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Delta Ray Upgrade: Xtreme Pro 180 Brushed

#1
Part 1 (Background and Preparation):

Motivated by the frustration that has resulted from: 1) the lack of power the Delta Ray has, and 2) the short lifespan of the stock brushed motors, I have spent countless hours researching and planning an upgrade which will be broken down into several stages. I’m putting this all together in a little write-up in hopes that it will help others who also want to upgrade their Delta Ray; I really wish something like this had been available for me, especially since I was new and had limited background knowledge when I first starting seeing the need for an upgrade.

The first stage of this upgrade will be a fairly simple swap of motors: take out the stock ones and put in Xtreme Pro 180s. The XP180s are the same size as the stock motors (180-size) but have significantly more power - they are said to be the most powerful 180s currently available. By keeping brushed motors in the plane for now, the upgrade will be kept simple and straightforward since it's basically just a "drop in." It will also allow the SAFE features to be kept in the plane and make it so that the pilot doesn't need to worry about frying the integrated flight control board. All that will be needed on the part of the person doing the first stage of this upgrade will be a little r/c airplane vocabulary, the ability to obtain the motors, and the ability to solder some wires onto the motors (this isn’t hard – I have fourth grade students who do it regularly).

The information I am going off of is from others who previously modified their Delta Rays in similar ways, some of whom tried various upgrades (brushed, brushless, swapping out electronics, etc.) with mixed results. My intent is use and share methods which have been tried, tested, repeated, and verified by several sources. It's also worth noting that in many cases those who did similar upgrades made numerous flights over a period of several months - therefore their success (or lack thereof) can be validated by many flight trials and different pilots with different planes.

After completing the first stage of this upgrade, my own tests and trials will be done in a moderately high wind environment (15-20 mph with gusts to 25 mph), with winds that consistently blow from the same general direction and where it is warm and humid. The upgraded Delta Ray will be tested with a DX4e transmitter since this is frequently used by many pilots (especially new ones) and because it is included as a stock part with the RTF version of the plane. With the exception of the motors, no other parts will be changed or modified during the first stage of upgrade or during the initial testing of the motors.

If the upgrade is successful, the next stage will involve replacing the stock battery with a 250 gram, 2 cell (2S), 5000mah LiPo battery to increase the plane’s endurance. According to Davide Monda, who has tried several different types of upgrades on the Delta Ray, the plane should be able to handle a battery of up to 250 grams. In a high wind environment like the one that I am flying in, this added weight can be advantageous.


Xtreme Pro 180 Electric Motors:

The Xtreme motors are produced by Xtreme Production, a company based out of Hong Kong, and were originally intended to be used in helicopters (Esky, Blade, etc.). The particular motors to be used in my DR upgrade are the Xtreme Pro 180 (A) and Xtreme Pro 180 (B) - the (A) and (B) designations being indicators of which way the motors spin (one spins clockwise and the other counterclockwise). Because the Delta Ray is designed to fly with two propellers spinning in opposite directions, this characteristic must (of course) be preserved. Xtreme Production is now producing the third generation of this motor, which means that this motor has been through mass field testing and then refined/improved a couple of times. The motor features a ventilated metal case, a “quick change” carbon brush system, and ball bearings at both ends.

Compared to the stock motors, the XP180s are far more efficient, and therefore produce more thrust while using less power. For anyone concerned about the motors drawing too much power from the battery or through the ESC, this should provide some peace of mind (this was a major concern of mine, especially since I could not get any reliable information on the rating for the stock ESC). Several pilots who completed the motor upgrade have said that they tested out the new motors by putting them at full throttle and doing a series of acrobatics – basically anything they could think of to drain the battery as quickly as possible. From what I have gathered from them, the test results have all been positive: the motors are not as warm, they get more flight time, and they now enjoy enhanced performance. Reviews of the XP180 are generally very positive: they are reliable, are of higher quality, can be repaired without too much hassle, and provide a reasonable but significant amount of extra power compared to the DR's stock motors. The biggest drawback expressed by those who have purchased the XP180s is the cost - it's about $40 to have a pair of motors sent to a US address from Xtreme Production in Hong Kong.

Some have suggested that lubricating the motors periodically will help keep the motors in good running order. They do, however, caution about using too much lubricant. Apparently one small drop at both ends does the trick, and putting too much can be worse than the motors not being lubricated at all. Common sense tells me that using a lubricant specifically designed for electronics is probably a good idea, and that lubricating in general would be beneficial since friction reduces efficiency and produces heat, and heat is the primary enemy of both motors and electronics. Silicone lubricant is supposed to reduce static electricity and attract less dirt/dust, while preventing the generation of metal particles which could mess with the magnets in the motor. I could be completely off the mark here because I’m not an expert on electric motors, but those are my thoughts on the whole matter. If there are any experts out there, please feel free to comment.

When it comes to installation, some of those who have performed this upgrade have purchased two motors of the same type (spin the same direction) and then have simply switched the wires on one of the motors in order to have it spin the opposite direction. While this may appear to work initially, some of those who did the wire switch reported problems with one or both of the motors and/or the flight controller after a few flights. As explained by John Hendry:

"Running them backwards will cause them to not only wear out faster but will decrease performance because they will create more friction 'digging in' and likely not have as good of contact especially on the Delta Ray with vector thrust control as the FC board will compensate in yaw to keep the faster motor in line with the slower motor."

The lesson here: use the right parts in the correct manner. Don’t make the mistake of simply hooking up one motor backwards and expecting everything to work fine. If you’re going to do this upgrade, get a motor designed to spin clockwise and another motor designed to spin counterclockwise – just as the Delta Ray requires. And then hook them up correctly. Both versions of the Xtreme Pro 180 can be purchased directly from Xtreme Production via their online store at http://www.xtreme-production.com/xtreme/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=241


SPMA-3160:

This may sound like some futuristic artificial intelligence unit, but it’s actually just the product code for the DR’s integrated receiver/ESC/stabilizer (flight controller, board, brick, FC, or whatever you want to call it). Information on this unit seems to be above top secret given how difficult it is to find any specs on it. I’ve asked countless questions about the SPMA-3160 and I either get 1) no response, or 2) an “I don’t know.” This has become pretty infuriating since this information is important for anyone wanting to modify the plane, and it seems to be kept secret because Horizon Hobby doesn’t want people tweaking what they already have – they want people to buy more products and give them money. Maybe I’m just unreasonable, insane, or both, but it seems to me that people ought to get a straight answer when they ask about a product they have paid good money for. Moreover, I believe that nothing should get in their way should they wish to use, tinker, or modify what is now their rightful property. But then this issue is a huge can of worms unto itself…

Anyway, here’s what we do know: the SPMA-3160 is a 2.4Ghz radio receiver, electronic speed controller, and stabilization system all in one. The stabilization technology used is SAFE (sensor-assisted flight envelope) which is a blend of relatively basic sensors and propriety software. For someone who has never flown before, this is a pretty awesome little circuit board. As that new pilot becomes more proficient in their skills and knowledge, however, the SPMA-3160’s flaws begin to clearly show: the most annoying of which is how it has been designed to fail epically if you change anything on it or that is connected to it (and sometimes it will fail even if you don’t change anything).

I’m still waiting for a response from Spektrum and/or Horizon Hobby about the specs for the SPMA-3160, and will share this information if/when I receive it. Of course, any specs that someone else may already have would be very much appreciated.

From the input I have received so far, I have learned that the SPMA-3160 cannot handle a 3S battery - so make sure you keep a 2S in the plane. I have also been informed that putting on bigger props or props with more blades will require the motors to draw too much power from the unit and will cause problems. Blowing FETs (field-effect transistors) seems to be the most common problem for the SPMA-3160. How much the props can be modified, if at all, with the XP180s has yet to be seen.


Next Steps:

My XP180s are due to arrive in 1-2 weeks (I went the cheap route: $7.13 for shipping). After I have everything together, I’ll document the upgrade process for anyone who may want to give their own DR more power and endurance. After testing the upgraded DR, I’ll also share the results. If anyone has any additional information, advice, or suggestions, PLEASE contribute your wisdom.
 
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Capt_Beavis

Posted a thousand or more times
#2
I have flown my DR in pretty gusty winds and I never thought it was underpowered (I thought it was powered perfectly for what is) but having better vertical climb ability would be great. I have advanced to the point where I can enjoy the extra power. Thanks for the details, this is exciting and much better than a brushless conversion.
 
#5
The first shipment of motors from Xtreme Productions has arrived (the "B" motors). However, I'm still waiting on the second shipment that I had to place an order for later (since ThinkRC didn't have the parts they were advertising online, and then waited a week to let me know about it). By the way, ThinkRC is still listing the motors on their website, but has now changed the availability to "out of stock." Unfortunately this is a bit misleading since there is a place to enter your e-mail address to be notified of when the motors will be back in stock, and ThinkRC informed me that they will not be reordering these parts. That being the case, my advice is still to avoid ThinkRC - they simply don't do business in a professional, responsible manner.

The good news is that Xtreme Productions has turned out to be reliable in terms of providing exactly what they say they are going to (at least as far as I can tell at this point), and making sure they ship their orders in a timely manner. This is a welcome surprise seeing as how you can never really know what you're getting when you do business with China - although I will say that many businesses in Hong Kong are much more reliable than those on the Chinese Mainland. With the slowest, least expensive shipping method, they took 7 days to get the parts from Hong Kong to Honolulu, which is on the low end of what they projected (original projection: 7 to 14 days).

For those who are interested, here is what I currently have on-hand:

DR_Upgrade_01.jpg

DR_Upgrade02.jpg

DR_Upgrade_03.jpg

The second shipment should be arriving in 2-3 days, largely depending on my local post office, which has a tendency to operate on "Hawaii Time" (very slowly). As soon as the motors get here, the upgrade will begin and regular updates will be posted.

In case anyone is wondering why I'm documenting every little detail of this process, it's because I want anyone who is going to attempt this same upgrade - especially if it is a beginner - to know exactly what to expect, what they will need, where to get the parts, etc. In other words, I want to be as informative and transparent as possible so that no one runs into any needless obstacles.
 
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#6
The Xtreme Pro 180 Brushed Motors looks to have some obvious advantages over the Delta Ray's stock motor. In comparing the two, the poor quality of the stock motor becomes quite apparent.

First, I wanted to see how comparable the weights of the motors were. The stock motor weighs in at 33 grams, whereas the XP180 weights in at 30 grams:

DR_Updrade04.jpg

DR_Upgrade05.jpg

Next, I wanted to see how the stock heat sinks fit around the XP180 fit compared to the stock motor. The stock heat sinks ended up fitting perfectly, eliminating the need to buy new ones - unless, of course, you want to upgrade those also.

DR_Upgrade06.jpg

I was also interested in seeing how the XP180 motors fit into the Delta Ray's nacelles without any prior modification. As can be seen in these photos, the fit is good - and having the stock heat sinks helps to keep everything in place. The only issue is that the shaft on the XP180 is not as long as on the stock motors:

DR_Upgrade07.jpg

DR_Upgrade08.jpg

DR_Upgrade09.jpg

However, when I flipped the XP180 over and propped up the two resistors so that I could slid the heat sink further back, I was able to get the shaft to stick further out of the nacelle:

DR_Upgrade10.jpg

Others have reported that with a strong CA glue, they have been able to put the stock props onto the XP180 shafts and that they have not had any issues with them falling off.

The XP180 is shorter than the stock motor, and this is the difference that makes each XP180 weigh 3 grams less than the stock. So by installing the XP180s, we're making the plane weigh 6 grams less, moving the weight in the nacelles forward slightly, and giving the props the ability to produce more thrust. The first thing that pops into my head when I think about this is how it opens up the possibility to have a slightly larger battery. Maybe not a battery that is lot larger, but perhaps enough to get a bit more flight time or even just allow the DR to accommodate batteries other than just the stock one.

For example, the stock battery (2S 1300mah 20C) costs about $20 and weighs 71 grams. A DBY-power battery (2S 1300mah 30C) costs about half as much and weighs 74 grams. (NOTE: these are the weights of the batteries I have on-hand; the specs published by the manufacturers are different.) You have to change out the battery connector to use different batteries, but I know many people (myself included) do that anyway. Keep in mind that the physical dimensions of the stock battery and the DBY-Power battery are very similar (these pictures might lead you to think otherwise); the DBY-Power is a few millimeters longer, is a few millimeters narrower, and the two batteries have very similar height:

The Delta Ray's Stock Battery (2S 1300mAh 20C, 71 grams):
stockbatt.jpg

The DBY-Power Half-Price Option (2S 1300mAh 30C, 74 grams):
DBYPowerBatt.jpg

Now if you were to get something like a Thunder Power ProLite 1350 (2S 1350mah 25C/50C), you would only have to spend a few bucks more and your battery would weigh only 61 grams - which would bring with it some obvious benefits.

The Thunder Power Lightweight Alternative (2S 1350mAh 25C, 61 grams):
TP13502S.jpg

Given the extra power that comes with the XP180s and that you're saving a few grams of weight here and there, it may be possible to get a Thunder Power ProLite 2100 (2S 2100mah 25C/50C) which would still be under $30 and weigh in at 107 grams. It's a significant jump in weight (and I haven't tested it), but for 800mah more it might be worth pondering.

The Thunder Power Higher-Capacity Alternative (2S 2100mAh 25C, 107 grams):
TP21002S.jpg
 
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#7
I received my motors, as well as some 2mm prop adapters with collets which I purchased to compensate for the very poor stock prop mounting method. Seeing as how the props themselves are also of extremely poor quality, I ordered and am now waiting on some 5x3 carbon fiber props.

I went out to fly the DR yesterday with all stock equipment since the wind was down, and was having fun with it when all of the sudden the plane started acting goofy. I successfully landed it and immediately shut everything down. When I went to connect the battery again, one of the motors went full throttle and would not stop. I went through the rebinding process, but this did not help. I then tried a different transmitter, but this didn't help either. A different battery, a different motor... it still did the same thing.

I packed up, went home, and tried to do some further troubleshooting, but it seems to me that the stock rx/ESC board is shot. Seeing as how every other stock part on the plane seems to be garbage, I guess I shouldn't be that surprised that the board is built to fail also. Therefore, I'm going to modify my original plans to modify the DR.
 
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Ron B

Posted a thousand or more times
#8
My motors lasted about 6 months before going bad and my esc lasted about the same .... now that is a lot of flying.
I will probably have to get new ones again before this season of flying is over but these are not meant to get 100,000 mi. out of like a car.
 

quorneng

Well-known member
#9
I may be wrong but it looks like the XP 180 has a 'spiral' armature which could explain why there are left and right hand versions.
Normally spiral winding is done to smooth out the torque on motors with only 3 or 5 pole armatures rather than any benefit in electrical efficiency. When driving a direct drive prop torque variation within each revolution is not really an issue.

If the motors do have ball bearings, hopefully of the shielded type, then lubrication is unnecessary and likely not recommended to avoid the possibility of the oil carrying dirt into the bearings.
Where the XP 180 most likely scores is the quality of it brushes leading to longer life for a given current.

Whether the extra cost and performance of these motors represents value for money I await your findings with interest.
 

Capt_Beavis

Posted a thousand or more times
#10
You ESC died before you could complete the swap? That would upset me, that is an expensive fix. I did see a guy on EBAY selling the boards for $65.
 

makattack

Winter is coming
Moderator
Mentor
#11
Rather than email hh tech support, I would just call them. They have a great reputation for support but unfortunately they aren't setup for email support.
 

Capt_Beavis

Posted a thousand or more times
#12
Good luck. Maybe drop that you post on actively on the Flitetest forum and there are a lot of people watching how they respond to this.

Maybe something like "I have been posting about my experiences on the flite test forum and one of the posters suggested I call rather than email. I would love to e able to respond that the issue was resolved to my satisfaction."
 
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Capt_Beavis

Posted a thousand or more times
#14
I am sorry for your experience and I understand your frustration but calling the most well established company in the RC industry a scam is ridiculous. Good luck with other companies. And $80 for an new control module since you already invested in the motors and have the airframe seems like a no-brainer. Get the new unit and enjoy your flying.
 
#15
Customer service issues aside, I'm going to continue with the modification - although I will be using some parts that I originally had not planned on using. I'm also going to try to keep this thread on track by keeping the complaints out of it.

Rather than using the integrated board that came with the DR, I'm going to put two brushed ESCs and a Spektrum receiver in its place. I also have an Orange RX stabilization unit that I'm considering trying out.
 

Capt_Beavis

Posted a thousand or more times
#16
I am very interested to see how it goes and whata motors you use. I have a full I would like to resurrect in such a fashion. What are you going to do with your 180s?

Do you have a Tx that will handle the mixing for differential thrust?
 

Direwolf

Junior Member
#17
Congratulations on a very good write up. As per request, here are my experiences.

I have flown the Delta Ray for six wonderful months. I have been through 2 sets of stock motors, 2 sets of Xtreme Pro 180's, & 3 Receiver boards! One was generously replaced by Horizon after a (not all that) "hard landing" produced the uncomanded unilateral full thrust problem you experienced. Another went in after my Ray took an unintended sea cruise across 1/2 mile of San Francisco Bay! This diversion occurred when I discovered the "Kite effect" of a sudden increase to a 25-30 MPH wind. I could not make progress against it with the stock motors except in a steep dive, after switching to intermediate mode to attain a sufficient dive angle, at full power! With stock motors you have to make this trip against the wind while descending in "steps." I simply ran out of space and got blown out to sea! This procedure is completely uneccesary when you have the xtreme 180 engines, which can make headway against strong headwinds. After retrieving my Ray from the otherside of the bay, I threw in a replacement board and got 2 more months out of the stock motors. What a resilient aircraft!

The Xtreme 180 motors ARE direction sensitive. You won't notice it at first, but eventually any engine you spin backwards will decline to about 30% of the power of the good engine. They were out of Xtreme motors when I finally figured out why my Ray only flew in right turns, so I threw in a stock set to resume flying for a while. I have a "B" motor on its way now to replace the damaged one.

The aircraft is better in every regard with the Xtreme 180 motors. Climb & endurance are both greatly enhanced.

I am still growing in my ablities with this plane.
 

Capt_Beavis

Posted a thousand or more times
#18
I am going on 9 months with mine and I haven't had to replace anything yet. I am feeling that the plane is a little under powered now. I really need to get these motors on order.
 
#20
I swapped my stock motors out for the X180s and they were definitely more powerful but something in the process causes me to have absolutely terrible battery life. I flew the stock DRay on some 1.5 2S Turnigy batteries for like 10-12 mins easy. After the motor conversion the exact same batteries only last about 2 mins. I know the X180s are more powerful and therefore draw more mah out of the batteries but that seems crazy to have an 80% reduction in flight time.

For now the DRay is retired but if someone can help me identify the issues I would love to get her back in the air.