As you consider the best flight controller for your drone, you want to ensure that you choose wisely. If you get the wrong controller, your drone may fly sluggishly or be very unpredictable. The intended use of the controller is essential, too. You need to look for different models when you want to learn to fly or when you need a controller for professional purposes.
Hello everyone! My name is Lavelle and I am a licensed drone pilot and a long-time drone enthusiast. For the past ten years, I have been flying my drones across the United States and abroad for both commercial and recreational purposes. During this time, I have come across some excellent flight controllers that are used with DIY drones.
In this article, I will cover some of the main things you should look for in flight controllers and I will share with you my list of the best flight controllers for drones. I will also go over a couple of frequently asked questions.
- Key Takeaways
- What Makes The Best Flight Controller for Drones
- The Best Flight Controllers for Drones Reviewed
- Final Thoughts
- There are four main processors of controllers to choose from. They include the F1, F3, F4 and F7 models.
- Look for controllers that offer good firmware support options. This is critical to modify your design when needed with little trouble.
- Consider controllers that give you a wifi or Bluetooth option since these are newer elements that allow you to build a more advanced drone.
What is the best flight controller for a quadcopter?
There are several good flight controller options in the marketplace for quadcopters. I recommend you look for one with three layers and a good video transmitter.
What Makes The Best Flight Controller for Drones
Here are some things you should take into consideration before making a purchase.
Some flight controllers come pre-configured, while others don’t. When building a drone, there is a good chance that you will want to make some modifications, therefore, having access to open-source firmware is important. One example of open-source firmware is Betaflight, which allows you to configure the flight controller easily and quickly.
There are different mounting patterns on circuit boards. It is important to look for the mounting pattern that matches the circuit board you are using to build your drone and to mount your controller on. You want to ensure that you use a DIY kit with specifications that are well spelled out to get the right mounting pattern for your controller.
The processor is a vital component that houses the incoming and outgoing data for your drone. It calculates information and determines the tasks that are to be completed within your drone’s circuitry. There are four types of processes: F1, F3, F4, and F7.
Most standard controllers use two types of sensors: the gyroscope and the accelerometer. The accelerometer measures the speed of the drone when it’s moving linearly. The gyroscope sensor measures the tilt and lateral orientation of the drone. Both are necessary components of the flight controller.
It is important to know what you are using the drone for and that should determine the kind of price range you are willing to explore for your controller.
The Best Flight Controllers for Drones Reviewed
Below is a list of my top recommendations, along with a quick review of each controller so you get to know its pros and cons.
1. HGLRC FD413 (Best Overall)
- Mounting Size: 65mm-120mm
- Firmware: Betaflight, Kiss
- Installation Size: 25.5 X 25.5mm.M2
- Controller Type: F411 Flight Controller
- Processor: Gyro MPU6000
The best overall choice for a flight controller is the HGLRC FD413. With its built-in wifi functions and ultra-lightweight design, the FD413 offers excellent firmware support access and is compatible with the F4 flight controller.
This model has some impressive features. It supports two motor connection methods (direct plugin and wire bonding) and allows direct welding of the receiver. It is primarily used for racing drones.
The thing that stands out about this controller is the multiple plugins. Having this allows you to expand your build design.
My biggest concern is that it does not come with a flash chip. Aside from this slip-up by the manufacturer, it is a top-line controller that can be used with the latest drone kits.
My Verdict: This is a great value with a very good processor and some nice features including the wifi function. It is supported by both the Betaflight and Kiss firmware versions.
2. SpeedyBee V3 F7 (Best Versatility)
- Mounting Size: 30x30mm
- Firmware: Blackbox, Firmware flashing
- Installation Size: 22x22mm
- Controller Type: F1 Flight Controller
- Processor: STM32F722
If you’re looking for a versatile controller with many options, the SpeedyBee V3 F7 is your best choice. This is an excellent option that offers a much faster data transfer speed and can update firmware versions in less than one minute.
The remarkable features of this controller include two installation ports for the video transmitter, additional ports for the receiver, camera, GPS, and VTX, and a TVS protective diode. You can get the Blackbox data in less than one minute and it can support up to a whopping 8 motors.
The numerous installation ports on this model are what make it unique. These options enable you to create a premium, competitive drone.
The main reason why it slipped to number two on my list is that the circuit board is prone to giving out low resonance which produces lower-than-optimal performance metrics.
My Verdict: This could easily be the number one choice on my list if the manufacturer can figure out why the resonance issues persist. Otherwise, this is a great option and provides exceptional value for the user.
3. iFlight SucceX Micro F4 V2.1 (Best Micro)
- Mounting Size: 16x16mm
- Firmware: Betaflight
- Installation Size: 21x21mm
- Controller Type: F4 V. 2.1
- Processor: Gyro MPU6000
The number three position on my list is the iFlight SucceX Micro F4 controller. It is designed well and is primarily used for micro racing drones. In contrast to the typical normal flat layout design, it has a tower layout system. It is very lightweight and is perfect for building a good racing drone.
The electronic speed control and the video transmitter are stacked on top of each, thus giving you the tower design. It also has pinned interconnects that make the assembly process smooth and painless.
I like the stacked tower layout design of this controller. This design gives you the ability to add layers without necessarily adding too much weight that would slow the drone down.
The one thing that gives me cause for concern is that this controller is designed for advanced-level users. Users with little or no experience in building drones will not find it to be easy to configure this controller. The cost is also more than its competitors.
My Verdict: If you are an advanced drone builder with some good technical skills and you want a great controller, this is your best option. It is well-designed with the pros in mind. The onboard memory chip is also a nice addition.
4. iFlight SucceX-E (Best Memory)
- Mounting Size: 30.5×30.5mm
- Firmware: Blackbox
- Installation Size: 36x36mm
- Controller Type: F7 V. 4.2.0
- Processor: Gyro MPU6000
Next up on the list is the close relative of the SucceX Micro, the iFlight SucceX-E controller. This model is also well-designed with the professional-level builder in mind. It offers great quality for a good price.
The things I love about this controller include its powerful F4 processor and single-layer stack. While it does not have a three-layer tower like the aforementioned Micro from iFlight, this design is very useful for building a racing drone.
Another great quality about iFlight SucceX-E is that it is a 100% plugin and doesn’t require any soldering.
Unfortunately, this controller is limited to the single stack design and the single layer is quite heavy as compared to the lighter three-layer design of the micro.
My Verdict: This is a great, user-friendly option for builders who want a more traditional design with many of the newer plugin options. It’s a great value for its price point and it is well-supported with firmware options.
5. BETA FPV F4 1S Brushless (Best Budget)
- Mounting Size: 26.5×26.5mm
- Firmware: Betaflight, BlueJay
- Installation Size: 30x30mm
- Controller Type: F411
- Processor: Gyro BB51
The final choice on my list is the BETA FPV F4 Brushless controller. The BETA FPV brand is one of the leaders in the controller field and is well respected for its crafty design and durable quality.
There are some good things about this option to consider including its brushless controller upgrade and 8 MB memory chip. Additionally, it offers a built-in receiver with a CC2500 chip and an SBUS port for plugging in external receivers. The firmware support options are also notable.
This model stands out for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the Beta brand is well respected in the industry. Secondly, the brushless controller is a nice addition that offers better speed and makes the drone more responsive.
The main concern with this controller is that the 26.5 x 26.5 mm mounting holes are difficult to mount since it is not a usual dimension. I’m not sure why the manufacturer designed it like this other than to possibly narrow it into a niche option.
My Verdict: This is a good choice if you’re looking to build a mini racing drone and you are okay with the odd mounting dimensions. The controller is well designed otherwise and offers some nice plugin options for external pieces.
The centerpiece of a drone is its controller. The better the controller is, the better the flying experience is for the drone operator. The controller is the brain of your drone and of course, the smarter your “brain” is, the smarter your drone will be. Choosing the best flight controller for your drone is an essential piece of the DIY process.
Whether you just want to learn flight characteristics, or you look for a controller for more professional purposes, there are some great models I discussed above. I hope this guide was helpful and that you already have a couple of options in mind.
Do you have controller experiences to share? Also, feel free to leave any questions below and I will respond to you as soon as I can.
Until next time, enjoy your drone and stay safe!