Review: This thing is completely awesome. I can’t believe what they have packed into it for the incredible price of around US$80. It is twitchy enough to be a challenge, yet stable enough to be buckets of fun. After 3 battery charges (about 30-40 mins total run time) I could hover capably and generally move the thing to an arbitrary location of my choosing.
Four weeks later, and I’m zooming around the room, landing on a 12″ square footstool, and considering how to rig up some sort of hook system for carting cargo around the house.
Rudder turning is somewhat fraught, with the tail slowly rotating one way or the other. It seems to constantly rotate to the left at a rate of maybe one revolution every 30 seconds. Even adjusting the trim settings on the 4-in-1 electronic controller hasn’t corrected it. I think the culprit is slightly different motor performance between the two motors, or some binding in one or other of the rotor shafts. However, after spending some more time with a larger, more powerful helicopter, I’ve come to realise that all helicopters require constant attention on the rudder stick, so having this problem is actually like training for bigger helis.
Performance wise, the Lama V4 is not a rocket ship. It will move forward at a brisk walking pace, and will happily move in any direction you command it. It is definitely sluggish compared to a traditional tail-rotor, non-coaxial helicopter. The reason is that the upper blades have no cyclic control, and so are always working to pull the helicopter back to a static position. This is fantastic for a learning flyer. However, sudden changes of direction are prone to causing ‘blade clash’, where the tilting lower blades come into contact with the static upper blades. I’ve only had this happen once, when hauling hard back on the cyclic while the heli was at close to maximum forward speed. If your idea of fun is flying circuits of your lounge, but not high-speed aerobatics in a gymnasium, then the Lama is perfect.
The Lama will not fly outdoors, except on the most incredibly calm days. Considering the forward speed is so low, it can barely hold position with full forward cyclic in even the lightest breeze.
It’s a fairly robust little machine too. It is too light to damage itself even falling from 10 feet up (ceiling height!), onto carpet. While not recommended, you can get away from most situations by just cutting the throttle. Bear in mind this is not a good thing to learn when you want to go to bigger helis, when cutting the throttle will cost you dearly.
The most vulnerable part on the Lama is its standard blades. I definitely recommend you grab a pair of Xtreme Blades for the Lama when you purchase it. My two sets of basic black blades were chewed up inside of a week, but I’ve had one set of Xtremes on ever since. The only other thing I’ve broken was a single landing skid when coming down hard on concrete. I imagine you could bend or break some of the rotor/head components, but only by hitting something at speed and without cutting the throttle.
Overall, the Lama is a massive step up from a Picco Z. If you’re bored flying your Picco Z in lazy circles, definitely think about a Lama for flying sideways and backwards, and holding excellent hovers above people’s heads so that the downdraft spoils their hairdo.
I’d say if you can drive a RC car without crashing, you can probably fly a Lama. Just go gentle on the throttle, and quick, precise movements on all the other controls. Check out Radd’s School of Rotary Flight for an excellent set of tutorials that will get you more comfortable with the controls. Given the ease of flying the Lama, you can skip pretty fast through Radd’s lessons, but reading them will certainly help you learn.
The Lama even gave me enough confidence to to purchase a full-house CCPM ship. This is a much bigger jump than recommended – I was told to stick with a fixed-pitch heli. However I decided on CCPM for investment reasons, and because I’ve been flying planes for years. I can safely say that a ‘proper’ CCPM heli with a tail rotor is a completely different world to a coaxial like the Lama. The Lama is a good tutorial on how the cyclic control affects the movement of the helicopter, but beyond that, everything is harder: sensitivity, power, rudder control, pitch curves, etc..
I still love my E Sky Lama V4. I find it an absolute joy to fly, and it’s actually really relaxing to come back to it after a day of learning to hover my other heli.