Best Flight Controller Boards For Drones
Hello Everyone…So let’s begin with the most search and interesting topic for every tech lover and beginner’s that want to create a drone, that’s “Best Flight Controller Boards For Drones”
Building a drone is often very rewarding, but choosing a flight controller for your drone is often an awesome task.
There are apparently limitless drone flight controller choices on the market today.
While this is often true, there’s only a get amount of drone controllers that are right for your build.
Once you’ve got the clarity of your drone to build, the list of potential autopilot boards decreases drastically, making your decision less daunting.
This post will show you 6 of the simplest control boards on the market today.
You will either find the flight controller that’s perfect for your build or gain the knowledge required to appropriately judge whether a board is acceptable for the drone you’re eager to create.
So here are the “Best Flight Controller Boards For Drones” listed below
Selecting Criteria for flight controller
- Open Source Firmware
- Typical frame size
- Autonomous functionality
- Linux or microcontroller-based environment
- FPV Racing friendly
Note:- (Higher popularity means more online resources and help)
APM Flight Controller
It was revolutionary in its day, but that was an extended time ago.
I know it is often tempting to be drawn towards a really cheap product with an ‘Ardu’ in its name, but it’s cheap for a reason.
If you were looking into an APM flight controller, the likelihood is that you would like to create a cool open-source drone with the ArduPilot project.
If that’s the case, the first Pixhawk is what you’re trying to find.
The Pixhawk was the padawan to the APM flight controller and has become far more powerful.
The APM flight controller has an 8-bit processor, and therefore the original Pixhawk uses a 32-bit processor.
This was a monumental jump for open-source drone controllers, and for that reason, it became very fashionable amongst DIY drone builders.
The Pixhawk is often used with both main open-source drone projects, ArduPilot and PX4, and is totally open-source hardware.
This means that a lot of independent manufacturers can build and sell the boards, but the architecture is that the same.
There are many IO ports on the pixhawk, making it easy to speak with an onboard computer, sort of a raspberry pi.
Most pixhawk kits accompany all the specified supplementary hardware, like GPS, magnetometer, buzzer, Lipo module, etc.
- One of the most popular boards to build bigger drones
- Supported by the big open-source software projects
- Cheap relative to the functionality it offers
- It’s an older flight control board.
Also called the Pixhawk 2.1
The Pixhawk open-source hardware project has made many control boards after the first Pixhawk, but the Pixhawk Cube is one among its newer designs.
For this reason, open-source projects like ArduPilot are more likely to serve a new functionality and support to the Cube.
That being said, there are tons of similarities between the Cube and therefore the original pixhawk.
From this, if you’re more focused on the affordability and functionality factors, the first pixhawk could also be your best bet, because the cube can cost around $250.
If on the opposite hand, you’re eager to future-proof your drone and have tons of online support for your flight controller, then the Pixhawk Cube is perhaps the proper choice.
- Highly supported by ArduPilot, but works with PX4 as well
- Best pixhawk option to future proof your drone
- The high amount of support for the Cube, meaning more youtube resources and forums to peruse for solutions to any problems you may encounter
- Similar in architecture to the original pixhawk
Full disclosure: this is often my personal favorite board!
As noted previously, the pixhawk is often connected to a raspberry pi to act as a companion computer for things like computer vision.
This can require some manual tinkering with wires and Linux config files, as you would like to line up a UART bridge of communication.
With the Navio2, your flight controller maybe a raspberry pi! That’s because the Navio2 maybe a shield that simply attaches to the highest of a raspberry pi 3.
The maker of the Navio-2, Emlid, provides a free Debian OS image that comes Pre-installed with ArduPilot also.
The Navio2 has another really cool feature: the Ardupilot firmware is employed during a purely Linux environment!
With the revolutionary PREEMPT-RT patch that made Linux a real-time OS, many roboticists have migrated from micro-controllers to Linux.
Navio2 is one of the primary boards to form open-source drone software runnable from a Linux environment.
So having a Linux drone exposes the doors for several cool features that aren’t available on normal microcontroller-based boards, such as:
- SSH into your drone while it’s flying
- Compile new firmware right the drone by
- Treat the Ardupilot firmware as the other process in Linux
I’m an enormous fan of Linux-based drones because I feel it lowers the barrier of entry required to start out flying.
I think it’s great for collegiate studies and people eager to focus more on high-level innovation, like computer vision-based flight.
The Navio-2 is supported on both ArduPilot and PX4.
- Linux based board
- Saves a ton of time
- Uses the advanced computing power of a Raspberry Pi 3, with its 4 CPU cores
- Relatively expensive ($205)
- Requires a Raspberry Pi to function
If you’re not conversant in the BeagleBoard project, it’s basically a lesser-known version of an academic board just like the Raspberry Pi: cheap compute power intended to teach and enlighten.
Remember all my gushing about Linux-based drones within the Navio2 summary?
Well, ArduPilot implemented in Linux started on the BeagleBone platform.
ArduPilot was first ported to Linux on the BeagleBone Black as a symbol of concept.
With the complete success of the ArduPilot Linux port on the BeagleBone Black, the new BeagleBone Blue was created.
It is designed specifically for robotics, which has two programmable PRU’s for real-time demanding computations and making it an excellent choice for drones.
It has less computing power than the Navio2+Raspberry Pi combination, because it only has 1 CPU core, but again,
the PRUs help makes up for this. Unlike the Navio-2, the BeagleBone Blue doesn’t require any supplemental boards.
So the BeagleBone Blue is supported by both ArduPilot and PX4.
- The beagle board community is highly supportive
- Linux based board
- Saves a ton of time
- Relatively less compute power compared with the Navio2+RPi
- Only really for smaller drone builds
Naza Flight Controller
Queue the Darth Vader theme, DJI is close to entering the building!
All kidding aside, the Naza Flight controller may be a pretty popular control board supplied by the drone giant DJI.
A Naza-M V2 kit is often found on Amazon for around $200, and it comes with basic components like GPS.
The control software here is closed source, which suggests the community doesn’t have access to the code.
So if you’re eager to build a drone you’ll tinker around on, the Naza flight controller probably isn’t for you.
If you are wanting a dependable flight controller and aren’t as concerned with tinkering, maybe the Naza is an option for you.
You can’t argue that the DJI control firmware isn’t pretty advanced, and considering it’s closed source, this is often a powerful feat.
Since the merchandise is DJI, you get the advantage of the software suite that DJI provides,
and tons of the firmware maintenance is going to be handled automatically without the manual work required of you.
Another reason you’ll want to create a drone with a Naza brain would be for the tech-savvy photographer.
Having a plug-and-play flight controller that abstracts you from brooding about firmware frees up your thought equity for things like photography.
- Plug and play type of flight controller
- Supported by the largest drone company in the world
- Popularly used by DIY drone builders who don’t want to worry about firmware
- Closed source flight control software
- Not an ideal choice for university students
The Naze32 model boards are extremely popular within the FPV quad racing world.
They are lightweight and really affordable, costing around $30-40.
You will find many manufacturers of the Naze32 boards, so confirm you decide on one that’s an f3 or f4 flight controller.
The Naze-32 works with open-source firmware and is popularly used with CleanFlight.
Their 32-bit processors are relatively powerful, and at a complete weight of ~5 grams, it’s a perfect FPV quadcopter controller.
- Very popular
- Limited functionality
- Easy to mistakenly buy an older version of the Naze32
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