Getting into this awesome RC hobby but stuck at choosing the best flight controller upon your needs? Don’t worry, your search ends here!
In this article, we will be covering some basics of flight controllers in varying uses, setup and ease of configuration. Also, will be comparing the most famous flight controllers and choose the one that perfectly suits your flying vehicle. This article is divided into various parts to help you guide to choose one comparing the prices, firmware used in the flight controllers and the various flight modes provided by them.
What is a Flight Controller?
A flight controller is basically the brain of your multirotor or any other aerial vehicle which controls all the operations of the multirotor such as telling the motors how to move and at which speed to move.
Flight Controller takes inputs from the receiver and different sensors and performs a specific task linked to that command.
Such as an example of sonar which deals with distance tracking, it tells the flight controller that how far is any obstacle and based on that observations, the flight controller tells the motors that how to change direction and at which speed to move.
Deciding your Flying type
Before discussing further choosing and knowing about flight controller, you should know that there is various type of flying styles in this hobby world and the flight controller varies on each of them. If you set a specific aim to fly your RC vehicle then you have to buy a flight controller that can accomplish your needs. Below is a list of most famous widely used flying types:
- FPV Racing or freestyle
- Aerial Photography
- Autonomous missions
- Delivery Drones (part of autonomous mission only)
What about the Budget?
Obviously different flying styles require different types of flight controllers but the price here also plays an important role and due to different aims, the price also varies. Most expensive FC like DJI Naza systems and many more will cost you a heavy amount but also offers more advanced parameters compared to the other cheap systems. Below is a price comparison tables among some of the famous flight controllers and also the one that we are going to deal with in this article:
Where to Buy
|ArduPilot Mega 2.5/2.6/2.8||$35.90||here|
Best Flight Controllers Comparison
Here we listed the best Flight Controllers on the basis of flying types:
#1 FPV Racing
The KISS FC is a 32-bit flight controller and provides an immerse racing experience. Unlike any other racing flight controllers, this one doesn’t contain any inbuilt magnometer and barometer and doesn’t contain any flash memory chip either. Although liked by fpv racers because of his own custom firmware and easy to setup something like in Clean Flight. It is equipped with STM32 F3 MCU with MPU6050 Gyro/ACC. The input voltage is 2-6s and has an output of 6 motors. This flight controller can’t be used in octacopters.
However due its compact size, favorable awesome flight experience and some new add-ons like the support for ESC Telemetry, and Felix’s custom firmware. (Felix – designer of KISS FC) it is loved by racers.
Naze32 (Acro and Full)
The Naze32 is another choice for racers and a similar comparison to other common boards such as CC3D and Kiss. The Naze32 is a small (36x36mm) flight controller based on 32-bit STM32 processor running at 72MHz. An another option for choosing it as your racing vehicle’s brain is that it runs on 16MHz unlike others which runs on a 8bit 8MHz clock.
The board gives two options to choose from – Acro and the Full Version. The main difference between these two is that the Full version comes with an additional barometer and compass which gives a better performance. The acro version is good for just flying around doing freestyle and it gives a good stability.
The choice which makes it a preferable FC for racers is due to its compact size, cheap price and gives a good performance.
#2 Aerial Photography/Free Flying
Budget Friendly Flight Controller
Well known for his low-cost price and among the most easy-to-setup boards – KK2.X.It comes in two variants- Regular size and a mini size. Unlike any other flight controller boards which needs to plugged in the pc, installing the software, firmware’s etc. ,this board has a onscreen LCD which makes it easy to configure without connecting it with a pc – Just switch it on ,configure it from the LCD screen and its ready to fly. It’s among the cheapest RTF (Ready to Fly) boards that you can get.
It has 8 OUTPUT pins which makes it supportable for tricopters, quadcopters, hexacopters, octacopters. It’s a complete beginner friendly board. Although this board doesn’t comes with advanced features and support but the flying experience is not that much bad. If you are looking for starting with a complete beginner board or want to learn that how a multirotor, then this board is a way to go.
#3 Autonomous missions/Advanced features
ArduPilot Mega (APM)
This one is among the most famous boards also one of our favourites. It provides an awesome flying experience (whether it’s a tri, quad, hexa or octa) or a fixed wing (plane). The board can not only be used for multirotors but can also be used for building a RC plane or a rover or an antenna tracker. The official software Mission Planner allows you to configure the board with various flight modes like altitude hold, position hold, follow me mode, Loiter, Return to Launch and several other modes.
APM board also uses an external gps module to attain a gps lock and helps in planning autonomous missions or try the different modes which requires a GPS lock. The board is based on a very famous open source prototyping platform known as Arduino which also makes it open source and fully customizable with different sensors. The board is also compatible with 433MHz/915MHz telemetry modules which allows you to communicate wirelessly with the flying vehicle while it’s in the air within a range of about 1km.
The most famous thing about this board is that it only costs about $50 making it the cheapest as compared to the other advanced boards.
This board is made by 3DR robotics and comes up with an open source software and firmware. If you are planning to do autonomous missions or working a commercial project like watering in farms, delivering shipments then this board is the way to go.
PixHawk Known for the best FC for planning autonomous missions.
It comes up with many of the advanced features compared to APM. PixHawk is the most advanced parameters flight controllers in a budget range and provides a high end autopilot system.
This Flight controller is equipped with 168MHz Cortex M4F CPU (256 KB RAM, 2MB Flash), and also some of the advanced sensors like 3D accelerometer, Gyros, Magnometer, Barometer. It also has a microsd card slot, 5 UARTs, I2C port, SPI, ADC, etc. PixHawk is made for failsafe trigging if the flying vehicle moves out of the specified area or losts connection with the transmitter or if the battery starts to drain below the voltage level.
If you don’t have a tight budget and willing to get a professional flight controller in a mid range then PixHawk will be the best option.
DJI NAZA m V2
Last but not the least, the most advanced flight controller board among its category and well known for its high end performance and why not, although it’s manufactured by the largest drone manufacturing company- DJI. Priced at around $300, this board has everything that you want in a commercial multirotors. It’s a all in one compact multirotor AutoPilot system and 9 different types of multirotor configurations and is ideal for 450/550mm quads but also can be used with even bigger tarot frames.
The various features of Naza m v2 are as follows:
- Connects with a smart phone to transform it into a ground station and provides full control over the multirotor.
- Take off assistance
- It provides various flight modes similar to that of apm and has an option of intelligent switching.
- Comes with a GPS module to provide accurate locations.
- Intelligent Orientation Control (IOC).
- It provides two levels of low voltage warning protection.
- It also comes with a unique feature of single motor failure protection which isn’t available in all the other ones.
- Comes with video transmitting solutions to provide a real time feed from air.
Who wins the game ?
Best Flight Controller is . . .
Obviously looking at the above specifications of different flight controllers, the three we have chosen are the
- ArduPilot Mega ( APM) or KK2.X if you don’t want do autonomous missions and just want to try out multirotors
- 3DR PixHawk
- DJI Naza m V2
Now based upon your budget you choose anyone of these as your own flight controller and you are ready to hit the skies.