Rotor Live 2019

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Written by James Wang Largest helicopter event in Europe filled with innovative new products Extended Feature As seen in the August 2019 issue of Model Aviation.

Rotor Live 2019

March 9-10, 2019, marked the 10th anniversary of Rotor Live, the largest RC helicopter trade show in Europe. It is held every spring at Iffezheim, a famous horse racing track outside of Baden-Baden, Germany. This is an affluent region with many exquisite spas because of the abundant local hot springs. Baden Baden is also famous for its casino and beautiful town.

The annual Rotor Live is put on by the longest-running German RC helicopter magazine—and now the world’s only remaining monthly helicopter magazine—called Rotor, which focuses on RC helicopters and not multirotors. . I have a collection of almost every hard copy of it from the past 20 years. Past issues are available in PDF form on a CD. Each CD is 10 euros and contains 12 issues for a particular year. The articles are all in German but include many interesting pictures. Hardcore RC helicopter aficionados love it.

rotor live is the largest
Rotor Live is the largest RC helicopter event in Europe. This was the 10th year that it has been held at the Iffezheim horse racing track.

The ambiance at Rotor Live is different from the International Radio Controlled Helicopter Association (IRCHA) Jamboree that is held at the International Aeromodeling Center in Muncie, Indiana. The Jamboree is about camaraderie, bringing your own helis to fly, meeting other enthusiasts, and watching top pilots do demonstrations. Rotor Live has a trade show atmosphere, where one comes to see cutting-edge RC helicopter products and technologies.

Throughout the weekend at the 2019 event, there were seminars where helicopter designers gave hour-long presentations on how they designed their particular models. The presentations were extremely technical and all in German. Europeans love scale helicopters, so there were many superb, extremely large, scale RC helicopters on display and flying.

The 2019 show drew 3,000 attendees and 50 exhibitors during the March weekend. Approximately 2/3 of the attendees were hardcore RC helicopter enthusiasts from Germany. The rest of the attendees were from around the world.

Many Germans take the RC helicopter hobby seriously. There are currently more RC helicopter manufacturers in Germany than the rest of the world combined.

The menu for Rotor Live included two full days—from morning to late afternoon—of outdoor flying demonstrations by top pilots. The flying included 3D displays, speed runs, and scale models. There was an indoor exhibit with two floors of vendors that were mostly from Germany.

The show is for RC helicopters only—you will not find any RC airplanes or multirotors. There was also not any free flying for attendees because Rotor Live is not a fun-fly.

Vendors usually offer show specials at below-market prices. Jan Henseleit offered his Henseleit helicopter kits for 25% off to celebrate his 25th anniversary in the RC heli business. At the start of the Saturday morning activities, there was a long line at the Henseleit stand, and all of his kits sold in 30 minutes.

Jan is a legendary German designer. He designs and manufactures all of his kits himself. His home is north of Hamburg, where he has a machine shop in his basement and runs a CNC machine 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He machines all of the aluminum and steel parts. Nonmetal parts are machined from Delrin or polyoxymethylene material.

Jan only produces a few hundred kits a year, and there is usually a waiting list to buy one. Last year, he introduced the TDS and TDR II 700-class electric speed helicopters. This year, he introduced another new 700-size helicopter called the TDSF—the Three D Slow Flyer. It is the world’s lightest 700-size heli at only 6 pounds ready to fly, with a 6S 5,000 mAh LiPo battery and utilizing standard 700 mm blades.

The TDSF carbon-fiber frames use a minimal amount of carbon-fiber material and interlock similar to a 3D jigsaw puzzle. Drops of thin CA glue hold the frames together. To reduce weight, the fiberglass canopy has more than 160 holes. Jan says that it takes an hour even on a CNC machine to cut out all of those lightening holes.

Jan likes to explore new solutions and think outside the box. The swashplate is controlled using linear actuation, whereby the Cyclic Collective Pitch Mixing (CCPM) servo drives a pushrod with teeth. The benefit is that there is no collective-pitch change when cyclic commands are prescribed. The 140° electric CCPM geometry was introduced 10 years ago by Curtis Youngblood on the JR Vigor to eliminate cyclic-collective pitch cross coupling.

Jan mentioned that the TDR II required very stiff main-rotor flapping to fly at 150 mph, but the extreme flapping stiffness caused a ground resonance when the helicopter rotor was spooling up or down at takeoff or landing. He showed me an ingenious solution on the production TDR II kits. As shown in the picture, he designed a brass collet to fit inside the main rotor hub. The spring-loaded collet will retract to allow the blades to flap easily when the rotor rpm is below 1,000. Once the rotor spools up, the collets will slide out on the blade spindle and the lock up the rubber O-rings to make the rotor head rigid without flapping. This outside-the-box thinking completely eliminated the ground resonance.

Jan said that the TDSF will be the last RC helicopter kit that he designs and that he wants to retire in 10 years. He just celebrated his 60th birthday and has promised his customers that he will supply spare parts for 10 years after the final design is produced.

The German companies and pilots always bring many unusual helicopters that are not commonly seen in the US. Mass-produced kits are more common in the US and ARF versions are carried in the stores. German modelers take pride in making their aircraft as unique as possible—cost and time are not considerations.

For example, at a previous Rotor Live, I met 25-year-old Christian Koperl, the designer of the Banshee helicopter. This was an all-out, exquisitely-designed electric helicopter that does 150 mph. He only produced 50 of the Banshee kits and no more. The price of each kit was $3,500.

The Banshee was elegantly designed and made. Christian considered all trivial details; for example, the tail rotor drive belt system had an RC car-type coiled-spring shock absorber to apply a steady pressure on the belt to maintain constant tension. The canopy was shaped to cover the complete swashplate and main rotor shaft to reduce aerodynamics drag. The main rotor did not have a spindle that ran through the center of the rotor hub; instead, each main rotor blade had its own spindle. The batch of 50 Banshees all sold out.

this is a view of the indoor
This is a view of the indoor exhibition area. More than 3,000 enthusiasts attended the show.
mirko cesena
Mirko Cesena, from Italy, flew the Mikado Logo 700. He is one of the world’s top 3D pilots.

An example of German engineering at its best is the Zenyt, designed by Dino Cantara who works for a small German company called PSG. PSG makes industrial-use, high-voltage connectors. It is interesting that PSG would allocate resources to produce RC helicopters because its heli business brings in only a small percentage of the company’s revenue. That is what you call passion!

The TDSF kit costs more than $1,000, but regardless of price, most of the German kits, such as the PSG Zenyt and Henseleit helicopters, are not available in the US. I asked Dino why PSG does not sell these exquisite kits to the US market, and he replied that he only makes few kits a year, and most of them are already spoken for in Germany. The remaining few kits go to other European countries.

The Zenyt is a 700-class electric helicopter with approximately 25 kits made each year. Its rarity makes it the Ferrari or McLaren of RC helicopters. The price starts at $3,000 for a kit, and the quality is impeccable.

PSG makes the Zenyt pod-and-boom helicopter kit for 3D and precision flying, but also makes scale, multiblade, metal rotor heads, and a mechanics set for fitting in scale fuselages. I have flown one of the PSG five-blade, metal rotor heads on my MD Helicopters MD 500 scale helicopter. The quality of the machining is flawless.

bavarianDEMON is an interesting German company that makes a high-quality flybarless gyro called the AXON. bavarianDEMON is owned by Captron Electronic GmbH, a company based in Munich that produces capacitive switches, such as those used on elevator floor controls. Captron’s business has nothing to do with the hobby industry, but the owner is fully supportive of its bavarianDEMON offshoot.

bavarianDEMON displayed a new accessory that loops around one of the three brushless motor input wires and uses electromagnetic field variations in the motor wire to let the AXON gyro govern the motor rpm.

I met a young German pilot at the bavarianDEMON booth. He showed me a 700-class electric helicopter that he designed and built just for fun, from scratch. He is not even intending to make it into a commercial kit. The German modelers really enjoy tinkering.

Mikado has been in business for nearly three decades and is based in Potsdam, Germany. I highly recommend a vacation in Berlin and the Potsdam area because Berlin is very vibrant, plus the world-famous Pergamon Museum is in Berlin, and the historical Sanssouci Palaces is at Potsdam. Because of a successful expansion into the RC radio system business, Mikado constructed a new facility at Potsdam two years ago. I had a chance to visit during a vacation.

This year at Rotor Live, Mikado introduced its Logo 800 electric-powered helicopter. Kyle Dahl, from the US, demonstrated the glow engine-powered GLOGO 690. Kyle’s GLOGO, powered by an O.S. 105 engine, was not short of power. Kyle used the Italian-made MRCI muffler, which has a colorful, carbon-fiber section.

Dunkan Bossion, from France, also gave compelling 3D demonstrations with his engine-powered Goblin 700 and a glow-conversion Goblin 570. The smoke and sound made the glow-engine helicopters nostalgic and inspiring. They were not short of power either.

MTTEC was the German distributor for Compass Model of China. When Compass shut its doors in 2018, MTTEC decided to produce the helicopter. Even before Compass Model closed, the 700-size 7HV, eXo 500, and Warp 360 helicopters were being designed by Sebastian Zajonz from Stuttgart, Germany. Sebastian has taken the capable 7HV and completely reworked it to become the Rage heli.

vario helicopter in germany
Vario Helicopter in Germany introduced its big, new Bell UH-1 scale helicopter.
hacker brushless motors
Hacker Brushless Motors displayed a brushless, liquid-cooled motor with two sets of windings inside. Notice the radiator at the bottom.
see additional photos and read more online
see additional photos and read more online

The Rage is a 7HV on steroids. Sebastian gave an hour-long technical seminar during Rotor Live and explained how finite element analysis was used to improve the main gear and landing gear strut design. Numerous innovative ideas are incorporated into the helicopter.

The Rage uses a direct flight control (DFC) style for the main rotor blade pitch angle, but a semiflexible DFC link. The blade’s flapping stiffness is adjustable. Pressing the main rotor-head button will compress the rubber O-rings on the blade spindle to stiffen blade flapping. The CNC-machining quality on the Rage is top notch. This model became available in summer 2019.

After Miniature Aircraft shut down in the US, a German company purchased the rights to the Miniature Aircraft models. The new owner displayed the Whiplash and other electric and nitro-engine helis from the Miniature Aircraft line. You can find most spare parts from the company as well.

Heli-Professional is a Swiss company that has introduced its own 500-, 600-, 700-, and 800-size helicopters in the last few years. The company’s products are sold mostly in Europe; few have made it to the US. [AeroPanda is now the US distributor for Heli-Professional helicopters, accessories, and parts.]

The company has refined its SoXos 700 and unveiled a new variant called the SoXos Strike 7. The Strike 7 will have a retail price of 699 CHF (Swiss francs), which is slightly more than $700. Heli-Professional is able to keep prices reasonable by sourcing some of the manufacturing outside of Switzerland. The helicopter was demonstrated at Rotor Live by a young 3D pilot during the flight-to-music competition.

the sab goblin factory
The SAB Goblin factory team is shown in front of the building that houses the indoor exhibitions. The balcony is for watching the flying demonstrations.

SAB Goblins, from Italy, are undeniably the most popular mass-produced helicopters on the market in the last 8 years. SAB designer Enrico Bernabei, and SAB founder Stefano Baiardi, have introduced a new model on the average of every five months. When does Enrico have time to sleep?

I have known Stefano since before he introduced the Goblin. It is an epic journey that Stefano and Enrico have taken to make the Goblin so successful today.

SAB also built a new factory near Remini, Italy, in 2017. It officially opened in May 2018. When I visited the company in 2017, I was shocked that the whole factory exterior was painted in camouflage like the company’s Havok and Kraken helicopters.

At Rotor Live, SAB unveiled its new 700-size electric Kraken helicopter. The Kraken impressed the crowd with antigravity flight demonstrations by Dunkan and Tareq Alsaadi from the United Arab Emirates. Their amazing 3D demonstrations are available to view on YouTube (see the "Sources" list).

Enrico explained that the new features on the Kraken include a sealed main gearbox that is filled with lubricant and keeps dirt out. It should not require servicing. The Kraken still uses a toothed drive belt for the first stage from the electric motor.

Another new feature with the Kraken is that it has become more modular. The canopy is split into upper and lower halves. The lower half is part of the frame structure. The battery plate now hangs on a sliding rail and is extremely easy to insert and remove. The tail rotor gearbox has been redesigned, and the vertical fin can be removed without taking the tail gearbox apart. The Kraken has taken the ease of serviceability a notch higher and still offers that Italian panache.

3D was the main theme at Rotor Live, but many Europeans are also into helicopters that weigh 30 pounds or more. These huge scale helicopters are either powered by a turbine engine or a large electric motor. There were at least 20 giant-scale RC helicopters on display.

the zenyt helicopter
The Zenyt helicopter, designed by Dino Cantara for PSG, is a $3,000 kit. Only a few are made each year.
throughout the event
Throughout the event, various helicopter designers offered hour-long technical seminars on how they designed their helicopters. Here, Sebastian Zajonz from MTTEC explains how he used finite element analysis to design the main gear on the MTTEC Rage.

The weather this year was wet and windy, so it was not suitable for scale flying, but dauntless 3D pilots continued their 3D flight demonstrations on Saturday, even when the wind was blasting at 30 mph.

With an increasing thirst for electric power, two famous German motor and ESC companies have introduced prototype water-cooled power systems. Kontronik unveiled a water-cooled ESC and Hacker Brushless Motors introduced a water-cooled electric motor with two sets of windings inside the motor. It carries a small water tank and radiator to cool the liquid. The reason for two sets of windings is so that if one fails, the motor can continue to run on the second set. This is for safety purposes when an electric motor is used on large drones or man-carrying, electric-powered aircraft.

A consensus from visiting Rotor Live is that Germans compete on quality and innovations—not on price. Europeanmade model helicopters are not cheap or mass-produced, and manufacturers try to give their customers a pride-of-ownership experience.

Most European modelers do not build as many helicopters as we do here in the US. They save their money and buy a high-end model then spend a longer time building it and adding their own personal touches.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so I have included many photos to showcase the details of the new helicopters that were unveiled this year at Rotor Live. I recommend attending the event.

This year was my fifth visit. When you go, you will feel that RC helicopters are still alive and strong, and you will be amazed at all of the marvelous new models that are introduced.

The next Rotor Live will be approximately the second weekend of March 2020 in Iffezheim. See you there.

legendary german designer
Legendary German designer Jan Henseleit shows the latest and final RC helicopter that he will produce—the TDSF.
dieter schluter gave minicopter
Dieter Schluter gave minicopter of Germany permission to remake the famous Schluter Heli-Baby from 1976. The company replaced the original flybar rotor design with a modern flybarless head.


Rotor Live



Henseleit Helicopters

Mikado Helicopters

PSG Dynamics



Miniature Aircraft


Hacker Brushless Motors



Vario Helicopter

YouTube: Dunkan Bossion SAB Kraken flight

YouTube: Tareq Alsaadi SAB Kraken flight


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