2014 Blade 350 QX RTF with SAFE Quadcopter Review: Better than a DJI Phantom?

Blade 350 QX RTF - What's The Big Deal?

I enjoy reviewing quadrocopters that prove worthy challengers to the DJI Phantom line. I've got a Phantom 2 Vision+ and fly it on a daily basis, but they're not cheap, and since I've got a garage full of drones, I like them to come in a variety of prices. This also keeps my wife from leaving me! Last year, Blade came out with the 350 QX RTF, which is already promising to be a worthy alternative to my Phantoms. Is it even better than a Phantom? Read on to find out! I'm off to the garage to get my 350 QX and log some hours in the sky.

Structure, Design, and Guts

Blade typically sells their quadcopters as RTF, or bind-n-fly, and RTF, or ready-to-fly kits. I'm hardcore so I roll with the BNF kits, but the day I wanted to buy one, Amazon was sold out, so I went with the RTF kit. There really isn't a difference when the drone is in the air, and the RTF kit makes you a lot less likely to break something, so that's what I'd recommend to most pilots. The main advantage of the BNF option is if you've got your own radio that you'd like to pair to the quadcopter.

If you get the RTF kit, you get a Spektrum DX5e radio with 4 AA batteries, a 2200mAH LiPo battery, a balancing charger, spare props (and yes, you'll go through spare propellers with this drone), Allen keys, instructions to get you in the air, and a mounting plate so you can buy and attach your very own GoPro camera to take some awesome drone video and photography. In other words, this is pretty much like a Phantom or Phantom 2, in terms of the connectability to a GoPro, except it's cheaper. If you get the BNF kit, you need your own radio, such as the Spektrum DX6i, or a different radio that's got at least 5 channels and is either DSM2 or DSMX-compatible. Your flight time in either case will between 10 and 15 minutes.

The manual, unfortunately, isn't as helpful as it should be, which is why I went for the full manual available from Blade here. Besides that, though, the setup is about as straightforward as it gets: get drone out of box, charge drone battery with 3 amp included charger, attach GoPro, and watch out world, because another drone just took off in your neighborhood!

What's It Like to Use It?

This is the part of drone reviews I enjoy writing the most. There is something the Blade 350 QX RTF does better than any other drone I've used, and that's flying at night. Night flying with a drone is one of those things that my buddies and I used to do with LEDs strapped to our helicopters , and it didn't always turn out the way we wanted it to. Let's just say there were a lot of crashes and startled neighbors and UFO sightings. Has anything changed?

Yes! It's just as fun to go night flying with a quadcopter like the Blade 350 QX RTF as it was with my old R/C helicopters, but it's a lot safer and more predictable now, which I like as an advocate of best practices with quadrotors. But before I get ahead of myself, here are some of my favorite features of the Blade 350 QX RTF.

First of all, the Smart Mode is awesome. It features SAFE, which stands for sensor assisted flight envelope, and it basically means you're flying with an extra, more experienced pilot who keeps you from getting too crazy behind the radio. When it's enabled, your Blade 350 QX RTF will not be able to tilt beyond around 15 degrees. In other words, pitch and roll will be limited, which makes it impossible to lose control of your Blade 350 QX RTF while flying it, even if you make mistakes on the radio. Similarly, once you move your elevator stick to the center position, SAFE will bring your drone into a hover. Thanks to the GPS and altimeter built in, not only will you hover at the same altitude, you'll hover in the same location.

Smart mode is good enough for you to drop your radio and just start taking pictures of your Blade 350 QX RTF in the air if you want. It's awesome. And speaking of awesome, how about the GPS paired with the fly home function? I've lost track of the number of times I've sent the Blade 350 QX RTF far, far away, to the point where I couldn't even see it anymore, both during the day and in the middle of the night, only to have the drone return to me with the flick of a switch. It takes longer if the drone is farther away from you, of course, but it's a feature I never get tired of watching; in most cases, the Blade 350 QX RTF lands within 6 feet of the original take off location, and yes, the landing is perfect.

There are so many other features present in the Blade 350 QX RTF that I could spend all day and night writing about them, but I'll just skip to the nighttime mode. You've got LEDs on each motor nacelle that help you figure out where the drone is oriented, and the lights shine, shine, shine at night, making it a dead easy affair to keep track of the drone at night. And night flying is, frankly, addicting. Thanks to SAFE mode, you can give the Blade 350 QX RTF to your mother-in-law at night and have her fly as well as a pro. I'm serious, as we tried it the other day, since she was curious about what that strange flying set of Christmas lights were. It really looks like a UFO, and if you were the kind of person who enjoyed making fake UFO sightings up, you could have a ball with this drone. I'm not encouraging it at all, but the thought did cross my mind once or twice.

Of course, no drone is perfect, and this is no exception. Battery life isn't as long as that in a Phantom, although it's still more than enough to get a fun flight in. Similarly, I wish you could adjust your camera angles while in flight, but at the same time, without a 3 axis gimbal such as that found on the Phantom 2 Vision+, that just isn't possible. The main annoyance with the Blade 350 QX RTF is the fact that the propellers aren't as reliable as they should be.

There was apparently an error for the first batch of props due to excessive failures, according to a friend of mine who only flies Blade. Mine never failed, but I only flew as high and far as I did because I knew I could afford to replace the drone if anything went wrong. If you're really worried about it, you might want to consider upgrading the props to APC's quad props. You'll need an adapter kit to do that.

That said, it's unlikely to happen to you, and if it does, Blade is very responsive to help out if the failure leads to drone damage, from what I've heard. And as I said, I was too busy flying to worry about it.

Should I Buy It?

If it were up to me, I'd vote yes! It's one of the best deals out there right now, and definitely a drone that can hold its own against the DJI Phantom line if you're looking for something different. For a pretty cheap price, you get a quadcopter that's programmed, built and ready to fly, along with a GPS, SAFE setup, stabilization, and a fly home feature setup, all with the capability to tote a GoPro camera along to take pretty awesome shots. The setup is about as simple as it gets: you open up the box, you charge your battery, you add your camera, and you start flying and shooting. It's that easy.

I completely recommend the Blade 350 QX  RTF. You can buy it from Amazon here. You can buy it in BNF form here. If you buy it in BNF form, you can pair it with this transmitter. Extra regular batteries are available here, but I'd spend a bit more for the higher capacity battery here. You can pick up a GoPro here.


Hi! My name is Mike, and I'm the author of this personal drone blog. If you find the information on my flying drone review blog useful, you can shop through Amazon here.

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