ChopperAddict's Hints & Tips

   

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   SAFETY - Handling LIPO batteries

This is a very important topic indeed, as the LIPO batteries that we all use with electric helicopters can be very dangerous if they not handled correctly.

The LIPO battery is a great source of power, and does not have the "memory" problems of the standard Ni-cad batteries or other problems suffered by other types of batteries, but it does have one or two nasty drawbacks.

The first one is how you charge them.  You do not have to let them discharge all the way down, in fact you ABSOLUTELY MUST NOT DO SO, as there is a very good chance indeed of them catching fire.  Therefore, NEVER EVER LEAVE ONE CONNECTED IN YOUR HELICOPTER. Once you have finished flying, disconnect it and remove it from the aircraft.

If we are talking about the most common 11.1 Volt Lipo battery, this is made up of 3 individual cells rated at 3.7 Volts each, which means 3 cells in series equal 11.1 Volts.  The best rule of thumb to work to is to NEVER LET AN INDIVIDUAL CELL of a LIPO battery DROP BELOW 3.5 Volts in normal use.

If you do happen to do so, and it doesn't catch fire, there is a very good chance that you will not be able to recharge it again at all, even with a good LIPO charger system.

The converse of this problem is the rate that you can charge them at.  The common formula for this is that you should never exceed what is called 1C.  This value of 1C is simply the max capacity of the lipo - say 2200 Mah divided by 1000 (1C - to bring Mah to Amps) so you should only ever charge a 2200 Mah lipo at 2.2 Amps at most.

Some people suggest doing it at 1/2C (0.5C)to give the lipo's a longer working life, and there is some evidence that this helps, but of course, they will take twice as long as they are only being charged at half the 1C charging rate.

If you need to store your Lipos for a period of time, you need to use your charger to take them DOWN to about half their normal power.  Most decent chargers provide this as one of the options, typically it is named STORAGE or something similar.

The external temperature can also have adverse effects on Lipo cells. If a Lipo is fully charged, and it gets too cold, the internal voltage can quite easily rise, leading to a potentially dangerous charge value that could lead to fire and explosion, so if you store your lipos in say the garage during the winter, make sure the temperature does not drop down too much if you have any fully or nearly fully charged lipos in there.

Finally, when you are transporting Lipos, please be careful that they cannot be punctured by anything, as this has been known to cause them to catch fire.

NEVER EVER LEAVE YOUR LIPOS CONNECTED IN A HELICOPTER OR ANYTHING ELSE, THEY WILL DRAIN DOWN, AND CAN QUITE EASILY CATCH FIRE.

WHEN A LIPO DOES CATCH FIRE, SUCH AS A 3 CELL 11.1v DISCUSSED ABOVE, WHAT HAPPENS IS USUALLY THAT ONE CELL EXPLODES WITH A LOT OF FIRE AND SMOKE, BURNS ITSELF OUT, AND THEN SETS FIRE TO THE NEXT CELL.  THIS MEANS THAT YOU GET THREE SEPARATE EXPLOSIONS, AND AN AWFUL LOT OF VERY ACRID SMOKE AND A LOT OF HEAT AND FIRE OVER A PERIOD OF SEVERAL MINUTES.

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