Blade 230 S BNF
Written by Andrew Griffith
Hone your skills with this collective-pitch heli
Photos by the author
As seen in the Fall 2016 issue of Park Pilot.
Model Type: RTF electric helicopter
Skill level: Beginner through intermediate
Main rotor diameter: 21.1 inches
length: 18.6 inches
weight: 11.9 ounces
Street Price: $249.99
>> Stability mode delivers the comfort of self-leveling and bank limits
>> Progressive flight modes help build your aerobatic skills
>> Panic Recovery mode can recover the heli to a level attitude
>> Collective-pitch rotor system with flybarless mechanics
>> Brushless main and tail motors for great power and response
>> E-flite 800 mAh 3S LiPo flight battery and charger (included)
>> 5- to 6-minute flight times
Many micro helicopters are of the fixed-pitch variety and, for the most part, incapable of aerobatics. I was happy to see that the Blade 230 S is a true collective-pitch helicopter. This makes it capable of a full range of aerobatics. Loops, rolls, stationary flips, and sustained inverted flight should be easy to do with the new Blade 230 S.
The Blade comes equipped with two high-speed brushless motors. The first turns the main rotor blade and the second spins a fixed-pitch tail rotor. A dual output ESC keeps everything running by controlling the main motor based on throttle inputs and the tail motor based on throttle and gyro inputs.
Something you don’t often see in a helicopter of this size is high-speed metal gear servos. The Blade 230 S comes equipped with the same H3050 9-gram digital metal-gear servos found in some of its bigger 300-size brothers.
The main frame appears to be a fiber-filled plastic, which should make it resistant to crash damage. The ABS molded main blades should stand up better to some abuse than either wood or carbon-fiber blades. The three-blade tail rotor means that the blades are short and stout. Unless you hit concrete tail first, they will probably never break.
The only limitation—and this won’t affect beginners or even most intermediate pilots—is the fixed-pitch, motor-operated tail rotor. This means that when the tail has to react to torque changes, the tail rotor has to speed up and slow down. While this arrangement works well, it simply can’t keep up with changes as quickly as a fixed-speed, variable-pitch tail rotor, but a beginner pilot has a lot to learn before running into this particular limitation.
Modelers love tinkering, and with this in mind, a full range of optional metal upgrade parts are available from Horizon Hobby and other retailers. Additionally, there are a couple of fiberglass canopies that fit the Blade 230 S that are airbrushed in attractive, highly visible color schemes.
The first step with any review is to fish out and read the instruction manual from cover to cover. The target audience for the Blade 230 S is a beginner-level pilot and the instruction manual is quite comprehensive.
The DXe transmitter included with the RTF (Ready to Fly) version requires four AA batteries and I was pleasantly surprised to find a set of batteries included in the box. So my first assembly step was to insert the batteries in the transmitter. The transmitter also arrived bound to the included receiver/gyro combination. So far, so good!
The Blade 230 S comes with a preprogrammed Spektrum DXe radio so the helicopter is ready to fly out of the box.
If you’ve purchased the BNF (Bind-N-Fly) version, or you wish to use your existing fancy radio system, the manual includes step-by-step programming directions for most of the current Spektrum radios such as the DX9, DX18, etc.
Next I examined the included LiPo battery and balance charger. The Blade comes with a DC balance charger with alligator clips to connect to a field power supply, and also includes an AC power supply that you can plug into a wall outlet. Be sure not to connect the charger to both an AC source and a DC power supply at the same time.
The battery takes between 60 and 90 minutes to fully charge, and the lights alternately flash while it is charging. When the red light becomes steady, you’re ready to fly. The specifications indicate that the charger runs at a conservative 800 mAh or 1C charge rate.
As for assembling the helicopter, there’s not much to do. Take the canopy off and wait for the battery to finish charging. Place the battery on the battery tray, power up the transmitter, then the receiver, and snap the canopy in place and you’re ready to go!
The front-mounted battery makes for easy swaps, and the Spektrum digital servos are strong and fast enough for spirited performance.
Releasing throttle hold, I powered up the little helicopter in Beginner mode. After the blades reached the full rpm rate, I applied collective and the Blade 230 S lifted off smoothly and entered into a stable hover. I did a rudder turn (pirouette), and for the most part the Blade stayed put—not perfectly still, but it didn’t try to wander off anywhere and was very controllable. Bumping the cyclic stick, the Blade 230 S would react, but stop as soon as I let go of the input.
I tested the limits of the Beginner mode by trying to go full stick in each direction. Although the helicopter headed off in the direction I pointed it, it didn’t have enough cyclic to gain much speed or try to flip over. Releasing the cyclic resulted in the Blade stopping and resuming a stable hover.
In Intermediate mode, the bank limitation is removed and the helicopter can and will fly inverted and perform other basic aerobatics. If you let go of the sticks, the helicopter does not automatically level itself in Intermediate mode. My feeling was that Intermediate mode is like flying in 3-D mode, but in low rate. The bailout function is available if things get hairy.
I landed and charged the pack after four minutes of flight. The battery charger doesn’t give you any indication of the capacity used, so I checked it on my computer charger and found I had expended roughly 60% of the pack.
On my next time out, I went straight to Advanced mode! Forward speed is much faster, and loops and rolls are brisk with the SAFE system, allowing for a good roll rate. Stationary rolls and flips are also possible in Advanced mode.
Flipping the switch to Advanced mode makes the Blade 230 S really come alive for experienced pilots. Inverted flight is stable enough to inspire confidence for those wanting to learn how to hover and fly inverted.
The Blade is capable of what I will call a light hurricane maneuver, meaning it will do large circles at a moderate speed with the tail to the center of the circle and the nose up. It doesn’t have the power or tail rotor authority to do a tight or fast hurricane, but it will do them.
The Blade is nearly as stable flying inverted as flying upright. This is a testament to the stabilization system because when a helicopter is inverted, the rotor is balancing the weight of the helicopter above it as opposed to when it’s upright and the weight is hanging below the rotor.
I flew so low one time that the blades grabbed the grass and the helicopter balled itself up. I figured I had broken the blades or at least some links, but I walked over and didn’t see any damage. I flipped it onto its skids and off it went again.
I tried Panic Recovery in all three modes. In Stability mode, it doesn’t do much because it’s impossible to get the helicopter too far from level, and if you let go of the sticks it will center itself in a hover. In Intermediate or Advanced modes, if you press and hold Panic Mode and center the collective, the helicopter will recover from wherever it is to an upright hover. It needs some altitude to react, so keep it a mistake high or so. I tried it from a number of orientations and recovery happened immediately.
As an instructor, I always recommend that a new pilot puts in a minimum of three flights per outing. The first flight gets him or her over the jitters; the second flight gets the pilot to where he or she left off; and the third and subsequent flights are real progress.
There was something else I noted. During the two weekends that I spent testing the Blade 230 S, the wind became progressively worse as the day went on. I’m pleased to report that the Blade 230 S handled wind up to 10 mph without much difficulty.
The Blade 230 S is an electric-powered, collective-pitch helicopter with SAFE stabilization technology. The available progressive flight modes will take a beginner helicopter pilot from basic training through aerobatic flying by growing with the pilot. The fiber-reinforced plastic frames and molded ABS plastic blades mean that the Blade 230 S should stand up to a reasonable amount of abuse, and if you do break it, the parts are inexpensive to replace.
The Blade 230 S uses a direct-motor-driven three-blade tail rotor. I was surprised and pleased at the tail’s performance compared with other direct-drive tail rotor helis I’ve flown.
Simulators are great, but nothing takes the place of actual flying. With this in mind, the Blade 230 S is inexpensive, stores easily, and is small enough to transport in any vehicle. I have kept it in my truck for flying during lunch breaks and I always try to get a few flights in at the field when I’m out flying my other aircraft.
One thing you will want to order is a couple of extra batteries because being in the air is a lot more fun than watching a battery charger!