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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Blade Scout CX RTF - Flight Review

Update:  Correction:  I found a 3 Ch BNF, though I personally wouldn't trust the Scout Tx at range:

What to call the new Blade Scout CX RTF?  How about a UMnX helicopter?  Whatever it is, it's small and a bit cheaper than other UM Helis.  The obvious question: What are the trade-offs embedded in the lower price?  Second question: Is it worth it?
The answer to the first question becomes apparent soon after the little copter breaks ground.  My initial reaction was, "Wow this flies as good as a Blade mCX."  And it does, as long as it is sitting still.  The problem is controlling movement.  As a 3 channel heli, there is no aileron, so the only way to steer is by pointing the nose with rudder rotation, then moving forward or aft.  While this sounds like a reasonable trade-off, it's not.

The main reason (all) 3 channel heli's don't fly acceptably is difficulty in the landing phase, or whenever you are tracing a precision flight path relative to obstacles.  Let's say you want to land on a coin.  Inevitably, as you approach the ground and the coin, your rotor wash will upset your flight path.  With a proper 4 channel heli, you can counter any side-to-side movement with opposite aileron, which in turn drives the heli towards 3 or 9 o'clock.

With the Scout, the heli simply drifts left/right with no way to stop it.  Sure you can rotate the Scout 90 degrees left using rudder, then drive to your 12 o'clock which used to be 9 o'clock, but then you drift again, and have to chase another side-to-side correction.  And while you are chasing the coin with your nose, what happened to the last required forward/aft correction?  It is transformed into a left/right problem.  Uhg.

Perhaps the worse thing about the Scout CX is that it is marketed to beginners.  But for a beginner, the hardest thing about flying an RC heli is tail-out orientation.  As long as you can keep the tail pointing at you, a helicopter is relatively easy to orient and thus control.  The Scout CX removes the possibility of setting up a beginner comfort zone, at least in the area you want to fly, because if you keep the tail pointing at you the helicopter cannot control side-to-side drift.

For more advanced fliers looking for something portable and fun, it all translates into too much frustration, as the copter is simply incapable of being flown precisely.   If the Scout sold for under $25, I might give it the nod, but as it sits on the shelf both beginners and advanced fliers alike would be much better off spending $30 more for a gen 1 mCX.  Those switching from airplanes who already have a radio, or others with a clear urge to learn and progress in helicopters could opt to spend only $10 more for an mCX BNF without the toy radio, and use their own or put a bit more money into a better radio.

Good things about the Scout:
  • 1S battery charger is finally built into the Tx, Hobbico-style
  • Can charge a second battery while flying
  • Decent indoor forward airspeed
  • Great hands-off hover stability
  • The small box
Bad things about the Scout:
  • 3 Ch = Frustrating lack of precision
  • 3 Ch = Harder for beginners to stay oriented
  • 3 Ch = More crashes from lack of aileron control
  • Rudder on the right stick = negative training 
  • Transmitter is limited to controlling 3 Ch BNFs 
  • There are no 3Ch BNFs
Strange things about life in general:
  • The name "CX" with no "m" for micro.  
  • The mCX's suddenly, abnormally large box.
Bottom line:
  • Answer to Q1 is "No ailerons."  Answer to Q2 is, "No."

Appearance: A
Looks like a baby predator.

Airframe/Design: D
Tremendous hover stability.  But what happens next?

Power System: B+
Super light.  Plenty of power as shipped.  No wind capability.

Build Quality/Durability: A  
Comparable to an mCX.  Expect more crashes from less control.

Value:  C-
See Q2, above.  Same unit price as a two-pack of FHS mCXs ($99).

Overall:  C-
Frustrating for beginners.  Disappointing for intermediate/advanced.

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