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Written by Roth Heyes
A practical, premium-grade performance helicopter package.
Online Exclusive Review.



My experience with JR started out many years ago very simply with a transmitter set that came with standard servos. To this day, I still use the radio system in an airplane that gets regular use. Ever since, I’ve bought other JR equipment and been pleased plus the service and support from Horizon Hobby has always been superb. So when it came time to satisfy my craving for a new helicopter, my reason to choose a JR machine was actually very practical.

What I wanted to stay away from was low helicopters that for unpredictable reasons tried my patience. Plus I wanted to take the plunge into flybarless control having witnessed so many positive experiences regarding the feel, added stability and simplified mechanics.
My interest was also to find an electric machine; one that reminded me of how much fun the smaller helicopters were to fly, but didn’t require a “major” mortgage for a compliment of batteries.

The JR NEX E6-550 has been a very satisfying project. It’s a modern electric helicopter that despite its size has the strong performance, amazing speed and smooth handling expected of a larger helicopter. So that makes it not only practical, but also a great value.

Overall, I’ve learned a greater appreciation for innovation and intelligent engineering. The NEX E6-550 is not a “cheap” helicopter, or even a middle-grade helicopter in my opinion. It’s a premium machine that’s proven to be an investment in what I’ve always wanted from an RC helicopter… more fun.

In this author’s point of view, premium grade is measured as the sum of numerous features and impressions. With the E6-550, just out of the box it was clear that even the build would be a treat.

The major mechanics are supplied pre-assembled, and those assemblies were verified to have the correct thread-lock compound as specified in the manual. Just wrenching down on the hardware gave me assurance that this helicopter would be different from the lesser-kind. I could bear down on every screw without getting the feeling that 1/8-turn further would rip the threads out – even in the plastic parts. Premium quality delivers peace-of-mind.

Every aluminum part is satin finished in either a rich black or red color. The fit of parts with this machine isn’t just a mere mechanical process, but a union. Faith in the material chosen for this helicopter can be observed in a number of areas – more obviously the head where its construction seemed a bit lean at first, but now I like to think those mechanics as elegant. Another example can be seen where the tail-rotor servo mounts to the carbon fiber boom where the strap portion is a slim 1mm thick. Bearings fit snuggly into their housing blocks, and so do the shafts going through them. It would take far less time to mention what I didn’t like, which I’ll get too.




The lightweight fiberglass canopy is beautifully painted in pearl and metallic colors. The decals are sealed under a high-gloss protective clear coat




The carbon fiber tail boom houses a carbon torque tube that features dual, internal ball-bearing support. Sub Trim Free linkage shown is similar to that on the cyclic controls.




The low profile of the NEX E6-550 is reflective of modern design. Its low center of gravity delivers an axial roll rate. A 3300mAh 6S Li-Po offers flight times from 3 to 7 minutes.


You can buy the NEX E6-550 as either a kit that includes carbon fiber main and tail blades, or as a combo that provides everything needed have a flight ready helicopter accept Li-Po flight battery and compatible receiver. Both include a handsome fiberglass canopy that is lightweight and blemish free with a high-gloss clear coat that’s sealed the decals.

One of the most innovative features of the E6-550 is linkage system that includes Sub-Trim Free (STF) control arms designed to fit JR servos. An optional adapter kit is available so that the STF system will work with Futaba mini servos.

The servo linkage system is ingenious in how it transfers the control load to the frame of the helicopter, which is the strongest part, rather than to the mini servo (which is weak by comparison) and its precision nylon gears. Multiple bearings of respectable size support the linkage system and when fully assembled works like Swiss watch. The installation of temporary alignment pins locks the mechanics at the dead-center position so that the linkages can be clamped down accurately without the need for sub-trim adjustments that are widely known to cause finite control discrepancies. The fact that JR addressed this point and removed its instance speaks volumes to me. The pursuit of precision always leads to a better flying aircraft. I advise just a dab of green thread-lock on the clamp of the STF linkage just to be on the safe side.

The kit route gives you the traditional freedom to choose (and/or use) your favorite, or the suitable, equipment on hand. Regarding the motor, however; JR isn’t very detailed on the specifications accept to state a Kv range. I found that point frustrating (I’m not that motor savvy). For the cyclic control the use of mini-class servos is required – a feature I like as it keeps the weight down, but I’d have to buy them. Any special-purpose tail rotor control servo will fit.

So, if you choose the kit and scientifically figure out what motor to use other than the stock, have your JR or Futaba compatible servos in hand, there’s still the argument of what three-axis gyro, ESC and receiver/radio to use. As mentioned earlier, I wanted a large-heli experience that reminded me of why smaller helis are so much fun. Those helicopter typically come either RTF or in a combo package. A first for JR, the NEX E6-550 can be purchased as a combo package. No guess work. No scientific calculations or experimenting. I went the combo route.

The E6-550 combo includes the brand new JR DS11 mini-servos designed specifically for flybarless cyclic control. According the JR Propo website, these digital servos are designed to “perform best with the JR 3-axis gyro (TAGS01),” and respond instantaneously. Due to the inherent instability of flybarless mechanics, I understand that 3-axis gyros make the servos work a lot harder, requiring not only high-speed corrections, but multiple corrections per second. Servos designed to meet the demands of a flybarless helicopter seems like a good thing to me.




The aluminum tail case is an elegant single piece design. The tail blade grips include dual radial bearings as well as thrust-bearing support.




The combo package includes everything but the battery and receiver. Setup goes fast because the TAGS01 and ESC are delivered pre-programmed with the optimal settings.




With an eight-channel radio, it’s possible to setup remote gain controls on all three axis. The DMSS receiver includes a remote antenna dedicated to sending telemetry information.




JR is developing a line of servos specifically for flybarless cyclic control. The first is offered in the NEX E6-550 and are designed to process and deliver the high command rate of 3-axix gyros.




The linkage system supports the included JR DS11 flybarless servos with multiple bearings so that the precision nylon gears of the servos can deliver full potential.


The TAGS01 gyro appears to be an obscure looking unit at first. But after some study, its functionality becomes the definition of genius. Although I wish that the TAGS01 was a compact single unit, in reality a remote sensor offers more options toward finding the right feel of the helicopter – moving the sensor to a different point on the helicopter can change performance.

Several documentation materials are included including the assembly manual, JR ESC instructions, TAGS01 manual, a radio setup guide and repair/parts list. Every bit of information in them is invaluable. Like working from a blueprint, assembly follows the clear drawings and various notes graded from top to bottom.
The carbon fiber frame is virtually a single-stack arrangement, but the bottom half of the frame bolts to the upper. The positives about the design are practical in that the spacing of the lower frame halves allows a wider variety of packs to fit.

Should a crash ever occur involving a hard hit to the undercarriage, stresses will be absorbed by lower part of the frame which is very easy to service. An important detail to perform on the frames before assembly is to chamfer all of the sharp edges using 240-grit paper so that wires are less likely to scar.




The lower half of the frame can be easily replaced after a crash if necessary. The author wrapped the wires in nylon sheathing as well as sanded the edges of the frame to prevent chafing.


Assembly was found to be straight forward. Even the installation of electronics and making the wiring neat was a pleasant experience. With my Thunder Power G6, 3300mAh 6S 45C Li-Po battery mounted in alignment with the front edge of the tray, the helicopter balances perfectly on the main shaft. There is room in the battery area aft and below if a larger capacity pack is on hand and it shouldn’t be a problem maintaining the C.G. regardless of pack size. I’m using the programmable ESC exactly as it came. It supplies 5 amps of power to the servos at 5.9 volts and 75-amps of current to the motor.

Initially the helicopter is setup as if the gyro didn’t exist. Easy! The TAGS01 uses swashplate mixing from the transmitter so the servo limits and centering is just like a normal CCPM-type helicopter following mechanical prudence.

Second, jumper leads provided are swapped with the servo connections between the receiver and gyro, and thirdly a very simple calibration process follows. The two flight modes of the TAGS01 operate from the flight-mode switch which is programmed to use the “sport” mode (stable) is set for normal and hold, while Stunt-modes 1 and 2 use the “3D” mode (agile).

Both the ESC and the gyro are delivered pre-programmed with optimal settings specifically for the E6-550. A setup guide is included that clearly shows the radio parameters recommended including servo directions, pitch curves, throttle curves, swash plate limits, rate and expo recommendations. All of the recommendations were input into my JR XG8 with triple-rates input to my liking.

Flying
Flying the NEX E6-550 helicopter has been a rewarding experience. This is the first helicopter I’ve built where it hovered hands-off on the test flight. Perhaps I have 3-axis gyro technology to credit. Blade tracking was dead-on and there were no bizarre noises. The recommended normal flight-mode power is 50% and spins the head relatively slow. The benefit is how quiet the machine runs while still holding a rock solid hover as well as offering lots of authority to fly around in a scale manner.




Both the kit and the combo NEX E6-550 package include carbon fiber main and tail blades. The layout of the carbon weave offers great strength.




The E6-550 has a wide flight speed envelope which makes it versatile for flying precision FAI or 3D style aerobatics. The canopy NACA inlet flows air directly over the battery.


Even in normal mode, the control feel is very responsive but not touchy; at least for me. The low head speed still offers enough power in the tail to hold it solidly in place when full collective is input. My cyclic rates offer 100%, an 80% and 65% option respectively, which helps me tune the flying style I want for any particular part of the flight.
The rigid carbon fiber blades likely have a lot to do with the positive control response. You can hear them bite into the air at the same time the power system does a good job of maintaining head speed. Mind you, to this date I have not adjusted the gain settings on the TAGS01 from default.

With my 3300mAh 6S Thunder Power pack, I can get over six minutes of sport-style flying and could stretch it to eight if I spend the whole flight working on just hover orientations. When I fly half-n-half between normal- and stunt-mode the flight times are six-minutes tops, and when I stay in stunt mode for the whole fight four-minutes is a better time limit. Flying all 3-D at the highest head speed can deplete the pack even faster so please time your flights or make battery choices accordingly.

Stunt-mode one ramps the power up to 70% and a straight pitch curve that delivers the full aggressive travel bite of the cyclic control which is pre-programmed with 12-degrees positive and negative. Words to describe the power of the controls in Stunt mode are difficult to find. Not only is the climb rate dramatic with perceptively limitless boundaries, cyclic response is best expressed as aggressive even with 40% expo.

The control input to response ratio is similar to how it felt to fly a flat-foam 3-D airplane; gobs of power, plus gobs of control equals incredible agility and a feeling to the pilot that virtually any maneuver is possible.

I’d almost call the control feeling intuitive. There is no tendency for the E6-550 to get “pitchy” in forward flight. It holds the attitude I choose as long as I want. Regardless of flight speed the controls appear to maintain sensitivity; in other words faster flight doesn’t make the helicopter feel too sensitive. Because of the power, I have to manage my collective input differently however FAI style flying feels very natural.

JR recommends 90% power as the highest motor output. My impression of that power setting is in a phrase, simply ludicrous, and offers more maneuvering capability than mere mortals should be granted access. Whatever the numbers work out to on the motor JR included must be a lock-n-key trade secret. But also the reason why 3-D at that setting depletes my somewhat spanked 45C pack in about 3 minutes. Still, it’s the most fun three minutes I’ve yet to have with another RC helicopter. Cyclic and tail control, at all times, seems to offer strong authority. There isn’t anything I want to do that the NEX E6-550 can’t seem to perform as fast or slow as I’d like.



The JR setup guide recommends low and high-speed head options. With the throttle curve topped out at 90%, power output seems ballistic.




Stability of the E6-550 is excellent either upright or inverted. In this shot, the pilot was practically hands-off on the controls.




The TAGS01 triple-axis gyro has two flight modes designed to offer both stability and smooth control, or aggressive agility and fast control response.




The JR NEX E6-550 helicopter packs a surprising punch and feeling of limitless control authority. It feels like a larger machine yet is sized to be practical.


Electric helicopters seem to require less maintenance than glow-powered helicopters because the vibration is lower and no exhaust residue to chase. Each day my preflight includes a tug on every link to feel for play and test security. Besides the main gear and motor gear mesh it’s a good idea to inspect the mesh of the torque tube gears at the secondary gear and tail transmission.

I find that a drop of light oil on the tail slider, swash plate and motor bearings is a good thing to add every dozen flights or so. Another preflight item is to test the security of the STF linkages – although I doubt green thread-lock would allow the assembly to loosen.

Up to the writing of this review, my flight-testing has been in relatively cooler weather with some really cold days mixed in where there was snow on the ground. The JR motor and ESC have always landed relatively cool which is a sign to me of a balanced system. My Thunder Power G6, 45C 3300mAh 6S Li-Po pack has only gotten warm – maybe 110-degrees. Because I use that pack in other aircraft, I’m happy with the performance, but I might like to try a pack in the 4000 mAh range.

Crossing my fingers as I write; a crash has not occurred with my E6-550 although I did come close a few times having too much fun. For me, changing the rates on the transmitter has made the most dramatic “feel” change. The default settings and those recommended in the setup guide have been left alone because hard stops are crisp. G-Tune software from JR will be explored if I get more ambitious about raising my knowledge and skills to a new level.

Preparing for the fateful crash day I happened upon the brand new JR Heli website where it was very easy for me to find my helicopter and locate just the parts I needed. Pricing of the parts seems very reasonable and because the site is linked to Horizon Hobby online I can load up my shopping cart and get everything shipped quickly.

Compared to other 550-class helicopters, the NEX E6-550 is one of the smallest. It bares a strong resemblance to the E6 500-class JR helicopter announced in Japan over a year ago but never seemed to make it here. Accept for the boom assembly, canopy and blades the machines are identical which is probably what makes the E6-550 such a lightweight machine. Some 550-class helicopters are a “cut-down” 600-class machine which is heavier by far making it difficult for them to fly in as nimble a manner as my JR helicopter.



Roth Heyes
rothh707@gmail.com







Horizon Hobby
4105 Fieldstone Road
Champaign IL 61822
(217) 352-1913
www.jrhelis.com

Sources:

JR Heli
(800) 338-4639
www.jrhelis.com

JR Radio
(800) 338-4639
www.jrradios.com

Thunder Power RC
(702) 228-8883
www.thunderpowerrc.com




7 comments

nice job. hope i'll be that good one day lol. i have a little v912 and a blade 450. i stay away from that one for now.

I had my reservations too, but the programmed flight modes in the TAGS-01 gyro helped me get comfortable with the machine quickly. In normal mode the E6-550 is very solid and forward flight like an airplane feels very natural. Normal flight mode is like a cushion I can escape to from Stunt mode where the E6-550 is so good at flipping. I gained a lot moving up from the 450-class and find myself in stunt mode a lot more often. That level of versatility is just one more thing that makes this heli so practical. Thanks for the nice comment!

I'm actually in the market for a new heli. Thanks for the article and video Roth!

You're very welcome James. I honestly didn't plan on doing a magazine review. The project was a lot of fun and the enthusiasm grew from there to do an article I thought other AMA members could help. You made my day!

I'd like to know more about the JR XG8 radio system you used. Frankly, I'm a little annoyed that JR broke off from DSM technology. What do you think?

I'm actually really glad that someone asked that question.

Going with the new XG8 radio meant that I couldn't use it with any of my aircraft that were setup using Spektrum owned DSM2 or DSMX technology. But I have a very good DX8 radio for those models. To me, spread Spectrum technology is evolving just like FM did back in the day. When I took a good look at how the DMSS 2.4GHz technology JR developed for themselves I realized they were investing for the future. Some gurus on the Internet like on RCReport.com even dove into the guts of the XG8 radio and recognized electronic as state-of-the-art technology that had remarkably fast processing speed.

So the way I looked at it, JR had created a modern 2.4GHz technology just for the needs of the RC pilot, which are unique. After all, a model airplane isn't some cellphone you turn on and hope that the conversation is stimulating. Our airplanes are special, (Yes, even the ARFs are unique, at least to us) and it seemed to me that JR gave a lot of attention to making sure their 2.4GHz technology would be secure in even the most congested environments, and it would do it at a speed that wouldn't change the performance of my airplane. Have a look at the JR website where they explain DMSS technology (http://www.jrpropo.co.jp/english/propo/dmss/). Maybe JR learned a lot about 2.4GHz systems and created something new? Plus they worked telemetry into the system, which is something I've always wanted to integrate into my aircraft but never found the motivator. JR DMSS systems at least have receiver voltage telemetry built in, so I don't have to do anything to enjoy probably the most vital peace of information I'd want from telemetry capability. Bonus!

Some negatives I have about the radio are that the switches aren't assigned like they are on my DX8. Normally I locate the throttlehold switch to the top right-rear switch, but on the XG8 that's a spring-loaded toggle switch. So I have to settle for having the throttle hold on the top right-front three-position switch. Doing that also had me relocate the rudder piro-rate switch. Stickers are included to identify the switches, but they don't completely correspond to the way I like to assign them so they are useless. I really don't need to know the identifiers for switches anyway because to choose the switch for a function all you have to do is move it back-and-forth physically for the radio to recognize the switch, slider or stick you want to control a curtain function. That's actually a plus not a minus.

Well, I could go on. I hope that I've answered your question. I'm not ready to dump my Spektrum radio because it works great. But now I have the JR XG8 radio system based on new technology that seems optimized for the future of precision RC.

JR recently announced a firmware update for the TAGS01 triple-axis gyro.

You can access the free download at http://jrpropo.co.jp/english/news/contents.php?no=1767 and update the firmware yourself by using the required JR G-Tune Adapter cable (JRPA320)—sold separately.

The free G-Tune software required can be found at http://jrpropo.co.jp/english/dl/details.php?hen=d0061&db_flg=eng_dl.

Unfortunately you need the specific adapter cable as it includes pass-coding that lets your PC into the TAGS01 unit. It's also important that you use a dedicated USB port that provides 5.0V of power, otherwise the unit won't boot. The update instructions provided by JR are clear, and the firmware update will not affect any pre-programmed settings already in the TAGS01 unit.

I found the update to be a worthwhile effort that made the JR E6-550 helicopter feel even more precise in extreme 3D maneuvers. Overall the helicopter felt a lot lighter on the sticks which enhanced my confidence in the performance of the helicopter even more.

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