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In this week’s conclusion to ‘Blade Runner’ we discuss an important aspect of multirotor and airplane flight, propeller balancing. Granted an unbalanced propeller doesn’t keep something from flying, but it can cause propeller based failures as well as increased noise due to the blade imperfections. There are two parts to propeller balancing: Horizontal and Vertical Balancing.

To start, one needs a propeller balancing apparatus. This can be as simple as a pen placed across two boxes, or a commercial balancer from companies like this one from¬†Dubro¬†or this option from¬†Great Planes. Next, you need either sandpaper to shave down the prop, or some clear tape or stickers to add to the prop. I’m a big fan of tape/stickers, but there are many schools of thought when it comes to prop balancing, so work with what makes you comfortable.

Prop Diagram

For reference, above you will see a diagram of a prop courtesy of Horizon Hobby. When I talk about the¬†leading edge of a propeller, I’m making note of the thicker part of the propeller, shown as the light gray area of the propeller. The¬†trailing edge of the prop is the thinner edge of the prop and is marked on the diagram as the black area.

Before any balancing can occur, don’t forget to ream the mount hole to fit your propeller shaft (similar to making body post holes, for you surface RC people). If you do not ream the hole until after balancing, you will have to do it again, and no one wants that.

Horizontal Balancing

Propeller Balancing Horizontal

Once you have the propeller on your balancing post, place it into the horizontal position. Here is where the sandpaper or tape/stickers come in: See what direction the propeller spins after in the horizontal position, and either add tape to (or near) the leading edge of the lighter half of the blade or sand down the trailing edge of the heavier half of the blade. Continue this process until the prop only deviates from the horizontal position 5-10 degrees.

Vertical Balancing

Propeller Balancing Vertical

The same applies to vertical balancing. Place the blade on the balancing post into the vertical position and, like horizontal balancing, either add tape to (or near) the leading edge of the lighter half of the blade or sand down the trailing edge of the heavier half of the blade. Continue this process until the prop only deviates from the vertical position 5-10 degrees.

…And that is all there is to it! With your propellers balanced you will see an instantaneous change in the noise coming from your motors as well as small changes to performance.

If you have any propeller or other RC Aircraft questions, feel free to contact me (kevin (at) bigsquidrc.com). If you have not yet, check out the big Multirotor Build Project I’m working on right here. Until next time, Stay Shiny and Keep Flyin’!

ares_exera_130cx
Ares has just announced a new heli. The Ares Advantage Exera 130 CX is their most advanced and easiest to fly 4-Channel helicopter yet. It features a coaxial counter rotating blade design that makes the heli very stable, but the best feature is their Altitude Assist Technology.
It uses sensors above and below to tell if you are getting too close to a ceiling, or too close to the floor. More about that later..

Some of its other features and specifications include-

* Length: 9.6 in (245mm)
* Height: 6.3 in (160mm)
* Main Rotor Diameter: 10.5 in (265mm)
* Weight with Battery: 4.8 oz (135g)
* Main Motor: N40 (2 installed)
* Battery: 700mAh 1S 3.7V LiPo (included)
* Charger: 1S 3.7V LiPo AC (included)
* Transmitter: 4-channel 2.4GHz (included)
* On-Board Electronics: 4-in-1 receiver/2 ESCs/mixer/gyro, 2 servos, Altitude Assist
* Technology module and sensors (installed)

It comes RTF, and has 3 modes to make learning to fly very easy.

Mode 1 – Has auto take off, hover, and auto landing. All you need to do is keep moving around the room.
Mode 2 – Gives the user throttle control but activates ceiling avoidance and dynamic throttle limiting
Mode 3 – Allows you to fly unassisted without any of the ultrasound sensors help.

The part number is #AZSZ2000 and the street price is only $119. You should be able to find it at your HobbyTown USA soon, or you can order from the official Exera 130CX Ares Website.

Here is a video to explain all those cool features and show them in action:

350QX 3-Blade PropsNow that the weather has been better and the first installment of the build project up for your viewing, I started spending time with my¬†Blade 350QX,¬† and couldn’t help but start looking at modifications and changes. Now a new product was released by Xtreme Productions for the 350QX: A 3-bladed prop to replace the stock 2-bladed propeller. Which raises a question I get a lot at work and I did a little research just for you: What is the point of multi-bladed props and why do I care?

In the case of multirotors, multi-bladed (mainly 3-bladed) props have one primary purpose: Moving more air. With the ability to push more air, multirotor aircraft are much more stable which is perfect for aerial photography, and also makes aerobatic tricks easier to perform. ¬†The unfortunate downside to this great plus is that it does reduce run time on the aircraft’s battery. Now if these advantages/disadvantages are for you 350QX¬†owners, I’d check out the¬†Xtreme Productions¬†blades via their website right here, or check out their Carbon Fiber upgrade standard props here. Everyone else, shop around for your ideal multi-blade prop, which usually in the same size range. I recently saw some in the 7-8″ range from¬†Master Airscrew, so that may be a good direction to start.

Next week will be the last part of Blade Runner, called “It’s All About Balance”. Until then, Stay Shiny and Keep Flyin’!

Build Title PicNow these past few weeks I’ve been promising a build here on Raging Rotors, and yes I may be a bit overdue. Yet I will not give you one, not two, but THREE build projects in one series. I have gone so crazy to the point where I picked up enough gear to discuss three builds at the same time! Madness you say?¬†I think not!¬†For these builds I did decide on working with two V-Tail quadcopter frames, after all the buzz I generated with an earlier article, and the third frame will be a quadcopter. Later in the series we will discuss electronics, gyros, and more.

What makes a good multirotor frame? Honestly it depends on your overall purpose, whether it is for casual flying, FPV or other photography, or aerobatic stunt flying (though Multicontroller helps with that, too…but that’s for later). Here are a few things to consider:

Check out your options after the ‘Read More’…

READ MORE

Tomato Sauce with AMAAs my picture shows, I am excited this Raging Rotors because I am now eligible to fly at all Offical Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) flying fields all over the United States. This membership is good for all pilots looking to fly, for while flying on official fields you are provided with a significant insurance package to protect yourself from accidents besides including a subscription to Model Aviation magazine. Full membership prices vary based on what you plan on flying, so stop by your local hobby shop or visit the AMA website by clicking here for more details.

Which leads me to the main topic: clubs. I recently became a member of my local flying club, and boy is there a great untapped knowledge base there! From flying helicopters and planes to building them to learning the basics (and physics/engineering) behind aircraft and other RC Technology, the guys at the local club sure have a lot of information to share! Granted the RC Surface world isn’t always as organized (lack of national membership hub, goverment sponsored driving areas, etc), but don’t hesitate to Google local clubs, search around, and get a hold of some to find a new source of fun for your hobby.¬†For you Chicago Suburbs pilots, the local club I joined can be found via this website and anyone can find information about their local clubs (including more clubs in the Chicago metropolitan area) by searching online using This Link. I was able to connect with a professor from my alma mater in my club who also enjoys custom multirotor aircraft, so that may be something to look forward to in the future for all of us.

In other news, the¬†first¬†Raging Rotors build series is coming soon, which will be in addition (if possible) to the usual article. I cannot wait for you guys to see all the fun stuff I’ve been working on the past few weeks. Until next time, Stay Shiny and Keep Flyin’!

Tomato Sauce with his eyes on the prizeFor the humble beginnings of ‘The Path…’ see Part 1 and Part 2.

I’ve been buried into some multirotor building that I completely forgot I need to finish what I started here on Raging Rotors; either that or I was half expecting Doug to write it this week after last week¬†(Props to Doug and his great scale/crawler work). As we come to the final phase of ‘The Path’ (which have alternate titles of ‘There and Back Again’ and ‘Evasive Maneuvers’), we need to discuss the most important part of becoming an amateur pilot, actually piloting! Now, I’ll break it down to helicopters and airplanes, as some of the maneuvers are not as necessary for one over the other. I would also like to give a shout out to¬†Tony¬†of¬†HobbyTown Orland Park¬†since most of this piloting advice (especially helicopter) is straight out of his manual.

When it comes to helicopter flight, the most difficult part of flight is when the controls are reversed due to the nose of the helicopter being faced towards yourself, known as¬†‘nose in.’ ‘Looking into the eyes of the beast’ can be a little intimidating; many a time I have freaked out flying nose in, even with my mini quadcopters. Here is a set of maneuvers you can do to practice flight, whether or not you choose to go nose in is up to you:

  • Full Circles clockwise(opt: using rudder (left stick) to keep nose in direction of flight path) and counter-clockwise (opt: using rudder to keep tail in direction of flight path)
  • Figure 8 forwards (opt: using rudder to keep nose in direction of flight path)¬†and backwards (opt: using rudder to keep tail in direction of flight path)

For¬†airplane flight, nose in is still a contributing factor but if you’re using a slow flying trainer plane, I’ve noticed getting accustomed to the viewpoint is easier, like controlling your RC Car (unlike helis, you can nose in your car and drive slow, and kill throttle of your plane and glide around). The major challenge with aircraft like RC Planes is accounting for depth (a plane can get away from you pretty quick) and wind (some planes need some assistance, especially out by me near the ‘Windy City’). Here’s one good flight hint:¬†Take off in the wind.¬†This will give you some help taking off, since the wind in combination with your propeller work will give you some extra lift.

These maneuvers with practice (on the field or on the simulator) will definitely hone your skills, but only attempt them after getting a handle for your aircraft.

The end of ‘The Path’ has been reached, but it is just a small piece of a bigger journey. I am honored to share my experiences and knowledge with you, and appreciate all the support to those of you who have contacted me or visited me on my ‘home turf‘. Between March Bash-ness¬† and the continuing improvement in weather, it will definitely be a good month! As always, until next time, Stay Shiny and Keep Flyin’!

Tomato Sauce Flying Nano CPxAs we move forward in the journey to be a pilot, I cannot help but reminisce when I first started stepping up my piloting game by buying a collective pitch (or 3D Stunt) helicopter, the¬†Blade Nano CPx. I was so excited, until I took it out of the box and got it ready for flight. That one ounce micro helicopter couldn’t have scared me more even if it was spined like a cactus! Why was I scared, you ask? I was¬†freaked because I was about to fly¬†$150!! With my penny pinching habits, I couldn’t help but tighten up, or¬†pucker,¬†when I started flying.

What I wanted to focus on this week is stuff breaks. I know that being an avid reader of BigSquid usually comes with an understanding of this fundamental concept, but take it from me, it still is no easy task. Helicopters and planes break, wear, and tear and there is nothing that can stop that. With that being said, this is where your local hobby shop can be of assistance. When you are looking for your RC helicopter (or plane), ask for advice! Tell them what you’re looking to do and what environment you want to do it in, and they will give you a heap of advice. In my time flying, I have seen customers (now friends) grow from a coaxial (double bladed) indoor helicopter to flying stunt helicopters at events like¬†eFest in Champaign. Don’t forget to ask about¬†breakable parts on the aircraft you end up choosing; most the time the person you talk to can easily hand you a few parts he/she knows will help you save a trip back later (at least the first time).

Personally, I offer a few suggestions for your first RC aircraft. For you¬†RC Helicopter enthusiasts, if you want a docile scale looking indoor flyer you’re looking at something like a Blade MCx/MCx2¬†or¬†an¬†Ares MD500 D 100CX.¬†Both of these offer stable flight in¬†zero wind conditions and also have the look of full size helicopters. If a scale look does not matter and you would like to be able to fly indoors and out, I definitely would suggest a micro quadcopter, specifically a¬†Blade Nano QX¬†or a¬†Heli-Max 1Si.¬†Not only are they stable and agile enough to fly indoors or out, they both offer¬†prop guards so blades (and walls) can last a little longer on impacts. Granted they will still break, but these guys are real sturdy!

For the RC Airplane enthusiasts,  I would suggest anything larger to tackle the tougher wind situations. For those worried about burying their plane into the ground, then pick up a Hobbyzone Firebird Delta. Armed with the new SAFE gyro system featuring an auto level panic switch, the nose of the plane contains no electronics, keeping your plane airworthy after a nosedive (if that happens). For the more classic top-wing style RC plane, I always suggest the Ares Gamma 370. Offered in a basic and brushless package, one can choose their learning curve and start slow, or with a fully capable (but still manageable) airplane.

So, like all things,¬†stuff breaks!¬†¬†Take it from me, I have was afraid to break anything I was flying, and now there are a lot of aircraft that definitely show that I can have a ‘No Guts, No Glory’ piloting style. Previewing next Raging Rotors, Part 3 is entitled:¬†Right into the Danger Zone!¬†Tune in next week: Same Bat-time, Same Bat-channel…and until then, Stay Shiny and Keep Flyin’!

Blade Nano QX dodging hangar queenAs I enjoy this heat wave in the Midwest (50 degrees, anyone?), I realized something. Never in my short time writing Raging Rotors have I discussed really what kind of ‘path’ one can take to become a competent RC Pilot. Well, better late than never! Over the next couple of articles, we will discuss steps to take to improve your skills and your tech to increase your pilot ‘street cred’.¬†For you experienced RC Pilots, feel free to comment if you have any suggestions. RC is first and foremost a learning experience, so share your knowledge!

Hot Sauce's DX7sI’m a big fan of dedication. Many of you are likely looking into RC helicopters after putzing around with something already, whether a basic coaxial helicopter or one of the almost dozen basic quadcopters that have found their way to market in the last 18 months. If you are dead serious about getting into flying RC helicopters and multirotors, I would start by investing in a computerized radio. A computerized radio is more than your regular transmitter with trim buttons and gimbals, but one that not only (usually) has multiple model memory and a means of finite manipulation of specific flight channels (throttle, aileron, etc). For you¬†Blade¬†and¬†E-Flite fans I’m talking minimally a¬†Spektrum DX6¬†and JR Radios¬†or for the¬†Heli-max¬†and¬†Flyzone¬†fans there are¬†Futaba and¬†Tactic radio systems. I flew my¬†Blade Nano CPx on the stock non-computerized radio and also on a few different computerized radios, and there is a¬†world of difference between the two. The primary difference is in the response to input: a computerized radio input provides almost instantaneous response in the aircraft. I was actually selling this concept to a coworker who flies one of the quads I own in an RTF format, and I had him fly mine on my¬†Spektrum DX7s. Granted a baseline¬†Spektrum DX6i¬†is $140 and a¬†Tactic TTX650¬†is $150, but I would not recommend this without the investment being worth it.

Next time on Raging Rotors: …Actually, I’m just going to spoil the title and leave the rest up to your imagination. Part 2 is ‘Pucker up, Buttercup!’

As always, feel free to leave comments about your experiences or ask me anything via kevin (at) bigsquidrc.com, but until next week, Stay Shiny and Keep Flyin’!

 

Thunder Tiger Raptor E550 Flybarless ARF
If you are looking for a new helicopter loaded with premium features that doesn’t take a bunch of time to get up in the air, Thunder Tiger has a heli for you. Thunder Tiger’s new Raptor E550 ARF comes 95% assembled and was designed for performance. For power, the Raptor has a pre-programmed Castle Creations Talon 90A ESC mated to an Ace R/C Ripper 1150kV brushless motor. To keep it light and strong, the Raptor uses carbon fiber main blades and airframe.

* Weight- 5.84 lb
* Main rotor diameter- 49″
* Length- 45.27″
* Height- 15.35″
* Width- 5.51″

The part number is #TTRE0032, it has a street price of $649, and they are expected to start hitting hobby shops in late April. To get more information simply Click This Link.

Want more Thunder Tiger news? Find it at This Link on BigSquidRC.

350QX V2Think the 350QX can’t get any better?¬†Horizon Hobby¬†has upgraded the firmware of the Blade¬†350QX to version 2.0, featuring a new flight mode built for ultra stable Aerial Photography and new features new and improved compass and GPS technology.¬†In the new BNF and RTF versions, the quadcopter comes with an improved charger, and the start (arming) procedures have also been improved as well.

Already own a 350QX?¬†Never Fear! The firmware will be made available early April for current 350QX owners, and at this point¬†Blade Helicopter¬†states: ‘For owners of the original 350 QX (BLH7800/BLH7880) an optional upgrade solution for the firmware will be available by early April for a nominal fee’. Personally, if one has already paid over the $470 plus tax for the quadcopter, the software upgrade should be free like the updates for¬†Spektrum controllers. Unless for some reason it’s more than just downloading an update. Maybe I need to buy a cable?

The new 350QX V2 will be on hobby store shelves shortly. The prices still are the same for both versions of the quadcopter ($470¬†for RTF and¬†$420 for the BNF), but look for the ‘A‘ at the end of the part number (BLH7800A¬†and¬†BLH7880A, respectively) for the updated software. For more information, check out Blades website via This Link.

For more Blade Helicopter news on BigSquidRC, click here.

Ragu FlyingI might still be recovering from the post-Quadcopter Championship party, but nothing like Raging Rotors to push me along the road to recovery. Before I continue with the fun, I’d like to give a shout out to our friends at HobbyTown Orland Park, Ares, Blade, Heli-Max,¬†and¬†Estes¬†for their support and generosity towards the great success of this event! I had a lot of fun, as did our participants, and I cannot wait for the next time I get to strut my RC Stuff (read ‘Amateur Flight Skill’).

Now, on to business! I am getting excited for doing a build project and sharing it here with you guys, and have been debating if I should do something a little more ‘out-of-the-box’ than the average quadcopter. Honestly, who hasn’t done it on YouTube, Instructables, etc? As Brian, 3DBill, and I were setting up the competition this weekend, 3DBill wanted me to try one of his latest multirotors, a Quadcopter setup called the ‘V-Tail’. Built to fly like a tricopter (3 motors and a servo, see my previous article), the V-tail uses 4 motors but with the rear two motors mounted at an angle and near each other. 3DBill was able to provide some pictures for me so I don’t have to get too wordy with my description, so you can see those below.

 

I have to say, I have built a tricopter, but its flight abilities can’t hold a candle to the lightning fast reactions of the rudder (tail end) of this quadcopter style. In addition, its unique frame layout also make figuring out orientation from a distance a lot easier. Needless to say, I think I have found the platform for the upcoming USS BigSquid multirotor (cue Captain Kirk overacting)! Now I just need to start shopping (aka turn in ludicrously large expense reports)!

Once again, a big thanks to our sponsors for their support in last Saturday’s event, and big props to all the guys at BigSquid who made this a reality, besides being able to put up with me for almost 24 straight hours! With that, I urge all you pilots out there to Stay Shiny (and warm) and Keep Flyin’!

I keep getting more and more impressed about the types of projects that show up on Kickstarter, and this one is new exception. Presenting a quadcopter frame made of…wait for it…LEGOS. Yes, the construction toy of our youth (and landmine to parents) has a new RC implementation where combined with 3D printed motor mounts creates a working quadcopter frame that can even carry a GoPro camera with the right motor and ESC setup. Feel free to support this project by donating money to the cause, and if you feel really generous (about $130 so) you can even get a quadcopter frame shipped to you around August! More details about the project can be found on its Kickstarter page Right Here.

For more Kickstarter news on BigSquidRC, click HERE.

350QX Case Front

With the¬†Blade Helicopter’s 350QX¬†becoming a quick heavy hitter in the consumer quadcopter market, it was nice to hear that¬†Horizon Hobby¬†just announced a case for their current model 350 size quadcopter that will also fit the¬†350QX AP that will be out in a few months. This new case also touts the following features:

  • Sturdy foam insert provides protection for everything you need to fly your 350 QX and more
  • Accommodates the 350 QX with long landing gear
  • Accommodates the GB200 gimbal
  • Holds up to 6 flight batteries
  • Holds various tools and accessories
  • Holds charging or camera equipment
  • Fits DX5e up to DX18
  • Locking design with keys
  • Brushed aluminum with bright graphics

The part number for the case is BLH7849¬†and will sell for¬†$140 when it starts to ship later this month. More details can be found on Horizon Hobby’s website via This Link. For more Blade Helicopter information on BigSquidRC, click here.