Flight Controllers: OpenPilot, MultiWii, ArduPilot And More
Most flight controllers do not present the corporate, mass-produced feel of the Nazas. One of the many success stories to arise in the multi-rotor market is OpenPilot, an open-source community dedicated to perfecting flight control algorithms.
There are various OpenPilot flight controller boards available. The CC3D is one of the most favored. Thanks to OpenPilot, it too is relatively easy to set up, leaning on a software wizard to configure the board, step-by-step. It features multiple flight modes, including self-leveling and completely manual input. It lacks the autonomous natures of the Naza, as well as GPS lock.
Another popular board is the KK2. Cheap and customizable, there's little to say about it, other than it warrants your attention.
Also viable is the MultiWii open source software project, derived from developments related to the motion-sensing Nintendo Wii remote. The software is compatible with a number of different hardware components, but most notoriously associates a Wii Motion Plus and Arduino board. Again, you have a choice between multiple flight modes, support for a gimbal (typically used to mount a camera for recording), camera trigger output, and a full GUI.
At the extreme end of the spectrum, challenge-hungry pilots and capable coders may be interested in programming their own flight controllers. The Arduino platform is the common avenue for homemade or fully programmable FCs, and ArduPilot is the community you'll want to look to for guidance.
There is an abundance of choice when it comes to flight controller options, and there is no right or wrong answer. The features you require depend on the platform you're using, as well as your own appetite for customization. A more complex multi-rotor sporting eight props and expensive camera gear might justify GPS lock and a fail-safe functionality, making a Naza the most sensible path to take. However, a small quad built to fly for fun won't benefit as much from those features. And sometimes, maximizing your enjoyment means using a more manual flight mode anyway.
As a beginner, it’s tempting to buy the board that’s easiest to fly. That's often a regrettable decision in the long run, though. It is far preferable to learn to fly without excessive assistance from a flight controller. By starting with a small setup and a non-locking flight control mode, you're going to get a lot better at flying than someone learning in GPS lock or a similar mode.
With that in mind, my recommendation is to buy a less expensive starter setup, the likes of which this story is focused on, and avoid Naza in all of its feature-filled temptation. Preferred is the CC3D board, a more manual controller with the option of a self-levelling mode that's perfect for learning comprehensively.
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Great article, and quite an amazing beautiful video shot at the end. Been seeing these around, and have really loved the idea of filming at a elevated level. I actually do hope you guys do more of these. I am bookmarking this for future reference. Thank you.Reply
I'd really like to see build costs.Reply
Darn it, now you've piqued my interest. :-)Reply
As stated below, a rundown on build costs would be nice. Hey, you could even do a series of FPV articles akin to the PC builds...budget, mid-range, and enthusiast!
So, how much would the components cost to lift a heavy DSLR with some decent glass? I is pretty curious.Reply
It would be awesome if you did build guides for different aircraft. I have begun building different ground based vehicles using arduinos and Pi's and would love to take to the skys next!Reply
Excellent article, nicely explained. Also glad to see someone in the media make a clarification from drones and multi-copters.Reply
FYI, DO NOT CALL THESE DRONES: Drones are for military use to kill people. These are, as the authors title states: multi-copters, multi-rotors, or RC model aircraft. By using the word "Drone" you give all the uneducated fear mongers and the law writers canon fodder to regulate this hobby into oblivion before it really gets a chance to take off. Some states and other countries have already passed laws that almost or outright make this hobby a CRIME!
I have been in the hobby about a year now and I have to say it is so far one of the most fun and rewarding things I have done. I will be doing this until I no longer have the means to do so. I highly recommend anyone that is interested in joining the hobby to buy a Hubsan X4 or one of the many similar RTF mini-quad models. This is widley regarded as the best way to learn how to fly a multi-rotor.
http://www.youtube.com/user/juz70/videos - not my channel, just really neat.
So, how much would the components cost to lift a heavy DSLR with some decent glass? I is pretty curious.Just a few options: DJI S1000, SkyJib-8 Ti-QR, and CINESTAR-8.
It would be awesome if you did build guides for different aircraft. I have begun building different ground based vehicles using arduinos and Pi's and would love to take to the skys next!Check out youtube, there are thousands of guide videos on the subject.
i would highly recommend these 2 for those who that don't want to go through the trouble of the build and already have an smart device such as iphone or android ones...Reply
and this cheaper model of it....
There is one other regulating authority which is important to keep in mind for those seriously interested. In the US that would be the FCC, since transmission of quality RC and video signals over the available frequencies requires a Technician's class Amateur radio license. Many will find that a relatively easy thing to get that will also maximize the enjoyment of the hobby. Check in with ARRL.org, where you can get everything you need.Reply
Great intro to multicopters. But for beginners, it's best not to start out with a serious $500+ quadcopter, as there's a pretty good chance that you'll wreck it on it's first flight...Reply
Do yourself a favour and get a 'toy grade' mini quadcopter first, such as the Hubsan X4/Q4 Nano or similar. These are cheap, loads of fun, can be flown indoors, are much safer than the big ones, and are a great way to learn to fly a multicopter. Spend a couple of hours playing with one of these, and you'll significantly reduce the time/money spent on crash repairs when you start flying a more serious multicopter.
Oh, and if you go down the ready-to-fly route (or even if you self-build), try not to be the next idiot losing control of a DJI Phantom in a location where they shouldn't have been flying at all ( e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_U8iHn_2l0U )Reply
Stick to quiet and safe flying locations, be aware of wind, line-of-sight, and possible sources of RF interference. And don't rely too much on GPS/return-to-home - you might not have a GPS lock when you need it (or it might not have had a lock at take-off, to determine the home position!)