cursor) buttons.                  THR-DELAY
Menu items are selected by turning the             THR➔NEEDL
Jog Dial to highlight the item, the Jog

16 RCMW April 2002
                                                                                                          FUTABA FF9 RADIO

throttle was opened above a certain             50%. To programme low rates at high           throws. I often find that recommended
amount might save a model from over-            throttle the throttle should be moved         rates are a bit high for my style of flying
stressed wing spars, and those high-            above halfway and the D/R line selected       and so I rely heavily on the dual rates
speed passes would be easier to make            with the Select (Cursor) keys. One of the     switch to get me out of uncomfortable
smooth. “But”, say the doubters, “would         % values in the D/R line will be high-        situations. With the FF9 there is the
there be sufficient control authority to        lighted. This can then be set to the          option to make life very easy on the test
pull out of a high-speed dive?” Possibly!       desired value with the Jog Dial and as        pilot. THREE levels of rates and expo-
- chances are improved by closing the           this is done the slope of one half of the     nential can be set for two of the prima-
throttle to get the high rates back. I find     graphic display will change. (The left-       ry functions because the FF9 has two
that I use high elevator rates when land-       hand % field and left-hand side of the        three-position switches, (SW C & SW
ing my gas turbine powered Kangaroo             graphic are associated with UP elevator       E).
but need low rates to keep things               and the corresponding right-hand ele-           To illustrate the point, the values that
smooth at high speed, so perhaps I will         ments with DOWN). To adjust the other         I might set for the aileron rates con-
set the rates with the throttle in future, it   % value the stick has to be moved away        trolled by switch C and the displays
will be one less switch to worry about.         from neutral in a direction that causes       that they would give are:
The FF9 would be programmed to                  the value to be highlighted.                    AILE(UP)
achieve this as follows:                          Now as an extra some exponential
  The CH line is selected with the Select       could also be programmed in, but we            D/R     100%     100%
(Cursor) buttons and the Jog Dial turned        might choose to do this only at the low        EXP     -50%     -50%
to highlight CH2. The next line shows           throttle position. Simply place the throt-
ELEV(UP), (or DN) to confirm that the           tle below halfway and highlight the EXP        AILE(CT)

                                                                                               D/R     70%      70%
                                                                                               EXP     -20%     -20%


                                                                                               D/R     50%      50%
                                                                                               EXP     0%       0%

                                                                                                One other important feature, which is
                                                                                              new to the Field Force range, the val-
                                                                                              ues for rates and exponential need not
                                                                                              be the same for each throw of the con-
Upon switching on, a great deal of information is presented by the128 x 64 pixel              trol stick. For example the photo
LCD. This display is referred to, in this review, as the Switch-on screen.                    shows a set up (which I would not
                                                                                              wish to fly with, but it makes the
                                                                                              point!) where right aileron is subject to
                                                                                              80% rate and 76% exponential where-
                                                                                              as left aileron has 50% rate and no
                                                                                              exponential. Such a set up may be
                                                                                              more appropriate for the elevator con-
                                                                                              trol to achieve silky smooth landing
                                                                                              flair with positive recovery if the model
                                                                                              is pitched up too early.

                                                                                               In part two we will continue by
                                                                                               looking at; ATV or lack of it, Mixers
The first page of the Basic Menu, with the MODEL item highlighted, next stage is               etc. Phone the suscription hot line
to press the Jog Dial to enter the MODEL screen.                                               (01684) 595399 to ensure you receive
                                                                                               your copy of part two.
elevator rate and exponential is to be          line with the Select (Cursor) buttons. If -
programmed. The Select (Cursor) but-            60% exponential is set with the Jog Dial,
tons are used to highlight the switch           for both UP and DOWN elevator, the             The recommended retail prices are:
selected in the SW line and the Jog Dial        slope of the servo response curve will be     P-FP9CF:
is turned until the switch line reads the       very close to the same slope when the         FF9 Tx with 4 S3002 servos R138DF
SW>THR (30%). The throttle position at          50% D/R is active at high throttle. So        PPM dual conversion Rx and NiCad
which the elevator rate and exponential         the elevator rate around neutral will be      batteries: £509.99
will change can be varied from the 30%          the same for all throttle positions. By       P-FP9CP:
default position by placing the throttle in     observing the graphic, while moving the       FF9 Tx with 4 S3002 servos R149DP
the position at which the change is             throttle either side of half way, the         PPM dual conversion Rx and NiCad
required to take place (say half throttle).     matching of elevator rate around neutral      batteries: £549.99
The Jog Dial should now be pressed for          can be seen.
at least one second, when a beep will be          When flying a new model for the first       RCMW
heard and the % displayed will indicate         time there are often questions in my
the current throttle position, around           mind concerning the control surface                       Tom Wilkinson

                                                                                                                  April 2002 RCMW 17

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