Blade Nano QX: The Multi-rotor UAS Gateway
With companies like DJI bringing in revenues in the billions of dollars, the small multi-copter industry has officially bloomed.
See Flite Test's youtube review here
For professionals and hobbyists alike, the prospect of spending $3,500 or more for a high end copter that will satisfy their operating requirements is a high risk proposition. Training courses on how to fly those systems are relatively expensive as well.
The toy grade multi-copters on the market have (until now) been mostly disappointing, unreliable, and had a life expectancy of as many hours as the average human has fingers and toes.
Enter the Blade Nano QX.
Blade is a brand of Horizon Hobby, a U.S. based company which has been a mainstay of R/C products for decades. They have the background and infrastructure to develop systems that might soon compete with major aerospace corporations.
The Blade Nano is available at many of your local hobby stores for around $90 and of course online at the usual vendors. A simple Google search will return all the results you might need. That makes the Blade Nano QX easily the most cost effective means of taking your first step into the world of small UAS.
Having flown $35,000+ multi-copters, I can tell you from personal experience, the Blade Nano can give you the skills you need to fly nearly any Copter based system.
At a svelte 16 grams, the Blade Nano QX is so light, it appears to not even have enough mass to break itself in a full force crash. It took numerous (mostly unintentional) impacts with a brick wall and cement floor to start seeing damage. My damage appeared in the form of a cracked plastic frame ($8 at horrizonhobby.com). If you are flying over grass, there is little to no chance that you will incur any damage at all. This damage resilience means that the pilot can drop the throttle in any situation and let the copter fall to the ground as their emergency recovery. Additionally, the built in prop guards prevent the props from striking the ceiling if you get too close. They also protect your props from most lateral impacts, especially if it is with a wall.
This little copter flies great in 0-10 knots of wind. Anything above that gets significantly sporty with such a small aircraft.
In addition to the basic structural features, the flight controller and avionics in this copter are as capable as stability systems in high end copters.
Horizon calls their system SAFE technology. This is essentially a stabilization system that uses sensors in the small control board of the helicopter to maintain a desired envelope during flight. This aircraft has two modes that are toggled by pushing in the right stick of the controller. The copter's internal LEDs will be blue for SAFE mode (attitude based autopilot), and red for Agility mode (unrestricted maneuverability). SAFE mode means that the attitude of pitch and roll are limited to a set angle the prevents you from flipping or exceeding more than an easily recoverable attitude. When you let go of the right stick, the copter will automatically return its attitude to level flight. It will not stop its motion over the ground however, nor will it adjust the throttle setting. If you are in a large open space, with a mid-range throttle, and 0 wind, the copter will essentially come to a hover almost by itself. This is the flight mode that makes this system so great for beginners. The control setup is basically the same as all Small UAS copters that I have ever worked with. Right stick for pitch and roll, left stick for throttle and yaw. This system is purpose built for learning the basics of flight and training your brain to understand orientation and control inputs.
The agility mode is an absolutely perfect execution of maneuverability short of installing props that have reversible pitch. Nearly all stabilization is turned off in this mode allowing for aerobatic flight. If you can, fly in a large indoor space your first few times attempting aggressive maneuvers. Once the copter has a good amount of speed, lateral or vertical, you can attempt and the barrel rolls, cross-flips, loops, and any other control input you would like to experiment with. I found the most rapid flip was accomplished with a brisk climb followed by a full input or both back stick and roll control. You will be able to show off to your friends in no time...not to mention build enough confidence to fly that expensive copter that will give your business a high-octane marketing boost with some high def aerial images and videos.
1. Make sure the copter is on a level surface when you plug in the battery in order for the quad to calibrate its internal sensors to level.
2. Extra batteries are entirely worthwhile and inexpensive.
3. Extra motors are guaranteed to come in handy. Brushed motors like these have a mortality from hard flying with accelerating and deceleration.
4. Horizon Hobby has always stood by their products. Give them a call if you have problems.
By Taylor Butterfield