Thursday, May 26, 2016

Introduction

(Updated June 8, 2017)

Note: Blade recently announced the 180 CFX has been discontinued.  They also indicated that a 3-bladed head version with some other improvements would soon be replacing the 2-bladed head version.  It appears that parts support won't be a problem at this time.  This blog is written with reference to the 2-bladed head version (BLH3450).

Early in 2016 I purchased my first (pre-owned) Blade 180 CFX that was in need of some minor repairs.  After tearing it all down, replacing worn or broken parts, reading up on the forums, asking all kinds of questions (Yo - Helifreaks!) and then rebuilding it, I managed to log over 100 flights in about 2 months.  In doing so I've learned a few things about the heli and it's components:  It's FAST, extremely sensitive to cyclic inputs, and yet VERY configurable.

Most of what I learned wasn't mentioned in the manual or on Horizon's or BladeHelis' websites.  I've also stumbled across a not-so-obvious thing you can do with this heli - fly it with a 2S pack, thus lower RPM and LONGER flights.  But, you must also make adjustments to it's Talon15 ESC outlined here or your heli won't ever get off the ground with a 2S pack.

A disassembled Blade 180 CFX.
I'm not a hard-core smack 3D heli pilot, but I'm amazed by those who are.  I've been flying helis and planes since 2009 (many with my two old DX6i transmitters, the rest with 4ch or 7ch Futaba 72MHz transmitters) and practice big-sky aerobatics, sport and scale type flying.  I appreciate being able to fly precisely and quietly in small areas, like my back yard, on calm summer evenings, and the 180 CFX has been able to satisfy all of that, with a few minor tweaks.  I work in electronics engineering so I enjoy messing with these kinds of things on occasion.  I've posted other blogs on Century Swift and Thunder Tiger Mini-Titan helis, as well as build-type logs and other various topics on Helifreak and RCGroups.  You can look for that stuff if you like, just Google "FR4-Pilot".

Testing out the electronics before re-installing.
Now, haters are gonna hate, period.  Just being honest here - there's absolutely no reason to continue reading if the thought of taming down a HOT collective pitch 3D RC helicopter offends or pisses you off.  I was scolded years ago for helping my Blade 400 to chill as well, but after speaking to and flying with Dwight Shilling earlier this year I learned these are the same types of things FAI/F3C pilots do to their helis in order to compete in precision hovering maneuvers.  Go figure - there are other things you can do with your heli besides 3D.

Don't think for a minute that this heli is 'crippled' flying on 2S.  Here she is with a 2S 800mAh pack, 3300 RPM for take-off and landing, 3500 RPM for ripping around:


Okay then, if you're still here, let's get started!

All CP helicopters can be tamed down by doing any of the following:
  1. Using a pinion gear with less teeth.
  2. Using a main gear with more teeth.
  3. Using a motor with lower kV.
  4. Using a battery pack with fewer cells.
  5. Reducing the main and tail rotor RPM.
  6. Setting Dual Rates for cyclic and rudder.
  7. Using Expo for cyclic and rudder.
  8. Reducing and adjusting (dual rate-like and expo-like) collective pitch range.
We'll be exploring #'s 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 here.  A stock heli (or one close to stock) works best as keeping the AUW (All Up Weight) as low as possible will yield the absolute best results.  AUW of a stock 180 CFX is around 190-195g, so that's the goal to keep in mind.

Blade 180 CFX with a yellow HeliMax Rotofly canopy.
The 180 CFX isn't really a beginner's helicopter in that it is configured with really high head speeds (4000 - 5000 RPM) and incredible cyclic and collective pitch responsiveness right out of the box.  It's ready to fly smack 3D as soon as you get it home and is basically a modern day 450/550/600/700 size flybarless helicopter miniaturized down to a 180 size, minus an auto-rotation gear and one-way-bearing.  However, it doesn't NEED all of that power and responsiveness to stay in the air.  It has a LOT of RPM overhead and a LOT collective/cyclic pitch range to make flying smack 3D easier.  It's got a moderate disc loading of 1.86kg/m².  Even better, since it was designed for extreme performance and abuse, it's overall mechanical and electrical design becomes overkill once you slow it down, meaning it's extremely reliable and predictable for those just starting out or those who prefer to not push the envelope.  That being said, some respectable experience in building, setting up, maintaining, repairing and flying collective pitch helicopters is really required to get the most out of this 'fun-size' heli.  This was my first flybarless helicopter and first exposure to Castle Creations ESCs, so I had some catching up to do.

Blade 180 CFX with a white HeliMax Rotofly canopy and white Lynx blades.
Over the next few pages I'll explain some things that kept me scratching my head at first.  Then I'll show you how to turn this ballistic 3D machine into an easygoing heli you can fly casually in your back yard or take to the field and do some very respectable sport and aerobatic maneuvers. We'll go from 3 minute flights to 5, 6, even 7 minute flights.  We'll be doing this without changing pinion gears or motors.  Instead we'll use the heli as it comes stock changing only the battery pack, transmitter settings (throttle curves, pitch curves, dual rates and expo) and re-configuring the Talon 15 ESC.  We'll even set it up so it's easy to switch back and forth between ballistic and easygoing.

Blade 180 CFX with FXT 5.8GHz 25mW vTx and camera combo.
Just to be clear, everything in this blog assumes a stock 5800kV motor, with 6 poles, a 10T pinion and a 104T main gear.  Also a stock heli close to the 190-195g AUW with 2S and 3S lithium-polymer packs in the 30-46g weight range.

Blade 180 CFX with a BLHeliParts Protos style canopy and white Lynx blades.
Stay Safe
Even at 3000 RPM this heli can hurt you, badly.  Remember, the tail blades spin approximately five times faster than the main blades, so when in ballistic mode at 5000 RPM the tail is spinning at 25,000 RPM!  At these RPM the main blade tips are traveling at 211 miles per hour while the tail blade tips are traveling at 268 miles per hour !!!  This can do SERIOUS damage to the human body.

Please! Be sure to adhere to all RC helicopter safety precautions when operating the Blade 180 CFX.

Blade 180 CFX with EZ-NAVs (LEDs).