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Name: Blade 350 QX
Rotor type: Quadcopter
Main rotor dia.: 22.8 in.
Rotor blade length: 8.27 in.
Length: 18.3 in.
Width: 18.3 in.
Height: 5.43 in.
Flying weight: 24 oz.
Flight time: 8 to 12 minutes
Price: $419.99 (BNF); $469.99 (RTF)
Transmitter: Spektrum DX7s (spektrumrc.com)
Battery: E-flite 11.1V 3S 2200mAh 30C LiPo (included) E-flite DC 2-3S LiPo balancing charger
Motor(s): Four brushless 1,100rpm/volt (installed)
When I first learned about the 350 QX by Blade, I was impressed by its sleek, modern design and its relative size compared to other quadcopters I've flown. However, once you start setting up this next-generation quadcopter, it's impossible to not be impressed by its cool features and ease of use. By far, the Blade 350 QX is the most pilot-friendly quadcopter I have flown to date, and I think anyone who has ever thought of taking in-flight videos with a GoPro camera will want to check this quad out.
Distributed by Horizon Hobby (horizonhobby.com), this impressive personal multi-rotor drone is available as both a Ready-To-Fly (RTF) and as a Bind-N-Fly (BNF) version. It comes equipped with four substantial 1,100rpm/volt brushless motors and is powered by an E-flite 3S 2200mAh 30C LiPo flight battery, which provides it with more than enough power to carry any GoPro camera. Also included is an anti-vibration camera mount compatible with the older low-res GoPro, the new HD GoPro 3, and the HD GoPro 2 (in its own protective case). Held in place with four screws under the model's body, the camera mount has four hollow, rubber standoffs that eliminate any sign of camera shake while the 350 QX is in flight.
The BNF 350 QX also comes with an E-flite DC 2-3S LiPo balancing charger and four spare (B-series) rotor blades. The BNF version requires a 5+-channel DSM2- or DSMX-compatible transmitter and I chose the Spektrum DX7s transmitter to control the 350 QX for this review.
Featuring SAFE (Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope) technology, the Blade 350 QX has extremely smooth flight characteristics that easily stabilize it (even in windy conditions). The multiple flight modes provide easy selection of performance to best suit any pilot's experience, even if you have never flown a quadcopter before.
In the Air
In Smart mode, the max altitude you can hover is about 135 feet, but in Stability and Agility modes, the model can go much higher.
The 350 QX is a lot of fun to fly. You do have to get used to using the various switches to get from one mode to another, and the instructions are very clear on how to assign the various functions and flight modes to the correct switches and what values and mixes to assign. It only took me 20 minutes or so to program my Spektrum DX7s transmitter, and I did this while the LiPo flight battery was charging. For your first flight, make sure you have a fully charged battery pack. To check for proper bind, switch your transmitter on, wait a few seconds, and then switch on the 350 QX. Once it has established a connection to the transmitter, you can check the functions with the status light. With the flight mode switch in the “0” position, you should have a flashing green light for Smart mode. Flipping to the “1” should cause the light to turn blue while still flashing and then by flipping the mix switch from “0” to the “1” position, the flashing light should turn red to indicate the model is in Agility mode. Flipping the flap switch all the way toward you should cause the light to rapidly flash red to indicate it is in the “Return Home” mode. With these checks made, it's time to go outdoors.
GENERAL FLIGHT PERFORMANCE
Takeoff: Before you actually get into the air, your transmitter has to be bound to the quadcopter and allowed to acquire a GPS lock (indicated with a solid green light). Also, be sure all your trim levers (including throttle) are in the centered, neutral position. This is all relatively easy and automatic, but you can't arm the motors and fly until you get a solid green light. To activate the motors, move the throttle to its lowest position and move the left stick all the way left, then right, and then back to center. The motors will then start to spin the rotor blades, and you're good to go.
In Smart mode (solid green light), throttle/rudder stick is altitude and yaw control and the right stick uses the Stick Relativity feature, making it very easy to control the quadcopter, regardless of the direction it is facing. A little throttle gives a low altitude and a lot of throttle produces a higher altitude. If you stop moving throttle, the GPS and other sensors maintain altitude for you. When you return the right stick to its neutral position, the model self-levels and uses the GPS/altitude sensors to maintain a stable hover regardless of the wind conditions.
In Stability mode (solid blue indicator light), the quadcopter operates in a normal fashion but it has a limited bank angle even if you fully deflect the sticks. Stick relativity is deactivated, as is the automatic altitude control. When you release the right stick, the model enters a GPS column to keep it in a stable hover, but you control the altitude. This is a great model for shooting video with the GoPro camera.
In Agility mode (solid red light), the model has no self-leveling function, and it will take a little while to get use to the 350 QX's aerobatic characteristics. It can really perform, easily do loops, flips, and rolls, and zip around at great speed. You have to be an experienced RC pilot to fully control the quadcopter in Agility mode, but it definitely is a lot of fun.
When you activate the Return Home feature, regardless of what flight mode the model is in (and with no further input from the pilot), the 350 QX will climb to about 60 feet and then come back to the location where it first had its motors activated. It is important for you to then remain in your initial piloting position so it can land safely without over flying your changed position. In Smart mode, the max altitude you can hover is about 135 feet, but in Stability and Agility modes, the model can go much higher. I did not test this, but you should keep the AMA maximum altitude of 400 feet in mind when trying to get that awesome aerial video of your neighborhood.
While in Smart mode, the 350 QX uses GPS and altimeter sensors to keep the model in a stable position. The on-board programming “knows” where you and the transmitter provide a “SAFE Circle,” causing the quadcopter to remain 15 feet away from the pilot. This prevents it from flying too close to the pilot while in hover. Smart mode also has a “Stick Relativity” feature that allows the pilot to control the quadcopter relative to the stick movement. Simply said, the pilot's stick inputs (forward, backward, left, or right) move the quadcopter in that direction regardless of the yaw orientation of the model. Regardless of the actual direction the model's nose is pointing, if you move the stick forward (away from you), the 350 QX moves away from you. If you move the stick to the right, it moves to the right, and so on. This makes flying and controlling the 350 QX extremely easy, even at extreme altitudes and distances away from the pilot.
Included in the BNF version is a set of replacement blades and an E-flite LiPo charger, to charge the included E-flite battery pack.
In Stability mode, the flight envelope is limited and enables the 350 QX to self-level for consistent flight performance, even for beginner quad pilots. The GPS Position Hold feature can be turned on and off by the pilot while in Stability mode. The 350 QX is also equipped with AS3X flight stabilization, which allows excellent hover and aerobatic flight performance. And, while flying in Agility mode, the model is fully capable of quadcopter aerobatic maneuvers with extreme stability.
I am amazed at how easily the Blade 350 QX performs. It has many impressive features and functions that allow any RC pilot to be successful right from the very start. The instructions are easy to follow, so it takes no time at all to program your DSM2/DSMX-compatible transmitter. And if you want even more guidance in setting up the model, you can watch several videos on the Blade website (bladehelis.com/Multimedia/Video.aspx).
Under the red hatch cover, the E-flite 11.1V 3S 2200mAh 30C LiPo pack fits perfectly in place. it is held securely with a Velcro strap.
Eye in the Sky
When it comes time to fly the 350 QX with a camera, it is easy to attach. The included vibration isolation mount accepts either the included Camera Frame (it fits GoPro 3 HD and the older low-res GoPro camera) or use one of the GoPro sports housings. A single attachment hand screw is included allowing the angle of the camera to be adjusted. When the camera is installed, the 350 QX flies exactly the same as without the camera. The stablization system adjusts for the additional weight and changed balance of the quadcopter. However, you will get slightly less flight time from your battery pack.