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Written by Chris Mulcahy
RC Helicopters
Column
As seen in the December 2018 issue of
Model Aviation.


I have a love/hate relationship with helicopters that are smaller than 450 size. This is driven by personal experiences from the past 15 years or so.

My first micro-size helicopter (if you can cast your memories back a bit) was an Ikarus Piccolo Pro. I remember seeing a video of someone landing it inverted on the ceiling, and it sold me on what I thought must be the perfect indoor helicopter. It was actually a nightmare of a machine.

Although it seemed to have potential, it didn’t live up to the hype. It was underpowered, extremely finicky to set up, and the build quality wasn’t great. Don’t get me wrong; at the time, I was also flying an Ikarus Eco 8, which I loved. I just had my expectations set too high for the micro Piccolo.

That’s the way it’s been with most micro-size helicopters that I’ve since tried, with a few exceptions—high on promise, but low on performance. Several years ago, I decided I was done with micros, and I swore to never fall into the trap again.

As resolute as I was about this, I’ve slowly been pulled back in. First, it was the Blade mCP X. I did so much backyard flying with that helicopter that it gets a lot of credit for my skill progression. However, this too was a little underpowered, had a tendency to blow out the tail in fast backward flight, and couldn’t do certain maneuvers.

Not long ago, I built an SAB Goblin Fireball. Size-wise, it’s somewhere between the Blade mCP X and a standard 450-size helicopter. I enjoyed the Fireball, but it was too big for me to fly comfortably at my house, so the hunt continued for a helicopter with which I could fly all of my maneuvers while practicing in a smaller space.

More recently, I received an Align T-Rex 150X as a birthday gift from my wife. It’s approximately the same size as the Blade mCP X and comes in a convenient carrying case that houses the helicopter, two batteries (with room for more), a dual battery charger, spare blades, some micro tools, and miscellaneous parts.



The 150X arrives in a compact carrying case and features a brightly colored canopy. Machined aluminum parts make up the main rotor head.


The helicopter has a few features that initially attracted me to it. The first is that the gyro setup is done from your cellphone—right out of the box. The 150X has Bluetooth built in, and after you’ve downloaded the app, you can connect directly to the helicopter.

Using the app, you can update the firmware, as well as set up and adjust the helicopter settings. You can also level the swashplate, set the pitch and collective range, and adjust the pirouette rate and cyclic rates with the app. There are several other settings you can play with, including setting up the ESC calibration.



The heart of the 150X features a built-in receiver compatible with Futaba radio systems and has Bluetooth onboard for connecting to the app.


The second feature is its ability to link directly to a Futaba transmitter using the S-FHSS protocol. No additional receiver is needed! If you fly Spektrum, you will need to add a satellite receiver.

Another cool feature of the 150X is that it has a built-in panic switch that will put the helicopter into an upright orientation at the flick of a switch. It won’t hold the helicopter steady, but it is enough to get you back upright in a pinch if you lose orientation while practicing inverted flight.



The T-Rex 150X comes with a dual-port, 12-volt battery charger and two batteries.


The helicopter comes with two batteries and a 12-volt charger that is capable of charging both batteries at the same time. The batteries charge quickly with the included charger and are fully charged in approximately 15 minutes. I have consistently gotten 3-minute flights out of the two-cell 300 mAh LiPo battery packs.

The best part about the 150X is its performance! What amazes me about this heli is how well it flies. All of the bells and whistles in the world won’t make up for a poor-flying helicopter, but the 150X has it where it counts.



(L-R): Shown are the main menu of the 150X app, the compatible transmitter types, and the sliders to level the swashplate.


The main motor and the tail motor are brushless and have ample power. This helicopter will do everything that my larger ones can do including tic-tocs, pirouetting flips, and fast backward inverted flight. The tail holds perfectly in any orientation, and the cyclic control is very responsive.

If you want to tame it, you simply hook up the app via Bluetooth and dial down the responsiveness. The 150X can be made to be as docile or as wild as you want.

After purchasing a couple of extra batteries, I now regularly fly the helicopter whenever I have a few minutes to spare—whether at a park, inside of a gym, or at a local flying field. I mostly fly it at my house, which is really what I wanted to be able to do.



(L-R): The menu screens are where pilots can set the cyclic and collective-pitch ranges and adjust roll and pirouette rates.


It was easy to dial into my flying style using the app, and the performance is extremely satisfying. It can take a hit or two as well. I have crashed the helicopter a total of five times so far (on grass—no concrete yet), and the only damage it suffered was one broken tooth in a servo gear set. Most of the time, I pick it up and keep flying, but I do make sure to hit throttle hold if I know it’s going in.

The 150X has certainly raised my expectations of how micro helis should perform. Helis of this size are starting to multiply at my local club!

-Chris Mulcahy
cspaced@gmail.com


Sources:

International Radio Controlled Helicopter
Association (IRCHA)
www.ircha.org

Futaba USA
www.futabausa.com
Align
align@ms.align.com.tw
www.align.com.tw/en




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