38 Editors' Picks: Quadcopter Roundup
The next generation of RC fun! By Electric Flight Crew
42 Skyartec Wasp Nano
A micro flybarless 3D machine ready to fly out of the box By Aaron Strietzel
46 Blade/ Horizon Hobby 500 3D
This 500-class heli comes ready to rock! By Aaron Strietzel
50 Traxxas DR-1
A coaxial dual rotor heli that's fast, stable, and easy to fly! By Electric Flight Crew
54 Heli Flight School: The Death Spiral
Tricks to flying this impressive maneuver By Aaron Strietzel
56 Heli Talk: High Voltage Revisited
A closer look at power and performance
By Jim Ryan
The next generation of RC fun!
By the Electric Flight crew Photos by Hope McCall
Quadcopters, also referred to as quad-rotor helicopters, are multi-rotor designs that generate lift with four fixed pitched rotors/propellers. The rotors are powered by electric motors (one per rotor) positioned on the end of rigid booms that support a center pod or structure platform, which houses and supports the battery, radio, control board, and power systems. For control, the thrust of the rotors are adjusted collectively as a group, to produce lift for hovering. For side to side and fore/aft maneuvering, the on-board controller adjusts the speed of the motors to vary the torque and lifting forces to produce cyclic response using a 4-channel transmitter. Some form of integrated, on-board stabilization system gives quadcopter models their pilot-friendly flight stability.
RC multi-rotor helicopters have been around for a while and they enjoy continued popularity. The first-generation designs were strictly kits built around generic control boards and were fairly large, using motors and electronics originally meant for RC airplanes. There are also all sorts of configurations to choose from. They can be tricopters and the most popular, quadcopters, as well as hexacopters and even octocopters—the main differences being the number of motors, rotors, and their on-board controllers!
The newest generation of multi-rotor quadcopters are extremely easy to fly and are available from micro and medium sizes, ready to fly in five minutes, to kits for the advanced RC experimenter who wants all the parts and electronics to do it themselves. For this Editors' Pick Roundup, we've collected some of the most popular to highlight. If you've been thinking about switching from fixed-wing flight to multi-rotor fun, then this article is a great place to start.
Great outdoor flyer
Featuring the AS3X stabilization system, the Blade mQX can be easily flown both indoors or outdoors. Breezy or gusty wind conditions aren't a problem, and you'll find that you can pilot this quadcopter just about anywhere. Available in both ready to fly (RTF) and Bind-n-Fly (BNF) versions. The RTF version includes a 4-channel DSM2 transmitter with batteries, E-flite 1S 3.7V 500mAh LiPo battery, E-flite Celectra 1-cell DC variable rate LiPo charger. The mQX can be configured in an X flight setup (with two rotors front and two rotors rear) or in a + configuration (with one rotor front and one back, as well as one on either side).
Model: Blade mQX
Distributor: Horizon Hobby (horizonhobby.com)
Main rotor diameter: 5.5 in. Width: 11.5 in.
Length: 11.5 in.
Weight: 2.65 oz.
Experience level: Intermediate
Price: $149.99 (RTF); $119.99 (BNF)
✶ Super maneuverable
✶ + and × configutations
✶ Great outdoor flyer
✶ 4-channel DSM2 transmitter w/ AA batteries (RTF version only)
✶ Spare blades
✶ E-flite 1S 3.7V 500mAh LiPo flight battery
✶ E-flite Celectra 1-cell DC variable rate LiPo charger (with adapter)
Easy to fly
The Heli-Max 1SQ comes in two versions: a ready to fly (RTF), which includes its own 2.4GHz transmitter, and as transmitter $ready (Tx-R) version where you can use your own transmitter hooked up with a tactic AnyLink module.
This stylish hovering machine is so stable anyone can fly it. It's very durable and capable of flying outdoor flight in light winds. Both versions come with a LiPo flight battery, a USB-powered charger, and extra blades.
Its TAGS gyro system stabilizes all three axes (yaw, roll, and pitch), so external forces don't affect its stable performance. The RTF's transmitter has easy-to-adjust dual rates so you can dial in the response and performance you like—low rate for slow, easy flying or high rate for increased response and performance.
Model: Heli-Max 1SQ
Distributor: Hobbico (hobbico.com)
Rotor blade diameter: 2.16 in. Length: 5.7 in.
Width/length: 5.7 in.
Weight: 1.1 oz.
Price: Heli-Max 1SQ (RTF) $79.98 (Tx-R)
✶ Sturdy design
✶ Easy to fly
✶ Transmitter w/ AA batteries (RTF version only)
✶ 3.7V 250mAh LiPo flight battery
✶ USB-powered 1S LiPo charger
✶ Spare rotor blades
Best Micro! It flips & rolls!
Traxxas took a big step into the RC aircraft arena with the release of their multi-rotor QR-1 quadcopter. Even though the QR-1 is the smallest quadcopter on the market today, it has a solid substantial feel when you hold it in your hand. It's not a cheap, throw-away toy! In the air, it also has a solid and steady feel while hovering.
The ready-to-fly (RTF) package is very complete and you get a 4-channel 2.4GHz transmitter with four Traxxas “AAA” alkaline batteries, two 3.7V 240mAh LiPo packs, a spare rotor blade set (four), a Phillips-head screwdriver and a USB-powered dual LiPo battery pack charger. The QR-1 is available with different graphic colors including red, blue, orange, and green, and there are also two small blue LEDs on the front of the body to help tell which direction you're flying in. It is also available as an EZ-Connect version (without transmitter) so you can use it with the Traxxas radio that comes with the Traxxas DR-1 coaxial-rotor heli.
The QR-1 has two control modes, “Normal” and “Expert,” that can be selected to suit anyone from the beginner rank to the seasoned quadcopter pilot. You switch from Normal and Expert and back by simply pressing the right stick down. You can even switch back and forth during flight.
Model: QR-1 RTF
Distributor: Traxxas (traxxas.com)
Width/length: 4.7 in.
Rotor diameter: 2.2 in.
Weight: 1.16 oz.
Height: 1.1 in.
Price: $99.99 (RTF); $69.99 (EZ-Connect) without transmitter
✶ Very easy to fly
✶ Smallest one tested
✶ 4-channel 2.4GHz transmitter (w/ AAA batteries)
✶ Two 3.7V 240mAh LiPo packs
✶ Spare rotor blade set (four)
✶ Phillips-head screwdriver
✶ USB-powered dual LiPo battery pack charger.
Next Level 650mm Quadcopter
Great for airborne video
From Innov8tive Designs, the Next Level 650mm Quadcopter Combo kit is the perfect platform to shoot some great low-level aerial photos and videos. Available as a build-it-yourself project, all of the parts come in their own bags, labeled to match the instructions for assembly. The aluminum outrigger bars are thick to provide a solid framework for the quad motor mounts. The Naza multi-rotor controller and GPS unit are all top quality along with the Next Level ESCs and Cobra motors. The build can easily be done by anyone with some modeling experience thanks to the good quality manual, along with excellent customer service. Standard Power and High Power Combo kits are available with the popular Scorpion and Cobra brand motors, depending on whether you are into Sport Flying or intend on using the multi-rotor craft for FPV work and aerial photography.
You'll need to decide which setup you will be running on your quad—you can choose a “cross” or “X” configuration. The Naza manual and program need to be downloaded from their website. The total assembly time was about three evenings and another to program and set it all up. Once done, you have a very solid flying platform that is perfect for aerial photos or video and it is easy enough to fly, even for a fixed-wing pilot like myself. You have to supply a 6-channel radio system and a 3-cell 5000mAh LiPo battery.
Model: Next Level 650mm Quad Combo kit
Distributor: Innov8tive Designs (innov8tivedesigns.com)
Motor spacing: 18.10 in. × 25.6 in.
Propeller diameter: 10 in.
Weight: 3 lb. 6oz.
Price: $854 (Combo kit) (GPS upgrade $169)
✶ Heavy lifter
✶ Rugged design
✶ + and × configuration
✶ Four Cobra 2217/20 brushless motors
✶ Naza controller and GPS (optional)
✶ Prop: 10×4.5 slow flyer (included)
Turnigy Plug-N-Fly Micro Quad
Ideal for RC experimenter
The newest version of the Turnigy quadcopter is a Plug-N-Fly, almost-ready-to-fly version of the earlier kit-built quad. All the assembly is done for you, and it features brushless motors and a fully programmable Hobby King KK2.0 control board. You have to supply your own 4-channel transmitter and matching receiver, a 500 to 900mAh 2S 7.4V LiPo flight battery and attach the included propellers to the installed brushless motors. The original gyro system has been updated to a dual chip 3-axis gyro and a single chip 3-axis accelerometer system, making this new version extremely stable and allowing an auto-level function. Two additional motor output channels have also been added for a total of eight motors to be controlled if you want to create an Octocopter. A handy Piezo buzzer is also included for audio warning when activating and deactivating the board.
Model: Turnigy Micro Quad
Distributor: Hobby King (hobbyking.com)
Rotor blade diameter: 5 in. Width/length: 13 ⅛ in.
Height: 3 ⅜ in.
Motor: 4 × Turnigy T1811-2900Kv Brushless
ESC: 4 × Turnigy Plush 6A
Props: 4 × 5×3 in. (2CW & 2CCW)
Price: $109.99 (Plug-N-Play)
✶ Easy-to-assemble parts
✶ Extra parts available
✶ Ideal for the RC experimenter
✶ Four propellers
✶ Four servo extension leads (for connecting receiver to control board)
✶ KK2.0 LCD flight control board
✶ Brushless motors, ESCs, and power system pre-installed
In the 1920s, Dr. George de Bothezat and Ivan Jerome developed the aircraft shown here. Equipped with six-blade rotors arranged at the ends of an X-shaped structure, two smaller propellers with variable pitch were used for thrust and yaw control. The vehicle used collective pitch control. It made its first flight in October 1922 and about 100 flights were made by the end of 1923.
BP Hobbies Cutlass
Easy to assemble
A new addition to the BP Hobbies line, the Cutlass quadcopter is a Plug-N-Play, fully assembled version ready for you to add your own 4-channel radio system (transmitter and receiver), and a 11.1V 33mAh LiPo flight battery. The control frame is made of a glass fiber/epoxy composite while the outrigger arms are made from durable nylon polymer. Its modular construction gives you the option of making this a tricopter or hexacopter aircraft. There is also an optional camera mount accessory that is big enough for GoPro Hero video cameras as well as point and shoot digital pocket cameras. The BP Cutlass also features colored arms for improved flight orientation to keep you flying the right direction without the need for different colored props. The PNP version includes frame, motors, ESCs, KK control board, propellers, prop savers, power distribution board, USB upgrading wire, conversion wire, and hardware.
All components and hardware items for the Cutlass are also available separately from bphobbies.com.
Distributor: BP Hobbies (bphobbies.com)
Diameter: 20.5 in.
Weight: 1.9-2.2 lb.
Motor: A2826 1100Kv
Controller: P-20 amp
Propellers: 10 × 4.7
Battery req'd: 11.1V 3300mAh (not included)
Receiver: 4-channel (not included)
Control board: KK 2.5 Board
Transmitter: 4-channel (not included)
Price: $189.95 (optional camera mount accessory $24.75)
✶ Easy to assemble parts (kit form)
✶ Rugged construction
✶ Many spare parts and extra accessories, including camera mount