We are delighted to offer the fantastic Team Blacksheep TBS Crossfire TX LITE.
With so many available today, it is good to have a name you can recognise. The Team Blacksheep TBS Crossfire TX LITE is certainly that and will be a excellent acquisition.
For this reduced price, the Team Blacksheep TBS Crossfire TX LITE comes highly recommended and is a regular choice with most people. Team BlackSheep have provided some excellent touches and this means great value for money.
Team BlackSheep TBS-CROSSFIRE-TX-LITE
AS TEAM BLACKSHEEP’S CROSSFIRE SYSTEM CONTINUES TO EVOLVE, LEE SCHOFIELD TAKES A CLOSER LOOK AT HOW THIS POPULAR RC LINK IS SHAPING UP RIGHT NOW...
It seems hard to believe, but TBS Crossfire has been around for over two years now. More recently there have been a number of changes and developments in the product to keep it ahead of other vendors looking to enter this space. If you’ve heard of the Crossfire system or watched some online videos you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s all about super long flights that are many kilometres long, but that’s only part of the story
In terms of its general appeal, by using a much lower frequency and some clever technology to preserve the signal quality, the Crossfire system is designed to provide a better signal than traditional 2.4GHz radios. While it’s true that this does result in much more range, it also provides a more secure link for flying in close proximity as well as providing a much faster low latency connection to the model you’re flying.
"The Crossfire system has developed into a very powerful and flexible connectivity system"
That said, most pilots who are using the Crossfire are using it to push the flight distances, so if you’re not planning on flying for miles at a time should you just skip this article?
We’d still advise you to read on, not least because the Crossfire system has developed into a very powerful and flexible connectivity system for our models and now provides some features that you’ll not find on any of the other long range systems that we’ll cover here.
On a personal note, I have learnt a lot about the system over the past two months and the developers at Team BlackSheep (TBS) have been generous with their time in helping me wade my way through the manual and pick up some tips and tricks along the way. With all of the recent changes some pilots are now not sure what the TBS Crossfire system can do, so let us look at some of the basics and check out the latest features of this system and pass these tips to you...
So why should you bother to consider using Crossfire? As mentioned earlier, the system uses a much lower frequency than the ‘standard’ 2.4GHz radios most of us use to fly. You can choose between 915MHz and 868MHz depending on where you live (as seen in the graphic below) This lower frequency has a much longer wavelength, and longer wavelengths propagate further on the same power. The bottom line is you can fly in your normal space with far more safety, or (if legal) fly miles and miles away and still retain a strong connection to the model.
With the maximum power of two watts, using the larger TBS Crossfire module flights of tens of kilometres have been achieved easily. But there are a few other tricks up its sleeve that make it worth considering if you’re not interested in long range flights but are looking for the fastest connection to your model. TBS has developed a super-fast, resilient protocol called CRSF.
This enables pilots to talk to the module in the radio ten times faster than PPM and then have the signals sent to the flight controller at the other end three times faster than S-Bus. The result is a super-fast, low latency connection to the model for those flying at speed or needing the finest control - something which is especially handy when racing. The other benefit of the CRSF protocol is due to the fact that it’s a flexible and resilient two-way system. It allows for information to be sent to, and received from, the flight controller and systems on the model.
If you’re using Beta flight 3.2 you can use the LUA scripts on the radio to configure all of the Betaflight settings over the link and there is further development to improve this in Betaflight 3.3 due out early 2018. Not all radios and systems support CRSF right now. If you’re not using one of the OpenTX powered radios then you can connect the Crossfire module to the radio using the supplied trainer cables and use PPM as normal. At the other end you can configure the receiver to send PPM, PWM or S-Bus if you’re using a flight controller that isn’t ready for CRSF yet, so the system should be able to work with any model and system.
If you look on the TBS website (team-blacksheep.com) you’ll see that there are two versions of the Crossfire module available: The full-sized original ‘Crossfire TX’ and the newer, more compact, ‘Crossfire Micro TX’ Module. The smaller module doesn’t have the screen and can’t support transmission powers higher than 100mW but here in the EU we can’t run that much power anyway. Apart from that all of the features are shared between the two modules.
Installing and setting up the system is straightforward. Before doing anything else I’d pop on the T-shaped antenna and update the Crossfire transmitter module to the latest firmware using the USB port on its side and the TBS Agent software you can download from the website.
You then install the module into the back of the radio (if it has a JR-style bay) or connect it to the trainer port on the radio using one of the supplied cables. The first time you power up the module, it will ask you to confirm your location and it will then use that detail to set the maximum power levels. If you’re using OpenTX 2.2 or later then copy the Crossfire LUA scripts to the SD card so you can configure the module from the controls on the radio.
Once you’ve done that you can pop the TBS Crossfire system into ‘Bind’ mode and power up the receiver. If it doesn’t connect automatically a quick push of the bind button on the receiver will start the process. You’ll notice that the firmware will be updated on the receiver during this step, too. Very clever. Now you can configure how you want the TBS Crossfire receiver to operate and set the failsafe.
The configuration of the receivers is very flexible. Using the screen on the Crossfire module or the LUA script on the radio, you can configure any output and input on any of the pins available on the receiver you have. Using this setup you can configure the receiver to output PPM, PWM or S-Bus for traditional systems or CRSF for things like Betaflight. You can also configure MAVLink telemetry to be sent and received on spare pins, too.
Then it s just a case of setting up the model as normal, but now with the ability to use the CRSF protocol for very fast communication to the model. With software like Betaflight you’ll need to use a hardware UART for CRSF but other manufacturers are starting to work towards native support so it should get easier to use this newer protocol in future. So far it’s all pretty normal for any seasoned pilots out there, but let’s take a look at a few of the nice touches in the system.
As some of you may have already gathered, the TBS Crossfire works best with OpenTX. Without the screen and controls on the back, the smaller Crossfire Micro TX module will need a radio running OpenTX 2.2 and the LUA script to configure it. This integration with OpenTX provides some great features.
Using the system you’ll be able to discover a whole set of Crossfire-specific sensors that can be used to warn you if the signal is dropping or if the mode changes while flying. The RQly sensor is the most useful at the moment and you’ll need to set up a warning at 70% and an alarm if it goes below 60%.
The MAVLink support in Crossfire is very sophisticated. A lot of A PM and PixHawk pilots used Crossfire in the early days due to this feature alone. Normally to use the MAVLink telemetry wirelessly with these flight controllers you need to install separate 3DR-style radios on the model but the Crossfire system can transmit and send the MAVLink data over its own link, removing the need for that extra complexity and setup.
The icing on the cake is that the full-size Crossfire module can also send and receive the MAVLink signals using a built-in Bluetooth modem to a tablet or PC, so you can simply connect the device to it and get all of that MAVLink power wirelessly.
As the CRSF protocol specification is open, it appears that a number of other manufacturers like Spektrum and Futaba are also working on adding CRSF support tatheir radios. This is great and will help make the system even easier for those who don’t use FrSky radio systems and help make the CRSF protocol one of those we all know and use daily.
You do have some choice when it comes to the receivers. There are two currently available, a smaller one for multirotors (TBS Crossfire Micro Receiver V2) and a larger full-sized receiver (TBS Crossfire 8ch Diversity Rx) that includes a rechargeable battery inside.
That’s very handy when using the ‘Model Finding’ mode on the transmitter. If the model crashes, even if the battery is ejected, the larger receiver will stay powered, enabling you to use the signal strength graph on the transmitter to find the strongest signal and direction to the model. Very cool.
As with any system there are common ‘gotchas’ that new pilots make and, having spoken with TBS on the matter, here are a few of the most common: The best tip is to update to the latest software on the TBS Crossfire module as soon as you get it. Install the latest Beta software.
Normally I would always advise that you stay away from the Beta software unless you are a beta tester but the rapid changes to the code and pace of innovation at TBS at the moment is resulting in the code not staying still for long enough to become an official ‘gold’ release. The latest firmware will give you all the bells and whistles - so update!
As with any system, antenna alignment is key. The Crossfire system uses a ‘T’-shaped antenna and similar antennae on the receivers, too. When the antennae are aligned physically there is the strongest signal but as the model pitches and rolls the antennae will fall out of alignment and the signal drops.
The advice is to mount the antennae vertically on the radio and in an ‘L’ or ‘V’ shape on the model; that way as the model moves one of the antennae should be in alignment and give great reception.
If you want to use Crossfire on the FrSky QX7 or X7S radios you will need OpenTX 2.2.1 or a hardware mod for it to work properly and not give telemetry errors constantly. The problem is down to a very slow signal inverter inside the radio that can’t run the CRSF protocol at full speed (we told you it was a lot faster than PPM).
There are mods coming out for the radio to replace that slow inverter but until they are available we’re stuck waiting for OpenTX 2.2.1. It’s likely that when FrSky decided to replace the Texas Instruments inverter fitted to the very first batch of radios with another inferior version the company wasn’t thinking about high speed systems like Crossfire and CRSF...
While we’re on the subject of OpenTX, remember that you’ll need a radio with the Crossfire LUA script on it to configure the Crossfire Micro as it hasn’t got the OLED display and joystick on it to help with configuration. You can download it from the link on the TBS website.
My final tip is a very handy one if you need to change the location detail that you used the first time the Crossfire module powered up. Maybe you are in the EU but are now flying in the USA? At the moment TBS is trying to install the ‘Konami’ code (seasoned gamers will know what this is!) into all of its products to get you out of trouble.
With the system powered and a receiver connected you can input this code into the full-sized Crossfire system using the joystick or simply press the button on the back of the Crossfire Micro TX module 10 times to ‘unlock’ it to allow you to change the settings - equally handy if you’ve made a mistake!
With the choice of UHF systems about it pays to do your research before investing. It appears that other manufacturers are jumping on the Crossfire bandwagon and creating their own, largely similar, systems - which also means that the TBS team will not be resting on their laurels. That’s good for us as more competition means more innovation and lower prices.
The benefit of the Crossfire system is that it’s been around long enough to have almost all of the wrinkles ironed out and can provide a solid platform to build in new features for us owners. The bottom line is if you’re looking for safe ranged flying, to support a fast connection to your model or to fly a M AVLink-capable flight controller more safely and easier than before, then the TBS Crossfire system is well worth a look.