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Written by Andrew Griffith
A worthy upgrade to the Fusion line
Review
As seen in the November 2019 issue of Model Aviation.


At A Glance

Specifications

Type: Electric 3D helicopter

Skill level: Intermediate

Main rotor diameter: 31.3 inches

Length: 27 inches

Height: 7.5 inches

Main rotor blades: 350 mm

Tail rotor diameter: 6.9 inches

Weight: 32 ounces

Drive system: Gear-driven main rotor with belt-drive tail rotor

Power system: 6S LiPo

Radio: Requires six-channel DSM2/DSMX radio system

Construction: Carbon fiber and aluminum

Motor: 1,800 Kv brushless

Price: $549.99

Test-Model Details

Motor used: 1,800 Kv (included)

Battery: Spektrum 6S 1,800 mAh 50C Smart LiPo

Radio system: Spektrum DX20; three Spektrum H3055 submicro digital servos; Spektrum H3065 tail rotor servo; Spektrum 6250HX flybarless controller; Spektrum 4649T telemetry receiver

Ready-to-fly weight: 31 ounces

Flight duration: 4 minutes

Pluses

  • Great-looking fiberglass canopy.
  • Forward programming capability is amazing.
  • No assembly required.
  • Highly adjustable but flew great right out of the box.

Minus

  • Canopy was difficult to get on with the RF choke on the ESC line.

Manufacturer/Distributor

Blade Helicopters/Horizon Hobby

(800) 338-4639

www.horizonhobby.com/content/bladehelis

THERE USED TO BE A SAYING that "bigger flies better." Well, the truth is, with the revolutionary electronics available now, smaller models have a feel in flight that we could only dream about in years past, and just because the wind blows, it’s not time to pack them away.

Gone are the days of long hours spent carefully assembling a model helicopter with calipers, push-rod-measuring tools, dial indicators, blade balancers, and paddle gauges. True BNF models are here that meet the standards of even the most discerning pilot.

The Blade Heli division at Horizon Hobby is known for turning out great new models, and I was excited to be selected to review the new Blade Fusion 360. These are nice-sized helicopters that require modest battery packs and have inexpensive parts support, yet they pack a punch in the air. Stock up on a few batteries and you can keep one of these in your car to fly at your local park or, if you’re lucky, in your backyard.

First Impressions

The Fusion 360 is an electric-powered, collective-pitch helicopter that is fully aerobatic and incorporates the latest flybarless technology to make it easy to get in the air, yet it offers the performance of a larger machine.

The Fusion 360 is equipped with the new 6250HX flybarless control system, which leverages the forward programming capability of the Gen 2 Spektrum radios with the latest firmware. Forward programming, for transmitters that support it, allows you to access gyro gain and control response values inside the flybarless unit via a transmitter screen in real time, thus eliminating the need to connect to a laptop or smartphone.

This came in handy at the field and I’ll detail that in the flight evaluation segment. Those without a forward-programming-capable transmitter can still make control system adjustments by activating certain stick positions and following the light prompts, but if you have a radio that supports it, forward programming is a cool feature that frequently shows up in Spektrum products.

carbon-fiber frames helical-cut gears and an 1800 kv brushless motor are assembled and ready to fly out of the box
01: Carbon-fiber frames, helical-cut gears, and an 1,800 Kv brushless motor are assembled and ready to fly out of the box.

Three submicro, metal-gear, digital servos surround the swashplate in a 120° CCPM configuration. Another high-speed, digital, submicro servo controls that rotor pitch via a 3 mm carbon-fiber pushrod.

A smart flybarless controller isn’t the only high-end gear found on this little helicopter. The side frames and radio tray are carbon fiber, and the landing gear is a durable 3 mm carbon fiber. To further state that the Fusion is built to be strong is the incorporation of an 18 mm aluminum tailboom that is stout enough to do away with boom supports.

Instead of a lot of plastic, machined aluminum parts abound. The blade grips, main rotor head block, swashplate, tail rotor block and blade grips, and the tail rotor housing are all beautifully crafted from machined aluminum.

The rotor blades included with the Fusion are 350 mm symmetrical carbon-fiber blades. Horizon Hobby literature suggests that they are a new design. Upon inspection, they indeed have a unique tip design, making me eager to see how they performed in flight.

Spinning those blades is an 1,800 Kv brushless outrunner motor controlled by a 60-amp Hobbywing ESC. The ESC uses a newer Spektrum IC3 connector but is the same form factor as a standard EC3 connector. The IC3 on the battery contains the connection for the Spektrum smart charger to recognize and manage the battery pack. Also installed on the ESC wire, but not mentioned in the manual, is an RF choke that goes between the battery and ESC to prevent radio noise.

The motor turns an 11-tooth pinion gear and the main and pinion gears feature helical-cut teeth for efficient power transfer. The tail is driven by a smooth, quiet belt-drive system and remains spinning during autorotations, while the main gear is disengaged by the autorotation bearing on the main gear.

Rounding out the included parts are an attractively painted fiberglass canopy with four-point mounting and a painted fiberglass vertical fin that matches the canopy scheme. Some canopies look good and some are easy to see, and the Fusion 360 canopy is both.

Construction

This doesn’t take long because the Fusion 360 comes out of the box fully assembled. I was provided with a Spektrum Smart Battery 6S 1,800 mAh 50C LiPo battery for the review, which is the recommended battery pack. While the battery was charging, I read the manual and programmed my DX20 with the settings recommended in the manual.

The manual provides detailed settings for a number of Spektrum radio systems and describes how to access the forward programming on Gen 2 radios. There is also a section dedicated to changing settings on the flybarless controller if you have a radio without that feature.

Make no mistake on tweaking the flybarless settings. There’s little reason to mess with them! The Blade team spent many hours flight-testing the Fusion, and the flybarless controller comes loaded with the optimal settings. If you must tinker, there’s a menu choice to reset to the factory-provided settings in case you make things worse instead of better.

the belt-driven tail rotor is smooth and quiet
02: The belt-driven tail rotor is smooth and quiet. Metal blade grips and tail case are upgrade parts on other models this size but are standard on the Fusion.

the laseretched metal blade grips have 0° index marks to allow zeroing everything
03: The laseretched metal blade grips have 0° index marks to allow zeroing everything out in case you find yourself needing to repair and set up the Fusion. The author put a pitch gauge on the blades and everything was perfectly aligned out of the box.

the spektrum smart 6s 50c lipo battery is a great match for the fusion
04: The Spektrum Smart 6S 50C LiPo battery is a great match for the Fusion. It delivers 4 minutes of flight with power to spare in Stunt-2 mode and even longer in Stunt-1. It delivers plenty of punch.

With my radio programmed and the battery charged, it was time to bind the Fusion. The provided servo extension is plugged into the hard-to-reach bind port and attached to the side frame, where it is easy to access.

After binding, the forward programming menu will appear on the transmitter, but only when the receiver is powered up, connected, and responding to the transmitter. I scrolled through the menu choices to see what was there but didn’t make any changes. The swashplate appeared level and I double-checked that the controls and gyro corrections were all responding in the appropriate direction and throttle hold was working properly.

I had only one small issue when it was time to attach the canopy. It took a bit of jiggling to get the battery and RF choke stuffed inside and the canopy secured on the posts.

Accounting for the time to fully read the manual and program my radio, with a charged battery, the Fusion can go from box to flying in less than 15 minutes. The only tool you need to get going is a bind plug, which is provided.

If you find yourself in need of repairing something, there is a bag with some metric wrenches, tie wraps, and double-sided tape. I put a drop of DryFluid Heli-Extreme lubricant on the main shaft where the swashplate slides and on the tail pitch slider.

Flying

With the 1,800 mAh battery strapped in place, the Fusion balanced perfectly. I secured the canopy, set throttle hold, and headed for the flightline.

The programming includes four flight modes: Normal, Stunt-1, Stunt-2, and throttle hold, which is also considered a flight mode that shuts the motor off but still maintains a pitch curve that is appropriate for autorotation.

I lifted off in Normal mode and switched to Stunt-1. The rpm picked up and I had full positive and negative pitch. Stunt-2 has the same pitch curve as Stunt-1, but the higher throttle curve numbers tell the built-in governor to crank up the head speed even more to increase the cyclic and tail rotor responsiveness.

Nothing comes for free, so the higher the head speed you run, the shorter the flight time you get. Plan ahead and use the appropriate flight mode for the type of flying you’re doing to maximize your fun factor or flight time.

I noticed right away a tendency to drift forward and off to the right during my first test hover. Familiarity with the manual led me to land and access the forward programming features. With the helicopter on a level surface (I used a bubble-level app on my phone on the tailboom), one of the menu choices is a sensor calibration. The process took several seconds to complete then I was back out on the flightline.

The difference was immediately noticeable, and the Fusion locked right into a nice, stable hover. I spent several battery packs getting to know the Fusion and gradually pushed it harder as my confidence grew. I slowly shook the rust off my 3D skills.

I was happy with the cyclic and tail rotor response in both Stunt modes and I had no problem doing aerobatics, even with the lower head speed provided in Stunt-1. Pitch pumps told me that I had plenty of juice for all but the most extreme power demands. I was especially pleased to see how well the tail held doing backward flight as fast as I was comfortable flying. My test for gyro and tail rotor effectiveness is a vertical, tail-first dive from 150 feet or so and the Fusion held the line where many smaller helicopters would suffer tail blowout and whip the tail around.

Through loops, flips, inverted flight, funnels, and backward hurricanes, the Fusion kept up with my skillset just fine. I tried some piro flips and at first. They were admittedly ugly, but after I found the sweet spot where finesse and available power came together, they improved dramatically. The Fusion doesn’t have the raw power of some of the larger machines, so knowing when to back off the pitch helps tremendously. With that noted, the Fusion is no slouch.

There is no SAFE Select or auto-recovery on the Fusion 360, so it’s not a beginner’s helicopter. It is a great transition machine when an intermediate pilot is ready to progress to a more powerful, collective-pitch helicopter, and advanced pilots won’t get bored with its capability.

Conclusion

The Blade Fusion 360 is a fun little helicopter. With zero assembly time and the flybarless controller fully programmed out of the box, it’s ready to go when you are. Power is excellent and it’s very nimble. Get some extra batteries because you will take this with you a lot and you won’t want to wait long between flights!

the blade fusion 360 is at home flying inverted
The Blade Fusion 360 is at home flying inverted. Its stable hover allowed the author to quickly gain the confidence to fly lower.

SOURCES:

Spektrum

(800) 338-4639

www.spektrumrc.com

AeroPanda

www.aeropanda.com

Hobbywing

www.hobbywing.com

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