WL Toys New Model V911 Review
Recently I was contacted by a fellow from TMart.com; based on my activity in the V911 forums he suggested I might want to do a review of the new WL Toys model V911 Heli, now in its third major revision, and if I agreed, he'd send me product free of charge. Of COURSE I agreed!
The package arrived in good condition via USPS Express Mail in 5 days; shipped from their N. Brunswick, New Jersey warehouse. My last order from this warehouse also arrived in 5 days; definitely better than waiting on China Air Mail.
WL Toys New Model V911 Review
1) What's in the Box
The box: Retail packaging just like my last order, not shipped in plain generic brown box like my orders from AliExpress. I prefer this; it is suitable for gifting:
As with most tech product being marketed direct from China, the text of almost all printed material is mostly Chinglish; that amazing and sometimes amusing language created when people who speak English as a second or third language translate from Chinese advertising. A warning panel on the side of the box provides this classic example:
The box protects its contents well; it is clearly intended for use as a field case with a handle oriented so everything is upright when carried and snap-in molded pockets for everything. Each item is also taped securely to ensure it gets all the way from China to the customer intact; they even put little foam doughnuts on the sticks to protect them from crushing damage:
The first thing I did was to plug the included batteries & charger into a good source of power so they can charge while I give the new beast its preflight checkover; this old USB hub provides a stable 2.5A power source:
Aside from Helicopter, Transmitter, Batteries and Charger, also included are the usual spare set of Main blades & Tail rotor. Tucked away under the black plastic tray was an actual printed paper black & white Instruction Manual (okay, probably photocopied) in both Chinglish and Chinese. It does have a parts list and exploded view; the picture is clearly from the older model, but I can't say about the parts list as nobody seems to use the WL Toys Part numbers. I have attached a PDF version of the whole thing below for your reference; I figure somebody's going to post it, might as well be in my review.
This is the third major revision of the now-famous "Little Heli that Could" from WL Toys:
Like previous versions it is small, nimble and most of all, inexpensive. Parts are also inexpensive and readily available from several internet vendors. It is a good intermediate step for those who've mastered coaxials, but still don't feel ready for the large cash outlay of an mCPX or similar Collective Pitch heli. It is fixed-pitch, which means that while it isn't capable of doing inverted or most other 3D flight, it will still function mostly the same as a "real helicopter" in hover flight. One learns some bad habits flying coaxial helicopters, and the controls don't work the same. This will give you a chance to get used to flying in what is known to real helicopter pilots as "Mode 2", with Rudder/Elevation on the left, and Cyclic control on the right.
While some will be more comfortable starting out with a coaxial helicopter, many with experience flying rotary craft in video games or simulators should be able to start out with this helicopter. It has a very good (unbelievably good, given the price point) gyro stabilization system which for the most part makes it nearly as user-friendly as a coaxial helicopter; unlike most of those toys, it can also be repaired in case of crash damage and is designed with easy-swap batteries to allow long sessions of repeated flights.
This model looks the same as previous models; it is also available in White with Blue and White with Red paint schemes. It measures 250mm from front tip of main blade to rear tip of tail blade; 85mm tall to the very top of the blade head. All Up Weight is 32g; the radio body measures 145mm wide by 180mm tall, or approx 75% proportions of a real Hobby-Grade Radio TX.
My unit arrived with a bent main gear; after removing it and dropping it in boiling water for 5 minutes, it returned to its original shape very closely. It still wasn't perfect, but quite close enough to be used without worry. After that, the heli flew as well right out of the box as my long-standing favorite V911 #2; once the main gear breaks in, I'm sure it will be as quiet as my "Little Sparrow" too.
These little birds are horrible flying close to the ground; you definitely need to hit the throttle and get it up quickly as ground effect will fight you. Once you get in the air, typically a small amount of rudder trim may be needed which will need to be retouched as the battery nears the end of its power. I recommend trimming Cyclic by adjusting the servo links; it takes a few minutes, but after that you usually never need to trim again unless you break something badly. I'm not a great pilot; but with this heli I'm able to do controlled elevation/descent, piro, figure H & figure 8, & near 90° flight in both "halfpipe" and "orbital" travel; it's precise enough that I've parked it on the rafters, on bleachers, on my fieldbox and in basketball nets and trees as well as blade-waving and crashing. Lots of crashing.
These little guys are made of some tough plastic; I've bounced this heli off walls, rafters, ceilings, light fixtures, bleachers and basketball backboards. With very few exceptions it lands on the ground ready to fly again. Usually what breaks, when it does break, are skids and occasionally mainblades. I've never (knocks on wood) broken a tail, main chassis or canopy; though the canopy is made of tough RubberMaid-type plastic, paint does NOT like to stick and every one I've owned has chipped and flaked easily. Such is the price of having an inexpensive, tough canopy.
The one massive pain in the tuchus with this heli has always been that the battery likes to fly out of the holder in severe crashes; such that I've learned to use a small bit of packing tape across the bottom to hold it in the skids. This latest update addresses that issue very successfully; the battery holds in VERY securely, and now is close against the chassis, out of the usual impact zones. I found it necessary to make a packing tape pull handle to remove the battery; I didn't like squeezing the soft body of the LiPo as tightly as was required to pull it out.
I know it's normal to end with the summary; but I'm an Engineer, and as such my review is... long. And verbose. And full of technical... things. Most average readers will probably get bored by the end of the 5th bullet point; so I'm going to put the important stuff here first and let the people who want all the nitty-gritty details read on afterwards.
1) Inexpensive. Both to buy and keep up.
2) About as easy to fly as is possible.
3) Complete kit with carrying case.
4) Flyaway Battery issue now resolved.
5) Tougher than Rhino hide.
1) Toy grade price, toy grade precision.
2) Canopy flakes easily and looks rough quickly. Meh.
3) Parts only available online, not OTC.
4) No included AC adapter for charger.
5) Didn't make me breakfast the next morning.
All told, if you have even the tiniest bit of interest in flying an RC heli or are looking for a gift for someone with such interest, this is a great toy. Maybe not a great thing for someone already flying a Hobby-Grade CCPM helicopter, though.
But for the rest of us, it sure makes a helluva lot of fun for a very small amount of money!
Tech Stuph: Full Review
6) What's New, What's Old
This version uses the same main chassis, 2mm tailshaft, motors & main gear common to all incarnations of this helicopter so far since they released the Christmas 2011 update version with skids held on with a screw instead of 2 push-in posts and that didn't have the "CORTER" canopy. Major changes since include the same Transmitter & Mainboard used in the Summer 2012 update, which also included a new head with a different flybar. New only on this revision are longer mainshaft and more powerful battery with new main power connector and revised skids as they incorporate the battery connector.
7) New Radio
Those of us who flew the original "CORTER" heli kits are familiar with this radio:
It is very simple, very functional and looks like a game console controller. It has electronic trims, a "Slow Rate" mode for learning and a "Fast Rate" mode for more aggressive flying, and incorporates a USB Power Port so you can charge your batteries from the 6 "AA" that power the transmitter. This yields a completely portable kit.
In Summer 2012, they released a new version with this MUCH more sophisticated radio:
It has a more "Real RC Transmitter" look very similar (possibly made by the same factory Align contracted with) to the design of the radio from the Align T-Rex 100, and includes the same features as its predecessor, plus it has a fully functional LCD backlit display. A red V-Bar indicates power any time the switch is on; the LCD backlight comes on any time the throttle is above zero. The TX now auto-binds for approx 4 seconds when first powered on; the backlight stays on and it beeps a countdown after which it enters normal operating mode.
A silver button at the top left switches between "Slow Rate" Mode 1 & "Fast Rate" Mode 2 with indicator on LCD. The LCD also displays an animated heli rotor graphic and a bargraph indicating throttle speed; other indicators are present for rudder, aileron & elevator stick position as well as bars indicating each subtrim position and battery strength. Battery meter is not calibrated for rechargeables; freshly charged NiMH batteries displayed 4 bars for only a minute before dropping to 3 bars. Not so with Alkalines. Display has good contrast as long as you view it from a 90° angle or lower; if you start to tilt the top of the radio up from horizontal it gets very pale very quickly, becoming unreadable at about 45° or so. So far no issue at all during flight; my eyes are on the heli, not the radio.
The old style radio had a USB power port for the battery charger to plug into; this required you to carry the USB cord with you to plug in the little square charging base:
The new design has a short cord for that base permanently attached under a flip-out cover which doubles as a tilt stand for the radio while charging:
I noted that charging from my 2.5A powered USB hub, charge time was repeatedly 15 min almost on the dot for both batteries at once; from the radio it took 32 min and the second time brought battery indicator down to 3 bars on 6 new AA Alkalines. The manual makes note of this heavy consumption from charging; it states that you can get approx 18 hours runtime with carbon-zinc batteries using the TX only as a controller, but they'll only be good for approx 3 charge cycles. My testing indicates you'll about double that life with Alkalines, but the longer charge times coupled with that drastically reduced battery life make using an aftermarket 120V AC USB charging adapter or powered USB Hub as shown above a much preferable setup to charging from the TX power source.
8) Redesigned Head
The Summer 2011 Update brought a redesigned head along with the new Radio TX; it used a similar flybar made of translucent polycarbonate while the old flybar was opaque black polycarbonate. Side by side they are almost identical; both the same 130mm overall length with 5.5mm x 10.7mm weight pods at the tips:
The difference, aside from the coloring, is in the metal slugs used as weights. The newer flybar has visibly smaller weights and the overall weight of the flybar is dropped from 2.0g to 1.5g. This, I think, is part of why my oldest V911 remains very stable even after countless hours of flight; I've worn out mainshaft bearings twice on that old beast but it still keeps on ticking.
Here we have an image of the original head design from my oldest V911:
Compared to the newly redesigned head from the Summer 2011 update:
The only obvious difference is the presence of a through hole in the shaft mounting area; functionally the heads are identical as the geometry of the head remains unchanged.
Distance from the head mounting screw to the top bearing remains unchanged at 15mm; distance from shaft attachment screw to blade pivot pins is the same at 5.3mm and distance to flybar pivot is the same at 15.5mm. Not so obvious was a change in the size of the blade pivot pins from 2.5mm to 2.6mm; the blades from my oldest V911 don't fit the newer head. You can tell the difference in the numbers molded into the blades; the older style are imprinted "A" & "B" while the newer ones are imprinted with "A1" & "B1".
As mentioned earlier, the newer head design has a through-hole in the shaft area; I believe this is to be able to tell at a glance which head design (and hence, which blades you need) you have, as well as whether you have the newer 58mm mainshaft:
The slightly longer mainshaft will reduce head wobble and make the head more durable, but at a trade-off between flybar weight and shaft weight.
9) New Battery & Skid
The new battery connector is held in place with a collar and screws; this means we are finally able to replace a broken skid without soldering or doing the old "twist & tape" on the battery wires:
The wires themselves are a little heavier guage as well as having thicker, more durable insulation. Here you can see the plastic cap and the captive JST-PH plug it uses for power:
Sorry folks, you're not going to be able to use the very common E-Flite Parkzone/MCX sized batteries directly; here we have a comparison between common battery connectors:
Top is a Xieda 9958 battery; it uses the same JST-SH plug as the Nano CP and Parkzone, etc. batteries. Notice the square shell profile. Middle is the new style V911 with JST-PH connector; notice the rounded shell profile. Bottom for comparison is the larger JST-XH plug commonly used as a balance plug on 3S batteries. If you want to replace the plug with a JST-SH plug and grind down the plastic shell of the battery to fit the more rounded profile of the V911 battery shape, it IS possible; but it won't be easy.
Here we have a view of the new style battery installed:
Note that the new design keeps the battery tucked up close to the chassis of the helicopter, unlike the older design which had it tilted down at an angle. Those of you who were hoping to stop having to put tape on the battery will be disappointed; however, now it will be needed to give you a handle instead of to keep the battery from flying off in a crash. The new battery holder design slides in with a very positive snap, and it holds the battery in place VERY well. I found myself having to grip the battery so tightly to pull it out that I feared I might damage the soft LiPo body. A little clear packing tape wrapped around protects the cell from nickage (which you really should do anyhow), while making for a convenient handle.
10) Common Mods & Fixes
I've been flying these little beasties for a while now and frequenting various forums devoted to them. As a result, I've come up with and picked up from others a few common mods which I do on every new one to ensure happy, relatively crash-free flight.
First off ; the control rods:
These rods have a bit too much lateral play in the servo arm; the z-bend is a bit too wide and the resultant play allows for a very loose head which makes the little beast unresponsive and wobbly in flight. Others swear by placing tiny little o-rings or bits of canopy grommets in the space; my experience has shown that they walk up the rod and cease to serve that purpose very quickly. My solution is this: I'll solder a little blob onto the control rod like so; don't worry, the alligator acts as a heat sink to keep the rod end from melting. Now it should look like this:
Next, I'll carve a flat spot opposite the lower leg of the rod with an X-Acto knife:
A little trial and error and you'll get the spacing JUST right to take up the play without binding:
Next: The washout linkages:
I'm going to take a moment here to talk about molded plastic and quality control:
My first two V911s had the old style head and flybar; the tolerances and quality control of those parts was EXCELLENT; my oldest one STILL flies fabulously. As this little guy has evolved, those tolerances & QC have gotten well... poorer. My last 3 V911s, as well as 2 I've seen belonging to other people, have all had noticeably larger gaps and slop in these linkages. Eventually they get bad enough to make a big difference in the handling of the bird, and something has to be done. While it would be nice to just demand better quality parts, the nature of the market these little guys are aimed at means we have to keep telling the manufacturer about problems to get them resolved. It DOES work; we got the canopy printed correctly. We got redesigned skids with a screw to keep them from flying off in a crash. Now we have this new, better battery design that addresses the "Flyaway Battery" issue which plagued the original designs. But we have to be patient; those changes take a while to make it from request, to redesign, to implementation and finally through the manufacturing and distribution chain. In the meantime, we have to find our own solutions.
Above you can see my solution to the sloppy linkages problem: a tiny shim washer made of blister pack plastic. You can also see my patch of a blade broken at the screw; this part is made of .010" aluminum flashing. I'm not going to show how it's made here as I'm still testing it to see how it holds out. If you're interested enough to try it yourself, you probably already know how to make it.
First, you need the paper-thin blister-pack plastic commonly glued to cardboard to make packaging for all sorts of household items. Usually, the cheaper the better as they have the thinnest plastic. This plastic came from a 79¢ pair of child's scissors. Using a 3/32" drill bit by hand, make a hole in the plastic:
By pulling the drill back & forth through the plastic, the fluted edges will clean away all the burrs. Don't worry if you make the hole a little egg-shaped; this will just make it easier to get over the notches in the pivot.
Next, turn that into a washer by aligning the hole dead center in an ordinary paper punch like so:
Finally, make sure it's ABSOLUTELY flat by squeezing in flat-jawed jeweler's pliers:
If you have a good eye and sharp, sharp scissors you can probably cut the shim washer out by hand. If your main blades have molding ridges around the pivot pin (see first photo of shim), use an X-Acto knife or emery board to smooth that ridge down; it will hold the shim washer too high and make it seem too thick. Be careful; it doesn't take much & you don't want to trim or file that surface on the blade so it isn't square anymore. This works best if it's a very wide washer as shown; it keeps the washout link from twisting which is where most of the slop comes from. Reassemble with the washer under the washout link; if it's too tight, you need to use thinner plastic. I've not had any luck trying to file the washers thinner; the plastic is tough and it usually escapes and gets lost before I make any useful change in it.
These linkages, and the ball links on the swash, also suffer from slop issues. This can be resolved by disassembling the link, then applying a thin layer of super glue to the ball and allowing to dry and sanding smooth with 800-1200 grit sandpaper. Unfortunately, I've heard reports that this can weaken the plastic; as a result, I haven't personally tried it. The balls haven't gotten bad enough on any of my birds that there was no alternative.
Next: The Flybar
Most of us know to adjust the flybar pivot screw to get clearance as close as possible without binding. This can be a problem, since there is often a molding ridge across the pivot surface which makes it "notchy" at the ends of travel but still loose elsewhere.
Using an emery board thusly, file the flat face of the pivot area smooth:
It should look like this when you're done. Now, you can shim or tighten the screw as you see fit:
If you're interested, I have a complete workup on a V911 hack where I modded it to accept Turnigy Nano-Tech batteries for the T-Rex 100 and added LED marker lights. See here:
UPDATE: Banggood has released a new V911 package; it come with a green V911 and the new "Hobby-Grade" style TX:
Looks nifty... might just have to "Hulk Out" my V911 stable...
Wishing you all good flights and few crashes,
Life is messy. Bring a sponge.
Compared to the original V911, definitely more power due to better batteries. I have another Rev 2 V911 hacked to run with the Turnigy Nano-Tech 160 mAH 25-40C batteries, and they are very comparable in runtime and power. Original version was running 1/2 - 3/4 throttle for hover flight; this one, more like 1/4 - 1/2 throttle. Runtime seems the same at about 3.5 - 4.5 minutes as the original; but I'm constantly having to remind myself to cut throttle so it doesn't float away when I return to hovering.
Otherwise mine was nice & tight, and Gyro action was smooth and consistent. All of my V911s have flown almost identically once I got the linkages tightened up; my oldest is probably the most stable and I blame the heavier flybar for that.
That's one of the things I like about this bird; it's consistently a great flyer right out of the box. My last one was actually the worst; it had the "mCPX Wobble" right out of the box but still flew better than any of my Xieda 9558s ever did. I Did all the fixes I showed in those threads and it was a whole new machine.
The most important suggestion I can make is to get at least 4 extra batteries, and use a USB hub with at least a 2A power pack to charge with. Maybe even a second charger too; I haven't decided yet. I may just hack my Rev 2 charger with the correct plugs so it can charge either type.
*Feeling a bit Mode 2 right now*
I've had my 911 for a few days, and I'd really like to thank you for a few of the suggestions in this post - they seem to make the difference between a wobbly bird and a sure and steady one. I continue to be amazed that I have a $40 helicopter that is still reasonably serviceable.
Thanks for the positive feedback guys!
Not a lot new in the V911 world, except that bang good is now selling a complete body kit for it in Lime Green if you feel like a change of look.
Keep it whirly!
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