I brought my brand new Airtronics RDS8000 for Show-N-Tell to the July meeting. This radio is Airtronics’ entry into the 2.4 GHz arena. Unlike the RD8000 model radio, it has no “chrome” trim, but except for that and an extra button and light, it looks exactly like the RD8000. The RDS8000, like the RD8000, supports both helicopters and aircraft formats.

 First, let me dispel the worries about compatibility. There is no problem with compatibility between the new Airtronics receivers and any other manufacturer’s servos, switches or batteries. When I first started flying Airtronics (1994), you could only use Airtronics servos, switches and batteries with Airtronics receivers. This was due to how the plugs were wired. This is no longer the case and hasn’t been for many years. In 1997, with the introduction of the Airtronics ‘Z’ connectors, all Airtronics equipment is plug compatible with all of the other manufactures. The easiest way to tell the ‘Z’ connectors from the old ‘X” connectors is that the ‘Z’ connectors are blue and ‘X’ connectors are black. The same is true for the receivers. Blue Airtronics receivers have ‘Z’ connectors while the black receivers have the old ‘X’ connectors. So don’t worry about compatibility between Airtronics 72 MHz and 2.4 GHz receivers and any other manufacturer’s servos, switches or batteries. Two quick notes here; first you can plug a male ‘X’ connector into a female ‘Z’ plug receptacle and vice versa, they will fit but they just won’t work. Second, if you need some ‘X’ connector equipment see me since I just might have what you need lying around the shop. Back to the RDS8000. My first radio was an Airtronics 4 channel. I still have it and it works fine. I have never experienced any problems with Airtronics equipment and I have a lot of it, including receivers, servos, switches and batteries. After reliability, the biggest selling point for me with the Airtronics 2.4 GHz radio was the price. The RDS8000 is an 8-channel transmitter with a 10-model memory. It comes with an 8-channel receiver, charger and switch harness. Not included are servos or a receiver battery, the thought being that you’re most likely replacing an existing 72 MHz receiver and you already have all of the other stuff. The best part is you get all of this for $229 plus extra 8-channel Airtronics receivers are only $79. I looked at replacing just the module in my Futaba 9C with an 8-channel Futaba 2.4 GHz and that would run $319 including a receiver. Extra Futaba receivers run $129. The cost for Spektrum replacement modules with receiver are about the same. Currently Airtronics is offering only the one 8-channel receiver. These receivers are small and light weight, about 1oz, and look like they will fit into most park flyers. A smaller park flyer receiver is scheduled to come out soon.

The RDS8000 functionally is exactly like the RD8000 in all respects except for the transmitting frequency. This includes the single drawback to the Airtronics transmitters. Airtronics radios only have a 3-character model-naming field. While you do have a full range of numbers, special symbols and the alphabet in both upper and lower case, you still have only a three-character model name. Placement of the antennas within the model seems to be of critical importance in the 2.4 GHz world. The Airtronics manual provides details instructions and diagrams on how to place the antennas so that they are 90-degrees apart. With the Airtronics receiver just the short tips, about the last 2” at the end need to meet the 90-degree rule. The manual has several suggestions on how meet the 90-degree rule. FCC regulations require that any new 2.4 GHz transmitter not interfere with all other existing 2.4 GHz equipment. So you
shouldn’t be worried about interference from other manufacturers’ radios. Because of this and the fact that each manufacture uses a unique encryption of the signal and transmitter ID you cannot interchange transmitter and receivers
among manufacturers. So it looks like for now anyway, if you start with one manufacturer, you’re going to have to stay with that manufacturer. There is an excellent article on the RDS8000 in the July issue of Model Aviation. It contains much more information than I can place in our newsletter. Check out the article and the websites listed at the end of the MA article for more information. So if you’re looking to convert your fleet to 2.4 GHz, you might want to check out the Airtronics RDS8000. You get an 8-channel radio system with a 10-model memory for $229. Best of all, extra receivers are only $79 each. Sounds like a good deal to me!

Fly Smart, Fly Safe, Larry Dudkowski