A Flight Controller, commonly referenced as FC is the brain of the drone. It is a circuit board that has several sensors that receive and send instructions within the engine of the drone. It basically directs every orientation that is related to the movement of the drone including the movement of the rotors. To this end, it is important that you get the right Flight Controller for your drone in order to ensure it suits the purpose for which it was intended. There are several different flight controllers in the market and each is best suited for a particular purpose. This guide will help you make the right choice as far as FCs are concerned.
1. Flight Controllers – Racing
The KISS FC is one of the few flight controllers that are preferred when sourcing for a racing FC. It comes with a 32 bit microcontroller that significantly improves its performance. It does not come with an inbuilt magnometer or barometer but has an inbuilt firmware that is relatively easy to configure and set up. It is however preferred among drone racers thanks to its simplicity and custom firmware. It has an input voltage of 2-6s and an output of 6 motors which is impressive by all standards. It is best used for drone racing and other high intensity activities.
The Naze32 flight controller is another racing flight controller that is not very different from the KISS model. It is designed with a 32 bit microcontroller that runs at 72MHz. The best thing about the Naze32 is that it comes in two different options to choose from which is the Acro and the full version. The full version is more superior in that it comes with an inbuilt barometer and compass which gives a much better performance. The Acro version on the other hand is good for just flying around and has better stability.
2. Flight Controller – Aerial photography
The KK2 X flight controller is well-known for its cheap price and easy to setup structure. There are two different designs namely the mini size and the regular size. The KK2.X flight controller is different and better than other flight controllers because it comes with an on board LCD screen that makes it easy to configure and set up. You do not need to connect it to a computer or any other external device to set it up. Its plug ‘n’ play nature makes it convenient for use especially by beginners. It is built with 8 different output pins which make it versatile in that it can be used on quadcopters and even octocopters. It is not limited to a particular drone type. If you are a beginner who is just trying to find a footing as far as flight controller are concerned, then the KK2.X is your ideal flight controller.
3. Autonomous missions/Advanced FCs
The ArduPilot Mega stands out as one of the most advanced flight controllers in the market. It is designed for multipurpose use meaning it is not only limited for use in the development of quadcopters but it is also used by multirotor drones. It comes with in-built software known as the Mission planner which gives you the freedom to choose which configurations you would like to have. It also gives you the chance to select various flight modes including but not limited to position hold, altitude hold, return to launch and so much more.
It has a feature that helps it connect to an external GPS module which comes in handy when planning autonomous missions or aerial photography. With this flight controller installed in your drone, you can be able to communicate independently with the drone through wireless connectivity at all times within a maximum range of 1 kilometer.
The Pix Hawk is another advanced flight controller that comes with an in-built software or firmware that allows for advanced autonomous missions. If you intend to use your drone for advanced missions such as aerial photography, geo-mapping or even aerial delivery of items, then the Pix Hawk is the best FC to use. Most of its features are comparable to the KK2.X although the PixHawk offers greater performance and can also allow for autopilot missions.
It comes equipped with some of the most advanced sensors including but not limited to Gyros, magnometer, barometer, 3D accelerometer among others. It is also designed with a microSD slot within it to allow for extra storage. In the event that the flight veers off course, the PixHawk is designed with an advanced feature known as the failsafe feature that will ensure it returns safely to the launch pad. The PixHawk is for enthusiasts who are not working on a tight budget and want to get something that offers superior performance.
DJI NAZA m V2
The NAZA m V2 is no doubt the best FC in its category and comes with some of the most advanced features in its category. It is known for its superior performance qualities and although a little bit pricey, the FC offers some of the best features the industry has seen yet. It is designed by one of the biggest drone manufacturers – DJI. It has a smart phone feature within it that allows you to connect it to your smart phone and control it independently from the ground using your smart phone. It also allows for various flight modes including position hold, follow me mode, altitude hold and so much more and gives you the option to intelligently switch between the different modes. An in-built GPS module is strategically included in the controller to ensure it gives accurate location details at all times.
An important feature of the NAZA m V2 is that it has two distinct levels of low voltage warning that warns you when the power has reduced to alarming levels which allows you to recharge and stay on top of your game. In addition to that, it has a unique feature of single motor failure protection that is intended to protect the drone from accident in the event that a single motor fails to work as it should. This is a feature that is not available in all the other FCs which gives the NAZA V2 a greater advantage over all the competitors. It is capable of recording and transmitting video and image footage from the air in real-time which is why it is the most advanced and most sophisticated flight controller.
4. Flight Controller – Cost
When it comes to the cost of Flight controllers, the most advanced controllers will obviously cost more than the less advanced and this is definitely because of the superior quality and advanced features. More advanced FCs such as the DJI NAZA m V2 have a higher pricing than other flight controllers and it is because in terms of the functionality, they offer more and have a higher performance index than the rest.
Flight controllers will usually cost anything from $35 to $150. Depending on the intended use and your budget altogether, you should go for a controller that matches your needs. Superior FCs such as the DJI NAZA will cost in excess of $300 for good reasons. Whichever controller you choose to go for, ensure you are informed of all the functionalities of the controller and what type of drone is supported.
The fact that a flight controller is usually hidden within the drone, it is never easy to tell what FC is the best for your specific need. One must therefore ensure they take care when selecting a flight controller because an error in judgment may lead to losses that could have been avoided from the start. Also, more expensive flight controllers do not necessarily translate to high performance. Caution should be exercised when choosing which one to go for because you may end up paying more for less.