This article was originally published in RC Driver’s September 2015 issue.
By Jon Barnes
The TrackStar TS3t is a stylish looking, red, black and silver colored pistol grip 2.4GHz radio system designed for surface operations. Turnigy’s marketing department defines the TS3t moniker as follows: “TS” for TrackStar, “3” for three channels of control and “t” for telemetry. Unlike surface systems of the past where the transmitter did all of the “talking” and the receiver did all of the “listening”, a telemetry capable system features a bidirectional radio link. This means the receiver is capable of transmitting real time data to the transmitter for both display and alarming purposes. This ability to receive real time critical performance data from a vehicle while it is being driven is an exciting concept indeed! Turnigy uses a 2.4GHz FHSS (frequency hopping spread spectrum) protocol to create a dependable, interference resistant radio link between a driver and their surface vehicle. The system includes a transmitter, receiver, and a separate telemetry module that acts as a data concentrator for the included trio of telemetry sensors.
Though this transmitter can be powered by the usual four-pack of “AA” dry cells, it is also capable of being powered by a two-cell LiPo or LiFe battery. Said battery would of course have to be physically sized to fit into the narrow battery compartment on the base of the TS3t. The transmitter includes the usual array of features, including exponential, end point adjustment, adjustable steering rates and both throttle and steering curve adjustments.
Programming menus are accessed using two of the four angular silver buttons mounted atop the transmitter. The third channel is switched using a conveniently placed silver pushbutton. When gripping the TS3t in my left hand, we found that my index finger would very naturally land directly on this pushbutton. A 35x22mm LCD display is situated atop the TrackStar transmitter. An abundance of information is crammed into this small, black-and-white screen. The main display includes both analog and digital representations of the transmitter and receiver voltages, ditto for the steering and throttle trims. A telemetry signal intensity bar graph, akin to what is typically used on mobile phones, is pinned to the upper right corner. The bottom right corner of the display is reserved for displaying received temperature telemetry data. The TS3t allows a driver to set a temperature threshold alarm within the transmitter. If this set-point is exceeded, the transmitter will annunciate via an audible alarm. The transmitter also records and displays the maximum temperature reached during a driving session.
Another notable programming feature is the included ABS (anti- lock braking system) menu. ABS allows a driver to configure and utilize a braking system very similar to what is used on real-world vehicles. Four adjustable parameters give drivers the freedom to control and configure not only when the ABS system engages but also how aggressively it will manage the vehicle’s braking function. A custom mix between channels two and three can also be programmed. The operating range of this 2.4GHz radio system is specified at 250-500 meters, which is ultimately dependent on and potentially affected by the amount of interference- generating radio frequency noise in the area. A total of six different models can be programmed into the transmitter.
RECEIVER/ TELEMETRY MODULE
The TS3t receiver and telemetry module are of similar dimensions and weight. They both must be mounted in the vehicle and are connected to one another using a standard three wire servo lead. The net total weight penalty for having them aboard one’s ride is a mere 13 grams. Three different telemetry sensors are included with the TrackStar radio system and they can be used to measure voltage, RPMs and temperature.
Drivers who run electric vehicles powered by a LiPo battery pack can use the voltage sensor to monitor, detect and signal via an audible alarm when the battery is depleted to a low voltage state (default value of 3.5 volts per cell). The voltage sensor is specified as being capable of monitoring 1-30 VDC, though the sensor comes pre-wired with a two cell XH style balance plug. Using the voltage sensor on higher cell count batteries (up to six cells) will require retrofitting a different connector to the voltage sensor leads. Folks who run gas or nitro power systems can alternately monitor the voltage of a four or five cell NiMH receiver pack. An optical tachometer is also included in the system. It functions by sensing the light that intermittently passes through the spokes of one of the vehicle’s wheels as it rotates. A driver must thus first configure the TS3t transmitter by inputting the number of spokes, or “blades” in Turnigy programming parlance, of the vehicle’s wheels (total range of two to twelve). Optical sensors typically require adequate lighting with a strong contrast between light and dark, to function dependably. While Turnigy cautions that using the tachometer indoors may be problematic, they aver that running out of doors on a sunny day will yield the best results. The telemetry module logs and retains both the maximum RPM and temperature during each session. The temperature value can be easily viewed on the main transmitter display screen, while the maximum RPM is only viewable by drilling down into the appropriate programming menu.
MODULATION: 2.4GHz FHSS
INPUT POWER: 4.4-8.6 volts DC
OUTPUT POWER: <20dbm
WEIGHT: 280g (dry)
RECEIVING FREQUENCY: 2.40-2.48GHz
MODULATION: 2.4GHz FHSS
INPUT POWER: 4.4-8.6 volts DC
VOLTAGE MEASURING RANGE: 1-30 volts DC
TEMPERATURE MEASURING RANGE: 0-150 °
RPM MEASURING RANGE: 480-50,000 RPM
The Turnigy TrackStar TS3t includes the functions and features common to surface radio systems, but with the notable added bonus of telemetry. Drivers interested in exploring the advantages of receiving real time feedback of some of their vehicle’s critical performance parameters while driving will want to take a close look at this full featured and very economically priced 2.4GHz radio system.