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LAHeli Rotorshape Autogyro Review

Albert Wahrhaftig takes a detour off of the beaten path with the LAHeli Rotorshape Autogyro!

Splash

Introduction

For a long time I have wanted an RC helicopter, but I have hesitated in learning to fly one of those delicate and fragile machines. The obvious answer was to learn on a flight simulator, but I am a Mac user and sadly, there are no Mac flight simulators. So what to do? Live in frustration? Or find the next best thing?

I think I have found that next best thing... the LAHeli 2005 Rotorshape.

If you find the appearance funky...

there is a solution available soon! Check out LAHeli's web site for information about a semi-scale Cierva body. Meanwhile, build and practice with this bare bones version.

The Rotorshape is a compact and fairly simple autogyro. True, it is not a heli. But it is interestingly different and enticing for those of us who like to tinker. Without hesitation I ordered one and treated myself to what has been a fun project.

Produced in Czechoslovakia, the Rotorshape is a genuine autogyro that can be powered by virtually any small (±30 gram) brushless motor. The kit is well-engineered and the ingenious design won a Model Roku Model of the Year award in 2005.


Rotor diameter:26 3/4"
Weight:11-14 oz.
Length:21 1/4"
Servos:2 HS55 or equivalent.
Transmitter:3 channel or more with "Delta" mixing.
Receiver:micro
Battery:3 x 1350 Lipo
Motor:30 gram brushless recommended, Tower Pro Outrunner 2408-21 used.
ESC:generic 18 amp.
Manufacturer:LAHeli
Available From:ICARE-IKARUS

Kit Contents

Kit Includes:

  • Fiberglass sheet fuselage pod parts.
  • Molded plastic rear fuselage former/servo mount
  • Carbon tube rotor mast and carbon tube tail boom.
  • Pre-shaped rotor blades
  • Precut depron tail parts
  • All necessary parts for rotor hub and pivot
  • Push rods
  • Formed wire landing gear
  • Light weight wheels
  • Colorful fuselage stickers
  • Very brief instruction booklet

The box that arrived in the mail was so small (18 5/8" x 6 1/8" x 1 3/4") and so plainly wrapped that I did not recognize it as the Rotorshape at first. With the outer wrap removed, the colorful box provided a useful picture of the finished Rotorshape, since there is no such picture in the brief instructions.

The box contained a lot of bagged parts, almost all of which were completely unfamiliar to me. I am an old-time balsa basher, and my first reaction was to wonder just what I had gotten myself into!

The rotor blades were certainly recognizable. They are balsa, already shaped to an airfoil with a hardwood leading edge. All they need is a finish sanding and to be covered with film or tissue of your preference.

The tail is a simple structure of sheet foam plastic with a hardwood leading edge. Some light and very spiffy wheels are provided.

The fuselage is basically an open fiber pod with a tubular carbon fiber boom and a tubular carbon fiber rotor mast.

Kit requires:

  • A radio with 3 or more channels that permits "Delta wing" mixing.
  • Micro receiver
  • 2 HS 55 servos or servos of equivalent size and shape.
  • 30 gram brushless motor and ESC to suit
  • 7x4 Sloflier prop.
  • 2 mm. allen wrench
  • Pacer PlastiZap CA or equivalent
  • Loctite or equivalent

Assembly

Instructions

The main shortcoming of this kit is the lack of instructions. A 3 page leaflet with the briefest of instructions is included. (Three exploded views- one of the rotor hub, one of the whole aircraft, and one of the firewall - are very helpful.)

I was fortunate to find an excellent supplement for these unduly brief instructions: Glen Peden, owner of Glen's Little Heli Shop, has written an excellent 14 page review of the Rotorshape. I found it enormously useful during assembly, but be aware that the illustrations in Glen's review show an earlier version of a main part of the rotor hub assembly (G 0327 in the Rotorshape's exploded illustration) which has since been replaced with a one piece version.

Fuselage

The brief instructions do not specify any particular assembly sequence, so I started off by sanding the blades and covering them with film while I thought about the next step. It seemed obvious that assembly of the fuselage pod should be next.

The instructions suggest gluing the airframe with CA or 5 minute epoxy, but even after thoroughly cleaning the parts and giving them a light sanding to provide some "tooth" for the glue to grasp, I found the resulting joints to be brittle and incapable of withstanding the least strain. I finally had success with Pacer PlastiZap CA (my first experience with this adhesive) and it worked very well. For extra security, I covered the CA'd joints with a fillet of Zap-A-Dap-A-Goo II.

The two piece firewall sandwiches the landing gear and two nuts which, if you are lucky, will correspond to the mounting for your motor; otherwise, now is the time to drill holes. If the latter is your route, and you fear your drilled holes may become inaccessible, resign yourself to building the pod with the motor attached. It won't be that much of a hardship.

With the firewall complete, gluing together the rest of the pod was easy enough. I installed the two servos and trimmed the posts to which the servos are screwed so that the wires would fit, and the HS 55 servos fit perfectly. Fitting servos that are not the same size and shape as HS 55s would be difficult if not impossible.

Next, I checked the fit of the carbon fiber tube boom and rotor mast to the pod but didn't glue them.

Rotor hub

I assembled the rotor hub. If you are following Glen Peden's review, note that the part shown here in the last picture is now one piece as opposed to the complex assembly shown in Peden's illustrations.

I next assembled the pivot, attached it to the rotor hub and checked the fit to the rotor mast. The screw that attaches the rotor hub to the pivot must be secured with Loctite. Before using the Loctite, I made sure that the hub could spin freely.

Attaching Blades

After assembling the pushrods, I attached the blades to the rotor hub. I made sure that the slightly wedge-shaped part that fits the underside of the blades had the thick part of the wedge facing the trailing edge of the blade. Balsa shear pins that break apart in case of an accident and save the blades from damage are included in the kit. For my assembly, I used pieces of round toothpicks instead; they do not shear so easily when the airframe gets knocked around a bit on the workbench.

Next, I glued the rotor mast to the pod.

The rotor blades must be installed with a 6 degree positive angle of attach. I made a simple card jig to assist, and then adjusted the length of the pushrods with the servos in their neutral position.

Tail

I made simple jigs to set the stabilizer tips at a 145 degree angle, assembled the tail, and attached it to the boom. With the tail attached, it is easy to glue the boom to the pod with proper alignment.

Radio Installation

With the servos already installed, I used hook and loop fasteners to attach the battery on top of the pod and the ESC and receiver underneath. I moved these about in order to try to achieve a balance point 90 mm aft of the leading edge of the pod. Although a 30 gram motor is recommended, my Tower Pro Outrunner 2408-21 weighed 47 grams. Even so, I had to add one ounce of lead to get the Rotorshape to balance.

One important note: the transmitter should be set to a Delta Wing configuration. (The set up for the rotors is the same as the setup for a plane flying with elevons).

Completion

I rechecked the CG, 90 mm. aft of the leading edge of the pod and used "Delta" mixing to assure that the rotor could tilt about 8 degrees forward, aft, left, and right.

And that was it! Good to go.

Flying

Basics

Before an autogyro can fly, its blades must be spinning, (i.e. spooled up). Once the blades are spooled up and the Rotorshape is launched, it flies pretty much like any basic rudder-elevator airplane.

Taking Off and Landing

The Rotorshape launches best when the blades are spinning fast enough to make a whoosh-whoosh kind of sound and of course it must be launched directly into the wind. To launch, I tilted the Rotorshape sharply upwards, spun the blades by hand, opened the throttle to generate some air stream movement, and hoped to hear the whoosh-whoosh. If I heard it, I could level the Rotorshape, take a couple of steps and launch it straight out and it would fly off without loss of altitude. Without a strong wind, I had to spin the rotors, tilt the Rotorshape up, open the throttle and run with it until I heard the whoosh-whoosh launching sign.

Once launched, the Rotorshape turns more tightly one way than the other due to the blade's rotational force, but is otherwise well behaved.

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

Test pilot Red Jensen looped the Rotorshape by accident. Although the 'gyro will turn tightly and can fly in a small airspace, it is not really intended for aerobatics.

Is This For a Beginner?

No. Perhaps you could hand the sticks to a beginner once the Rotorshape was in flight, but launching it is pretty complex. The Rotorshape is small, and with its small fuselage profile, orientation is not easy to determine. I think you should be fairly comfortable with a standard aircraft before attempting the Rotorshape.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery

Downloads

Conclusion

The Rotorshape is an interesting alternative to building just a standard airplane. It is fun to fly, and its distinctive sound and looks attracts a lot of attention. With this review to supplement the terse instructions, it shouldn’t be difficult to build. When the semi-scale Cierva body becomes available, it will be a great looking little machine!

Plusses:

  • A fascinating change of pace
  • Well engineered kit. Parts fit perfectly.
  • Simple and easily adjusted control system
  • Quality components

Minuses:

  • Needs more and better instructions
  • Difficult to launch unless there is lots of wind
  • Fragile - glue joints on fiberglass parts come apart even after easy landings.
Last edited by Angela H; Jun 13, 2007 at 07:55 PM..
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Old Apr 28, 2007, 09:48 PM
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Paul Teesalu
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Cool review and a very exciting airplane!
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Old Apr 28, 2007, 11:09 PM
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Next time I'll ARTF...
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Nifty little machine - something I enjoy about aeromodelling is that there are so many different facets to explore (including autogyros).

Thanks for the review.
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Old Apr 29, 2007, 12:41 AM
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Looks like a waste of a brushless motor,to me?????????
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Old Apr 29, 2007, 03:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rhondaward
Looks like a waste of a brushless motor,to me?????????
I wouldn't say that.
---------------------------------------------------
Very nice review Albert!

I built this one from scratch a few years ago and still working out some bugs. Complex is an understatement! One thing is for sure! If you like to tinker, they will keep you busy!



My old thread on this beast.

John
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Old Apr 29, 2007, 08:54 AM
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Have you tried taking off from a runway? Enjoyed the review but when I had an autogyro (different model) I found it took off very nicely and in a short distance just rolling down the runway. Mike
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Old Apr 29, 2007, 05:40 PM
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Mike,

I attempted take offs from a hard surface. The gyro insisted on spinning to the right with virtually no forward movement. With no rudder or steerable tailwheel, I don't know how one could prevent this. Still, I have seen reports that the Rotorshape does take off. I don't know how they do it and would be interested to know.

By the way, my Rotorshape crashed and one blade tore off the piece to which the three rotors are hinged. The rotor didn't break. The piece did. Does anybody know a material I could use to create a replacement?
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Old Apr 29, 2007, 07:11 PM
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Great review. You can get the rotors to spin up better by either sanding in and undercabered shape under the rotors or contact www.Aerobalsa.com I think Mike is making rotors to fit the Rotorshape now. Check for availability.

The flat bottom airfoil flies well...but undercaber shape is more effeciant and creats lift like nothing else.

Rolling off the ground take offs for me are better in dirt or short grass like a golf course. In to the wind....I have been able to ROG on pavement. To really ROG.....a tail wheel helps. I have a functional tail rudder and tail gear that makes control on the ground much better.

Dave
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Old Apr 29, 2007, 07:26 PM
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wahrhaftig,
I did the same thing. I used plastic from a plasic bottle (Tide, Tropicana juice, antifreeze bottles) Trace the shape from the old hinge material and also the holes to be drilled. Then cut it out, drill and put back together.
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Old Apr 29, 2007, 07:27 PM
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Previous Post for modifications

Please refer to my previous post.....


Modifications for My Rotorshape
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Old Apr 29, 2007, 07:36 PM
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LA Rotorshape at Wayne Modelers (Wayne NJ)
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Old Apr 30, 2007, 02:36 AM
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Nice, Albert! Once I changed the prop on mine to an APC 7 x 6, it was pretty easy to do loops directly into the wind

Cheers!

Glen
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Old Apr 30, 2007, 04:43 AM
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Albert,

I am assuming here that you are referring to the hinging material.

The hinging material in your model appears to be made of polypropylene.

A cheap source of this material is at Staples or Office Depot.

The plastic file folders that have sectional dividers (A-Z) are made of this material or you can use a plastic jug.

The key is to find the material of the same thickness and rigidity, as not to change how your blades flap during flight.
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Old Apr 30, 2007, 10:50 AM
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Quote:
(...) I am a Mac user and sadly, there are no Mac flight simulators.
You are incorrect, Albert. Form where do you know that? The answer is here, for example: http://www.reflex-sim.de/reflex-sim/...faqPath=20_106
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Old Apr 30, 2007, 04:07 PM
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wahrhaftig,
I used a cleaning fluid bottle for mine. The material originally in the head will eventually break. The bending back and forth will break it off because the originial material is a little stiff.

I like the bottle material. The movie above is with the bottle hinge material. Believe me...it works well. Rolls are especially a treat!

THE KEY IS: Carefully placing your holes into the new hinge material. When I mark my holes...I use a thin Sharpie Marker and trace the small holes. I dont actually drill the holes....I punch them thru with a 1/16 scribe (tool steel scribe). When I push the sharp scribe thru the plastic....I punch in towards the inside center of the hole...not in the dead center of the hole. This pulls the blade grips in tight when you assemble it.

I have done mine and also a freind's rotorshape and it works great. I speak from (actual experience) not assuming or just pontificating for the fun of it.

Dave
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