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We got our shipment of the highly Anticipated Skookum SK720 6-Axis Self Leveling Flybarless Gyro.  There are a lot of new players on the market but but Skookum has been around a long time and has had time to refine their product.  While this is their first 6-Axis gyro, it looks like based on flight performance, design, manual and software that they have spent a signification amount of time developing a product that seriously compete with some of the other 6-axis (and higher) flybarless gyros.  While this IS NOT a detailed review, this initial hands-on will give you some insight into the development put into this product.

The SK-720 replaces the tail gyro, mechanical flybar, and receiver on your R/C Helicopter. Other features include flight logging with playback, optional-self leveling, and more to come!

This unit is ideal for pilots from beginner to 3D expert. Go flybarless!

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Overview

The SK-720 can greatly simplify your heli’s setup, by eliminating the flybar mechanics, tail gyro, and with the use of satellite receivers (not included), the receiver core and associated wiring as well.

But more than just a flybarless system, the SK-720 is a complete 6-degree of freedom inertial flight control system. So what does that mean for you?

Fast Performance

For 3D pilots, the SK-720 integrates the yaw and cyclic gyros, giving rock-solid piro maneuvers and tail control that benefit from knowing what the collective stick is doing. Flybarless flight gives you more power with less bogging, and a locked-in control feel that is far superior to traditional flybar flight.

Improved Stability

For beginners or those learning 3D, the SK-720’s built-in 3-axis accelerometer means you can set it to self-level, like a coaxial heli. This feature can be turned on full time, dialed down as your skills improve, or set to bail you out at the flick of a switch. Plus, a flybarless heli has greater stability than a heli with a flybar, and with fewer parts, is easier to repair. Small 450 size helis become as stable as 90-size helis. The SK-720 will allow every new pilot’s first R/C helicopter to be flybarless.

Flight Logging

For all pilots, the SK720’s built-in flight logging lets you record and play back your flights in a simulator-like display on your PC (like a black-box recorder). Both the heli’s motion and the stick positions are displayed, letting you learn exactly where you can improve your skills – or why you crashed. The playback software can also be used as a diagnostic tool, warning you of voltage dropouts and high vibration, while marking where in the flight they occurred.

Helis Big & Small

For pilots flying micro-helis, the SK-720 will greatly simplify and lighten your machine. It also has a special small-heli tail gyro mode to give good holding power even on 250-size helis.

If you fly larger helis, the SK-720 includes a heavy-duty external power bus that’s good for 25 continuous amps, and helps to isolate vibration from the gyro itself. The bus allows for high voltage servos, low voltage servos, or a combination of both, and includes 16 gauge cabling to connect directly to a 2-cell lipo battery.

Easy Setup

The PC setup software has wizards to guide you through setting up your first flybarless heli in just minutes – making it easier to set up an SK-720 machine than a heli with a traditional flybar!

The setup software or optional SK-LCD terminal lets more advanced users fully tune their heli for max performance. And it’s easy to upgrade the firmware at home so you’ll benefit from any future product improvements with just a click of your mouse.

Future upgrades will include a GPS accessory for more precise xyz positions in the flight logs, as well as abilities entirely new to the hobby.

Features

  • Easy set up for first-time users
  • Flybarless stabilization with piro-compensation
  • Built-in tail gyro, supporting most all tail servos by name in the setup software
  • Supports use as a 9-channel receiver core when used with 2.4 GHz
    satellite receivers (two dedicated Sat-RX ports)
  • Works with Digital or Analog swash servos
  • Suitable for 120, 135/140, and 90 degree eCCPM, as well as mCCPM swashplates
  • Works with 2,3,4, or 5 blades, with phase trim adjustable to +-90°
  • Swash Ring anti-binding algorithm
  • Internal swash mixing, for accurate control
  • Supports radios with either 1024 or 2048 servo steps, and 22ms or 11ms frame rates
  • Can also be used with traditional R/C receivers
  • Expansion port for future accessories such as GPS
  • 38 x 30 x 14 mm, 17 grams
  • 8.5 volt capable
  • Optional 25 amp external power bus (included) for larger than 50-size and nitro helis (15 grams). Make brownouts a thing of the past!
  • 3-axis accelerometer + 3 gyros, allowing self-leveling
  • High-power 32 bit processor (for future upgradeability)
  • Expansion port for GPS or a third sat-receiver
  • Up to 10 servos (one tail servo, 4 digital swash servos, and 5 analog servos)
  • Port for a remote indicator LED , which you can mount outside of the canopy
  • Built in micro-SD card (2 GB flight-data logging)
  • Built in USB mass storage device – Connect the unit to your computer without having to install drivers
  • Flight data logs can be played back on your PC with analysis of tuning and heli health
  • Compatible with the Skookum SK-LCD terminal
  • Existing SK360 setup files can be easily up-converted for the new unit

Hands On Observations

Packaging: Looks like they chose to go with the most basic packaging (minimalist and semi-green I guess).  Just a pegboard package with two plastic pouches.  Doesn’t seem to protect it very well in shipping but dropping a package can’t be any worse than crashing an RC heli with this installed.  No printed instruction book.  The gryo has a built in USB drive so all of the software and instructions are stored inside the gyro’s memory.  First thing you might want to do is make a copy of the software and PDF files offline and burn on a CD or something keep in a safe place because the storage area in the gyro are for storing flight logs and its possible you may erase the software and instructions on it unless they have those files locked somehow.  You might want to also print the manual.  I myself hate reading PDFs.  UPDATE: SKOOKUM SAYS THE PRODUCTION VERSION WILL SHIP IN A BOX.

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Included Items: Looks like in the kit you get jumpers, usb cable, gyro, 3x sponge gryo mount tapes, 1x jumper, 1x remote status light, 1x gyro mounting plate, 1x 20amp 8.5v/5v regulator/power bus.  Excellent idea adding the power bus/regulator and metal gyro mounting plate for nitro setups.  Bus/Regulator rated at 8.5v/5v up to 20amp with a 2cell battery.  Major brownie points Skookum.

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Instruction Manual/Documentation: Looks like they really took their time to make detailed and clear manuals.  While their are some actual photos of wiring setups I would have liked to see schematic type wiring diagrams instead of photos and written explanations.  Wiring for dummies.  Other than that the manual goes into surgical detail especially in SK720 manual.  Download and see for yourself.Screen shot 2010-04-02 at 1.39.59 AM

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Power Bus Manual: Download Here
SK720 Manual: Download Here

Software: While I only got about an hour to look over this software it looks like they did not leave any stone unturned when it goes to tuning.  A great balance of great layout, minimalist quick setup as well as advanced options.  Its here for everyone.  Will take me some time to play with the setups a few days/weeks to give a final verdict on the ease of use of this software.  OMG the setup wizards are a easy as pie.  Definitely easy but that’s only bench tested of course.

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Looks like out of the box this is a winner and I feel very optimistic.   Ill reserve my final verdict and detailed review until I set this thing up in the T-Rex 700 and see how it performs in flight and under the vibrations of nitro motors.  Check back in a few weeks for a more detailed review.

Looks like HeliDirect is going to be selling these for $429.00.   First batch is supposed to ship April 12, 2010 as well as several subsequent shipments.  First pre-orders are all spoken for.

Source: Skookum Robotics & HeliDirect

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