2012: The year of the multicopter controller flood

January 11, 2012 14:19 | By | 14 Comments

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of all the multirotor controller boards and units out there. While the level of sophistication is increasing with most of these offerings, some are just open-source projects rebranded and sold under a different name. Here are some of the more interesting offerings at the moment which are either extremely sophisticated, or come at a price that makes it easy to get into this hobby.

 

 

DJI Wookong

http://www.dji-innovations.com/minisite/index_en.html

Source: $1099 at Goodluckbuy

The DJI Wookong is probably the most expensive, and the most complete package out there. This is not only a mere multicopter controller with three gyros. It also incorporates S-Bus compatibility, GPS for position-hold, return home and other nifty functions. At a price of just over $1000 it does not come cheap. However, by adding a data downlink transmitter (=another 300-400 bucks) and using the supplied PC based flight control software you essentially get a turnkey drone system. A quad or tricopter can be built or bought for under $100 these days, and a sub-2000 dollar pricetag for a drone system that is easy to set up and lets you place waypoints on a screen is pretty damn good. Yes there’s the open source Paparazzi project, but that’s far from easy to get to work.

 

 

DJI NAZA

http://www.dji-hobby.com/naza/index_en.html

Source: $238 at Goodluckbuy

The DJI Naza is the low-cost alternative for those of us who don’t need PC control, GPS and all that. At a price of over $200 it is more expensive than the open source counterparts, but it does offer S-Bus compatibility as well as a 2-axis gimbal output for stabilizing camera mounts, and comes with documentation, software and upgrade capabilities.

 

 

Bumblebee

Source: $186 at Goodluckbuy

The Bumblebee controller looks very much like the NAZA, and for a good reason: It’s essentially a stripped down OEM version without S-Bus support and gimbal output. It also only supports quadcopters.

 

 

XAircraft FC1212-S

http://www.xaircraft.com

Source: $150 at Goodluckbuy

The FC1212-S from XAircraft is part of a modular system similar to DJI. In addition to support for an external GPS module and other features, the FC1212 features a 3-axis camera gimbal stabilization output AND a camera shutter output. It should be noted that a high-quality 3-axis gimbal mount will cost you another $300 dollars, but for that you get the best possible camera stabilization.

 

 

Rabbit Flight Controller

Source: $90 at Goodluckbuy

The back says “Love it” and it sounds rather unconvincing. The board features 3-axis accelerometers in addition to the 3-axis gyros, and supports 4, 6 and 8 rotor craft. It supposedly also supports return-home via a GPS addon, but there’s only a flimsy pdf manual, and the included software is not fully translated to english.

The Rabbit software, note the weird button labels...

We have tested the Rabbit flight controller, check our Review for more information!

 

 

FF Free Flight Controller

Source: $50 at Goodluckbuy

The cheapest offering is also one of the best: 3 axis gyro + 3 axis accelerometer, 2 axis camera stabilization, solid PC software, firmware upgrades, and manuals in english and french language. Only drawback: It only supports quadcopters.

On the other hand, you can get the IFLY-4 folding quadcopter kit including this controller for under $200 right here, including the quadcopter frame, 4x 1200kv motors, 4x 12A ESCs, the FF controller and a no-soldering ESC connector board. Even the props are already included.

 

In conclusion, all of these controllers are suitable for FPV flight, and most boards offer stabilization output for creating smooth and stabilized action footage with your DSLR or GoPro HD. Note that it’s not advisable to mount the FPV camera itself onto the gimbal, unless you’re used to flying with a stabilized camera – it’s very difficult to judge your relative motion if you don’t “see” what angle the craft is at.

While a self-made quadcopter was a novelty in 2009, it’s safe to say that the sky will be buzzing with the little buggers in 2012.

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FPVCentral is a private, independent news and review site for all things related to First Person View RC model flight. Covering everything from hobby, commercial and military drones, RC models and electronics related to FPV flight, we are not sponsored by any manufacturer or affiliated with any company or project.

Comments (14)

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  1. Apejovic says:

    “but it’s certainly for the experienced or adventurous pilots.” I disagree, I am actually testing both the FF and Rabbit and they are both plug and fly as a board can get.

    FF flies very well but personally I prefer the rabbit, altitude hold works very well specially in sonar range, autolanding also works very well.

    You can check my videos here http://www.youtube.com/user/supermotoalex/videos

  2. dompower says:

    Surprisingly, the main processor in Rabbit and Free flight controllers are 32 bit Risc. You have to be careful while ordering rabbit controllers from Goodluckbuy.com …there are two versions Rabbit Flight Controllers available.
    One with 8 DOF (all sensors such as 3 gyros, 3 accel, 1 baro and 1 compass). Other one without the baro and comapass.
    The full version is 30 USD more than the regular version. Still cheaper than many FCs available today.

    dompower

  3. Hamburger says:

    The Rabbit FC uses stolen code from the free MultiWii project. The developers and retailers do not honor the GPL license. Read about why that is bad for you and more here http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1610439

    Do yourself a favour and do not buy the Rabbit. Do not support theft.

    • vdw says:

      come on Hamburger you can get over it by now. this hobby is to enjoy to to moun about every little detail.
      Just look at cars they all do more or less the same job dont you think someone has stole from each other at some point.

      • fpvcentral says:

        The difference is that MultiWii has released their code for free, under the terms of the GPL. All they ask for is that you follow the terms of the GPL license if you use their code.

        If Rabbit used their code without releasing their derivative sourcecode under the GPL, then they’re violating the license.

        This is not a matter of “a car has 4 wheels”, think of it as someone taking the design schematics for the details of someone else’s car design, doing minor alterations, and then selling it as their own work.

  4. Vilicia says:

    Rabbit Flight Controller works just fine with the default settings. It is quite easy to setup but I agree the software is not the most intuitive. I have downloaded an English version of the software from goodluckbuy.com but still the pop up help windows come out in Chinese. I would appreciate if someone could help me understand how to optimize the settings for a 450 size frame via PID tuning functions provided in the software. Software provides options to change “StabiliyLevel”, “AUX Stability”,”Dyna Stability”,etc. I would appreciate if someone could explain the optimal values for each of these settings.

  5. Tazz says:

    vdw: To stole gpl code and use it in closed source is NEVER ok. They have the opportunity to use the code BUT NEED to publish the ref to
    the source AND all changes the do to the code.
    SO THE RABBIT MANUFACTURER IS A THIEF !!!

    • fpvcentral says:

      We’re gonna look into this.

      • Whatever says:

        Whatever, what do you think your going to do about it? If you think that MultiWii doesnt use a LOT of code “borrowed” from elsewhere, think again. the MultiWii devs are just as guilty in a sense, they just offer the source. I dont see credit to the original sources the borrowed code from in the source. Not to mention they stole the “Wii” name from Nintendo. The only thing LF is guilty of is not releasing the source, not of stealing code. Get a life people. Oh, FPVCENTRAL, your site blows balls, and you used code, layout and graphics, and you put your name on the copyright.

        • fpvcentral says:

          The “Wii” trademark by Nintendo is limited to home entertainment and computers, and does not cover RC model parts. It should also be noted that for trademark disputes, there’s a world of a difference if someone says “Multi Wii” or “MultiWii”. Of course to the layman that’s all the same, but if you actually get involved in trademark disputes you’ll quickly see that things are a lot more complex than you think.

          MultiWii is GPL code, and to my knowledge they don’t violate anyone’s copyright. If you have information to the contrary, why don’t you go ahead and provide it?

          You are right on one thing: Rabbit didn’t “steal” the code. However, they violate the GPL license by not releasing their modifications. That’s serious enough though, for that’s exactly the precondition they have to fulfill to be allowed to use GPL-licensed code.

          FPV Central does not commit copyright infringement. All software and graphics we use are either created by us, correctly licensed, come from press kits, and/or are being used under the fair use clause of US Copyright.

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