Blade 600X: a 12-cell competition beauty raises the bar

May 13, 2014 No Comments by

Over the last couple of years, Blade RC, long a major presence in mini and micro helicopters, has released a series of larger helis ranging up to 550 class. With the Blade 600X they have raised the ante with a competition-grade 12-cell flybarless 600, and I couldn’t wait to build one. The Blade 600X Pro Series Combo comes with nearly everything required for completion save for a speed control and batteries. Notable features include an E-flite 700 class motor, titanium gear Spektrum digital servos, Revolution carbon-fiber main and tail rotor blades, and a Spektrum AR7200BX receiver with integrated MicroBeast flybarless unit. For power I selected E-Flite 3200-6S packs rated for 30C and a Castle Creations Edge HV120 speed control.

Pre-flight is a snap with the open modular frame. All electronics are readily accessible for inspection and maintenance.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Model: 600X Pro Series Combo
  • Manufacturer: Blade RC (bladehelis.com)
  • Distributor: Horizon Hobby (horizonhobby.com)
  • Type: 600-class flybarless 3D helicopter
  • Length: 46.1 in.
  • Rotor Diameter: 52.8 in.
  • Weight: 8.3 to 8.8 lb.
  • Power incl’d: E-flite 700 motor, 500KV (e-fliterc.com)
  • Price: $949.99

HIGHLIGHTS

  • ⊕ Excellent packaging and parts labeling
  • ⊕ Outstanding manual with clear illustrations
  • ⊕ Very high level of fit and finish
  • ⊕ Up-to-date design philosophy

GEAR USED

  • Radio: Spektrum DX9 w/ AR7200BX; Spektrum H6040 cyclic servos and H6080 tail servo (included); spektrumrc.com
  • Servos: H6040 (cyclic) and H6080G (tail) (included)
  • Motor: E-Flite 700 motor, 500 KV (included); Castle Creations Edge HV 120 (castlecreations.com)
  • Battery: Two E-Flite 3200-6S packs

Let me start by saying that I love building helis — so much so that I fill in between projects of my own by building them for my buddies. For all that, I don’t know when I’ve had a build that went any smoother than this one. The packaging is absolutely superb. All parts are sealed in heavy poly pouches, and these are clearly labeled by subassembly. The manual is one of the best I’ve seen: the illustrations are crystal clear, and the assembly notes are concise and easy to follow.

Other than the simple enjoyment of building them, I prefer my helis in kit form so that I can be sure of correct assembly, particularly to verify that screws are treated with Loctite. That said, the few pre-assembled components like the swashplate did have thread-lock on all screw threads.

UNIQUE FEATURES

The rotor head shows the latest trends for high-performance design: the pitch control arms slot into the grips with dual-axis M3 bolts, and the swash driver is integral to the rotor head block. The finish of the clear-anodized CNC aluminum parts is excellent.

The stiff 2mm carbon-fiber frames are designed to keep the structure simple for fast building and easy repairs.

The 600 class of helis continue to evolve to improve performance and simplify maintenance, and the 600X shows many of the latest trends. Starting with the head, the pitch control arms are slotted into the blade grips and secured with dual-axis M3 screws for maximum strength. The swash drivers mount directly to the rotor head, eliminating any need for phasing adjustment. The solid 10mm main shaft is supported by three bearing blocks. Please note that the bottom bearing block must be installed with the slot facing up to provide clearance for the main gear assembly.

The direct-to-swash cyclic servos mount through the carbon side frames and screw directly to the bearing blocks for maximum strength and stiffness. Every detail of the drive train shows a focus on strength and simplicity.

The tail rotor shows the same attention to performance. The tail hub has 5mm spindles, and the blade grips have large thrust bearings. The torque tube tail drive is remarkably tight and smooth, with less than 5° of total lash in the entire drive train. A dual-point pitch slider makes tail control slop-free and precise.

Ancillary components like the canopy posts, one-piece landing skids and tail brace bracket are injection molded plastic. Blade’s designers spec’d CNC aluminum for all high-stress power train components and saved weight where appropriate with lighter plastic parts.

IN THE AIR

Bigger helis are a blast to fly, and the 600X handles even gusting winds with no problems. I don’t know when I’ve become comfortable with a heli quite so quickly; the handling is just outstanding.

Flight handling is very smooth in both Normal and Idle-Up modes. The Spektrum H6040 cyclic servos have the speed and power necessary for a direct-to-swash control setup like this one, and response is solid. In Normal mode the heli has docile cruiser-type handling, while in Idle-Up power increases substantially, and handling is much more responsive.

The 700-class motor has more than enough power for hard collective inputs even with the max pitch range set to +/− 14°. In Normal mode the average current is a very modest 15 amps, and in Idle-Up even with max collective inputs current rarely exceeds 40A. These modest currents show the advantage of 12-cell power in a 600-class heli.

GENERAL FLIGHT PERFORMANCE

  • Stability. MicroBeast flybarless units are known for their rock-solid stability, so there were no surprises here. As long as the swash is properly leveled during setup and the CG is correct, hovering is practically hands-off. I didn’t need to make any changes to the recommended setup.
  • Tracking. The 600X handles like it’s on rails in both forward and backward flight. With the stock settings there was zero tail wag. There was no tendency to porpoise, and I didn’t need to make any changes in pitch-up compensation. The handling was just excellent.
  • Aerobatics. Given the 700-class powertrain, the direct-drive cyclic setup and the proven performance of the MicroBeast unit, aerobatic capability of the 600X is limited only by the pilot. In Idle-Up the flip and roll rate is smoking fast, and the piro rate feels perfect. This heli can take just about anything you can throw at it.
  • Landing. Handling in the traffic pattern is another strength for helis in this class. With normal head speed selected you can make a smooth scale approach, and it lands like a butterfly. The tough wide-stance landing skids are great for autorotations.

PILOT DEBRIEFING

The 600X is the best-engineered 600-class heli I personally have flown. The quality of construction is outstanding, the drivetrain is extremely stout, and handling is silky smooth. I look forward to getting a lot more flying time on this bird.

The cyclic servos mount directly to the CNC aluminum bearing blocks for maximum strength and stiffness. Direct to swash servo linkages are the ultimate in simple, slop-free design.

As with the main rotor, the tail rotor is designed for high-RPM performance, with 5mm spindle shafts and thrust washers. The torque tube drive is remarkably tight, with less than 5° of total gear lash.

The mount for the 700 class motor is extremely stout, with M4 bolts used for maximum strength. The stock pinion is 18T. Be sure to pre-tighten the motor bolts in the max forward position before installing the assembly in the frame; the bolts are not accessible once installed.

 

The open frame design makes installation of the electronics very easy. To make things tidy as possible, I bundled all the servo leads, trimmed them to uniform length, and crimped on new connectors from Hansen Hobbies.

This is a near-total kit build, with almost no pre-assembled components (exceptions being the swashplate and autorotation clutch), but it was remarkable how quickly things moved along. The big pile of pouches shrank quickly, and I had the entire build completed—including installation of electronics—in just four hours.

With the build complete, I turned my attention to programming the radio and flybarless system. The MicroBeast is one of my favorites, and I own several of them. This was my first experience with the AR7200BX, which combines the receiver and flybarless unit in a single case, and this made things even easier. Literally the only tools needed for setup are the transmitter and a good-quality digital pitch gauge.

Last up was programming the Castle Creations Edge HV120 speed control. I’m a big fan of Castle controllers, particularly for my helis where the CastleLink unit makes setting up head speed a snap. I programmed Normal mode for 1800rpm and Idle-Up for 2200rpm.

The only issue I encountered with my 600X build was with the wiring harness. Like many 12-cell helis, the 600X uses two 6S packs connected in series by a harness that’s included in the kit. As supplied, the BEC output was soldered to the second battery connector. While this looks fine when measured on the bench with a digital voltmeter, when the BEC is connected this results in a “floating voltage” condition that will damage some high-voltage speed controls. While some opto-isolated speed controls can tolerate this arrangement, it isn’t the ideal approach. For all helis with an external BEC, the ground leg for the BEC output should be soldered to the “most negative” contact. Blade quickly corrected this on all kits, but when you’re building any heli that has series harnesses and BECs, it’s a good idea to check that yours has the correct layout.

The 3200-6S packs I used are at the lower end of the recommended capacity range, and I had to install them well forward to get the CG right. Larger LiPo packs could actually be a benefit in this respect. With everything programmed and the batteries charged, it was time to head to the field.

CONCLUSION

The 600X is further proof that Blade has gotten very serious about competition-grade 3D helis. The 12-cell system provides massive power while keeping peak current within reason, and the entire design is well thought out. Whether you opt for the complete combo or the basic kit version, this heli is an excellent value.

 

Photos by Jim Ryan and Chris Reiff

Helicopters, Jim Ryan

About the author

A longtime contributor and the current "Heli Talk" columnist for Electric Flight, Jim has been heavily into aeromodeling for nearly 25 years. Electric warbirds are his main love, although in recent years helicopters have taken much of his attention. He is focused on scale helis and his favorite part of the hobby remains designing and scratch building.
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