Of all the recent innovations in RC technology (and there have been many), one of the most substantial has been the development of artificial stabilization systems. They began several years ago as 1-axis gyros intended to tame the often unwieldy yaw behavior of RC helicopters. Now these devices are offered in 3-axis designs that can also assist the pilots of multi-rotors and all types of airplanes.
As artificial stabilization systems have become more refined, capable, and affordable, they have gained wide acceptance in the RC community. Many pilots initially viewed stabilization systems as a crutch for ham-fisted pilots. I think we've turned the corner, and the majority of RC modelers now recognize artificial stabilization as a useful tool with potential applications for pilots of all skill levels.
In previous articles, I provided overviews of the SAFE (Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope) system in the HobbyZone Delta Ray, Blade 350 QX2, and Blade 350 QX3. I have also reviewed the finer points of the Open Pilot CC3D unit. Over a series of articles, we will be looking at some of the other stabilization systems available today. We'll begin with a peek at the AS3X (Artificial Stabilization 3-Axis) system from Horizon Hobby.
What is AS3X?
As I began mapping out my plan to write about AS3X, I quickly realized that there are way too many different aspects of the system to cover in one article. So I decided to pare it down to its simplest form and provide a broad overview. Consider this an introduction. If there is interest, I will put together a follow-up article that explains some of the customization options that are available.
AS3X works to keep the airplane on its current commanded path, compensating for the wind's impact on the model.
The intent of AS3X is somewhat unique among stability systems. It is not meant to sense the horizon and level the wings to prevent a crash, as some other systems do. So there's no panic button to rescue your model from a piloting mistake. Rather, AS3X works to keep the airplane on its current commanded path, whatever it might be. If the integrated gyros sense a change in orientation due to an outside force (wind), the system provides corrective control inputs to the servos. This makes it seem as if the wind is having no impact on the model.
With few exceptions, modelers typically want their aircraft to be as light as possible. Lightly-loaded models take off and land slower, require less power to stay airborne, climb faster, stall less harshly…the list of benefits goes on and on. The prime drawback is that the lighter a given model is, the more easily its flight path is disturbed by wind.