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Blade CX3 MD 520N Bind-N-Fly Coaxial Helicopter Review

Michael Heer reviews and shows how to easily add navigation lights to this helicopter that features an excellent heading lock gyro that improves the tracking capability of the copter over the CX2.

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Introduction

Blade CX3 MD 520N BNF
Blade CX3 MD 520N BNF
Main Rotor Diameter:13.6 in
Gross Weight:8.0 oz
Length:16.4 in
Motor Size:2 180 Brushed motors
Transmitter:Any 2.4GHz DSM2 transmitter
Receiver:Spektrum AR6100e
Control Unit:3 in 1
Battery:7.4V 800mAh Lipo
Gyro:Heading Lock gyro
Servos:2 S60 Super Sub-micro servos
Charger:Lipo Balancing charger and power converter
Manufacturer:E-flite
Available From:Horizon Hobby
Price:$199.99 RTF
Price:$169.99 Bind-N-Fly

I first saw the Blade CX3 at this year's AMA Expo and was happy to shoot some video of a demonstration flight by Mark Padilla and post it in my review of the Expo in January. The design of the body and the flashing navigation lights first caught my attention, but the heading lock gyro allowing for straighter tracking of the copter was equally impressive to me. The navigation lights are available in two different sets as options, and in this review I show how to install a set of the lights and review how the helicopter flies. The helicopter is sold in a complete RTF package and a Bind-N-Fly package for those of us that have our own DSM2 transmitter to use. The BNF package includes everything but the transmitter and transmitter batteries and is the version I actually reviewed, but I cover both versions here.

Kit Contents

Bind-N-Fly Kit Contents

  • Blade CX3 MD 520N helicopter fully assembled
  • AR6100e receiver, installed in copter
  • 7.4 volt 2-cell 800mAh Lipo battery pack
  • Lipo balance battery charger
  • Wall power converter for charger
  • Small screwdriver, Velcro and ties
  • Instruction manual

RTF Version:

  • Same as above plus LP5DSM 5-channel transmitter

Binding the AR6100e Receiver to my Transmitter

The Blade CX3 came 100% assembled, test flown and almost ready to fly right out of the box. There was no assembly of the helicopter. I merely needed to charge the battery pack and bind the AR6100e receiver to my transmitter. Per the manual, the connector with the one yellow wire is an optional remote gyro gain plug. It has nothing to do with binding and isn't used in the normal operation of the helicopter.

The receiver is secured in place inside the copter with double sided sticky tape. I was able to insert my binding plug into the battery slot on the receiver using a pair of tweezers. It could be done by hand by most people, but it was not easy to do. Additional double sided sticky tape came in the kit so the receiver can be removed if you wish. With my binding plug in place, I plugged in the battery pack and the orange light on the receiver started flashing. I turned on the LP5DSM transmitter which automatically enters the binding mode every time it is turned on for the first five seconds. The receiver bound to the transmitter, and I removed my binding plug from the receiver. (Different transmitters have different methods of entering the binding mode so just look at the instruction manual for the transmitter you use from those listed below.) If you are going to add the optional lights to your CX3 you might simply wait and bind the receiver while it is out of the body during the light installation.

Optional LED Navigation Light Sets

There are two optional light sets to choose from sold by E-flite. Both sets have a white light that serves as "the spotlight" at the front of the copter, and there are three red flashing LEDs that serve as the navigation lights. Both sets are powered by plugging into the receiver onboard the helicopter. The difference is that one set is always on, and the other set can be turned on and off using the transmitter. The remotely controlled set also allows for making the red LEDs steady instead of blinking, and they can be dimmed as well as turned on and off. The amount of power used by the LEDs is minimal and doesn't noticeably effect the length of the flight time.

Navigation Light Sets:

  • EFLH2009 The always on set sells for $12.99.
  • EFLH2009R The remote controlled on/off set sells for $18.99

The helicopter I saw at the AMA Expo looked so good with the navigation lights that I knew that I had to have them on mine. The good news is that the holes for the lights are already in the CX3 body ready for the lights to be installed! I installed mine (EFLH2009, the non-remote set) by first taking the helicopter apart and installing them as shown in a video on the Horizon Hobby website. They supplied a small screwdriver with the CX3, and it is recommended to use hot glue adhesive to secure the LEDs in place. The only other tools needed were needle nose pliers and small pieces of tape. I used Formula 560 Canopy glue to secure my lights in place and let the glue dry while I was at work. I taped the wires to the right side of the inside of the fuselage to keep them out of the way yet allow the connector to plug into the "gear" socket on the receiver. (The receiver is on the right side of the fuselage.) I tested the lights, and they worked. I disconnected the lights and started to insert the main motor control unit back into the fuselage and plugged in the lights just as the unit was completing the process of going back into the fuselage. I resecured everything back in place, and the installation was complete. Here is a link to the E-flite video: http://www.horizonhobby.com/Articles/Article.aspx?ArticleID=1894

Charging the 7.4V 800mAh Lipoly Battery Pack

The supplied charger can be powered from a 12-volt gel cell battery or a 12-volt car battery using the alligator clips on the charger, or it can be powered using the included wall powered transformer. They say there is no risk of a short if the clips touch while using the wall converter to power the charger but I secure the clips to a popsicle stick to keep the wires apart just for my own piece of mind. The charger has a red and a green light. When both are solid, the battery is being charged. When both are flashing, there is a charging error. Red only flashing means the charger has power but no battery is connected to charge. Red solid only means the battery is charged.

If you are new to the use of Lipoly battery packs, read the instructions carefully concerning their use and handling!

Completion

My helicopter came almost ready to fly and was flown once right after binding the receiver. However, I didn't consider it complete until I had added the navigation lights. It was fast and easy to do and has really added a lot to my enjoyment of the appearance of the CX3.

Flying

Basics

On my initial flight I noticed a little drift backwards and to the left. I landed and adjusted the appropriate trim tabs (forward a couple of clicks and to the right a couple of clicks on the right stick trim tabs), and it went up in a nice hover with minimal drift or need for correction. Proper trimming of the helicopter is essential to having the best control. Some adjustment of the side trim may be necessary during flight. When I tried a pirouette to the left I noticed the helicopter climbed on its own, and a pirouette to the right caused the helicopter to descend slightly on its own. Both of these were easily corrected by throttle management. The right stick controls forward/backward and side to side motion and handled it well. The new gyro caused some tail jerking as it corrected the copter to hold its heading. It does a good job of locking onto a heading and self correcting as needed. This tail jerking can be removed (or at least greatly reduced) by just slightly adjusting the gain on the gyro (discussed below). You can also add some double sided tape to on the front landing geartabs to help isolate the body from motor vibration.

Taking Off and Landing

Thanks to the stability supplied by the coaxial blades, takeoff is simply a process of throttling up and lifting off. I recommend climbing to at least a foot off the ground or table to get away from any "ground effects." This helicopter moves a lot of air and ground effects can be felt flying in tight spaces such as between the sofa and coffee table. Landing was simple the reverse process of reducing throttle. I make most of my landings coming down from a hover. I have tried a few fast landings, coming in from different directions with some speed and giving a little reverse direction for a flair to burn off the speed and setting down, and that has worked for the most part, but I have had a few tip overs without damage when I didn't quite balance things out properly. It’s just a matter of more practice.

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

Because of the stability of the coaxial blades, the CX3 is not really an aerobatic helicopter. However, I do fly over and under some tables, fly circle patterns and crazy 8s forward and backward and I am working on improving my pirouetting continuously while flying a circle pattern and maintaining level flight.

Is This For a Beginner?

Yes! This helicopter is for a beginner. I have included a special "Beginners Only” section at the end of this review. I have noticed that friends are more confident in my house flying the smaller E-flite Blade cMX helicopter and prefer to fly the CX3 in larger spaces such as the fellowship hall at my church. I have the same preference; The more space for the CX3 the more fun it is to fly. That said, the Blade CX3 can be flown in any good size room, but it is simply more fun in a larger room.

Flying Multiple Battery Packs

Some pilots buy spare Lipoly packs so they can get in multiple flights in a single flying session without having to charge the batteries at the time. This is fine, but it is important to keep the main motors cool to give them their maximum life. If you plan to fly multiple battery packs in a short time period I strongly recommend that you purchase and install the optional main motor heat sink. These are attached to the motors with heat sink compound to transfer heat away from them. These will help the motors stay cooler and speed up the time it takes for the motors to get completely cool after a flight. It is a small time and money investment that will pay dividends with longer motor life and better flights if you plan to use multiple battery packs.

Tail Jerks

With the new head locking gyro, some have experienced some jerking of the tail of their helicopter as it tries to keep the helicopter on the directed track. This jerking can be decreased or eliminated by slightly adjusting the left most dial on the 3-in-1 unit. Simply turn this slightly to the left using a blade screwdriver. Make small adjustments of about a 1/16 turn to the left until it flies smoothly in your test flights.

Wandering Rotation

Some have experienced the nose of their CX3 rotating to the right or left. This can be corrected using the trim tab adjustment for the left horizontal stick on the transmitter or by adjusting the middle dial on the 3-in-1 unit. If you need to adjust, make it small turns and take practice flights. I haven't experienced this problem with my CX3.

Toilet Bowl Hovering

My CX3 experienced a midair with an out of control helicopter being flown by a Newbie pilot. His copter's blades hit mine and broke a top main rotor blade and chipped a bottom main rotor blade on my helicopter. I replaced those with spares I had bought for my CX2 and went to resume my flying, but I no longer had a nice smooth hover. Instead, it rotated in a circle in its hover and looked like a toilet bowl flushing. My stabilizer fly bar had gotten slightly bent in the accident. I was able to somewhat correct by counter bending to resume flying that night. However, I needed to replace my stabilizer fly bar. In some cases, the upper head gets damaged and can cause the same effect as the bent stabilizer fly bar. The correction is simply to replace the damaged part with a new one, and the problem should be solved. The videos below were shot using new blades but a slightly bent stabilizer fly bar. It was safe to fly, just not as precisely as I would like in hover.

Downloads

Flight Video/Photo Gallery

Downloads

For Beginners Only!

Transmitter

The RTF version is complete! It comes with a LP5DSM five channel Spektrum DMS2 transmitter that will control the Blade CX3. If you already have s Spektrum or JR transmitter on DSM2 then you only need to buy the Bind-N-Fly version of the CX3 as reviewed here. If you’re not sure if your transmitter will operate the CX3, here is the list of those that will.

Transmitters that work with the Bind-N-Fly:

  • E-flite CX2 RTF transmitter
  • E-flite Blade mCX RTF transmitter
  • E-flite Blade CX3 RTF transmitter
  • JR 12X
  • JR X9303 2.4GHz
  • Spektrum DX7
  • Spektrum DX7
  • Spektrum DX6i
  • Spektrum DX5e
  • Parkzone Vapor RTF transmitter
  • CP Pro 2 transmitter (HP6DSM)

Coaxial Blades

The Blade CX3 comes with coaxial, counter rotating blades that make it very easy to hover this helicopter and makes the helicopter very stable in directional flight as well. This stability makes it easy for a beginner to fly this helicopter. The helicopter can fly in all directions but the stability given by the coaxial blades also makes it slower flying then most helicopters with a working tail rotor when traveling in any given compass direction. Thus, as a beginner you can more easily fly around a room in a controlled manner than with a traditional helicopter with a powered tail rotor, you just can't do it quite as fast. The tradeoff for the stability is a less fast and aerobatic helicopter than one with a tail rotor. This is true of all coaxial helicopters I have seen on the market, but the Blade CX3 has good directional speed for a coaxial helicopter.

I recommend every owner buy a second set of blades for his Blade CX3. It is likely that you will need them some time if you fly your CX3 a lot, so keep a spare set handy. I already had a spare set for my CX2 so I was covered.

Transmitter Controls

The Blade CX3 is a four channel helicopter that is controlled with the sticks the same way almost all helicopters are controlled in the U.S.: The left stick is the throttle and controls the climb, hover and descent of the helicopter with forward and backward movement. The side to side of the left stick controls turning in place or pirouetting in either direction. The right stick controls the forward/backward movement of the helicopter as well as moving to the left and right.

First Flight: Give Yourself Lots of Room

To give yourself the best chance for a successful first flight give yourself lots of open space. The space of a double car garage (cars removed) serves nicely for the first flight. Open space gives the pilot more room to correct or simply land if control of the helicopter becomes an issue. After a few flights, and with the helicopter properly trimmed (see drift below). you will be able to fly it in a smaller area with confidence. A smaller space creates a more pressurized situation, and that isn't helpful when you are first starting to fly. As little as one flight in a larger area may be all you need to get comfortable with your Blade CX3.

Optional Training Gear

While not required, some find it helpful to install the optional training gear. It helps increase the stability of the helicopter as well as providing additional support and cushioning to help prevent tip-overs. It is easy to install and can be of help to some. The part number for the recommended training gear is: EFLH1205.

Start With The Helicopter Facing Away From You

For the new pilot, it is very easy to become disoriented when the helicopter is facing and coming towards you. When it is facing away from you, the helicopter’s right, left, back and front are the same as your own. These directions are reversed when the helicopter is facing you. With practice, your head will get into the helicopter and the directional control will become second nature to you. However, this takes time! I recommend when you have the helicopter make a right turn you turn your body to the right and have your head keep facing the helicopter. Now your right and the copter's right remain aligned. When it is coming at you keep watching the copter while turning your body and moving your arms so the transmitter remains more or less aligned in the same direction as the helicopter. This tip has helped my students keep oriented with their copters and planes while getting their heads into the aircraft. (Pictures below use a JR9303 transmitter that was used only for photo purposes.)

Drift

If when you lift off indoors in still air the helicopter starts heading in a given direction without any input on the control sticks from you besides throttle, that is called “drift.” To correct this, land the helicopter and then adjust the trim tabs as needed. If it is drifting forward, adjust the trim tab on the side of the right stick by moving it down/backwards a couple of clicks. Fly the helicopter and see if the copter now stays more in place. Movement to either side is corrected with the trim tab at the bottom of the right stick, and if the helicopter is slowing turning in place the trim tab under the left stick needs adjustment. It is important for the beginner to land as many times as necessary to adjust the trim tabs to get the copter as stable as you can. It is sometime necessary to adjust the trim for side to side drift to a very small amount during the course of a flight. Heading drift was covered in the main portion of the review. Please land before making the adjustments when you first start.

Start with Small Movements and Learn How the Transmitter Controls Your Helicopter

It doesn't take long to learn how the movement of the transmitter sticks controls your helicopter. If you have a flight simulator, use that first. If not, make your initial flights using small control movements. This will keep your helicopter in close to hover flight and you can more easily correct if you make a mistake. Finally, practice, practice, practice.

I hope these tips help you get started!

Conclusion

I was excited by the looks of this helicopter from the very first publicity release and then seeing it in person at the AMA Expo. Even my wife and friends have been impressed by how it looks, especially with the navigation light set. The initial drift trimmed out with my first adjustments and then flight was very responsive to my control inputs with hover and directional flight both easy to control. I prefer to fly mine at large indoor flying sites where I have lots of room to maneuver and put the helicopter through its paces safely and with some speed. At home I do a more stable, precise, controlled style of flying with my CX3. It can certainly be flown in the home, and in calm conditions I have flown it outside as well.

Pluses:

  • Great scale Looks
  • Easy to install navigation lights
  • Head locking gyro for better control
  • Can use CX2 replacement and hop-up parts

Minuses:

  • No receiver Binding plug included in my kit (Normally there is one.)
Last edited by Angela H; May 28, 2009 at 07:45 PM..

Discussion

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Old May 28, 2009, 09:32 PM
Is getting old...
quadracer111's Avatar
Canada, Saskatchewan, Saskatoon
Joined Jan 2008
1,192 Posts
Great review! Lucky the heli never disintegrated after getting hit by a rex! Great explanation of flying!
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Old May 28, 2009, 11:41 PM
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Brown Shoe's Avatar
Northern Cali
Joined Sep 2003
1,328 Posts
Thanks for taking the time to put together this great review!
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Old May 29, 2009, 12:32 AM
stupid wind
R DeMarco's Avatar
Joined May 2007
245 Posts
does a different shell on this helicopter effect anything besides the looks?
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Old May 29, 2009, 12:40 AM
I enjoy the voices
Lead Wings's Avatar
Perth, Australia
Joined Apr 2007
481 Posts
Like the ruler used for the bent flybar photo - goes with the "police" theme of the chopper
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Old May 29, 2009, 01:14 AM
Fly Runaway Fans
United States, TX, Fort Worth
Joined Jan 2009
9,375 Posts
Nicely done. Comprehensive, except for one thing, the thing that puts me off the most. The extent of disassembly needed to reach internal components. Holes for the mixer tweaks is the CX3's only deference to serviceability. Can't even bind the booger without taking the drivetrain partially apart.
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Old May 29, 2009, 04:40 AM
Per Ardua ad Astra
Esprit 88's Avatar
United Kingdom, England, London
Joined Jan 2005
398 Posts
Hey Guys

Just bought mine yesterday to replace my old Lama. Flies really smoothly and is way more quiet than my old heli. Nice stable hover.....bit of tail hunting that I can tune out.

Mine is the BNF version as I have a DX7 Tx. Very easy to set up using the info on the E-flight website. The only problem is getting the bind plug in and out!

But I'm really happy with it!
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Last edited by Esprit 88; Jun 02, 2009 at 03:11 AM.
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Old May 29, 2009, 06:59 PM
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Michael Heer's Avatar
Stockton, Ca. USA
Joined Apr 2001
9,369 Posts
Actually I was able to bind mine without taking it apart but as I stated in my review I used a tool to get my binding plug into the receiver. (Of course I also said if you plan to add lights it might be easier to bind the receiver when the unit is out of the body. I think Horizon now has a video out on how to bind the CX3...I'll go check it out as I saw a listing for it but haven't viewed it yet. Mike H
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Old May 29, 2009, 07:07 PM
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Michael Heer's Avatar
Stockton, Ca. USA
Joined Apr 2001
9,369 Posts
Well I watched the video and they show they can bind it in the body as well. I liked the tip at the end of the video about keeping a 3" extension in the binding plug socket in case binding is necessary again in the future. Just leave the female end of the extension out of the way in the fuselage when not needed and pull it out when binding is necessary. I wish they had supplied it that way in the first place but I will implement the change on my CX3. Mike H
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Old Jun 03, 2009, 04:59 PM
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Michael Heer's Avatar
Stockton, Ca. USA
Joined Apr 2001
9,369 Posts
Any other owners have comments on the CX3?
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Old Jun 05, 2009, 12:11 AM
Park Stormer
United States, NJ, Brooklawn
Joined Jul 2008
823 Posts
just bought and flew mine today

And since you asked....

Minor Annoyances :/
- Did not come with LED's. The box shows it with them, I'm sure somewhere on there it says they are optional, but at this price I don't think the always on LED set is too much to ask stock. I can understand if they want to charge extra for the remote option though.
-The difficulty of removing the body is a little unnecessary.

Major Annoyances
-My biggest put off with this bird is the flimsy body. Mine came out of the box with bent landing gear and a warped MD500 shell, as well as a damage at body mount hole and near the landing gear on the shell. Considering the fact that the scale look seems to be Horizons main selling point, this is disappointing. I understand some of the flimsiness is to allow the body to "roll with the punches" if it is flow in a not-so-perfect manor, but this does not excuse the out of the box warping.

The good
-As a self taught fix winger, this is my second foray into beating the air into submission. My first was with the MCX, and this is in all ways the next step up. Bigger, Faster, more maneuverability, and less stable. The increased insatiability is not a knock on the helicopter, its the perfect mix of relatively stable hover vs traveling freedom I was looking for. Compared to the MCX, which literally has hands off hovering, this is a step closer to a "real" bird with a single rotor.
-Pleasantly surprised at the durability. Side Note: The training gear works, as evident by the increase in *ahem* "strained" landings when they were removed. I originally had concerns about overall durability when I saw the plethora of (expensive) aluminum rotor parts (Chopper Bling?) available on Horizons site as upgrades. It seems the rotor assembly is pretty tough as is, although I'll update if after more than a couple flights if see something start breaking more than it should.
-The manual is very thorough, always a plus.

misc ideas
- Carbon fiber frame + all aluminum parts =Battle copters!


-Dear Heli community: You are not allowed to make or buy another scale looking co-axial heli, until you make a KA-50 body for this bird. Why are there sooooo many co-axials on the market, and no one has thought of this?
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Old Jun 05, 2009, 12:14 PM
Fly Runaway Fans
United States, TX, Fort Worth
Joined Jan 2009
9,375 Posts
I've briefly seen Eflite documentation and found it the most comprehensive of all RTFs. If the hardware design suited me, I would pay the Eflite premium over near-identical Esky offerings for the documentation alone.
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Old Jun 14, 2009, 01:51 AM
Suspended Account
Joined Jun 2009
8 Posts
Very nice
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Old Jun 14, 2009, 09:27 AM
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kodak_jack's Avatar
Hilton (Rochester), NY
Joined Mar 2008
9,707 Posts
That's one heck of a review. Thanks. Can some admin transfer it over to the Multi-Rotor forum for us?
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Old Jun 15, 2009, 01:26 AM
Argue for your limitations
ajbaker's Avatar
Lincoln, CA
Joined Oct 2006
8,421 Posts
Banned

Quote:
Originally Posted by 565656
Very nice
Well, I can see why you got banned. You were spamming on RCG for your overpriced junk planes and parts.
?AJ
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