REVIEW   VG400 and 600 R/C Systems
 
 July 2000 R/C Modeler
 Vol. 37 - No. 7
 

Product Review

VG400 and 600 R/C Systems
Airtronics

By
Eloy Marez
  

TRANSMITTER FEATURES AND FUNCTIONS

The Airtronics VG400/VG600 Radio Control Systems are primarily intended for the flying of fixed wing model aircraft.

1. Retractable antenna.

2. LED Scale Voltage Display.

3. Control stick, horizontal-ailerons, vertical-elevator (Mode 2), vertical-throttle (Mode 1).

4. Trim lever, elevator (Mode 2), throttle (Mode 1).

5. Trim lever ailerons.

6. Name Plate.

7. Power Switch.

8. Trim lever throttle (Mode 2), elevator (Mode 1).

9. Trim lever rudder.

10. Control stick, horizontal-rudder, vertical-throttle (Mode 2), vertical-elevator (Mode 1).

11. Neck strap connnecting hook.

12. Servo reverse switches.

13. Retract aux. channel (VG600 Only).

14. Trainer button.

15. Carrying handle.

16. 3-position aux. channel flap switch (VG600 Only).

17. Throttle High and Low End point adjustments.

18. Ail., Elev., Rud., Flap Servo Travel Adjusters (VG600 Only).

The Airtronics VG Series, apparent successor to the popular Vanguard systems, is intended for beginners, with only the non-confusing features and functions most used.

The Airtronics Vanguard four and six-channel radio systems have been popular with those who prefer their radios to have only the basic features since their introduction some twelve years ago. That is a long time for a system to survive without significant changes, especially in the light of the many advances that have come along during those years. Somebody at Sanwa/Airtronics had the right ideas back then!

But the time has come, a successor has been introduced, the VG Series, also available in four and six-channel versions. At first glance, they might appear to be nothing more than fancied-up versions of the old Vanguards, but further glances reveal some interesting changes - and, of course, some of the improvements, new circuitry and improved SMT (Surface Mount Technology) are not visible. Let us then take a closer look at these new systems that have become available to us.

The innards of the VG600 show an uncluttered, all SMT (Surface Mount Technology) assembly. Both stick tension and length is adjustable, mode changes are also possible.

Transmitter

This is where it all starts for most of us, so we'll pick it up first. Unlike the old Vanguard, with its rather square corners popular in its day, the VG's come in the same modern styled case used for the highly advanced RD6000 computer system - without the screen and multi-controls they require. Otherwise, it is your basic two-stick sport class radio, with the four common channels on the sticks. On the VG600, a switch operates the retract gear fifth channel and, in this case, a 3-position switch is mounted in the upper case that could have a variety of uses, though is labeled for flap operation.

The common features are:

LED transmitter battery display

Lower case-mounted switch

Neck strap hook

Servo reversing, all channels

Trainer system

Carrying handle

Throttle high and low adjustments

The VG600 includes the following additions:

Retract gear switch

3-position flap switch

Travel adjustments all channels

Instead of an analog (needle) type of meter, the VG's feature an LED instrument that does pretty much the same thing, visually indicates the battery's charge condition. This is not a precision instrument, nor is it intended to be. However, it does provide go-no-go indications that warn you of upcoming critical battery conditions. Five LED's are used: four green and one red, marked LOW, MED, and FULL. You may want to check just what these LED's tell about your particular transmitter battery - I will tell you how to do so when I discuss the furnished batteries.

The space at the bottom contains reversing switches for all channels and, in the case of the 400, adjustments for the throttle travel at both high and low ends. They are normal screwdriver set pots, having no indication on the panel, you merely set them by the carburetor openings. The 600 also includes EPA (End Point Adjustments - travel) for the elevator, ailerons, rudder, and flap channels.

Normal ratcheted trims are located where you will always find them, adjacent to the stick channel they affect. The throttle trim works on both high and low ends - the fact that both can be adjusted independently provides full control, including the ability to cut the engine with simultaneous low throttle and full low trim.

Instead of the more common analog (needle) meter, the VG's use a row of LED's to indicate battery condition.

The power switch is located on the lower right corner - no more turning the transmitter off when reaching for a trim lever, as seems to happen with center mounted switches. On the opposite end is the plug-in crystal and while Airtronics equipment will support wide frequency excursions without retuning; remember that it is illegal to change the transmitter frequency here in the U.S. The plug-in feature is probably there as a concession to those in countries that allow such changes.

A front panel mounted push button switch replaces the more often seen top-mounted lever-operated "trainer" toggle switch.

The VG's use a push-button to activate the Trainer system, a feature which I like - the movement required by the top-mounted toggle switch is awkward to me. Trainer compatibility is with other VG's, Radiants, RD6000's, and all Vanguards. There is also a compatible Vanguard-type trainer box available direct from Airtronics for a surprisingly low price - give them a call!

The new 92777 receiver, seen here with a coin for size comparison, is included with the VG's. State-of-the-art; double conversion, narrow band!

Receiver

Good news! Airtronics newest Z-Plug equipped 92777, a small narrow-band, double conversion 7-channel receiver is supplied with both the VG400 and VG600. This is the same unit that also comes with the RD6000 and which is compatible with most older Airtronics FM transmitters.

Although the VG's are new to me, the 777 receiver isn't. I have used this receiver extensively with the RD6000 and the older Radiant without ever encountering the slightest problem.

The 777 measures only .95" x .33" x 2.33", and weighs in at 1.10 oz. As stated, it is a 7-channel unit, obviously to make it usable with other transmitters; in this case, just ignore the unused channels.

Servos

The VG's are available with various servo types for various applications:

No. 90400, VG400, with four 94102Z servos, rated at 50 in. oz.

No. 90401, VG400, with three 94102Z's.

No. 90402, VG400, with four 94332 ball bearing servos rated at 50 in. oz.

No. 90404, VG400, for sailplanes, with two 94501Z servos rated at 29 in. oz. and a 270 mAh NiCd battery.

No. 90600, VG600, with four 94102Z's.

No. 90601, VG600, with four 94322Z's.

The VG's are plug-in compatible with all Airtronics "Z" servos, including the latest powerhouse, the 94358Z, which produces 200 in. oz. of torque in a normal-size case. Owners of older non-Z plug servos can use their servos with adapters No. 99440Z. Should you have an older non-Z receiver you wish to use with "Z" servos, you will need adapters No. 99399Z.

Batteries

Rechargeable NiCd's, of course! The normal 8-cell battery for the transmitter and a 4-cell for the airborne. The batteries are rated at 700 mAh; my tests with a calibrated discharger proved them to be slightly over. A standard-type wall charger, rated at 75 mA, the correct value for the above rating is included with both VG types.

Like most transmitters today, the VG's have a diode installed in the charger circuit so that the battery cannot be tested through the charge socket. However, it plugs in, with an old-style servo connector, and you need only to remove the back battery door, unplug the battery, and plug it into your test instrument. You will need an Airtronics receiver Charge Cord No. 99703 which will accept the plug on the battery; you will have to add a connector at the other end to mate with your test device.

Again, neither the meter nor an LED readout such as this is noted for its precision. However, the LED's being more visible, will need some understanding - minor voltage changes that would affect the needle position will, in most cases, go unnoticed, but will show up more in a string of LED's.

Any data that I might gather for my VG-600 might not be valid for yours, I prefer to show you how to obtain the same data as it applies to your unit.

First of all, as stated, the charger circuit is diode-protected; you cannot read the battery voltage at the charger jack. Also, the current drain of the transmitter is slightly less than 100 milliamps, so with the 700 mAh battery installed, your operating time on a fully charged battery is seven hours! You have a lot of safety margin!

Anyway, to verify what those LED's are telling you, you will need a digital voltmeter. If the type available is intended for RC'ers, it will probably apply a load and is suitable. An electronic type meter will not have this load built-in; one can be added by using a 100-ohm resistor in series with the leads. This value resistor will apply the same 100 mA load as does the transmitter.

While using the transmitter, keep track of the time until the first light goes out, then check the battery voltage as described. Either keep flying or leave the transmitter on (with the antenna extended), recording at what points the LED will extinguish.

The nominal voltage for eight NiCd's is 9.6 volts, anything above that and down to 9.4 or so, is safe to fly; I would not risk it any lower. You will find that you had more than enough operating time anyway before that point is reached, it is just comforting to have these kinds of figures on hand.

Accessories

Everything needed to install and use the VG's is included in the basic package: a variety of servo output wheels and arms; rubber and brass grommets; aileron extension; fuselage and aileron servo trays; a channel number flag, and even one of those AMA-required ribbons that say "72 MHz," etc.

Additionally, Airtronics has available a variety of other accessories for special uses, such as larger capacity batteries, electronic speed controls, "Y" harnesses, and a host of packaged replacements such as servo gears and cases. You can always call and speak to a knowledgeable hands-on modeler for assistance at this company.

Flying

The subject VG600 was test-flown in Kyosho's new "Solution 1400," a colorful aerobatic ARF. As I always do with Airtronics radios, I use an internal antenna, running in a plastic tube with some 4" exiting out the back, by the rudder. After some antenna-down range tests, with and without the engine running, and with a helper rotating the airplane 45 at a time, it was deemed ready to fly. And fly it did, with never a missed command or even a hint of one. One of my recommended tests is to fly high overhead and collapse the transmitter antenna. This was done with the VG600, again with no loss of control. If your requirements are for a basic but reliable radio system, you will not go wrong with one of the VG series.

Availability and Price

There is usually a hobby shop in every town of any size that will have Airtronics equipment, and the rest can get them with a phone call. Try your local shop first! Due to the different versions, the prices vary somewhat; be sure that the attractive price being quoted is not for a three-servo system unless that is all you need. Anyway, the average prices at this writing are $135.00-$145.00 for the 400 (with four servos) and $160.00-$170.00 for the 600.

All Contents Copyright © 2000. R/C Modeler Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

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