RCU Review: Hirobo Lama SA-315B - 30


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    Contributed by: Erick Royer | Published: March 2003 | Views: 54889 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon

    Model Name: Lama XRB

    Rotor Diameter: 13.7"

    Length: 14"

    Weight: 170 grams

    Power Supply: 110VAC

    Controls: 4 Channel (Cyclic, Rudder, Throttle)

    Drive System: Dual Motors, Dual Rotors (counter rotating)

    Radio Used: Included

    Manufacturer: Hirobo

    Distributor: MRC, Model Rectifier Corporation

    Price: $299.99

    Hirobo Lama XRB.

    Indoor Micro Helicopter

    By Erick Royer



    INTRODUCTION

    I could not have asked for better medicine for the "winter blues" than the new Hirobo Lama XRB. This year, the New England winter has really put a damper on RC flying. For the past couple of months, I have been chomping at the bit to get my hands on a heli and fly, but each time I plan to fly, the weather has been uncooperative, it's either snowing, extremely windy, or the temperature has dipped below zero.

    My flight simulator relieves some of those urges, but sometimes you just need to control a heli in three dimensions. Well, the new Hirobo Lama fits the bill and relieves my "winter blues"

    When I first heard about this new heli, I scoured the internet for information about it. After much searching, I came up empty and I was beginning to think it was a myth. Then a few weeks ago, one showed up on my doorstep, a very pleasant surprise!

    When I opened the box, my first impression was that this looked like a toy you'd buy at Toys R Us. The heli comes beautifully packaged with a clear plastic front. The "kit" includes the Lama heli, an 11-foot tether, transmitter controller, AC adapter, and 6 sets of spare rotor blades. Be careful as you unpack the heli, there are several compartments in the box that contain a plastic training gear, and a small plastic bag with a mini screwdriver and an Allen wrench. As I unpacked and examined the contents, I was very impressed. A toy? I think not! This is a beautifully designed, very complete mini scale helicopter.

    THE LAMA COMES WITH THE CONTROLLER AND POWER SUPPLY

    The best part of the Lama is it is ready to fly right out of the package. The included manual has many illustrations and is marginally helpful for the rank beginner. There is a lot of information on hovering and properly setting up the heli however the manual is in combination of English and Japanese making it somewhat difficult to understand it at first glance. After reading the instructions though, a beginner will easily find him/herself hovering the Lama in short order. For the experienced heli pilot, there is no doubt that the Lama will impress. Is the Lama designed for 3D and advanced aerobatics? No. But it is perfect for those like me, who cannot get out during the winter to keep those thumbs active. I find that the Lama is perfect for practicing hovering maneuvers, pirouette, and nose-in hovering.

    THE CONTROLLER HAS THE LOOK AND FEEL OF A STANDARD 4 CHANNEL TRANSMITTER.

    THE INCLUDED POWER SUPPLY.



    HITS

    • Ready to fly right from the box.
    • Easy to setup
    • Transmitter-like controller included
    • Very realistic flight performance
    • Many spare parts included
    • Rugged design
    • Scale appearance

    MISSES

    • None


    Setup

    Instructions and Assembly:

    The Lama XRB comes complete ready-to-fly out of the box, there is nothing to assemble. The only thing I did prior to flying the model was to tighten the main rotor blades a little, they seemed a little loose. But do not over tighten them. They should be able to move freely. If you are new to helis, you should use the supplied training gear. The gear consists of 4 plastic legs that attach to a center hub and it's designed to flex in the event of a hard landing. Simply cut the pieces from the plastic parts tree and assemble them according to the manual. No tools or glue are required as the parts just snap together.

    PARTS FOR THE TRAINING GEAR

    TRAINING GEAR INSTALLED ON THE HELI.

    To attach the training gear to the skids, you'll need to remove the tether cord from the heli. The canopy snaps off to gain access to the connector. I attached the training gear to the skids with the included small bands.

    With the training gear attached, you are ready to take flight!



    What makes it go?

    True, the Lama does not completely look like a conventional helicopter due to the fact that it has 2 main counter-rotating rotor blades. While there is a tail rotor, it is there for appearance only. The rudder control or yaw is achieved by varying the speed of the rotors. The control response is surprisingly realistic.

    The main rotor assembly is comprised of a shaft within a shaft. The inner main shaft controls the top rotor that is driven by a motor located near the front of the heli. The lower rotor is controlled by the outer shaft that is driven by a separate motor of equal size mounted towards the rear of the heli.

    THE LOWER MOTOR CONTROLS THE TOP ROTOR BLADES

    UPPER AND LOWER BLADES

    The dual motor design allows the speed of the rotors to be independently controlled. This varying of rotor speed is what gives the Lama the ability to yaw or steer. When first flew the Lama, I noticed that there was no tendency to yaw despite the lack of a working tail rotor. I assumed that it was because the blades were counter-rotating and canceling each others torque. I was amazed at how well the nose stayed where I pointed it. I noticed a red and green LED on the left side of the heli and thought that it might contain a gyro. A quick email to Jeff Green at MRC confirmed that there was, in fact, a gyro on board.

    The lower rotor provides cyclic control and there are two small servos connected to a swashplate. The swashplate transfers commands from the controller to the lower rotor varying the pitch in the blades. This provides directional movement from side to side and front to back.

    SERVO THAT CONTROLS THE SWASHPLATE

    The upper rotor provides stability and lift to the model. The pitch of the blades is controlled by stabilizer (flybar) attached to the top of the mast. As the blades rotate and the heli moves, the stabilizer dampens the helicopter's responses making it very stable in flight. The weights on the stabilizer can be adjusted to make the heli more responsive as your flying skills improve.

    STABILIZER ON THE TOP ROTOR

    SWASHPLATE THAT CONTROLS THE LOWER ROTOR

    The blades are fixed pitch and there is no collective control. Changing the heli's altitude is controlled by the rotor speed. As the rotors speed up you gain lift and conversely, as you lower the throttle lift is reduced. Because the Lama is so light, the "collective" response is surprisingly realistic and responds well to commands.

    Flying Time:

    After plugging in the power supply to a 110 volt outlet and the other end into the back of the controller, I placed the Lama in the center of the room and pressed start button on the controller. I slowly advanced the throttle and the blades started to rotate. I continued to increase the throttle until it got light on its feet. It took me a few minutes to get used to the flight characteristics, especially when close to the ground as you are flying in "ground effect" from the rotor wash. Once the Lama was at 12" or so above the ground, it was as tame as can be. Ground effect can be tough to overcome, especially for a beginner, as the thought process is to keep it close to the ground to minimize damage. Once you get over the fear and get up a foot or so, you will be surprised at how stable the heli is.

    After hovering for a few minutes, I realized that the controls were very soft. This is great for the beginner, as you really have to move the sticks to get the Lama to react. I read in the manual how the stabilizer can be adjusted for increased sensitivity, so i decided that I would give it a shot to obtain a feel that is closer to my larger glow powered helis. After making this quick adjustment, I was very pleased with the performance. It was like flying a totally new helicopter. The control inputs were much more responsive.

    After about 15-20 more minutes of hovering, I landed and checked the motors. They were a little warm and I decided to let them cool for a little while before flying again.

    On my next flight I tried some forward flight. Bear in mind that you forward flight is limited by the size of your, obstructions such as furniture, and of course the 11 foot long tether cord. I was able to perform some precision hovering maneuvers by placing some "targets" on the floor and flying from one to the other, stopping to hover for 10-15 seconds over each one. I also flew some figure 8's both tail in and flying the nose. It performed beautifully.

    Video of the HIROBO LAMA XRB
    (Windows Media File 2.2 meg)

    Next, I tried some nose-in hovering. This is probably the best and most useful function of the Lama for most pilots. Nose-in hovering is can be tricky as most of your control inputs are reversed. I can practice with much more confidence with the Lama than a full size heli knowing that I don't have a $1500+ machine in the air. I strongly believe the Lama's biggest asset is in perfecting this flight maneuver.

    Fortunately, after many flights my Lama still was in one piece. In the event of a mishap, the manual goes into great detail on how to change blades, adjust their tracking, and make repairs. I am sure that I will be putting this part of the manual to use in the near future.

    Final Thoughts

    Summary

    Excellent!! Not only is the flight performance of Hirobo's Lama very realistic when compared to a larger glow-powered heli, but it also has a beautiful scale appearance.

    The Lama is perfect for a beginner because it is relatively inexpensive and comes with everything you need. No longer do you have to shy away from the great sport of helicopter flying because of the expense. The Lama puts helicopter flying within everyone's reach.

    If you are an experienced pilot, you will love the feeling and flight performance that you get from this model. It is perfect for practicing hovering maneuvers including nose-in hovering.

    Because the heli is powered by household current, your flying time is virtually endless. Just think, no fuel, no mess and no flight box. Fly when it is raining or snowing outside or when the wind is too gusty. Could it be a dream? The Hirobo Lama XRB is your "Dream Machine".

    Don't just take my word for it. Try one out at your local hobby shop and see for yourself!

    Manufacturer Listing

    Model Rectifier Corporation
    80 Newfield Ave
    PO Box 6312
    Edison, NJ 08818
    732-225-2100
    www.modelrectifier.com


    Comments on RCU Review: Hirobo Lama SA-315B - 30

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    The comments, observations and conclusions made in this review are solely with respect to the particular item the editor reviewed and may not apply generally to similar products by the manufacturer. We cannot be responsible for any manufacturer defects in workmanship or other deficiencies in products like the one featured in the review.

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