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Written by Chris Mulcahy.
Fly this heli day or night with built-in LED lights
Digital exclusive review of this brushless helicopter.



Following the success of the original Axe 100, Heli-Max has recently released two new brushless versions: the standard Axe 100 SS, and a night flier called the Axe 100 SSL (Super Sport Brushless LED), which is the subject of this review.

Two versions of each helicopter are available: an RTF, and a transmitter-ready (Tx-R). This review covers the Tx-R version and I will be using the Tactic TTX650 radio to fly it.


In the Box

The Tx-R version comes in the same box as the RTF, with a large space where the SLT (Secure Link Technology) transmitter would be if you bought the RTF. The box has a carrying handle to make transporting the Axe 100 SSL easier.

Inside the box is a molded, plastic insert that contains the helicopter, battery, charger, screwdriver, spare LED “brush,” spare tail blade and two pitch links, and the instruction manual. I found that the Tactic TTX650 can be stored inside the box, but it is a tight squeeze because the box was designed for a slightly smaller transmitter.


Required to Fly

The Axe 100 SSL Tx-R is compatible with any SLT-protocol transmitter. This includes most of the Tactic line of transmitters and the AnyLink adapter that can be used with almost any available transmitter. I’ve had great success with the Tactic TTX650 transmitter, so it was a logical choice for this helicopter.


Transmitter Setup and Binding

The binding procedure was straightforward. I simply selected a new heli model on the TTX650, left the transmitter powered on, and then powered up the helicopter. I pressed the bind button on the Axe 100 SSL and held it for approximately three seconds until the flashing light turned solid, indicating that the heli was bound to the transmitter.

I followed the guide in the instruction manual for the actual transmitter setup. The manual contains typical settings for Futaba, Spektrum, and Tactic.



The Axe 100 SSL with the Tactic TTX650 radio.




LED Night Blades

The unique feature on this Axe 100 SSL is the addition of LED blades for night flying, plus an LED mounted to the vertical fin on the tail. One of the two main blades has an array of three LEDs mounted into the top of the blade; the other has the LEDs mounted to the bottom of the blade. The top LEDs are blue, red, and blue, while the bottom LEDs are green, red, and green, and the tail LED is red.

Each main blade has a small plug that plugs directly into the head block and the wires are threaded down through the center of the main shaft. At the bottom of the main shaft, the wires exit and are secured to a printed circuit board (PCB) that is also attached to the main gear.

The PCB has a rotary track on it, and there is a small “brush” unit mounted above it to the side of the main shaft. This brush transfers power to the LEDs in the blades, much like the track of a slot car that provides power to the vehicle. The brush is removable, and Heli-Max has included a spare in the box. Power for the tail LED is piggybacked off of the power cable to the tail motor.


Charging

The 3.7-volt, 30C 400 mAh battery is charged using the included Heli-Max charger. The charger plugs into any 110-volt standard outlet, but the pigtail adapter for the battery is removable via a JST plug and can be used with any compatible LiPo charger.

The charger features an adjustable charge rate, from .3 amps up to .7amps, with .5 amps as the default and recommended charge rate. The charger will emit beeps to let you know that the charge is complete.




The main board and motor of the Axe 100 SSL.






The main gear and power board for the blade LEDs.




Flying

The first thing I noticed was that the blades don’t actually light up until the throttle is increased. I decided to fly the heli during the day to begin with, just to get used to how it flies before trying it at night.

I’ve had a lot of fun with the original Axe 100, and I was pleased to see that the new SSL’s brushless motor had more power. The heli had plenty of collective pop, but with the stock settings I found the pitch to be a little twitchy at approximately mid-stick for my flying style. I slightly smoothed the pitch curve and all was well.

The Axe 100 SSL was capable of performing nice pirouetting flips and the tail held perfectly during fast backward flight. The heli behaved as well inverted as right side up, and it didn’t take long to get used to the way it flew. My timer was set at 5 minutes per the manual, and didn’t notice any drop in power toward the end of each flight.

The darker night canopy was slightly stealthy for daytime orientation, but it is interchangeable with the other Axe canopies on the market. The landing gear is stiff enough to hold the helicopter, but flexible enough to not break during a hard landing. I could bend the landing gear all the way around and it wouldn’t snap!



Here you can see the power plugs on the main blades.






Some light yard work!






The Axe is stable despite its small size.


After a number of daytime flights, it was time to try it at night. I’ve flown larger helis at night before, decked out with many LEDs up and down the aircraft, and I was excited to try to the Axe. The night blades look fantastic in the dark. They are extremely bright, and the different color combinations on the top and bottom make orientation easy to follow. Even at a distance the blade disc was still easy to see.

Where the night-flying aspect of the Axe 100 SSL slightly lets down is the single LED on the tail. Knowing which way the tail is pointing at night is crucial for orientation, and the single LED was not quite enough for me to be 100% comfortable with night flying.

The tail LED is not particularly bright and seemed to dim or brighten depending on which way I moved the rudder stick. When I flew the heli farther away, the tail became harder to see.

I would love to have seen two bright, white LEDs in a strip down the vertical fin, from the same type of LED used in the main blades (the tail LED is a larger one). Despite this, it was still fun flying at night. As long as I didn’t fly too far away from myself, it flew well and I didn’t lose orientation.



The LED blades look great at night!




Specifications

Type: Electric-powered, collective-pitch brushless helicopter
Skill level: Intermediate to advanced pilot
Rotor diameter: 9.5 inches
Tail rotor diameter: 1.5 inches
Overall length: 12.3 inches
Blade length: 4.13 inches
Weight: 1.69 ounces empty weight; 2.12 ounces ready to fly
Height: 3.18 inches
Width: 2.04 inches
Radio: Tx-R: six-channel 2.4 GHz SLT helicopter transmitter (such as the Tactic TTX650) or an AnyLink and compatible six-channel helicopter transmitter; RTF: six-channel 2.4 GHz SLT helicopter transmitter (included, requires eight AA batteries)
Power system (installed): 14,750 kV outrunner brushless motor; 10-amp brushless controller; SLT receiver
Battery/charger (included): 3.7-volt 400 mAh LiPo with AC-powered, variable-rate balancing charger
Flight time: 5 minutes
Price: RTF: $219.99; Tx-R: $159.99


Pluses

Powerful motor.
Bright night blades.
Consistent power.
Strong tail.


Minuses

Dim taillight.


Conclusion

The Axe 100 SSL is a great step up from the original Axe 100. It has plenty of power, awesome flight characteristics, and the night blades are bright and look great. The larger battery provides more-consistent power throughout the flight, and it is a fun heli to fly.


-Chris Mulcahy



Sources

Hobbico
(800) 637-7660
www.helimax-rc.com




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