Blade Nano S2 Mini Review

At the moment I am writing this article, half the planet is in lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I keep seeing people who, stuck at home for a long period of time, either decide to jump in the marvellous world of RC helicopters, or come back to it after a hiatus.
The question that comes out the most is: "what is a good beginner helicopter, or what is an RC helicopter I could fly at home?"

Well, I think that one of the best answers to this questions is, get a Blade Nano S2, the latest micro CP helicopter from Horizon Hobby.

As a disclaimer, I am not affiliated to HH in any form, I am just a regular flyer who enjoys their product.

Cheat sheet

Here is a quick version of the characteristics of the Blade Nano S2:

• BNF Version: $99,99 - 109,90€
• RTF Version: $129,99 - 149,90€
• SAFE Z mode, which slows pitch movement down quite a bit
• Panic mode
• Weight: 32grams (1,13oz)
• Recommended batteries: 1S 150mAh - 220 mAh
• Flight time: 3-5 minutes 

Stock components

The Blade Nano S2 comes with a new controller, compared to the older X and S versions of the Nano, featuring the SAFE and Z modes, which "can" help someone who is not familiar with RC helicopters to start in the hobby. I say "can" because if dumbed down modes are a good starting point, it is my opinion that in the long run they really slow down progress, to the point of hard wiring wrong habits which will be really hard to change later on.
To me it is like keeping training wheels on your bike for way longer than needed: it will be very hard to relearn how to ride without their help!

There are 3 flight modes:

Stability, which basically turns the Nano into a slowed down fixed pitch helicopter;
Agility, which allows more cyclic movement, and full control of the pitch;
Stunt, which turns the Nano into a dragonfly on crack.

This actually means that this is a really versatile model, which can really be flown by a variety of pilots, with really different skill sets.

The brains of the Blade Nano S2

The swashplate is moved by three micro linear servos, as per the rest of the Nano / Micro range offered by Blade. They are prone to getting dirt and to cause shakes, and this is how to clean them regularly.

Two brushed motors complete the electronic set: the main is an 8,5 mm x 20 mm coreless motor, which you can easily find on aliexpress for less than a dollar (compared to the $17 for the same sold by Horizon Hobby), and the tail one is a 6 mm x 15mm 59000kv coreless motor, which again you can find for next to nothing on aliexpress, especially because you cannot buy them by themselves: you need to buy a whole tail boom replacement!
The brushed motors really have random life spans: they can last anything from 40 to 200 flights, so I recommend getting some spares in order not to be grounded for too long waiting for replacmeents!

The belly of the Blade Nano S2
Overall design

The Blade Nano S2 is very much like its predecessors, and not very different from the mCPx/S when it comes down to frame design.
Everything is screwed onto a lightweight plastic frame, which despite what Blade says, it is very prone to breaking, especially where the canopy posts join the main structure. If this is your case, this is one way of repairing them.
Another weak spot is the two rubber grommets which attach the flight controller to the frame: they tend to break, and at the moment I have not found a valid replacement: the only solution proposed by Horizon Hobby is to buy another flight controller, which does not make any sense.

The tail boom is a hollow carbon tube, which again is not sold by itself. I recommend you buy a meter of 1,5mm solid carbon rod, and cut it to length if you need replacements. And you will!
I wrote an article about extending the tail boom of my old Blade mCPx, here.

When it comes to the canopy, I read many different opinions: there is who despises it because of the low visibility colours, and who, like me, find it very nice! To be honest I am flying the Nano in really close quarters (often in my living room), so the canopy is perfectly visible to me. Also, I find the colours to be quite minimal, compared to some other more...decorative canopies. In the end, I really like how the Nano looks on the ground and in the air.

The Nano's pretty face
Tips and tricks

Here are a few tips I discovered flying the Nano, or scrolling through forums. Obviously there are many many more, but let's start with those:

Throttle cut
The only way to configure throttle hold is to activate throttle cut on your radio, and to configure it to the same switch as throttle hold. This is to send a -130% value to the throttle channel, otherwise the motor will always run at 100% in stunt mode.

Throttle cut is configured to the same switch as throttle hold on my DX8 G1
When you use the stock RTF radio (not recommended if you can afford to get a computerised radio) remember to hold the rudder stick to full left if you need to rebind it to the bird.
If you are using any other compatible radio, such as Spektrums or OpenTx transmitters, you need to hold the rudder stick to full right.

Main gear
I had to replace the main gear after being too slow on Throttle hold. That mistake chewed some teeth off the gear so it was time for a new one.
When the Nano arrives in its box it has some black goop on the main gear, to prevent it from slipping.

When you replace the main gear, push it on the shaft trying to be as vertical as possible, to avoid any skewed movements. You can replace the black goop with common white glue.

Swashplate adjustments
If you are experiencing any drift while in Stability or Agility modes, you may need to adjust the linkrods from the servos to the swashplate, to make sure it is as horizontal as you can get it.

First thing to do is to plug in the flight battery, leaving your transmitter off. The throttle will be on hold, and the servos go to their center position. Now look at the swash in relation to the main shaft, and try to get them as perpendicular as you can. To adjust it, you need to gently pull a link with your nails, and screw or unscrew it by a full turn.
When you replace the link onto the swash, put your thumb behind the ball otherwise you will bend the swash.

Third party upgrades
A few years back I had a Blade 130X which I spent way too much money on, and every accessory I got made the helicopter fly a little worse, because it got heavier and heavier. I learnt the lesson, and now I try to fly all my helicopters in their stock form: they fly so much better, lighter, and they are incredibly cheaper (in RC Helicopter terms!) to maintain.
I am now a firm believer that aluminium parts on micro helicopters are mainly bling, without real benefits to the model.
That said I see many people recommending an aluminium swashplate to replace the stock plastic one. To be honest, unless you are a Bert or a Tareq, I do not think that you will see any difference. It will only be more expensive to repair.


All in all Blade came out with a great product, and I totally recommend to get one if you are looking for a small trainer, with decent power, to fly indoor or outdoor with little wind.
The Nano is so light that when it crashes, the damage is quite reduced, and this makes it a great learning helicopter. Just remember to hit throttle hold before crashing!

To properly take advantage if this little beauty I really, REALLY recommend you use a computerised radio. The RTF radio is ok if you are just starting out, and you do not know if you will like the RC helicopter world. But as soon as you decide to stay in the club a little longer, do yourself a favour and get a real radio, which you will be able to use with multiple models, and will allow you to configure all the flight parameters of your helicopter.

Thanks for reading, and happy indoor landings. Stay safe!
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