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Written by By Chris Mulcahy
Mikado adds support for fixed-wing aircraft
Exclusive Review
As seen in the August 2019 issue of Model Aviation.


At A Glance

specifications

Specifications

Modulation or band: 2.4 GHz FHSS

Number of channels: Virtually unlimited

Model memory: Unlimited

Telemetry: Several telemetry functions are available

Display: 5.8-inch multitouch color display

Gimbals: Plastic with four ball bearings

Receiver: Not included

Transmitter battery: Single-cell 6,000 mAh LiPo

Weight: 2 pounds, 1.8 ounces

Price: $1,325

pluses

Pluses

  • Built-in manual explains most of the features and settings right on the screen.
  • Built in Wi-Fi for over-the-air updates of both the Touch and NEO.
  • Touchscreen is big, bright, and responsive to the touch.
  • Built-in movement sensors.
  • Loud speaker for telemetry/timer prompts.
  • Large battery for long runtime; optionally upgradeable with second battery.

minuses

Minuses

  • Model programming is only available when the model is turned on.
  • Plastic gimbals are good, but more was expected at this price point.
  • No digital trims.

manufacturer distributor

Manufacturer/Distributor

Mikado Model Helicopters http://shop.mikado-heli.de

Mikado USA

(844) 464-5236

www.shop.mikadousa.com


Bonus Video


The new Mikado VBar Control Touch Transmitter brings new features to helicopter pilots, while also supporting fixedwing aircraft.

MIKADO IS A well-known name on the RC helicopter circuit, but outside of helicopters, pilots might wonder who and what Mikado is. Mikado is a German RC helicopter manufacturer that was instrumental in the flybarless (FBL) gyro revolution. Its VBar FBL system is commonly known as one of the best FBL systems available.

In recent years, Mikado developed the VBar Control transmitter. This transmitter was revolutionary to helicopter pilots because it introduced a level of integration to FBL systems that hadn’t been seen before. It was possible to program the entire gyro system from the transmitter.

The ease of programming drew in a large number of pilots, and the outstanding performance kept them loyal; however, at the time, it was purely a transmitter for helicopters, and fixed-wing pilots were out of luck—that is, until now.

In 2018, Mikado announced the successor to the VBar Control transmitter, the VBar Control Touch. The Touch took everything great about the original VBar Control and added some substantial upgrades.

The first, as the name suggests, is a large 5.8-inch multitouch color display. It’s an extra bright, capacitive screen with great touch response. The Touch also has built-in Wi-Fi, allowing for over-the-air software upgrades and app installations. Unlike the previous VBar Control, the Touch now features four proportional rotary dials—much like trim switches—that can be assigned to any function, such as airplane trims. There are also six switches and two traditional, rotary-style dials.

The transmitter’s shoulder has two short, three-position switches with two longer switches. The longer switches are also three-position with two selectable positions. The third is a momentary-switch position. All but the two long shoulder switches are three-position switches.

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the touch comes with an owner
The Touch comes with an owner’s manual, neck strap, and charger with adapters.

At first glance, there is no visible power switch. The power switch is actually on the back of the transmitter with the charge jack and USB input.

I have the clear version of the transmitter, so I could immediately see a single-cell 6,000 mAh LiPo battery powering the Touch. There is room to add an additional battery to increase the run time.

The case is easily accessible by removing six screws from the back of the transmitter. Because of the clear case, I could also see the dual-diversity antenna setup, with one in the usual antenna location and the second antenna rotated 90° and placed at the base of the plastic antenna housing.

On the front of the Touch is a two-position neck-strap holder that gives you a few options for balancing the transmitter, depending upon your flying style. Rubber comfort grips are installed down the sides and around the back of the transmitter; the rest of the transmitter is plastic. The gimbals ride on ball bearings and feel typical of most gimbals that are out there—smooth and precise. The throttle stick is smooth right out of the box, but a replacement throttle ratchet is included in case you prefer the notchy feel associated with airplane radios.

In the box is the transmitter, charger (with multiple adapters), USB cable, owner’s manual, neck strap, and hardware to change out the throttle ratchet.

The Touch can be powered down by a power switch on the back. In addition, if you swipe the screen left to right, it will present you with the same power-down options.

There are two power-down options: one is a standby mode and the other is a full shutdown mode. In standby mode, if you power up your model first, the Touch will spring to life and have the aircraft ready to go in seconds.

The VBar System

Mikado does things a little differently with the software on the VControl transmitters and the NEO receivers/gyros. Traditionally, your transmitter stores all of the programming on the transmitter. This means we have multiple model memories and switch back and forth to access the program for each aircraft.

For want of a better term, a receiver is "dumb" in that it has no idea what model it is attached to, relying on the transmitter’s programming to tell it how to behave. With the VControl system, each NEO (receiver) contains the software for the aircraft that it is in. There are no model memories, and there is no programming to access if you switch on the Touch without powering up a NEO receiver.

After the NEO is bound to the Touch (or original VControl), a setup wizard will send basic software settings to the NEO (for example, is it an airplane or a heli?). When the NEO is told what kind of aircraft it is in, you can then access all of the detailed settings through the Touch.

inside the touch a second battery can be installed
Inside the Touch, a second battery can be installed on top of the original battery and plugged into the second battery connector for a longer run time.

The advantage to this is that you never have to worry about using the wrong model memory, but a disadvantage is that you can’t modify any of your model’s parameters without powering up the aircraft.

VBar NEO

The VBar NEO is the heart of the whole VBar system. NEO is the all-encompassing name for all of the software "flavors" of receivers that are available for the Touch. The NEO is a powerful receiver with built-in gyros and various software options. Each additional software upgrade increases the price of the NEO, and any NEO can be upgraded after purchase.

The NEO VBasic, as the name suggests, is the most basic of programming that you can get with the NEO. It is intended to be a standalone receiver with all of the gyros disabled. Mikado claims that this will make it valid for use in competitions where gyros are prohibited, but I’m not sure how easy it would be to prove this to judges. You can activate the gyros later with a software upgrade.

The word "basic" is a misnomer because even at this level, the NEO is far from basic. Like all NEOs, it can accept telemetry sensors. If you need more physical outputs, you can connect multiple receivers.

This version also includes Macrocells, which is kind of like program mixes and smart/logic switches all combined into a "flow chart" arrangement. Macrocells are completely customizable for any function. Through them you can also configure an S.Bus-style setup or add a second NEO. There are some excellent videos by Rainer Vetter on Mikado’s website that expound on what Macrocells can do and how to use them.

The NEO VLink Express is the entrylevel software version with the gyros enabled, although it doesn’t come with Macrocells enabled. The next step up is the Pro version. The Pro version enables Macrocells and gives you detailed access to higher-end programming features.

the neo is installed in the author
The NEO is installed in the author’s Ventique, which is ready for its maiden flight.

the neo is installed in a soxos db7 700
The NEO is installed in a SoXos DB7 700-size 3D helicopter.

The top-level configuration is the Pro Rescue version. This includes the same features as the Pro version but with the rescue feature enabled. The rescue feature can be configured to turn your aircraft back upright with the flick of a switch.

Again, these are all software upgrades.

Online Account

You can create an online account on the VStabi website and register your Touch and NEOs. The Touch logs each flight, as well as some diagnostic information for each flight. It will also log any telemetry data that you have connected.

Each time your Touch connects to Wi-Fi, it will upload those settings to your online account, which you can access at any time. You can also upload photos of your aircraft to your VStabi account and use them to customize your Touch’s home screen.

Transmitter Setup

There are some basic things that you can set on your Touch before ever connecting a NEO. The Transmitter Setup menu lets you name your Touch, select which mode you fly, the time zone, brightness and volume settings, Wi-Fi settings, and Cloud activity settings. There is an option here that will enable the Touch’s sensors so that when you tilt the radio to one side, the menu option will open on the screen.

This is also where you can set the option for activating the Touch from powering up a model. The language selection is under the Transmitter Setup menu, as well as the option to bind to a NEO. You can also view available Wi-Fi networks. I will break down a few other options.

You can access the online app shop through the Shop option. There are several categories, and you can choose which apps you want to install. These apps cover everything from telemetry to the timer and voice. It was suggested that I install most of them so that I could see what I liked, which is exactly what I did. I particularly liked all of the voice options and the ability to have custom user screens.

The App Updater option was described previously and that is where you can check the Touch’s file integrity. If any anomalies are found, it fixes them.

Switch Assignments allow you to customize what your switches do or change functions to a different switch. It’s quite flexible.

The stick calibration is worth doing occasionally to make sure that everything is holding its precision. One big advantage is that the Touch’s instruction manual is built into the transmitter. Each function is explained on the Touch’s screen, making it quick and easy to understand what a certain function does. This is a huge bonus when learning how to use the Touch, whether at home or at the flying field.

The Touch has three programmable banks for each model. It is basically like having three separate model memories for the same aircraft, and you can tweak and adjust your settings for each mode. You can set up a helicopter with an extreme pitch range and no exponential on one mode, and have the pitch range dialed back and plenty of exponential on another. These banks offer a lot of flexibility on each model. Think flight conditions and modes but with any function adjustable between them.

Model Programming

After you understand the fundamental differences between how your traditional transmitter works and how the Touch works, the setup for any model is simple and straightforward. As mentioned previously, the Touch has built-in Wi-Fi capability. Although you can do everything with a USB cable attached to a computer, it was much easier connecting via Wi-Fi.

After you are connected, you can visit the app store through the Touch’s interface. Here, you can select basic airplane and heli models to install that will ultimately be transferred to your NEO.

When you bind the NEO to the Touch, a setup wizard appears and helps guide you through the process. I set up a NEO for both a helicopter and a 3D airplane. The helicopter wizard is intuitive, and there were relatively few steps to do the complete setup.

Options included gyro orientation, swashplate leveling, and servo direction. It also asks what size helicopter you are setting up and assigns some basic settings based on your answer. You can program the entire helicopter within a few minutes. Setting it up was so fast and simple that I was sure I had missed something along the way. I went through the setup a few times to confirm that I did everything correctly and I couldn’t find anything that I had missed.

When the helicopter made its maiden flight, I was pretty amazed at how well it flew with those few simple setup steps. With a few slight adjustments, the helicopter was more dialed in than any other system I have tried. My test model was a 700-size SoXos DB7. I used the built-in NEO governor and it did an excellent job. The NEO just needed basic information for my motor and gearing setup, and I was then able to dial in my rpm right on the Touch’s screen.

the authors customized ventique screen shows
01: The author’s customized Ventique screen shows a photo of the model.

this shows the airplane configuration menu
02: This shows the airplane configuration menu. The small, blue triangle in the corner of each select button is indicative of an advanced menu that is available after pushing the button longer.

the home screen is presented when no model is powered
03: The home screen is presented when no model is powered up. The default "theme" has been changed to the dark theme.

Tuning the gyro was incredibly easy because each setting had an explanation next to it. It was super simple. I knew what flight characteristic I wanted to change, read the description of each option, and was able to dial in or out the behavior I was trying to adjust. I can’t iterate enough just how easy this process was.

Setting up an airplane was equally easy. A wizard walks you through the basic setup. The "drive setup" lets you specify whether it’s an electric-powered airplane, gas or turbine airplane, electric glider, or an unpowered glider. I selected electric airplane and I was then able to specify the number of motor poles in the gear setup.

The wing mixer takes up the majority of the setup. Here, you can set basic functions of the control surfaces, such as channel, directions, and centering. With a long press of the select button, an advanced menu opens, revealing some preset mixes such as aileron, elevator, and rudder mix. I was able to set up dual aileron and dual elevator servos. I could also set the output frequency and frame rate response.

A big difference between the Touch and a traditional transmitter is the way that you trim the airplane. The NEO uses its built-in gyros to automatically trim the model. The process starts with the pilot setting the mechanical throws and setting pushrod lengths so that the control surfaces are as neutral as possible.

You can then get the airplane in the air and flip a switch to activate the auto trim function. The airplane will trim itself. After you turn the auto trim feature off, the settings are saved. A trim flight can be completed in seconds.

You can assign trim functions to the rotary dials on the Touch; however, these values are not saved and are really only useful for manually trimming the aircraft before activating the auto trim feature. If you use the manual trims, the values cannot be saved. If the dials are moved, the trim settings are lost.

Using the three programming banks, you can set a range of gyro settings. For instance, in Bank 1, I disabled the gyros, and in Banks 2 and 3, I had increased gyro settings, or low- and high-speed flight. All of the advanced gyro settings are adjustable in each bank, making it a flexible system.

My initial flights with the Touch went well, and the auto trim worked flawlessly. It took approximately 2 minutes from takeoff to trim the airplane. The response was great, and the ability to assign any function or setting to any of the switches made things, such as adjusting gyro settings while flying, extremely easy.

Conclusion

The Touch is more than just a transmitter; it is the interface to the NEO system and all of the advanced programming that it offers. Mikado has given us an advanced toolkit for our aircraft while making it easy to understand and use the tools provided. No matter what you fly, it can be programmed on the Touch—and programmed in record time.

My biggest takeaway from this review was just how simple the initial setup for either helicopters or airplanes can be, and it certainly made me think of the old adage, "Work smarter, not harder."

mikado vbar control


SOURCES:

VStabi

www.vstabi.info

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