by John Salt - Updated January 2020
So why do I claim Blade Helicopters are such a good brand to start your journey into RC helicopters with, when the market is literally saturated with entry level RC helicopters?
It all comes down to some very important criteria, much of which I talk about on my Best RC Helicopter page, but I will reiterate the specific features as they apply to Blade helicopters that are both time & money savers for most people who are first starting out in the Hobby.
After that, we will look at each model they have so you can get a good idea of what models and features they offer. Feel free to skip down to that section if you're already familiar with Blade.
I guess the first criteria to look at is overall quality since the main reason we get into the hobby is to actually fly, and for a model helicopter to fly and stay flying, a base quality line is a necessity.
Blade helicopters are all of pretty decent quality.
Sure, there have been duds over the years, but for the vast number of helicopters they have released over the past 10 years or so, there were & are way more good ones than bad ones.
Their track record in other words is very decent for the lower cost, entry level stuff and it only seems to be getting better.
There is no question, there are some other low cost entry level brands out there such as XK Helicopters and Esky that have some decent flying entry level machines as well, but it's still very much hit and miss, and you don't get the same level of after sales support and help that Blade/Horizon Hobby offers. It goes well beyond that however as will be covered shortly.
You notice I keep calling Blade helicopters "Entry Level", why?
Simply because that is exactly what they are. These are not $1000 dollar plus larger high end machines like Align, Mikado, MSH, or SAB that many experienced RC helicopter enthusiasts seek out and aspire towards. Blade helicopters are lower cost, small in size (nothing larger than a 480 size), ready to fly RC helicopters that offer a great introduction into the hobby for the average person.
For a few years, Blade actually did dabble in the larger & costlier higher end, 500 to 700 size electric helicopters, and they were actually fairly decent machines. However, for the rather high cost, they couldn't compete with the established high end brands such as Align, SAB, Mikado, HD, JR, Compass, etc.
Serious RC helicopter hobbyists just didn't see Blade as a viable contender to these other brands after they progressed to that level. So after a short 3 years or so, all the large Blade helicopters were discontinued. Lots of people I know got some really smoking great deals on these larger Blade helis when this happened as some were being cleared out for 1/2 price (even less).
What I and others have noticed however since Blade dabbled in the larger machines, is the quality of their smaller helicopters started getting better for the most part. A large RC helicopter requires a much higher level of build and component quality after all, and I personally feel Blade learned a lot from their time producing the bigger birds; and that has now filtered down into the smaller stuff.
Blade eventually got back to doing what it does best - produce lower cost, pre-built, smaller size helicopters aimed directly toward folks just starting out or are fairly new to the hobby. This time however, bringing some of their larger helicopter know-how to the table. This is something none of the other lower cost entry level brands can say nor demonstrate.
Since I already touched on this, lets talk about after sales support... What is it?
Simply put, it means after you walk out the door with your shiny new RC helicopter, there is a vast help network out there should you have any questions, problems, or simply need parts for repairs or maintenance.
I put extremely high priority on this, especially for newbies getting into the hobby. Blade has helped successfully introduce more people to RC helicopters in recent years, than all other low cost entry level brands combined.
Blade helicopters are simply incredibly popular. They are sold at most good hobby shops world wide (both on-line and off), so help and parts are almost always easy to get.
Horizon Hobby is also very good with their warranties should you get a defective product, and yes it does happen from time to time like any high-tech product.
Yes, they drop the ball every now and then, but it's rare. Horizon Hobby's warranty & help support is on orders of magnitude better than all the other low cost entry level heli brands on the market.
Going well beyond the hobby store and Horizon Hobby for after sales help and support, there are countless websites & forum posts offering help as well with all of Blade's helicopters. This is true for many brands, but going by the numbers, there is simply way more on-line help should you need it with Blade. For seasoned and experienced RC helicopter enthusiasts, this is not so important, but it can be an invaluable resource for beginners and newbies.
This also makes used Blade helicopters more desirable than other entry level brands for the simple reason they are both so popular and work with a very popular radio system. Many newbies really catch onto the hobby fast when they get bit by the heli bug.
It's very nice at this stage to be able to easily sell your first or
second Blade heli to get into a more advanced model. This is where the
slight cost premium of Blade's entry level helicopters can easily be
recuperated over other brands.
SAFE stands for "Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope". Big term but what on earth does it mean; and more importantly, what is the benefit to you?
The benefit is fairly easy to understand - it helps prevent crashing. Not crashing as often while learning generally equates to a faster learning curve & less frustration; while saving both money & time, along with the odd change of underwear.
The most basic way to think about SAFE, is when it's turned on in either beginner or stability mode, it won't allow you to overfly the helicopter. By overfly, I mean over control it to the point you lose control. When beginners are first starting to fly RC anything, the most common problem they have is over-controlling - they simply have not developed the fine motor control skills yet.
This results in applying way too much stick input to get the aircraft moving or getting it back under control. Think of it like driving a car by constantly giving massive steering wheel inputs to stay in your lane. You would be swerving from lane to lane and soon lose control of your vehicle if you drove that way - right...
Well, when you are flying an RC aircraft, the exact same principles of over controlling apply. The only difference is it's happening in 3 dimensions (yaw, pitch, roll), not just yaw like it does with a land vehicle so it's naturally harder and simply takes longer to learn the "flying finesse" required.
SAFE technology that is used on many of Blade's helicopters, quadrotors and Eflite airplanes, simply limits the maximum amount of movement the aircraft is capable of so it can't get overflown. SAFE technology can also self-level the aircraft automatically when the sticks are centered.
On some of the SAFE equipped Blade helicopters, they incorporate a "save" or "rescue" feature that will get the aircraft back under control if you are performing aerobatics for example and get into trouble.
SAFE has changed the way beginners learn to fly.
Okay, many beginners won't even understand what this means (you will shortly however); but it's the single biggest reason why I, and most other experienced RC hobbyists put Blade head and shoulders above the rest of the entry level stuff on the market.
Spektrum DSM2/X is a 2.4 GHz spread spectrum protocol used by all Spektrum brand RC radio system and earlier JR spread spectrum radio systems. This is basically the digital language & coding sequence used in the radio system that allows the radio (RC controller) to communicate with the aircraft. I have a page that goes into much more detail on spread spectrum if you want to learn more about it.
Every brand of RC radio system has it's own unique protocol so they are not compatible with one another.
So why is this important to understand right now?
First off, DSM2/X protocol is a very robust spread spektrum radio control communication system. In fact, in the RC heli world, it's one of the most popular (even for the higher end stuff as you progress).
I often say the radio system is more important than the helicopter if you are even somewhat serious about the hobby, and I strongly support this statement. When you get a good radio system to start with, you won't have to change systems later on and Blade is the only entry level heli & quad brand that provides this very important benefit.
There is no question, when you are first starting out with a low cost, entry level, RC helicopter or quad, you don't need a top end radio system; but as you progress, you will soon realize just how beneficial this is.
First off, you won't have to get a new radio for each helicopter or quad rotor you purchase.
As you progress further, you can then fly all the higher end machines with this radio. So many of today's top flybarless systems are designed to work seamlessly with Spektrum DSM2/X systems for example.
The other big convenience here is for RC airplane enthusiasts that already fly their planes with a Spektrum computerized radio and are thinking of coming over to the "dark side" of the flying eggbeater world to give it a whirl. If that describes you, starting out with a Blade helicopter or quad is almost a no-brainer since you already have a radio that will work with the aircraft.
Using one radio
to fly everything is not only extremely convenient, it saves a
substantial amount of money over the years. It also means you won't have to waste time re-learning the programming menus, or getting used to the feel of a different radio.
Many of Blade's helicopters and quadcopters for example come with or without a simple RC radio. The version's without the radio are for those of us who already have a Spektrum or JR DSM2/X radio and naturally those versions cost less money. Blade calls this "Bind N' Fly" (BNF). I talk about this feature in the many Blade & Eflite helicopter reviews I have done, and is once again why I feel this feature alone is so beneficial for so many people.
So, if you already have a computerized Spektrum RC radio system or older computerized JR DSM2/X system, you will want to get the "BNF" version of whatever Blade helicopter or quad-rotor model you are looking at.
If you are just starting out and have no radio system, you can get the RTF version to start with and then get a better quality Spektrum computerized radio later on as you progress to open up all the benefits of programmable radio systems to cater your radio to your flying style. One radio to fly multiple helicopters, quadrotors, planes, and gliders - that is what I mean by growth.
So, those are the main benefits to you as the consumer that Blade offers that no other brand does.
suppose a very simple way to look at all this, is out of all the lower
cost, entry level, small RC helicopters on the market, Blade is the only brand that allows you to truly "invest into the hobby".
Blade has a vast array of helicopters to suit most budgets and ability levels.
Blade has more or less divided their lineup into three categories based on experience levels.
As you may likely know from my Best RC Helicopter page, I personally don't feel you can simply pigeon hole any RC helicopter to cater to a specific experience level.
It's possible for example for people to start with any of Blade's (or any other brand for that matter) more advanced collective pitch RC helicopters if they do their research and know what to expect.
You can for example setup any collective pitch helicopter to be very tame and as you progress, change the setup to allow more aggressive flying. This takes a good deal of understanding at first to do properly; but for someone who knows they have the correct mindset (I was borderline obsessed when I got into the hobby for example), and wants to start with a more advanced model, it's certainly very doable. This is more true now then ever with any of Blade's aircraft that have SAFE technology.
In short, take these Blade experience categories as guidelines only.
No question they are good generalized guidelines to follow; but you know your underlying passion towards
the hobby and natural abilities better than the manufacturer or I do. Base
your Blade helicopter purchase decision on what's the best match for you.
Blade helicopters also use the standardized RC Helicopter sizing method of using main blade length. For example, the Blade 360 CFX uses 360mm long rotor blades.
On that note, let's look at all the models Blade offer in each of the 3 experience level categories. I'll show if they are available in BNF, RTF, or both versions and which models employ SAFE technology.
Like the original Blade mCX, the Blade mCX2 is easy enough for anyone to fly and small enough to fly just about anywhere. But it adds an extra shot of excitement with user-selectable swash sensitivity and flashing LED lights that are built right into the body. See my review.
The Blade 70S is a great choice for those that are seriously thinking of getting into the hobby, yet don't want to spend much at first. Here's my full review.
It's a great beginner micro fixed pitch helicopter for those looking for more performance than a micro coaxial will give, yet don't want to venture into collective pitch quite yet. The flying skills learned on the 70S will of course come in handy when you do progress to a collective pitch machine down the road.
At $60.00, the value is outstanding considering helicopters like this used to cost well over $160.00 just few years ago. This will be the likely replacement for the Blade mSR S which many are familiar with as the heli that first got them into the hobby.
Equipped with SAFE Technology, the fixed-pitch flybarless design offers great stability. The low parts count makes repairs quick and simple with one of the most unique features being the location of the swashplate for added protection. It is located inside the frame instead of up on the rotor mast using pushods that exit up through the top bearing inside the oversized main mast.
The tiny Blade Nano S2 is Blade's smallest collective pitch RC helicopter making it the PERFECT indoor collective pitch RC helicopter.
Not overly powerful, but a great indoor practice aid when first getting into collective pitch or when you simply need some indoor collective pitch flying fun. See my full write-up.
Think all the way back to 2010.
The announcement of the very first micro sized collective pitch RC helicopter that would fit in the palm of your hand shook the RC heli world.
The mCP X and then the mCP X BL (brushless motor version), and now the BL2 version building on the same platforms of success. Positioned as a beginner to intermediate heli between the Blade Nano S2 and Fusion™ 180.
Exclusive SAFE® and AS3X® technology help keep control by delivering the stability needed to develop confidence quickly. Three progressive flight modes allow this heli to grow with each pilot's skill level, making it great for intermediate pilots to pick up with the assurance of panic recovery.
This micro heli is suitable as a beginner model thanks to SAFE, but also extremely attractive for experts looking for a durable model for everyday practice and fun.
Larger than a micro-class machine, the sub-micro Blade 120 S is great for outdoor flight in low wind, yet is still small enough to fly in larger indoor spaces. The 120S has SAFE technology to boot. Here's my full write-up on this great little bird.
As the "S" suggests, this is very much the same heli as the original, but now utilizing SAFE technology making for a very easy to fly micro CP in full on stability mode, let allows you to turn off that electronic help when you are ready to really appreciate the true skill set required to fly a collective pitch RC helicopter.
For even greater collective pitch aerobatic and 3D performance, an optional brushless main motor easy to install upgrade is available for when you are ready for "more power".
For those looking to hone their skills on a small collective pitch RC helicopter that is well suited to flying in your own yard, the Blade 150 S (replacement for the 130 S) is worth considering, sharing many of the same characteristics of the popular 130 S.
Enabled with SAFE® technology, its progressive flight mode system makes flying a collective pitch heli more comfortable, even if it's your first collective pitch helicopter.
Self leveling stabilization and a more accurate panic mode, give beginner pilots the confidence to master collective pitch flight. 3D flight performance when in aerobatic mode is decent and crisp provided you manage your collective energy.
Carbon fiber main frame and main gear along with metal gear servos and Fiber Reinforced Plastic main blades can survive the learning curve and add confidence. The brushless direct drive tail motor driving a tri-blade tail rotor gives a solid tail lock while minimizing tail maintenance.
Flying weight comes in around 200g so for us Canadians as well as many other countries that impose over 250g RC aircraft registration/regulations/restrictions, the 150 S will legally fly under the radar.
The Blade 230S V2 (building on the awesome original 230S) is one of the best, if not best entry level collective pitch helicopters Blade has in its fleet in my humble opinion.
I don't know a single person who didn't love their 230S, and the V2 version will no doubt build on this loyal following and great design.
It's simply an economical little heli in this size and price range which offers up good value, with user friendly features and added improvements over the original. Perfectly suited at growing collective pitch piloting skills.
The newly tuned Spektrum AR636 with aluminum bottom case and improved damping makes this heli feel like a whole new machine in the air. Engineered around the abilities of innovative SAFE technology, its progressive flight mode system makes flying a collective pitch heli more comfortable, even if it’s your first collective pitch helicopter.
A reinforced frame and main gear along with metal gear servos and ABS main blades can survive the learning curve and add confidence. The flight and strength improvements make this a blast to fly in your local park or backyard.
The Blade® Fusion™ 180 is the high performance 3D machine that's ready to tear up the backyard.
The Fusion styling revision adds a redeveloped lightweight and extremely rigid carbon fiber main frame.
Plus, the new belt-driven tail and newly developed tail case improve tail performance and overall durability. Hosting this new belt is an over-sized tail boom large enough to eliminate the need for boom supports.
The Blade Trio 180 CFX replaces the very good 180 CFX. The Trio version is a powerful mini sized collective pitch heli that now comes with a 3-bladed, DFC rotor head improving response and collective authority (while increasing complexity, repair costs, and tail rotor work load).
Featuring a high torque brushless outrunner main motor, variable pitch tail rotor, and Castle Creations ESC, this heli features a potent punch for fun back yard 3D maneuvers, and practice.
The Blade® Fusion™ 270 BNF® Basic helicopter begins a new era of high-end Blade products, with all the features, style, and performance intermediate through advanced pilots demand.
This powerhouse features a lightweight and strong carbon fiber frame and landing gear, black anodized aluminum components, and an all-new, high-torque 4S optimized power system.
Combined with Spektrum™ metal gear servos, helical main gear and the durable belt driven tail design, there is nothing stopping you from trying the most aggressive maneuvers imaginable. If you push things a little too far, the Fusion 270 is equipped with a Spektrum AR636A flight controller with SAFE® Technology Panic Recovery mode to prevent a crash.
For seasoned pilots, the Fusion 270 delivers leading-edge heli action straight out of the box leaving the competition missing in action.
Back to the basics! The 330X is a lower cost, 3S powered, 450 size, fully aerobatic, ready to fly collective pitch RC helicopter that makes such a wonderfully sized, first CP helicopter to learn on. Here's my overview.
It's basically the Blade 450X version 3 if you want to compare it to something, sharing DNA going back all the way to the original and iconic Blade 400 and 450 3D.
I know so many people who over the past decade now have successfully got into this hobby with one of those 3 helicopters. The legend lives on in the 330X...
This size and 3S powering method has long been my recommend goto heli for so many people to first learn on, and I'm so happy we once again have a good option here as the market has been without a lower cost, modestly powered, 450 size, ready to fly helicopter for a few years now. Glad to see Blade once again recognizes not everyone wants to waste their time and money on disposable micro sized junk as their first venture into collective pitch.
If you don't care for the "basics" which is the Blade 330X's strong selling point to this old school heli boy, you now have another option in the Blade 330S. This will be the replacement for the Blade 330X.
Unlike the X version that doesn't have a SAFE stabilization/self leveling mode, the 330S does, using the new 6 sensor Spektrum SPMFC6250HX combination RX & flybarbless flight controller which also transmits telemetry to telemetry capable Spektrum radios. The 330S also comes with Spektrum's/Horizon's "smart" 3S 2200 mAh LiPo battery and ESC.
In my opion, "smart" LiPo's are a strike against the 330S because I really don't like when more costly propitiatory LiPo batteries are forced upon us. You can of course use better and less costly aftermarket LiPo packs in the 330S just like you could in the 330X, but they won't work with the included USB charger that it comes with, nor will they communicate with the ESC losing out on battery telemetry and some other features.
Other than those electronic changes, the 330S is pretty much the same helicopter as the 330X and builds on the same awesome foundation first used on the original Blade 400 from over a decade ago now. Costs have remained the same as a decade ago as well, so in that respect, the 330S gives us more technology bang for the buck than any other 450 size Blade heli that came before it. The vibrant colored airbrushed fiberglass canopies also continue to get brighter and easier to see - a big plus in my books!
The Blade 360 CFX 3S helicopter is slightly larger than the 330X but overall, very similar in both size and performance.
The 360 CFX was originally 6S powered, but is now only available in 3S power. In my opinion, a very smart move as it allows for a much more popular and affordable battery.
At its reduced $370.00 USD price tag; this is one of the best RC helicopter values right now in this size & performance segment - period!
I never did see the advantage to 6S power in a heli of this size and never liked flying them due to the cost and overpowered nature. So many people were actually flying the original 6S version with 3S packs, it's no wonder Blade Helicopters realized not everyone is "power crazy", and would rather just have fun while saving a few bucks in the process.
The Blade Fusion 360 is a BNF, 6S powered 450 size machine.
Spektrum technology is featured throughout this heli from new Spektrum 3055 & 3065 servos to the new Spektrum 6250 HX flybarless system.
This new flybarless controller features advanced adaptive flight control algorithms, forward programming, 6-axis M.E.M.S. inertial sensor, low-latency high-speed operation, two remote receiver ports for diversity, and a vibration rejecting aluminum lower case.
Pre-installed and pre-programmed HobbyWing 60A Platinum ESC ready for 6S power. The 2221-1800Kv brushless outrunner motor delivers impressive headspeeds via the helical main gear for a powerful and efficient punch that's unlike anything else in this size from Blade.
An oversized tail boom eliminates the need for boom supports and is crowned by a new CNC aluminum tail case improving vibration damping and performance. All this combines to give pilots one of the best flying, hard 3D capable RC helicopters Blade has ever released.
The Blade Fusion 480 is Blade's first "kit" build heli in several years as well as their largest (basically a 500 size machine).
I really like the concept of this helicopter as it's a good indicator if nothing else, that the hobby is still healthy and Blade is still innovating and giving another go at the higher end kit build market.
This time with competitive pricing.
This 6S powerhouse features lightweight carbon fiber and anodized aluminum construction presenting exceptional rigidity and durability. The optimized control system geometry offers the most efficient and responsive control.
The quiet helical main gear is ready to be driven by a 40-43mm brushless motor bringing high power and torque. A belt-driven tail assembly is utilizes both carbon fiber and aluminum to ensure precision performance every flight. For advanced-level 3D pilots, the Fusion 480 delivers an aggressive heli leaving the others in its dust cloud.
Let's fact it, there are pros and cons to every RC helicopter out there and with all the models that Blade offers, it's no doubt confusing choosing if you are just starting out. Budget, ability, expectations, size, etc. all come into play.
With that in mind, out of all these models, there are 5 that currently (January 2020) stand out in terms of "best value" and are the ones I most often recommend to friends.
I was just reading your write-up about Blade helicopters and I couldn't agree with you more.
I started this hobby back in 2006 but have only really been flying the last three years. Life gets in the way some times and you have to walk away from it and return when the time is right. That said, I started on a Blade CX2 fully upgraded and used a flight sim (real flight basic) daily like a religion back then. I now have 2 blade 450's in the last 3 years and upgraded them electronically (align RCE 35x ESC, HS65mg's on cyclic, HS5084mg tail servo and a GY401) and have used CNC and CF parts only in the critical areas.
I believe in engineering a weak spot to dissipate the kinetic energy in a crash so you don't break so many parts (RC heli mag article). I have had great success with the Blade 450's. Over 200+ flights on both with no crashes. But I had 2 crashes in the last month. I find them easy to work on...light....dependable...reliable and plastic fantastic.
I'm a sport
flyer no 3D or tricks. I'm currently going to install one of them into a
AS350 fuselage and keep the other as a pod and boom flyer. I'm flying
proof that the Blade line are good for those who don't have uber amounts
of money to fly and enjoy this complex, challenging, and rewarding
hobby. Thanks for letting me share.
Douglas - Canada