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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Blade 400 Precision Kit

Update:  Just a simple hovering clip to illustrate B400 handling with the upgrades outlined below:
I'll be the first to admit I'm not a good helicopter pilot. I have to force myself to stay in my comfort zone.  But if there is one thing I've learned in RC, it is that using quality equipment and aircraft makes a world of difference.

In my Yak vs. Yak series, I kept coming back to the realization that quality digital servos are a must with high throw airplanes, it is a key reason the Carbon Z foamie didn't compete well in it's price class.  Unless the servo unwinds to a digitally calibrated "zero" position after every control input, a very high throw machine will want to drift and roll and demand random trim inputs until the cows are home and put to bed.

That got me thinking.  I've always found my bigger Blade brand heli's, the SR and the 400, to be a bit of a juggling act to hover consistently.  These are high-throw birds.  Could the problem be the servos and not all me?  Then I remembered the big improvement in handling brought about by an aluminum head and swash plate for my lowly CX3.  Hmmm, I wonder if my touchy B400 could be made significantly better for a reasonable outlay?

I know experienced helicopter pilots always insist on quality servos and gyros, but knowing how much of a different digital centering makes in high performance aircraft, I wondered if the same zeroing benefit is what they are really noticing, even independent of gyro quality.

I decided that $100 is all I could reasonably sink into my 400 without infringing on the business case to upgrade to a more capable Align 500 or 600.
I came home from my LHS with a bag, in it were two Hitec digital micro servos ($25 + $25), an aluminum main blade grip and ball link assembly ($35) , and an aluminum tail rotor ($25).  Total cost for the above:  $110 minus 20% in coupons, or about $100 after Uncle Sam stole his cut.
I put the first servo on the rudder, since the tail rotor's response to the gyro seemed like the most critical and hard on servo performance.  I sometimes have a little trouble judging for/aft drift, not nearly as easy to see as left/right, so I put the other digital servo on pitch.

Next I took my time replacing the parts.  Replacing the servos is a bit of a trick as the neutral position and throw have to be close, considering the new arms and servo shaft position.  The aluminum blade grips and ball links are easier, but they still have minor design difference that require careful study before dissassembly.  Aside from improved performance, these anodized blue parts add some bling.

I did a third no-cost improvement of using 2 layers of ultra strength indoor/outdoor mounting tape to reseat the gyro with both more grip and more padding.

After talking a bit of trial and error to re-calibrate controls and trim, I finally reaped the fruits of my labor.  The B400 is clearly more stable in a hover and more predictable in basic flight.  Much like my CX experience, it seems the uprated aluminum parts in critical areas are invaluable. Centering was notably improved!

Wow, this made the B400 a much more enjoyable experience for me.  The heli can finally be trimmed out and stay solid, hands off.  I love it and can't wait to fly it again!
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