Horizon Hobby/Blade Manta FPV - RCGroups Review - RC Groups

Horizon Hobby/Blade Manta FPV - RCGroups Review

Take a 90 MPH ride on a Z-Foam flying wing as editor Matt Gunn puts this FPV racer through it's paces!

The Blade Manta FPV Wing

Fast Building. Fast Flying. Extremely Nimble.

Product:Blade Manta FPV BnF
Retail price:$419
Wingspan:43"
Material:Z-Foam, carbon fiber, plastic, lite ply
Motor:Blade 2221 1800 Kv
ESC:Castle Creations Talon 35
Prop:5.5x4.5"
Battery used:THRUST 4S 1300mAh 35C
FPV Camera:Fatshark V2 700TVL CMOS
Video Transmitter:ImmersionRC 600mw 5.8g w/ Fatshark CP antenna
HD camera used:GoPro Hero3
Available from:Blade

You've heard it in the RCGroups podcasts and seen it in the forums: FPV wing racing is huge right now! Just like in the early days of quad racing (which wasn't long ago), FPV wing racing is gaining steam and attracting attention, thanks in part to their larger size, extreme speeds, and the noise... oh yes, the noise! But even if you don't race wings competitively (the majority of hobbyists fall into this category) you can still experience the thrill of FPV yank and bank proximity flying at low altitudes and high speeds without ever setting foot on the race course. Horizon Hobby has recently introduced a flying wing that makes both intermediate racing and high speed proximity flying an effortless task. That aircraft is the Blade Manta.

In this review, I'll build the Manta, get it ready for the maiden, and then push it wide open through some hard turns, as low to Mother Earth as I can get it! The Blade Manta is a very complete aircraft, from the included electronics to the quick assembly, so this won't take long; let's get started!

Video Review

The Blade Manta FPV - RCGroups Review (14 min 7 sec)

Inside the Box - Fit and Finish

The first thing I noticed when I received the Manta was the size of the box. How did they stuff a wing in there? The Manta is actually a bit smaller than I anticipated; yes, I read the specs and noted the 43" wingspan, but the Horizon Hobby promotional material makes it seem like a larger wing. This is a good thing, because the Manta is able to fit nicely in almost any vehicle with it's wings permanently glued on, and its very nimble in the air. But we'll get to all that later.

With all the components removed an inspected, I noticed no issues with quality control or damage to the airframe- the Manta made it's long shipping journey across the pond unscathed!

The center section of the fuselage houses all the electronics. Here's what's included:

  • AR636A Spektrum receiver
  • Fatshark 700TVL V2 CMOS camera
  • ImmersionRC 600mw 5.8GHz VTx with CP antenna
  • SPMSH3050 metal gear micro servos x 2
  • Castle Creations Talon 35 esc
  • 2221 1800 Kv Blade motor

All the wiring is neatly arranged inside the fuselage, which is accessible by turning three twist-lock latches and removing the top cover. It was nice to see a JST connector tapped from the main battery as an easy way to remove power from the FPV system on the ground. Note that the Manta comes with an XT60 connector, but the optional THRUST 4s 1300mAH LiPo comes with an EC3 connector. If you plan on using the THRUST battery, you'll need to solder a connector to either the esc or battery, depending on what connector you use. I chose to remove the EC3 and use the XT60.

GoPro Ready

The Manta has a built-in lite ply box to house a GoPro and the included Fatshark 700TVL FPV camera. Obviously the GoPro is not included, but it's required to correctly balance the Manta unless you plan on offsetting it with some lead weight. A piece of sticky-back foam padding is included to line the inside of the GoPro's box, making for a nice and snug fit without vibrations.

SAFE and AS3X Inside

Active stabilization is not allowed during a race, but the system can easily be turned off for au-naturel flying. With AS3X on (by default), the system allows for three different flight modes and SAFE recovery. It's all pre-programmed and you have the options to setup on different transmitter switches. Additionally, SAFE is turned off during a normal bind but AS3X is activated. However, mode 0 gives SAFE like response by instantly righting the aircraft and flying straight with a slight climb. We'll go over all that in the flight report below.

There's three bays on the bottom with plastic covers; two of them house electronics. When flipped upside down, the right bay holds the ImmersionRC 600mw 5.8GHz VTx. Its a great functioning unit with a built-in power filter for ultra-clean video and it has filtered 5v output for the Fatshark 700TVL camera. It's only 8-channels though, and doesn't have raceband capability. What does that mean to you? Nothing if you're not racing competitively as most structured race leagues utilize raceband while most fun leagues will let you run whatever frequency you have. You'll be using the dip-switch method of changing the frequency if you need to, and the plastic shrink wrap will need to be removed with a hobby knife above the switches. A circular-polarized Fatshark antenna is included and already installed.

The rear bay houses the Castle Creations Talon 35 amp esc. It's a rock-solid unit that can take the amp draw without any issues, and is 2s up to 6s compatible. The Talon 35 also has a beefy 7 amp peak for the internal BEC, meaning you can draw power from the digital metal geared servos, the entire FPV system, and even LED lights if you wanted to without issues.

Finally, the left bay is empty except for the receiver antenna. It could house additional FPV electronics such as an LED controller or even an OSD if you were so inclined.

The included motor is a Blade 2221 1800 Kv and comes bolted up to the ply motor mount. All that's required is to bolt the mount to the airframe and secure the bolts with thread locker.

The wings and winglets need to be permanently attached with a foam-safe glue, which is not included. This is primarily due to shipping restrictions of flammable products and not a big deal in my opinion. I used Foamtac glue, but Goop is also a great alternative and available at any hardware or crafts store. A carbon rod is permanently glued into each elevon from the factory, and the included carbon strips need to be glued in after the wings and winglets are attached. The elevons have control horns installed as well, and they lined up perfectly.

A Generous Hardware Kit and Custom Graphics

Included with the Manta is a hardware kit consisting of foam tape and hook and loop tape, a battery strap, two 5.5" x 4.5" props, a propeller hub, a bind plug, control rods, an antenna support, and a few spare parts. Three decal sheets are also included to customize the Manta; I chose to take a few elements from each kit and keep the graphics scheme simple.

There you have it, a quick look at all that's included with the Blade Manta. Now, let's put her together...

Assembly

Assembly is brief and quite easy to go from the box to the maiden. All electronics are installed and hooked up; the motor is pre-wired to the esc and only needed to be bolted up. I used thread locking compound on the four fasteners for safety.

As I stated earlier, glue is not included due to shipping restrictions on flammable products, so I used Foamtac to glue the wings and winglets together. Complete one wing at a time, and wait for it to fully dry before handling... it doesn't take long. I taped each wing seam where it attached to the center fuselage with painter's tape, just for a little reassurance that the wing remained lined up on top and bottom. After the wings are dried, glue on the winglets using the same method.

With the wings and winglets dried, it's time to glue in the leading edge carbon spar. Test fit it first, and make sure to remove any excess glue that resides in the spar channel, left over from gluing the wings on. With a good test fit done, lay a bead of either Foamtac, Goop, or foam-safe CA in the channel and press the spar into place. I used foam-safe CA for this task, and I wore latex gloves to keep the CA off my fingers. Push down firmly on the spar, but don't drag your fingers length-wise across it as a carbon-fiber splinter could make for a bad end to an otherwise painless build!

Final Setup

With the Blade Manta built, it's time to get her setup for the maiden flight. Start by binding your Spektrum transmitter to the AR636A receiver. I have a DX9, which is easy to put into bind mode along with placing the bind plug in the receiver. With the unit bound, the next step is to assign a switch to channel 5 (the gear channel). This channel will act as the AS3X mode switch, allowing you to switch between the three different flight modes. Before we balance the Manta, use the included hook and loop tape to secure the 4s 1300mAh LiPo in place.

Center of Gravity

Setting the CG on this plane is crucial, and I found it to be tail heavy with no means of sliding any components forward to correct it. Not a problem though, as only 1 1/4 ounces of lead was needed to fix the center of gravity so it balanced perfectly at 5" back from the front edge, which happens to be right at the front of the throwing hole used for hand launching. I used some stick-on lead squares and placed them underneath the Fatshark FPV camera.

Reflex

Setting the correct elevon trim is also very important. When you trim a wing for flight, it almost always requires a slight amount of up trim, called reflex. The required reflex setting is to line the bottom of the elevon with the top of the trailing edge as shown in the picture. Do not set the reflex in launch mode (mode 0)! Launch mode has additional reflex to always make the Manta climb. Setting the reflex should be done in mode 1 without the AS3X engaged. Since AS3X doesn't engage until we move the throttle to 25%, it's safe to plug in the Manta's flight battery, turn on the transmitter, set the mode switch to mode 1, and then adjust your servo pushrods for the reflex shown in the manual.

Flight Report

With the Manta balanced, the reflex set, and the FPV system checked in my Fatshark Dominator V3 goggles, I packed up and headed to the local flying field. The wind was brisk at 10-12mph right down the runway. Since the field is on top of a landfill, there are always rollers and turbulence on the plateau. I was prepared for a bumpy ride, even though the Manta was equipped with AS3X.

AS3X Performance

The manta has an almost fool-proof launch mode (mode 0) that holds the wings level and adds a little up-elevator for a shallow and steady climb rate... nothing drastic. However, AS3X doesn't arm until 25% throttle. Before launch and with the Manta in your hand and clear of the prop, move the left stick to at least 25% for a quick and instant blip of throttle; now AS3X is armed and ready to stabilize during launch. Let's quickly go over the three different AS3X flight modes:

Launch Mode 0:

This mode is one of my favorite aspects of the Manta's AS3X stabilization. Launch Mode 0 fully stabilizes the Manta on pitch and roll axis. It also adds a little up elevator for a steady climb during launch. Launch Mode 0 also doubles as a sort of SAFE feature without SAFE being enabled. If you ever get into an unusual attitude, lose FPV signal while under the hood, or a situation arises that could take your focus away from the aircraft for a moment, just flip the three position switch all the way up to mode 0, and the Manta will instantly self-right and slowly climb (assuming you have enough throttle). I tested this feature while flying inverted in Experienced Mode 2; holding inverted, I quickly switched to Launch Mode 0, and the Manta flipped over and flew wings-level. Awesome indeed.

To launch the Manta, give the throttle a quick blip past 25% to arm AS3X, insert three fingers in the launch holes on the belly, and give the Manta a brisk throw forward. Immediately advance the throttle and the Manta will easily climb out. The best part is that you don't even need your hand on the elevon stick; the Manta holds level. For those that don't want to launch with a spinning propeller, this type of launch is just the ticket.

Intermediate Mode 1:

This flight mode is aimed at pilots that are just getting used to the Manta and how to fly it. Intermediate Mode 1 limits bank and pitch angles to roughly 45-degrees, but doesn't not self-level the aircraft. This allows new pilots to bank around and explore the flight envelope of the Manta, without the risk of getting into an unusual attitude that might confuse a new pilot flying FPV. As with all modes, Intermediate Mode 1 dampens out any outside forces caused my turbulent air, making the flight much more smooth without sacrificing control; you always have that locked in feeling.

In Intermediate Mode 1, elevon control throws are slightly reduced as well, all to help the new pilot get accustomed to this foam rocket!

Experienced Mode 2:

Experienced Mode 2 turns off all bank-angle limits and self-righting tendencies, and control throws are set to maximum. AS3X is enabled only to buffet out some of the outside forces such as wind. Don't let AS3X fool you, it doesn't dull down anything in Mode 2; the manta is super fast, nimble, and responds instantly to control inputs. All it does it make the experience more like flying on a rail by smoothing out the little pitch and roll bumps. This is the mode to use to really push the Manta around hard.

General Performance

Overall, the Manta is a real treat to fly. Blade says it's a 90MPH wing straight out the box, and even though I didn't GPS it, I'd say that's quite accurate. Down low and hugging the deck, the Manta holds it's lines nicely; I felt very confident when in close proximity to trees, bushes, and the ground itself. Turning hard at full throttle left no surprises as the Manta instantly switched directions without scrubbing much speed. To make an effective "race turn" such as you would around a flag on a course, enter the turn, bank hard to almost 90-degrees, and pull back hard on the elevator. The Manta shrugs off the insane g-forces of such a hard turn, leaving nothing but the sound of the prop as it begins to cavitate under pressure; it's a really awesome experience!

I did notice a little bit of a bobble up and down with the airframe itself, and I don't think it has anything to do with the AS3X, but more so a slight movement of the frame. This manifests itself as a bump as you're flying along, and to be quite honest, isn't even noticeable while under the hood and flying. I felt fully aware of my surroundings at all times and could clearly see objects in front of me.

Battery performance puts you in the 5-6 minute range with a 4s 1300mAh LiPo. You could stretch that out with a 4s 1500mAh, and there's room inside for one. The low voltage cutoff was predictable and never put me in a tricky situation; you'll hear the audible pulsing sound of the prop and motor as the esc senses LVC, and by backing off to cruise throttle settings, you'll have plenty of time to make your way around and line up for a smooth landing.

Final Thoughts

Blade capitalized on the wing-racing boom by offering up a very complete and very high-performance wing that can get you from box to maiden in just a few hours. The included electronics are a perfect compliment to the Manta's quality; an ImmersionRC 600mw VTx provides a rock-solid video link, and the Fatshark V2 700TVL CMOS camera serves up a great low-latency picture. The AR636A receiver makes this wing a piece of cake to launch and fly, thanks to the AS3X stabilization. And as a bonus, it can be completely turned off for racing.

The limit of only 8 channels on the ImmersionRC VTx was a bit of a let down if you plan on racing competitively, but shouldn't be a problem for anyone wanting to just have a great time flying. Finally, the slight bouncing tendency of the airframe is minor, but noticeable as you watch your HD footage after the fact; I really didn't notice it while flying as my focus was always on what was coming up fast.

I would highly recommend the Blade Manta to anyone wanting to go fast and feel confident about it; the locked in feeling is one the best I've ever experienced while flying fixed-wing FPV. Thanks for reading my review of the Blade Manta FPV, and happy flying!

Last edited by Matt Gunn; Nov 03, 2016 at 10:54 AM..
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Nov 03, 2016, 05:08 PM
Retired USAF, A&P mechanic
Ronbo's Avatar
Did they give any info from Blade or Horizon on the specs of the motor? I only see in the manual 6x4 for 3s and for 4s the 5.5x4.5 props. Any dimensions or max prop or watts? I cannot find any info the motor. Thanks.
Nov 03, 2016, 06:40 PM
RCGroups Editor
Matt Gunn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronbo
Did they give any info from Blade or Horizon on the specs of the motor? I only see in the manual 6x4 for 3s and for 4s the 5.5x4.5 props. Any dimensions or max prop or watts? I cannot find any info the motor. Thanks.
AT the spec sheet at the top, it's listed as a Blade 2221 1800 Kv.

However, that's all I could find. I'll reach out to HH and see.
Nov 06, 2016, 04:28 PM
Registered User
Dadawada's Avatar
Have both the Manta and the Theory. Theory beats the Manta hands down.
Nov 07, 2016, 11:40 AM
Wandering IT geek
ronin4740's Avatar
Hmmm... Wondering what would happen if/when the Manta brushes the inside of an air gate at 60+ mph?
Nov 07, 2016, 11:47 AM
RCGroups Editor
Matt Gunn's Avatar
If it hit the fabric it might wag hard, you could recover possibly. If it hit the pole it would probably spiral in hard, maybe break the wingtip off, possibly worse. Nothing some FoamTac or Goop couldn't fix between heats. My opinion.
Nov 14, 2016, 03:51 PM
Registered User
seojeff's Avatar
AUW? Also noticed in the video you're flying it like you stole it most of the time. How does it handle slow flight?
Nov 17, 2016, 01:50 AM
Registered User
Interesting. I've been trying to decide between these 2.. reasons why you prefer Theory?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dadawada
Have both the Manta and the Theory. Theory beats the Manta hands down.
Nov 20, 2016, 02:38 PM
Registered User
Dadawada's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by networkit
Interesting. I've been trying to decide between these 2.. reasons why you prefer Theory?
Again, just my experience so your mileage may vary...

Out of the box the AS3X settings worked way better on the Theory. The launch setting was useful and worked, the intermediate and advanced did as advertised without any pitch or roll change hands off.

The Manta was just opposite. Every mode change was a major trim change. Very annoying. The Manta wasn't as responsive to me as the Theory or as fast. (I'm running 4S).

The Theory just tracked better. I have some videos I shared over in the Theory thread that show this.
Nov 20, 2016, 08:07 PM
RCGroups Editor
Matt Gunn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dadawada

The Manta was just opposite. Every mode change was a major trim change. Very annoying.
The changes in trim when switching flight modes happen when initial reflex is set on the bench with the aircraft rx and tx are powered up AND the switch being in position 0. Initial trim settings should be done in position 1 or 2 only. That will prevent changes in trim when the switched is changed.

I covered that in the Reflex section of the review:

Setting the correct elevon trim is also very important. When you trim a wing for flight, it almost always requires a slight amount of up trim, called reflex. The required reflex setting is to line the bottom of the elevon with the top of the trailing edge as shown in the picture. Do not set the reflex in launch mode (mode 0)! Launch mode has additional reflex to always make the Manta climb. Setting the reflex should be done in mode 1 without the AS3X engaged. Since AS3X doesn't engage until we move the throttle to 25%, it's safe to plug in the Manta's flight battery, turn on the transmitter, set the mode switch to mode 1, and then adjust your servo pushrods for the reflex shown in the manual.
Nov 25, 2016, 09:09 AM
Registered User
Dadawada's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Gunn
The changes in trim when switching flight modes happen when initial reflex is set on the bench with the aircraft rx and tx are powered up AND the switch being in position 0. Initial trim settings should be done in position 1 or 2 only. That will prevent changes in trim when the switched is changed.

I covered that in the Reflex section of the review:

Setting the correct elevon trim is also very important. When you trim a wing for flight, it almost always requires a slight amount of up trim, called reflex. The required reflex setting is to line the bottom of the elevon with the top of the trailing edge as shown in the picture. Do not set the reflex in launch mode (mode 0)! Launch mode has additional reflex to always make the Manta climb. Setting the reflex should be done in mode 1 without the AS3X engaged. Since AS3X doesn't engage until we move the throttle to 25%, it's safe to plug in the Manta's flight battery, turn on the transmitter, set the mode switch to mode 1, and then adjust your servo pushrods for the reflex shown in the manual.
Thanks, I did that however. But it seemed each flight resulted in a different trim setting. Again, very annoying. Perhaps I had a bad Rx.

The Theory was just the opposite as I mentioned. It flew right out of the box with no trim setting needed. Maybe luck of the draw.
Apr 28, 2017, 03:47 PM
Registered User
Did some quick searches and nothing popped up. Has anyone bound a Manta to a Taranis? I have the Spectrum module and have not had any problems with my mini quads but not set anything with a real RX using a mode switch. Any help?
Oct 28, 2017, 01:18 AM
Registered User
The Black Nova's Avatar
Anyone tried the Manta on 5S?


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