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Your Reviewer

My Credentials
So who's doing this reviewing then?

Well I've been building and flying or driving radio controlled models for over 40 years and during that time I like to think I've built up a reasonable amount of knowledge.

I'm also a qualified electronics engineer who has worked in radio frequency, analog, digital systems and software for more than three decades. In fact I designed and built my first RC set back in 1969.

For the past nine years I've also been involved in the design and manufacture of some rather sophisticated engine technology and UAV flight control systems.

So, chances are I've been there, done that and have a huge pile of tee shirts to prove it.

Right now I'm heavily into 3D flying and enjoy all aspects of the RC hobby. I may be old but I don't feel it.

In the Pipeline

Here's just a little bit of what's to come on this site...

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Cheap Chinese Engines: Just how good are those cheap Chinese glow and gas engines that sell for half the price of their "brand-name" equivalent? I put several to the test.

Build your own radio gear?: Back in the old days, building your own RC gear was not uncommon and now the arrival of 2.4GHz has made it practical again.


Distributed Spread Spectrum (DSS)


spectrum analyzer

Distributed Spread Spectrum radio can be likened to a multi-lane freeway where your car seems to appear at random in different lanes. In fact, it appears and disappears so quickly that it almost appears to exist in all lanes at the same time.

In radio terms, the transmitter uses a wide spread of frequencies to send data to the receiver, rather than the very narrow band of frequencies used by the older narrowband RC sets we've seen up until now.

So what's the point in spreading yourself so thinly?

Well if you stop and think about it, if your "DSS" car encounters another on the freeway, it won't have very much effect. Your own vehicle won't be blocked because it will simply continue past when it suddenly appears in another lane which isn't blocked.

In radio terms, a single (or even quite a few) other transmissions won't have much effect on your RC system because they'll only block a tiny amount of the signal being sent. In fact, unless the freeway is almost completely blocked, at least some of the signal from your transmitter will get through to deliver your control inputs to the receiver.

Even better, if another DSS transmitter (or even several more) is operating on the same channel, it is also unlikely to interfere because it'll be jumping lanes in a different sequence and at a different rate.

So in a DSSS system, the last SS stands for Spread Spectrum and the first two letters stand for Direct Sequence. This relates to the order and frequency at which your vehicle moves between the lanes.

How DSSS Handles Interference


Another way to help you understand how a DSSS system avoids being "shot down" by interference is the battle-field analogy.

When an army goes into the modern battlefield, they're usually ordered to "spread out" -- and that's exactly what DSSS does, it spreads your transmitter's signal out over a much wider area than is the case with FM/PCM gear.

Just as on the battlefield, it's much harder to kill an enemy when they're spread over a wide front, so it is with a DSSS radio signal.

The chances of any single rifle-shot actually hitting a soldier on the battlefield is significantly reduced when they're widely spaced across the whole front. With DSSS, your radio signal is similarly spread very thinly across the radio spectrum and thus virtually immune to enemy fire, unless that fire is very intense.

By comparison, a closely grouped army of men can be decimated in moments by a single mortar shell or burst of machine-gun fire. That would be the equivalent of your old RC gear being shot down by interference or another transmitter on the same frequency being turned on while you're flying.

So what if someone turns on another DSSS system that uses the same channel you're already on?

Well because DSSS spreads your troops so thinly across the battlefield, there's plenty of room for another platoon from a totally different army to run between the ranks without the two colliding. This is why multiple DSSS systems can co-exist on the same channel without interfering.

Which radios use DSSS

Of the currently available 2.4GHz spread spectrum systems, all use some form of DSSS but others, such as the Spektrum/JR and Futaba FASST systems use other techniques to offer even greater protection from interference.

Several other systems that have gained a small following are those from XPS, Assan and iMax. These also use DSSS but appear to have no effective way of coping with the kind of crippling interference that might leave the other systems unaffected.

More of this later...

Next Page: How do FHSS RC systems work?

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The Blog

Updated: 20 Sep 2012
Here's a blog that will keep you informed just what's going on behind the scenes at RC Model Reviews and also tells you a little more about myself.

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