Our Design Partner, FMA Direct

Our in-house staff of engineers is constantly at work developing new products, and improving existing designs for the R/C industry.



Co-Pilot CPD4


Co-Pilot CPD4 2-Channel Flight Stabilization System

Co-Pilot 2-Channel, 2 Axis Flight Stabilization System

Part Number: CPD4

The original Co Pilot (PN CPD4) is a patented, 2 channel, 2 axis Flight Stabilization System (FSU) that senses the difference in infrared signature (temperature) between the earth and the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to provide 100% real time, day or night stabilization about two axes (pitch and roll) on virtually any model. The system maintains level flight for aircraft and heli requiring only 2 radio channels to control pitch and roll. This limitation means CPD4 does not handle CCPM helicopters or aircraft configurations that include differential ailerons or flapperons. If your model requires 3 or 4 radio channels to control pitch and roll, click here to learn about the new Co Pilot II FSU.

How does Co Pilot work?

The Co Pilot CPD4 is composed of two main components; the sensor module and the computer module. The sensor module must be mounted to the outside of the aircraft and plugs in to the computer module. The computer module is installed between any R/C receiver and the servos controlling the aircraft's pitch and roll flight surfaces. The sensor module contains 4 independent IR thermopile sensors. The sensors are mounted 90 degrees apart and look out in all directions toward the horizon. The viewing angle of each sensor would be represented by a 90 degree cone. Each sensor is capable of seeing several square miles of area taking a wide angle view of the "composite" or "average" surrounding temperature profile. Objects with comparably small temperature profile such as a grove of trees or a house blend in to the overall IR picture. The overall effect of the IR readings tend to give the impression that Co Pilot is picking up on the horizon. So we might say Co Pilot can level the aircraft to within 1 degree of the horizon, but the reality is that sensor range is probably less than 1 mile. Therefore, it does not really "see" the horizon. It sees the average temperature profile all around and inside of 1 mile to determine level attitude relative to the sensor module installation. By comparing the relative heat signature measured by each cone, the CPD4 computer utilizes the raw analog signals from the sensor module to alter the radio receiver's control pulses to the servos. In essence, the CPD4 is always attempting to maintain the aircraft in a level attitude by balancing out the heat signature all around the aircraft. The pilot is therefore "over-riding" the Co Pilot's natural tendency when he flies.

The amount of control the Co Pilot has over the aircraft may be adjusted by the sensitivity setting on the computer module, or at the customer's transmitter using a proportional auxiliary control such as a knob or slider. Alternatively, the CPD4 Remote can be set up on a 2 position auxiliary switch. In this scenario, Co Pilot may be used as a "panic" or "bail out" device in the event the pilot loses orientation or gets into an otherwise tight situation. For fastest recovery, the computer senstivity will be set higher. Co Pilot is capable of returning the model from any attitude to level flight in less than 1 second. This is easily accomplished by simply centering the right control stick of the transmitter. Depending on a pilot's tastes and experiences, sensitivity may be reduced to strike a good balance between faster recovery time and less control over the pilot's commands.

The Co Pilot CPD4 has been available to the R/C industry since the early 2000's. 10's of thousands of units have been sold to customers around the world who are still "amazed" at how well it works. You have to see it to believe it! We receive thanks and praise routinely for all of our flight stabilization technologies because they help enrich the experience of modeling. By our estimate, this technology has revolutionized the training of R/C pilots for airplanes, helicopters, and gliders. Best of all, it's affordable. It will pay for itself the first time it helps a pilot to avoid a crash. While no FSU currently available can replace the knowledge of an experienced tutor, and no FSU in this price range can ever fly the model for the pilot, the Co Pilot provides a much lower stress environment for the new pilot or the experienced pilot seeking to learn new aerobatic manuevers or move up to a larger, faster aircraft. Imagine the comfort level any pilot feels knowing that he has a panic button at his finger tips. The end result is that the pilot spends more time in the air, and less time and money on repairs.

Tell me more about using Co Pilot as a flight instruction tool

The transmitter sticks can be used normally to command the model through any maneuver of which it is capable, yet, the moment the sticks are centered, the model immediately rights itself, even from inverted flight. Buddy boxes are no longer needed as Co Pilot has proven to be the most effective way possible to train new flyers and to assist all flyers. The instructor no longer needs a transmitter. Persons who have never flown a model are becoming competent to fly complete flights, including unassisted landing within just as few flights. The task of flight instructor is reduced to the simple, quiet reminder to the pilot, "center the sticks" when he makes an error that might normally crash the model. Landings are instructed by directing him to "line it up with the runway" then to "throttle back". Co Pilot holds the wings and nose level and the model descends to land nearly automatically. Co Pilot-equipped Helicopters are fully capable of maintaining hands-off hover in low or no wind situations. Even if there are strong winds present, Co-Pilot will keep a helicopter in level hover. The heli will usually drift in the direction of its intertia, but the fact that the blades stay level allow the pilot time to think and time to react. The fact that sensitivity is adjustable by the pilot means that as a new pilot builds confidence and actually learns how to control his model, he can back off Co Pilot control and enjoy a more realistic flying experience. The sailplane pilot can seek a thermal, set rudder for a circling, flat turn, and Co Pilot will hold the wings and the nose level to keep it in the thermal. The unit is small and light enough for use in slow/park flyers.

More about setup and installation

FMA Direct and Revolectrix recommend that any model on which Co Pilot is to be installed be in good flying condition and that all radio, engine, and mechanical aspects of the model have been proven out during at least one maiden flight. The Co Pilot reference manual is comprehensive and walks through the various steps for installing the Co Pilot on various model types; fixed wing aircraft, helicopters, and flying wings. "Programming" the CPD4 is accomplished by properly setting a series of small dip switches on the computer module. These settings are required to tell the computer about how the main sensor is oriented on the model, whether or not the model is set up for elevons, etc. Co Pilot includes an interactive pre-flight setup process to check weather conditions and adjust the unit for optimum performance. Manual daily field calibration is required one time per day or whenever weather conditions change radically. Field calibration requires about 30 seconds to complete. The sensor module may be located anywhere on the outside of the model where it can "see" the horizon in all directions, except in the exhaust stream where oil might deposit on the sensor windows. The computer module mounts inside of the aircraft. The computer module and sensor unit must be interconnected using the supplied, 4-position flat ribbon cable. The system contents also include a single push-button programming switch and hook and loop fasteners for mounting the components.

Please note: Co Pilot CPD4 will operate with any brand, type, or frequency radio system including 2.4 GHz systems. In certain cases, it may cause servo jitter or "hunting" when used in combination with very-high-speed digital servos. When interfacing Co Pilot CPD4 to a PCM or certain 2.4 GHz radio systems, the 605SB Servo Buffer is usually required. Instructions for how to install the 605SB in a CPD4 installation are detailed in the CPD4 User Manual. This additional device is required for any radio system that outputs servo pulses in parallel; meaning the timing of each of the PPM outputs to the servos are not staggered. All Futaba PCM radios work this way. The 605SB creates a slight delay so that the pitch and roll servo outputs do not reach the CPD4 computer at precisely the same time.