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OpenTx and FrSky

OpenTx is the Open Source version of radio control. It is an operating system for transmitters. The most popular hardware is that produced by the Chinese company FrSky ('free-sky') though others are available. FrSky makes several transmitters and receivers but for Europe the most popular is the Taranis X9D plus transmitter and X8R receiver. Both are surprisingly cheap (£160 and £30) and seem extremely good for robustness and performance. Make sure you buy the versions for the EU, usually called 'LBT'. I get mine from RC Life , T9HobbySport or RobotBirds. What's more you get a free 2000mAh rechargeable battery and charger for the transmitter, which the makers say should give seven hours of run time.

The Taranis X9D plus

 

Corner showing some of the switches and two of the four rotary controls

X8R receiver showing eight servo ports and the S.Bus

 

The X8R has eight channels but can be expanded to sixteen by attaching another X8R or by using the socket for the S.Bus serial networking system. It has telemetry by default and includes Received Signal Strength Indication (RSSI) as standard. There are several data sensors available including Lipo battery voltage (essential for serious electric flyers), GPS for height, speed and map location, airspeed, RPM and temperature, motor current, and a variometer for the glider enthusiasts. All are light and compact and are daisy-chained to the SmartPort on the receiver using servo type leads. No controller is needed.

The X9D can be programmed using the transmitter screen or with free 'Companion' software on a computer running Linux, Windows or Mac OS. The setup is uploaded to the transmitter using USB, and can be simulated on the computer before uploading. Download Companion from OpenTx. Transmitter setups can be backed up to a computer.

OpenTx takes a short while to learn. There is the usual series of dialogue screens to help you with a standard model set-up. For more complicated set-ups you have to program the transmitter. Sticks, switches, rotary controls and sliders are all called 'inputs'. Servos and other controllable devices are all called 'outputs'. The connection between them is called a 'mix'. Mixes are very much more flexible than the usual ones on transmitters and are created and viewed as lines of code. Response curves are easily set up. It is quick and easy to input a standard four-channel system but the software is so powerful it warrants serious study.

Binding is extremely quick and easy, and custom failsafe is available and very flexible.

The X-series of receivers have an S.BUS socket. This allows much simpler single wire connections to complicated wing installations. Read about it here.

FrSky now sells 900 MHz kit. The R9M module plugs into the back of the Taranis and there are three receivers of varying sizes, the most usual being the R9. This is very new and I haven't had a chance to give these a full test yet.

I have reviewed FrSky kit on the Innovations page.

Radio Control Models and Electronics magazine ran a series of articles on OpenTx and Taranis starting with the April 2016 edition.

Most of the FrSky manuals for X9D, X8R and telemetry are here

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(C) Peter Scott 2016

Last edit 27 October 2018