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Thunder Tiger Raptor E550S ARF - Review

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Introduction


Thunder Tiger Raptor E550S ARF
Main Rotor Diameter:49" (1245mm)
Tail Rotor Diameter:9.3" (237mm)
Gear Ratio:1:10.09:4.56
Blade Size:21.7" (550mm)
Length:45.25" (1150mm)
Width:5.5" (140mm)
Height:15.35" (390mm)
Motor:Ace RC Ripper OBL44/11-30H 1150kV
Cyclic Servos:ACE S1807MG
Tail Servo:ACE DS0606n
Gyro:TG7200 Heading Lock
RTF Weight:5.8lbs (2.65kg)
Manufactured By:Thunder Tiger
Available From:Hobby Retailers
Price:$649.99

I recently had the opportunity to review the latest ARF version of the Raptor 50S. It's a great helicopter, but there is one thing that may have turned die hard electric fans off; the fact that it is a nitro helicopter. Well, Thunder Tiger hasn't forgotten the electric fliers, and they introduced the new Raptor E550S, which is also a 90% assembled ARF. The head and the tail are the same as it's nitro brother, but that is where the similarity ends. Running off of a 6S lipo pack, with a powerful 1150kV Ace RC Ripper motor, and swinging carbon fiber main blades, the E550S does not disappoint in performance.

The Raptor E550S comes 90% assembled, with just final assembly of the boom and servos required. If you own a 700 sized machine (such as teh Raptor G4), you can use the same battery packs in the E550S, those being 6S 5000mah packs. Also, there is a flybarless conversion kit availalble which I will take a look at in this review.

In The Box

The Raptor E550S comes in a large box, which arrived safe and sound. The main body of the helicopter is zip tied to an internal tray, and the boom is packaged alongside it with the blades. The whole tray lifts right out of the box, making it easy to cut the zip ties when unpacking the helicopter. The carbon fiber blades were wrapped in bubble wrap to protect them during shipping, and the boom was in a poly bag. There was a smaller bag with some miscellaneous items, including the instruction manual for the gyro and some velcro straps for the flight battery.

Included in the box:

  • Raptor E550S
  • Carbon Fiber Main Blades
  • Brushless Motor
  • Electronic Speed Controller
  • Heading Hold Gyro
  • Servos
  • Velcro Straps
  • Instruction Manual

Required for completion:

  • Flight Battery - 6S Lipo
  • Charger
  • Transmitter & Receiver
  • BEC or receiver battery

Assembly

I used a FlightPower 6S 5000mah lipo battery for the flight battery, a Futaba R6208SB for the receiver, and a 2000mah 6v NiMH battery for the receiver.

Assembly starts with attatching the boom to the helicopter, and then attaching the boom supports. The boom slides into the boom clamp on the heli, and then four bolts on the side clamp the support up against the boom. I double checked when attaching the tail belt that the tail was turning in the correct direction. The boom supports were already attached to the boom, and had to be bolted to the main frame once the boom was installed. There was also a boom strut stiffener, which attaches inbetween the two boom support struts. I used the included zip ties to secure it in place.

The servos are already installed, and all that is needed is to add the servo horns. Before installing the servo horns, I attached the servo balls to the horns. To make things a little easier, I used the tip of a screwdriver to widen the end of the hole a little bit. This made threading the balls into the holes a lot easier.

The servos drive the swash via push/pull rods and bell cranks. The pushrods are already made, and once the servo horns were installed it was a simple case of attaching all of the pushrods.

The motor and speed controller are already installed. The speed controller has an Ultra Deans plug already soldered in place for attaching to your flight battery. Even though the ESC has a built in BEC, Thunder Tiger recommends running a seperate battery for your receiver, so I installed a 6v NiMH pack.

There is a good size platform at the front of the helicopter for isntalling your electronics. This is where I mounted my receiver battery and receiver. It is important to make sure that nothing touches the gyro, and I used the molded in plastic loop to secure everything in place with a rubber band. I also made sure that my wiring was routed in such a way as to prevent any chafing. Heat shrink tubing is great for securing extensions together, and mesh wire covering does a great job at protecting wires.

Final assembly is very minimal, and with everything installed it was time to move on to the transmitter programming.

Programming

The instruction manual contains detailed directions on how to plug your servos into your receiver for JR/ Spektrum, and Ace RC/Futaba/Hitec. I followed the guide and attached my servos to the R6208SB receiver. The swash plate on the E550S is a 140 degree swash, which on my 14SG meant setting the swash type to H1. There are a series of diagrams in the manual that show you which way your servos should be moving, and is a great reference guide. I set my E550S up so that mid stick was zero pitch, with +/- 12 degrees pitch. I used a linear pitch curve for all flight modes, and a flat 100% throttle curve in idle up.

Even though the manual suggests that you can get a total of 15 degrees +/- pitch, I would not recommend going beyong 12 degrees. The reason being, that there is a lot of binding in the head if you try to use 15 degrees, and even with a swash ring (or digital swash ring), you can't remove all of the binding. After flying the E550S for a while now, 12 degrees has certainly proved to be more than enough.

When I was finished programming the transmitter, I double checked all of the directions and the gyro compensation. Once satisfied that everything was working correctly, I charged up my batteries and headed out to the flying field!

Flying

The first thing I did once I got to the field was power up my 14SG and make sure I had the correct model selected (the 14SG prompts me to select a model when I first power up). I then powered up the receiver and checked that everything was moving correctly. I put my transmitter into throttle hold, and only then did I connect the flight battery. I carried the heli out to the runway, and was ready to go!

I lifted off into a hover, and tested the tail. I wanted to make sure there was no wagging in the tail, so I adjusted the gain until the tail was smooth. I then performed a few quick pirouettes to get a feel for the tail, and then started some basic forward flight. The E550S tracked really well, and the carbon fiber blades were also tracking well. The Ripper motor had plenty of power, and within a couple of laps I was soon rolling and flipping the heli around. It rolled and flpped nicely, but the roll/flip rate was not lightning fast. It was still fast enough to 3D, but definitely not as fast as some flybarless models that I have flown. After adjusting to the roll/flip rate, I started doing some pirouetting flips, which it performed well.

Backwards flight was uneventful, the heading hold gyro held very well and I had no blowouts. Inverted flight performed as well as upright flight, and I found myself enjoying the helicopter more with each subsequent flight. By the end of the day I couldn't wait to get more batteries charged so that I could get some more flying time on the machine.

Is It For Beginners?

This is absolutely a great helicopter for beginners. With some training gear added, the E550S will make a great hover trainer, and as your skills progress you can remove the training gear and start forward flight. Once you are comfortable sport flying, the E550S will take you right on into 3D flying, and eventually on to much more aggressive 3D flying with the flybarless conversion.

Photos/Video

Stress Tech Guarantee

As with the Raptor 50S, the E550S also features Hobbico's "Stress Tech Guarantee". This means that if you have any plastic parts fail on the helicopter, Hobbico will replace the part free of charge. This only applies to areas that Hobbico distributes to.

"Hobbico is so confident of the strength and durability of the plastic parts in the Thunder Tiger Raptor E550S Sport ARF that we make this guarantee: if a covered Stress-Tech part breaks during the first year you own your heli, we'll replace it absolutely free.

Currently the Hobbico Stress-Tech guarantee for Thunder Tiger products is only available on select helicopter models. Look for the Stress-Tech logo on the product pages."

More info on that here.

Flybarless Conversion

Thunder Tiger has an optional flybarless upgrade kit available for the Raptor. This kit works extremely well with the E550S, and takes only a short time to convert. You need to switch the gyro out for a 3 axis flybarless gyro, and the kit replaces the stock head.

The conversion process is pretty painless. I replaced the main shaft with the one included in the flybarless kit, and replaced the original head (everything above the swash plate) with the new flybarless head.

The gyro was removed, and I installed the CGY750. Setup with the CGY750 is a little more in depth than with the stock gyro, but straightforward if you follow the instructions. The CGY750 is a great match for the E550S, and works extremely well with the Futaba 14SG (as it was designed to do!). With the conversion complete, it was time to fly!

The first flight with the flybarless E550S was a basic trim flight, but subsequent flights were regular 3D flights. The E550S is absolutely more nimble and responsive with the flybarless head, and the conversion really turned it into a different animal! For anyone looking to take their E550S to the next level, this is definitely the way to go!

Conclusion

I liked the simplicity of the E550S in it's stock form, it was easy to set up and flew really well. The carbon fiber blades are a nice addition, and tail gyro reminded me of the old Futaba GY401 (which is a good thing). However, I love the flybarless version! With the Raptor FBL Conversion kit it was extremely easy to convert it over, and the E550S became a whole other helicopter. It was much more aggressive, and could perform any maneuver that I could throw at it. After flying 700 sized helis for a while, it was nice to be able to get two flights on the 550 with the same amount of batteries as one flight on the 700. I think that beginners will benefit from it's size and stability, and advanced fliers will really like the flybarless converted version. This is one of those helicopters that will grow with you no matter what stage you are at in your flying ability.

Pros: Cons:
Almost ready to flyNo blade holder included
Great performer
Flybarless conversion available
Easy to set up

Last edited by CSpaced; Jun 25, 2013 at 04:15 PM..

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Old Jul 01, 2013, 09:21 PM
That's so classic you.
Generic Member's Avatar
United States, NC, Stokesdale
Joined Jul 2006
359 Posts
Nice review. VIdeo is excellent. Great job Chris.
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Old Aug 24, 2013, 02:17 PM
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Joined Nov 2012
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I don't get it, shouldn't the Swash Typ be set to H-3 on a Futaba? H-1 has to be a typo, the chopper being an eCCPM. I'm setting up mine now using H-3 Swash mix.
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Old Aug 25, 2013, 04:28 AM
Who said Kiwi's can't fly!
Grunta5's Avatar
Hawkes Bay , New Zealand
Joined Feb 2008
900 Posts
Just saw this thread , I have an E550s but am still getting to grips with the Mini Titan 450 .
Ive hovered the 550 in my yard a few times but I doubt ill fly it for a month or two until im totally sure I can handle it ( I can comfortably fly the 450 around but the 550 is rather daunting still) It looks a nice heli and is rock steady in the hover, cant wait until I get the courage to fly it :-)

Heres mine
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Old Aug 25, 2013, 01:36 PM
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Joined Nov 2012
6 Posts
It looks good with the white and black Align blades!

Chris, what gyro gain value did you end up with on your 14SG?
Looking at the pictures I can tell you also had to change the wiring on the motor to make it run in the correct direction. Strange that they don't get that right from the factory.
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Old Aug 27, 2013, 07:11 PM
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They need to have a full FBL kit and an airframe only version.
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Old Aug 27, 2013, 07:45 PM
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CSpaced's Avatar
Oak Ridge, NC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonwold View Post
It looks good with the white and black Align blades!

Chris, what gyro gain value did you end up with on your 14SG?
Looking at the pictures I can tell you also had to change the wiring on the motor to make it run in the correct direction. Strange that they don't get that right from the factory.
Hi Jon, I honestly can't remember the gyro values before I converted it to flybarless. I usually start out at around 70 - 80% and tune from there.
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Old Nov 27, 2013, 07:03 AM
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Originally Posted by CSpaced View Post
Hi Jon, I honestly can't remember the gyro values before I converted it to flybarless. I usually start out at around 70 - 80% and tune from there.
I am thinking of ordering one of these. How do the stock electronics and motor hold up? Are they ok for sport flying? Thanks!
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Old Nov 27, 2013, 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by skypup View Post
I am thinking of ordering one of these. How do the stock electronics and motor hold up? Are they ok for sport flying? Thanks!
They hold up great, it's a perfect sport flying machine.
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Old Nov 27, 2013, 04:56 PM
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They hold up great, it's a perfect sport flying machine.
Thanks for your feedback!
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Old Dec 26, 2013, 11:48 AM
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san antonio, texas
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Is there extra room with the batteries shown? I have Pulse 6s 45c 3000mah lipos and was thinking of using those for 6000 mah total. Thanks!
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Old Dec 27, 2013, 04:47 PM
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Originally Posted by skypup View Post
Is there extra room with the batteries shown? I have Pulse 6s 45c 3000mah lipos and was thinking of using those for 6000 mah total. Thanks!
I don't know what the size of those packs are, but if they're comparable to a 6s 5000mah pack, they should fit. There isn't too much extra room once the pack is in.
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Old Jan 19, 2014, 10:34 PM
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Cspaced

My raptor will be here on Tuesday. I've been reading of people complaining about the stock motor only lasting 3 to 5 flights. Have you experienced this problem? Thanks!
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Old Jan 19, 2014, 10:41 PM
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Cspaced

My raptor will be here on Tuesday. I've been reading of people complaining about the stock motor only lasting 3 to 5 flights. Have you experienced this problem? Thanks!
My motor has been running strong, I haven't had any problems with it.
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Old Jan 20, 2014, 06:27 AM
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My motor has been running strong, I haven't had any problems with it.
Thanks!
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