Home > All About Helicopters > R/C Helicopters – Blade Tracking In-Depth

R/C Helicopters – Blade Tracking In-Depth

Hi all,

It’s been a while since my last post, as i had a well deserved holidays period. Now back on track, i will try to recover the time and keep coming to you all with the best and most accurate information i can provide.

This time, i will focus on how to correctly execute the blade tracking setup on a heli. This could be described in just a few lines of text, but i want to fully cover this subject, as this is a key setup action to ensure your heli will be stable and smooth. This is also forgotten or ignored by many practitioners, either by lack of knowledge or by improperly doing it, leading to many flight difficulties that are usually related with incorrect blade tracking and, as a consequence, a very unstable heli.

RC helicopter blade tracking has been a mystery to many new RC helicopter owners, but I’m going to demystify the whole concept for you right now so that you’ll have a complete understanding of blade tracking by the time you finish reading this post.

First, we need to answer this important question: What is blade tracking?

Essentially, blade tracking is when one rotor blade rotates in a circular motion and the following blade follows exactly behind it. Both rotor blades spin on the same plane without one blade being higher or lower than the blade it’s following. Another way to look at it is that both blades travel through the same airspace created by their spinning. If the rear blade is following the front blade on a higher or lower plane, then it can cause a lot of unwanted vibrations for the RC helicopter.

How To Track Your Blades

If you’re flying your RC helicopter for the first time, you need to see if the blades are tracking properly and you may need some help from an experienced RC helicopter pilot. You can check the blade tracking by simply hovering the helicopter in place at eye level and looking at the blades as it hovers. If you see a lot of shaking and vibrating, your RC helicopter is more than likely not tracking properly. If you’re not sure if it’s tracking properly, here are a few simple steps to check it:

  1. get two different colors of tape and apply a small strip of one color to one blade. Put a red strip on one blade and a blue strip on the other blade. By using a different color on each blade, it makes it a lot easier to see which blade might be out of track.
  2. Now that you’ve applied the colored tape, have an experienced RC helicopter pilot hover the helicopter in place so that you can see the blades as they spin. As you watch the blades spin, you’ll know if they’re in track if you only see a single circle or both blades spinning on one line. If you see two circles or two lines, (red above blue or vice versa) then you’ll know that one of the blades is off and needs to be aligned.

Blade Tracking
Blade Tracking

You should always make sure that your blades are balanced before you look at the tracking, as unbalanced blades will effect how they track. I will come back to this subject (blade balancing) in a different post later).

To properly track your rotor blades, you need to land the hovering RC helicopter first. After the blades have stopped spinning, you can adjust the blade that is out of alignment. You’ll need to have your RC helicopter manual handy so that you can look up the proper blade tracking information in it. Be sure that you adjust the correct linkages in what the manual says and not what someone says. This is the best way to be sure that you’ve done it correctly. Usually it involves lengthening the linkage to the blade grip of the rotor that was spinning lower, by removing the ball links and unscrewing them one turn at a time until the tracking is dead on.

If you need to unscrew one blade grip linkage by more than a couple of turns, you might want to tighten the other by a turn or two and alternate until the tracking is perfect.

Once you’ve tightened or loosened the correct linkage or linkages, you need to have someone fly the helicopter again so that you can look at the blades. You’ll repeat this process as often as needed until your blades are tracked properly and they spin on the same plane. Once you’ve completed proper blade tracking, your RC helicopter will handle a lot smoother than it did before and be much easier to fly.

Remember to always use the blade that you did not use to set the pitch with. If you did not use a pitch gauge or do not remember which blade it was, then it depends on how you want to affect the head speed. If you want more head speed, lower the high blade, if you want less head speed, raise the low blade. If you want to maintain the head speed, you have to raise the low blade and lower the high blade by the same amount.

One thing you might want to keep in mind, is that anytime you remove the main rotor blades, you’ll want to keep note of which one goes where to avoid having to readjust the tracking in the future. Also, every time you replace the main rotors, you should check the tracking. I keep a small roll of red tracking tape with me, so I can check the tracking anytime I’m at the field.

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