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Lifewire / Sandra Stafford
Can be flown outdoors
SAFE technology prevents crashes
Replacement parts available
2.4GHz transmitter with DSMX included
Can bind with other Spektrum radios
Trimming may be a little difficult
The Blade 120 S RC helicopter is a great choice for beginners with two easy modes and a Panic button to make you comfortable flying. The advanced mode also helps prepare users to fly serious RC helicopters.
Half the fun of RC toys is taking them out into the world, but that just isn’t possible with many RC helicopters on the market due to their weight and build. The Blade BLH4100 120 S is an exception, combining the stability and handling of a single-rotor helicopter with the user-friendliness of the coaxial helicopters favored by beginners. Read on to see how well it fared in our testing.
Many beginner hobby helicopters use coaxial rotors and a flybar to maintain stability. These solutions are inexpensive, but they leave the helicopter at the mercy of wind, ensuring that these helicopters can only be used indoors. With a single rotor and flybarless design, the 120 S is able to withstand breezes. Stability is achieved through gyros and mixers that allow the helicopter to hover or maneuver while remaining under the user’s control. The mechanical simplicity leaves fewer external parts to break.
After testing so many helicopters inside, we were excited to finally have one that promised to handle outdoor conditions.
The 120 S has a fiberglass canopy that is flexible and durable. The two halves of ours were not attached nicely, so it had noticeable large seams. This didn’t bother us, though. The flybarless build tends to be more expensive, so we appreciate a canopy that is going to survive a few crashes and we aren’t too fussed by how it looks. Practically every part of the 120 S can be replaced if it breaks, including the canopy. There are even unpainted canopies for sale for those with the artistic talent to create their own.
If you don’t already fly helicopters for a living, you will need to purchase the RTF (ready to fly) 120 S. For people who already own a Spektrum radio, a common transmitter used even by serious hobbyists, there is a slightly cheaper BNF (bind and fly) option. If you intend to personally own a few helicopters, it might make more sense to buy a single Spektrum radio to bind to all of your helicopters rather than letting individual controllers pile up.
We were testing the RTF version, which includes batteries for the transmitter. There are three control modes to choose from. FM0 allows the helicopter to bank at a low angle and limits flight to a slow speed. The helicopter will self-level when the cyclic stick is released. FM1 is a little faster with a higher bank angle. Most users will want to use this mode. FM2 acts as an agility mode. Bank angle is not limited, speed is not limited, and the helicopter will not self-level if you release the cyclic stick. This is the mode you will want to use to practice for collective pitch, where users control the angle of the rotor blades to allow upside-down flight.
A coaxial rotor is never going to be as stable in windy conditions as the single rotor, flybarless build of the 120 S.
The manual has instructions for how to perform trimming and drift calibration in various cases. Your goal is to make the helicopter hover in the air without drifting or veering off. When the helicopter is holding its position even in outdoor conditions with a little breeze, you’re ready to go.
The main reason to choose a Blade 120 S is the promise of finally being able to use your helicopter outdoors. After testing so many helicopters inside, we were excited to finally have one that promised to handle outdoor conditions. We took it out into the windy Texas desert, placed the helicopter on our rock lawn, and lifted off. Rather than immediately drifting away on a light breeze, the helicopter was stable in the air and moved only when we were using the transmitter.
SAFE technology keeps sensors and software inside the helicopter ready to stabilize the helicopter and even to save it from crashing.
The 120 S is truly a step up from the competition. The handling takes some practice, but that’s to be expected in a hobbyist helicopter. SAFE technology keeps sensors and software inside the helicopter ready to stabilize the helicopter and even to save it from crashing. A press of the trigger button made the helicopter automatically hover so we could regain our control. This feature is great for helping beginners gain the confidence to try some tight maneuvering around the corners of buildings or to fly the helicopter high into the air. The 2.4GHz transmitter had enough range that we could easily fly around our large yard without ever taking a step.
A simple fact of RC helicopters is that they do not have very long battery life, and the 120 S is no different. Depending on how we were flying, we got between five and seven minutes of flight time out of the 500mAh lithium polymer battery. It’s best not to make a habit of overusing the batteries, which can be degraded by being depleted many times. Picking up a few extras will protect your investment and give you longer play sessions, allowing you to keep flying while the other batteries are recharging via USB.
At under $160, or under $120 if you purchase the BNF version because you already own a Spektrum radio, this helicopter is priced very well. Blade makes a quality product that is going to be helpful as a stepping stone into a somewhat expensive hobby. The 120 S is a beginner RC helicopter, and intermediate or advanced flyers are going to be looking at helicopters for $500 or more. It’s expensive for a toy, but the price is definitely fair for the quality.
If you think you’re going to become an RC helicopter hobbyist and want to learn about collective pitch, we recommend the 120 S. It’s also the best choice in this price range if you want to fly outdoors. A coaxial rotor is never going to be as stable in windy conditions as the single rotor, flybarless build of the 120 S. Lastly, if you already own a Spektrum radio transmitter, you might as well buy the 120 S.
Another option in this price range is the Blade mCX2. This is a great choice for those who prefer to fly indoors. It has great handling and is going to be fun to fly straight out of the box. It just isn’t meant for serious hobbyists.
The only budget choice for outdoors.
The Blade BLH4100 120 S has a design that is built to get people into the fun of flying. The flybarless, single rotor build is resistant to wind interference, so the helicopter goes exactly where you want it to go. Superior handling and three modes allow for your skill to grow with the helicopter, and a Panic button just might save you from a horrible crash. With all of these thoughtful considerations, the 120 S is the perfect RC helicopter for flying outdoors.