Roban Super Scale AS350 Helicopter Review

Roban 700 Compactor Super Scale AS350 RC HelicopterRoban 700 Compactor Super Scale AS350 Helicopter

I've always wanted to do a larger scale AS350 helicopter build because the AS350 Eurocopter is one of my favorite full size helos.

As luck would have it, I found a Roban Compactor 700 size Super Scale AS350 B3 on a good sale here in Canada and could not pass it by.

It was not exactly the color scheme I would have picked if I had a choice; but once it arrived and I started getting it all put together, I really started to like that black & cream with the copper and red pin-striping color scheme. This by the way is a real color scheme used by Wanaka Helicopters out of New Zealand.

Wanaka's Color Scheme On An EC130Wanaka's Color Scheme On An EC130
Roban's Rendition On The AS350Roban's Rendition On The AS350

For those in North America, you have likely seen these 700 size Super Scale RC helicopter kits at RCAerodyne, but they are manufactured overseas by a company called Roban Models. There are several other Roban dealers throughout the world, so if you are interested in them yet don't live in North America, it would not be a bad idea to check for dealers that may be in your area to save a fair amount on shipping and import fees.

Roban 700 Super Scale AS350 Helicopter Interior

Doing things a little backwards here, let's start out with the interior first and get that out of the way. The "Super Scale" of course refers to the full scale interior these helicopters are sporting. The detail is not Vario Helicopter quality by any stretch, but if you put a little extra time into it to "spruce" things up and add some more scale items,  it comes out looking not half bad.

Scale AS350 Interior Extra'sScale AS350 Interior Extra's

Above for example are a few of the little extras I added to this scale AS350. First off the entire instrument pod was shiny black and looked pretty bad so I dulled the exterior to matte black with a medium grit ScotchBright pad.

I also painted the bezels around the gauges silver and a few buttons to make them "pop" a little more and added an LED RX battery monitor (circled in green) to the radio stack.

I'm not sure if I like it there, but it's super easy to see the monitor by just peaking inside the cockpit and it does add some LED & circuit board eye-candy to the cluster.

No question, if you have the time, you could really make a nice and detailed scale instrument cluster to put in this thing. The instrument pod is made out of fiberglass so it would be easy to cut out the molded panel and install a highly detailed custom one with back-lit instruments, detailed buttons, CRT & LED monitor displays etc.

I actually just have my instrument pod bolted in from the bottom of the floor so I can remove it should I ever decided to go the effort of making a customized cluster. Anyways, at a distance the included instruments look pretty good; in other words "good from far, but far from good" :-)

The kit comes with two cyclic sticks, but no collective sticks or tail rotor pedals, so I had to make them as well. I also made a couple fire extinguishers and made seat belts for all the seats.

I added seat backs to the two front seats and then made little pockets for maps and air sickness bags etc. I finished off the interior by gluing down beige carpet (faux suede fabric that my wife had left over from a sewing project). These customized little details likely added another 30 hours or so of  time to the build but they didn't cost me a dime and were a fun escape from a traditional RC helicopter build. I can also continue to add little details here and there over the years - that's another thing I really enjoy with scale RC helicopter builds.

By the way, the glue they used around the windows was  a very ugly & noticeable yellow. So I also had to take all the doors off and carefully paint matching grey around the windows to hide the ugly glue. Speaking of doors, they all work. The left rear door is a large sliding door along with a smaller swinging front door. The right door is a single large swinging door. The handles & door hinges look good, work very well, and door fitment/alignment to the body is near perfect. Fitting working doors on scale helicopters is a true PIA, so it was super nice that fiddly and insanely time consuming step has already been done for us.

Yes, the interior is begging for a full body pilot at minimum but I'm having a hard time with that. The actual scale of this AS350 is 1:6.6 so it's kind of an odd ball scale. 1:7th is on the small side, and 1:6th is a little too big... There are some amazing full body scale pilots out there but they are not cheap. Most I have found are well over $100, and it's pretty hard to justify to the wife how a (somewhat) grown man wants to spend $150 bucks on a doll (even I can't believe I would ever do such a thing).

Oh well, the search for a "cheap" pilot and perhaps some passengers continues. Barbie's teen sister Skipper may be a contender as she is the perfect size... Yep, you get some pretty strange looks from people in the doll isle in the toy department when you are measuring all the dolls with a tape measure. By the way, if anyone has found a good size and not overly expensive pilot for Roban's 700 size AS350's, I would very much like to know :-)

July 2015 Scale Pilot Update

GI Jane Scale Helicopter Pilot - The Perfect Size!GI Jane Scale Helicopter Pilot - The Perfect Size!
GI Jane Found on eBay

I have to thank a web visitor for letting me in on his 700 size Roban AS350 "Affordable Pilot" solution. As you can see, the GI Jane helicopter pilot is a a great option.

You can find them in the $30 dollar range on eBay.

  • Click Here For GI Jane Heli Pilot Deals On eBay

    She is 11" tall, but I did have to shorten her legs by about 1.5" so they would rest on the tail rotor pedals correctly. Once inside the heli however, you really can't notice her "newly shortened" legs so it's a workable solution. All the photos of her outside where taken before I performed leg surgery ;-)

    GI Jane's hands are flexible so they grip the cyclic & collective well

    As seen above, her hands very realistically grip the control sticks. The plastic is quite soft so it's easy to bend her thumbs back a little bit to slide her hands over the sticks and then she grips them quite well.

    I'm also very glad I glued my seats in from under the floor with hot glue instead of epoxy or CA. I could not have fit her without removing the front seat so with the help of the heat gun on the back side of the floor to soften the glue, the seat came out super easy for pilot fitment. I had to custom make another set of 4-point seat belts for her as well and again, seat removal made that a 10 minute job.

    She definitly is a welcome addition to this scale build, and for only $30 - a no brainer!!

    Roban Super Scale AS350 Helicopter Unboxing & Mechanical Details

    Out of box, the components in the kit spread out do take up a fair amount of real-estate.The fuselage is huge when you first look at it.

    What is likely the most impressive dimension on the Roban 700 super scale AS350 helicopter when you open the box is its width at 355mm. Pictures just don't do that dimension justice.

    The mechanics are of course custom designed for these 700 super scale bodies. They use a belt drive from the motor pinion to a larger belt gear, then one more stage of gear reduction to the main mast gear very similar to SAB's Goblin's. I could not find the final gear ratio listed anywhere in the instructions which is a pretty important specification to leave out! I had to manually do the calculation and it worked out to 14:1. Tensioning the toothed drive belt is easy by way of a sliding motor mount, but it's hard to get to the locking bolts afterwards. No you can't access them once the mechanics are in the fuselage so it's best to test fly before hand (more on that later)...

    700 Super Scale Mechanics - Yes, the Frame Is Angled Down Slightly When Installed In The Fuse.700 Super Scale Mechanics - Yes, the Frame Is Angled Down Slightly When Installed In The Fuse.

    As you can see, the tail boom actually sits near the bottom of the mechanics so that is certainly a different departure from what most of us are used to. The frames by the way are made from 2mm G10 fiberglass and have nice clean cut lines and are of good quality. The entire set of mechanics come all assembled but nothing is tight for the simple reason you have to take it all apart to properly build it. It's an interesting design and is of course perfectly suited to these large scale bodies with most of the mechanics sitting up high in the helicopter & doghouse, just like the full size machines.

    You would think how big this thing is, there would be ample room, but the mechanical layout is actually fairly tight, as much of it sits up in the dog house so it has to remain fairly skinny. This is most apparent when looking at the servo and control linkages/bellcrank placement all being sandwiched between the frames as see in the photo below.

    Customized Ball Link Placement On Servo Wheels To Reduce Mechanical Gain (Throw)

    Notice the red arrows on all the servo wheels where the balls & links are mounted... I actually had to drill & tap those new locations for the balls. There is an excessive amount of mechanical gain due to the bell crank geometry from the servo pushrods up to the swashplate. I had to reduce that mechanical gain by moving the links in on the servo wheels because when I was configuring the flybarless system, I had to have overly low travel limit settings well outside the recommendations when they were mounted on the factory hole settings.

    I figured this was a good compromise to the problem because it also means the servos won't experience as much load tension with the links closer in on the wheels. You can't see it well in the photo, but the elevator arm doubles as the swashplate anti-rotation so no unsightly anti-rotation bracket sticking like a sore thumb out the top of the dog house.

    Electronics Pairing

    These kits don't come with any electronics so you have to pair your own which can blow the budget fairly quickly on a 12S powered 700 size helicopter. Even though you are not going be flying a big heavy scale AS350 helicopter like this that hard, you certainly don't want to cheap out on the electronics due the already high cost of the kit and no doubt, it's a heavy bugger at near 20 lbs, so it will be pulling some high rotor loads regardless.

    Installing the Installing the "electronics" in the Roban AS350

    I didn't pile anything overly special in it, but I didn't go bottom line either. Yes, I would have liked to put high voltage Futaba or Outrage brushless servos in but I just didn't feel parting with $600 bucks for servos was necessary so I stuck with decent bang for the buck coreless digital Align DS615's on cyclic and a DS655 for the tail and they have been working great. I already had a brand new Align 700MX 470 KV motor here I picked up at a clearance sale a year or so ago so that was a no brainier, and I had a brand new Castle HV ICE2 120 Amp ESC in the spares box as well.

    All that was left was the FBL unit and receiver. The FBL unit was really no decision, I've been so happy with my Bavarian Demon 3X's so why mess with what works. Lastly I had a spare Spektrum AR8000 in the parts box so a little more money was saved there. I'm powering it all unregulated off a 2S 3000 mAh LiFe pack for a bullet proof onboard power source.

    As you can see in the above photo (circled in green), I've mounted that RX battery as far forward in the body to get the CG somewhat in line. Like most scale builds, this thing is tail heavy but I didn't have to use a single ounce of nose ballast.

    All in all, I only spent about $500USD for the electronics but if I would have also had to get the motor, the ESC, and the receiver, the total cost for electronics alone would have topped out at over $1000USD! No question, electronics, even when you get fairly modest stuff adds up very fast on any larger RC helicopter - not just scale.

    The Rotor Head

    As some of you may know, I'm not a fan of multi-bladed heads due to the added BS, but there is no denying it looks great. The head uses solid axles so there is no dampening per se, but the blade grips are plastic and have a fair amount of flex as do the scale non-symmetrical rotor blades. The head was all put together with thread locker, but two of the blade grips were very tight & notchy feeling so I had to take them off and investigate. The brass blade grip spacer washers on the two grips were just a tad too thick and pre-loading the thrust bearings too much. I had to wet stone them a tad thinner and that took care of over pre-load issue. 

    The really cool thing with this head as you can see are the interestingly shaped DFC arms.

    I'm no stranger to phasing multi bladed heads, but there is no phasing to worry about with this head.

    The arms are already shaped to account for the 90 degree gyroscopic precession phase angle of each blade in relation to the swashplate. If blade phasing was all that was keeping you away from multi-blade before, no worries in that respect here.

    Getting back to those non-symmetrical scale blades, they are pretty decent looking and are full carbon blades. Balancing however is not great.

    With my tri set of blades, two were perfectly balanced and the other was lighter by a fair amount (more than I would normally be happy with).

    The only good thing is the one that was out was the light one so it was fairly easy to add some tape to it to bring it up to the other two. If it would have been the other way around, I would have had to add tape to the two balanced ones to bring them up to the heavy one.

    In fact, this is exactly what a friend of mine had to deal with on his Roban 700 Super Scale Bell 429. He's also got 4 blades to balance and some of them are out by the weight of a quarter - completely unacceptable! Roban has to get this sorted out as I have read others with these same issues. In fact, it almost seems so common, people see it as normal on these models. Normal maybe, but certainly not acceptable when you are paying this much money.

    The Tail

    At the back end, there is a standard aluminum torque tube driven open right angle gear box with standard pitch slider mechanism and plastic tail blade grips.

    What is different however are the umbrella gears both in the tail box and up front in the frame are full metal and not nylon like seen on most modern day RC helicopters.

    I'm not 100% sure why this is, but the tail is working hard on this thing as I will talk about later so that is the likely reason I think. I made sure to apply an adequate amount of high pressure grease to these little metal umbrella gears both up front and in the back.

    I also had a sticking tail blade grip but this one was not due to bearing preload. Whoever assembled it got a little carried away with the thread locker and it had saturated the bearings so they were shot. Luckily they use the same size tail blade grip bearings as most  600 & 700 size helicopters so I had spares on hand.

    All in all the build went fairly well and the instructions were adequate for an experienced builder. That said, for the money these things cost, there really should have been no such issues and I would have certainly been more upset if I paid full retail for this kit and had the same issues.

    Roban 700 Super Scale AS350 Helicopter Fuselage

    With the interior and mechanics out of the way let's "look" at the fuselage. I have to tell you, I was not overly impressed with the quality. The fiberglass work on the inside is pretty crude, the paint lines are not crisp & sharp, and the paint actually is fairly easily chipped. I have talked to others with Roban super scale helicopters and these are all common concerns.

    Now I have to put all that in context. First off, the paint job/quality is at least an order of magnitude better than anything I could have pulled off (I'm a terrible painter). There are also plenty of worse pre-finished scale fuselages out there on the market, but I'm comparing this to any of FunKey's fuselages. I still can't get over just how good FunKey does scale bodies. The firberglass is near art work, and the paint is damn near automotive quality - not so with Roban.

    Roban Super Scale AS350 Rivet DetialRoban Super Scale AS350 Rivet Detial

    Of course all the little rivets do add a lot to the overall impact and from just a few feet away, you can't even see the little paint imperfections. All in all, not bad...

    Roban AS350 Mechanics Mounting Plywood All Ready In Place - Huge Time Saver!Roban AS350 Mechanics Mounting Plywood All Ready In Place - Huge Time Saver!

    Additionally nice as seen above, is all the plywood mounting spacers for mechanics attachment are all glued in place so there is no messing around with building custom spacing blocks and taking several hours to perfectly align the mechanics inside the fuselage. Just slide the mechanics in, a couple M3 bolts, and you're done! That alone is likely worth a few paint chips - LOL.

    Separate Tail Boom - Wiring & Lighting Has To Be Installed By BuilderSeparate Tail Boom - Wiring & Lighting Has To Be Installed By Builder

    The boom is separate from the main body and that helps further in the mechanical install. It takes maybe 15 minutes to fit the mechanics once you have done it a few times.

    All in all, the mechanics fit very well into the fuselage and were in near perfect alignment. I did have to grind the tail rotor opening in the end of the tail boom a little lower with a Dremel sanding drum for pushrod/linkage clearance, but that was about it for fitment headaches. Certainly a welcome departure from what I'm used to on most scale builds.

    Original Doughnut On The Left, Homemade Robust Doughnut On The Right

    Oh, the foam dampening doughnut that fits around the metal tail  boom inside the body's boom was more or less useless.

    It was so thin and flimsy, the mechanical boom inside was "floating" more than being dampened. So I had to get a piece of thicker foam rubber and make my own dampening boom doughnut. Not as pretty, but it works a hell of a lot better!

    The dog house dampening foam blocks are also pretty flimsy, but they work and they do make it a little easier to slide the mechanics in & out.

    Roban AS350 Clean Belly & Nice Scale Landing Struts & SkidsRoban AS350 Clean Belly & Nice Scale Landing Struts & Skids (I built the bear paws out of carbon plate)

    The landing struts/skids are very nice and mount super easy to the body with hardware already in place (basically a 2 minute job). The kit also comes with the scale AS350 helicopter step plates and they are fairly well done. Once you stick some anti-skid tape over them, they look almost like the real deal. The other little external scale items that come with the kit are not that great.

    The paint basically peels off the antenna's the first time you flex them, and the cable cutters are made from a very soft and brittle material. It would be well worth a persons while to trace them out and build a set from 2.0 or 2.5 mm carbon sheet IMO. The two step bars on the front of the tail boom are decent and strong.

    Lastly, I really like how the entire scale interior section comes off the rest of the fuselage as it makes LiPo battery access so fast and simple. The interior section is held onto the body with very strong magnets. You also have the option to screw the interior section on, but I have found no need to as the magnets hold strong. Speaking of the batteries, both slide on plywood plates into compartments under the mechanics in the "bowels of the bird".

    The instructions call for Velcro straps to hold both battery trays in place. This was a pain in the rear end I found; so I just made a little plate out of carbon that keeps the trays from sliding forward. I made a little easy to turn spindle (circled in green in the photo below) with an M3 bolt epoxied in the end to tighten this little anchor plate in place. This is working so much better than fiddling around with straps. 

    Roban AS350 Battery Mounting & Home Made Tray Lock

    First Roban Scale AS350 Helicopter Test Flights

    The one main concern I did have with this model, even before I got it was the fact it's more or less meant to be flown off the bench with the fuselage attached. Anyone who knows me or has seen my scale RC helicopter page knows I would never-ever put a scale body over brand new untested mechanics. I figured I would have to break my cardinal rule with this scale build, but then I realized there is no reason I had to risk the fuse. I could just build a test platform for it which is exactly what I did.

    The The "Flintstone Flyer" Test Bed

    A friend of mine nick-named it the "Flintstone Flyer", and it's likely the ugliest thing I have ever flown in my life! Thing is, it was super easy to build and I was able to work out all the little bugs before subjecting the fuselage to the first wave of test flights.

    Roban Mechanics Flying Smooth As Glass On The Flintstone FlyerRoban Mechanics Flying Smooth As Glass On The Flintstone Flyer

    I have to say, it flew very well off the bench with no real surprises - except one, the insanely long flight times. I was getting 14 minutes to a 75% discharged state. After downloading the ESC data, I could not believe how little current this thing was sipping. No question those three non-symmetrical rotor blades were responsible for some pretty efficient lift.

    Head speed at this point was 1050 RPM and it seemed fine. A full power climb-out however would cause the tail to lose the torque battle of the huge drag created by the three bladed head. Even if I held in full right tail before jamming the collective, the heli would soon start pirouetting left. The tail rotor is only a two blade, so that might have something to with it when used in conjunction with a 3 bladed head with all that added drag. This is where I feel having those metal tail gears is a good idea as the tail is working hard.

    I dialed the head speed up to 1100 to get the tail spinning faster and things got better; I was still getting about 14 minutes taking the packs down to 80%. I tried 1200 as well, and things got fairly lively, but not what I would like in scale and the rotor noise wasn't as nice as it was at 1100. Blade tracking was off a bit, but with three different colored tapes on the tips, it was fairly easy to set. I had to tweak a few settings on the Bavarian Demon, but other than that, the Flintstone Flyer was smooth as glass just like any large RC helicopter.

    Time to fit the fuselage...

    Roban 700 Super Scale AS350 First Spool Up With FuselageRoban 700 Super Scale AS350 First Spool Up With Fuselage

    I initially set the 3 governed speeds in the Castle ICE2 to 1100 RPM, 1150 RPM, & 1200 RPM. Unfortunately, with all the extra weight of the fuselage, 1100 was just too slow. There was even more torque now off the main rotor hauling all that weight skyward and even a mild collective increase would induce a left yaw. 1150 was not much better. 1200 however is very acceptable I find.

    Yes, if you perform an overly aggressive climb-out, the tail may lose its battle, but if you fly true scale style, it has no issues.  So I reset my governed speeds to 1150,1200,1250. I mostly fly at 1200, but if I want to throw it around just a little bit harder, I'll switch to 1250. One thing for sure is the extra weight of the fuselage is certainly draining the LiPo's faster now. At 1200 RPM, I'm getting a very safe 10 minutes going down to about a 75% discharged state. 

    No question, the tail is working hard on this Roban Super Scale AS350 helicopter, so I wonder if a 3 bladed tail would work better or to increase the size of the tail rotor blades? You can't go any longer with the tail blades because the horizontal stabilizer fin is right there. So increasing cord width would be the only "size increase" option. If anyone with Roban 700 AS350 experience has tried this & it did in-fact improve tail authority, I would very much like to know.

    How Does The Roban Compactor 700 Size Super Scale AS350 Helicopter Fly?

    Big 700 Super Scale AS350 Hovering Rock Solid!Big 700 Super Scale AS350 Hovering Rock Solid!

    I've been flying this scale AS350 helicopter now throughout the winter and into the spring and I can honestly say I'm super impressed. It looks and behaves so real and is just a pleasure to fly. I've had no mechanical hiccups at all and have more or less forgot about the initial issues I had during the build.

    You do have to be careful with it however as it is a heavy bugger and that along with the multi bladed head make it fairly easy to get caught in your downwash (settling with power in the full size world), and if that happens close to the ground, it could get really ugly, really fast. It is also a bear to fly in the wind because of the poor tail authority. The video below shows just how smooth this big rascal is.

    Final Roban 700 Super Scale AS350 Helicopter Thoughts

    Would I get another Roban 700 Super Scale RC helicopter?  Yes, but only when they go on sale (a good sale)! Paying full retail is too steep in my opinion considering some of the issues I and others have with them. Still, if you want a big scale RC helicopter with a full interior and don't want to pay near double for a Vario; Roban offers good value in that respect and there really is no denying just how great this thing looks and sounds in the air.

    Paint and fibreglass quality are not near what FunKey offers, but FK don't have the rivet details or the scale intriors so it's somewhat six of one, half a dozen of the other depending on what you're after in a scale RC helicopter. If Roban however could get their fiberglass and paint quality to approach FunKey's or FunKey could do a 700 size super scale - oh boy would they both be spectacular, jaw dropping machines! The poor tail authority naturally rounds out the "misses" list.

    I personally don't consider this super scale AS350 helicopter a good "first" scale build. I actually would have had fair amount of trouble with it if I hadn't already built some other large FunKey scale birds first.

    AS350 Tri Blade Folding For Storage & Transport - Nice!AS350 Tri Blade Folding For Storage & Transport - Nice!

    That said, out of the many super scale helicopter models that Roban offers, the AS350 is definitely one of the easier ones to start with.

    Battery access is super easy, there are no complicated angled tail boom drives to deal with, there are only 3 main blades to contend with along with a conventional two bladed tail, and it's fairly easy to put together.

    The other nice thing with having only three blades is you can still fold them all back into a blade holder and don't have to remove them for transport.

    That personally has been one of the things I didn't care for with most multi bladed heads, so I was pretty happy when I realized I could still leave all the blades on as I heaved this heavyweight behemoth into the back of the vehicle. 

    GI Jane Ensuring Blades Are Folded Back Out During Her Pre-FlightGI Jane Ensuring Blades Are Folded Back Out During Her Pre-Flight

    Roban 700 Super Scale AS350 Helicopter Specifications

    • Body Length: 1650mm (65")
    • Length Including Rotors: 1920mm (75.5")
    • Width: 355mm (14")
    • Height: 480mm (19")
    • Main Rotor Diameter: 1560mm (61")
    • Tail Blade Length: 105mm
    • Main Shaft Diameter: 12mm
    • Tail Shaft Diameter: 5mm
    • Head Axle Diameter: 8mm
    • Battery Compartment: 2X 60x60x180mm

    To finish off of this Roban Super Scale AS350 helicopter review, here are two great full size AS350 Eurocopter videos. One warning however; after watching, you'll likely want to build a scale AS350 helicopter of your very own ;-) Enjoy!

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