The High Pro Glow

Welcome! The topics introduced in this blog will vary wildly. Here, you will find a lot of topics that might help some of those in need. I post off-beat information, hard to find history, & stuff that is otherwise seldom regurgitaited in our modern place. Sit back & find something interesting. Comment if you have a need or suggestion.

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Christopher R. Smith (aka. Littlehorn)

I've got it on! Have you got it on?

Monday, December 26, 2016

Parrot Bebop 1 Battery Charging

The Parrot Bebop 1 battery pack provides the only means of power to maintain flight. How well and how long depends on a few easy to learn maintenance habits that will help Lithium-Polymer ('LiPo' or 'Li-Ion Polymer') packs perform as expected and live longer lifespans. Weakened LiPo packs can cause legitimate 'fly-aways' usually from bad cell voltage fluctuations leading to the unexpected system reactions to unusual battery behaviors..this also can trigger shutdown mid-flight. The Parrot battery packs are good quality but expensive and need attention like most other flight LiPo or they will die and take your Bebop too.

Ready for the meat of the subject now? It will be easy to understand and worth the effort. After you read this you will have a much better understanding of LiPo therapy. I will start with the Stock OEM Parrot Bebop 1 battery.

The Parrot Bebop 1 OEM battery pack is an encased 3-cell 1200mAh 3S 11.1volt LiPo. Parrot recommends "Charge at 1A Max" which is lower than the usual "1C charge rate" of typical R/C LiPo batteries. "1C" means that a battery can handle being charged at 1x the specified mAh written on a LiPo battery..but more on that and connection details later.

LiPo Do-Nots...(one "Do"now..always watch LiPo charge)

-Do Not discharge below 10% remaining power as reported in FreeFlight Pro. Land well before this number or risk discharging below a safe voltage level for LiPo to remain healthy. Every dip below 3.2 volts per cell will add damage and shorten its life and harm expected performance. Failing cells will have voltage levels lower and weaker than the other cells. All of the cells should be about .2 volts within each other. A dying cell will not hold a charge as well as the others..or have the capacity. It could be target-charged to bring it up to match the other voltages and become balanced with the other cells...but it may be dying anyway. Discharging to zero equals LiPo death.
-Do Not store battery packs while discharged too low or with fully-charged voltage levels. Below 3.2 volts per cell is too low. Fully-Charged and it is like a grenade ready to blow. Flying a pack discharging it to about 45% as reported by FreeFlight Pro will pull the voltage level down to an approximate Storage Voltage Level or 3.75 - 3.85 volts per cell.
-Do Not let battery packs get too hot. At 140F damage occurs and where LiPo is at risk of rupture or 'venting'..like a volcano. If in your hot car or sitting on a charger too long in your home..the result can be disastrous. Normally, the battery only should be a little warm after a flight. LiPo likes to be about 95F at lift off summer and winter. Though, let the battery cool down between charge cycles and flight.

Now, the "Do's" will be explained in the handling and charging processes described below. New LiPo packs need a few cycles after birth/storage to perform as expected and become trusted for expected flight performance. So, don't trust them for a few flights..keep the Bebop low and slow until you get a good feel for a battery's behavior and performance before you get too far down the road.

Charging the Bebop batteries with the included stock charger is not a great solution to continue for long. The batteries can discharge below the level that triggers the stock charger to charge. Some tricking is needed..but not recommended. Some Bebop 1 boxes have been on the shelf for a year or more at this point in time. Batteries from new sealed boxes can self-discharged to unhealthy level and may not be capable of supporting safe flight..or the batteries may be OK just too low to trigger the stock charger to start charging. The stock charger does not provide any information about the pack or its status. Without a way to monitor your batteries it is impossible to know enough to keep the Bebop flying as expected for as long as expected. The stock charger can balance the packs well enough for 6 months of fun. But, these packs can usually live much longer more productive lives.

To Charge a Parrot Bebop 1 Battery pack..first, stop using the stock charger. Then, use a better balance charger with a display that can do more and show you what is happening with the LiPo cells. I use the one pictured here. It is very capable and more modern and being actively supported..more than 4-button chargers these days. 4-button chargers are really good and some offer some really great functions. Most of the veteran users will use them. New chargers are being released often. The iSDT chargers are very easy to use, updatable, and have performed better than my 4-button chargers.

Here is my iSDT SC-620 charger connected to a Bebop 1 battery. The inexpensive adapter cable and balance adapter charge tray shown in the pic are needed to complete the setup.

The short main power adapter cable is a special little part but only $3 at HobbyKing.com and ready to use as-is. The Bebop 1 battery uses a mini-Tamiya connector molded into the shell that has its polarity reversed than usual mini-Tamiya connectors. This little adapter has a mini-Tamiya (lightgreen) and an XT-60 connector (yellow). The XT-60 is a very common connector use with LiPo batteries and chargers.

The Bebop 1 battery is a little different than a typical hobby LiPo battery pack with its own balance connection embedded into the battery shell. instead of being on a wired cable. These 4-golden contacts are needed so each of the 3 internal cells can be accessed and their voltages balanced during charging. These contacts can be reached by 2 ways. One requires a purchase..and one method can utilize a part from the original stock charger for free. Here is information on how to use the stock charger to save some money and time..http://thehighproglow.blogspot.com/2017/02/parrot-bebop-1-battery-balance-port.html

The second option the reach the balance port is the "Anbee/YX Charge Adapter Tray" is $5 and available through Amazon, eBay, or many online R/C shops. It is needed to reach the 4-golden balance contacts above the main power connector of the battery in order for the charger monitor individual cell voltages and balance the cells to approximately the same voltage levels.

Due to the flexibility of the iSDT chargers, it is possible to charge a LiPo battery with a larger LiPo battery, or from a larger deep-cycle 12volt battery, or from an old PC's power supply, or with an old 12volt 5Amp laptop power supply from a wall plug. Since this is a fact..a power supply is also needed to power the iSDT chargers. There is an  included 12volt adapter with alligator clips and the XT-60 that matches the iSDT charger's power input port. Other options will need the XT-60 to match the charger. If soldering is not your preferred method of DIY..you need to find the appropriate adapters to complete the connections.

Here is a Tenergy TB6B 4-button charger connected to the Bebop 1 battery. Many of these chargers include a 'squid' connector lead with an assortment of common connectors to match most systems in use today. Some 4-button chargers will need a power supply. The Genuine SkyRC Imax B6ACv2 has an internal power supply making it a little easier on beginners. Most 4-button chargers use 4mm banana plugs to output the main charge current to the battery lead as seen in the picture below.

Setting a charger to charge a Bebop 1 battery.

Generally..make sure that you are charging to the battery's specs as labelled on the battery and that the charger is always set to "Balance Charge"..Not "Fast Charge" or even just "Charge". When balance charging, the input charge is individually added to each cell and they are increased equally until fully-charged or when the set cut-off voltage is reached. Most chargers will automatically set some aspects like battery type, cell number, max charge voltage level cut-off, discharge voltage level cut-off, a set storage level voltage, and possibly a charge rate amperage value. Nothing to sweat about.

Balance charge Bebop 1 batteries at 1Amp or 1.2Amp charge rate or charge current setting. Some tests suggest that lower/slower charge rates help achieve a longer LiPo lifespan. I wouldn't recommend trickle-charging the batteries throughout the charge cycle because it would take a long time to charge and balance high-capacity 3S packs and there is no real benefit by charging slower than half the C rating. A 1200mAh pack (such as the B1 battery) has a C rating that suggests it can be charged at 1.2Amps. However, as mentioned before, Parrot recommends "Charging at 1A Max" which is lower than a usual 1C charge rate of LiPo batteries. I have charged one of mine at 1.2A for over a year with no signs of damage.

Whatever charger you do employ..watch the charger or be near it while it is powered on and especially while charging anything.

Keep it Safe. Keep it Healthy. Enjoy the Skies!

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