Selecting a Quadcopter Flight Controller Board

How Can I Decide Which Quadcopter Flight Controller to Get?

Note: I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

If you are thinking of buying a quadcopter flight controller, that means you are attempting to put together a DIY quadcopter. You either know what other parts you need or you’re learning about them. You’ve now come to what’s usually described as the brains of your soon-to-be flying machine and need help choosing the best quadcopter flight controller for your situation.




Picking a quadcopter controller is probably more significant than deciding which color your propellers should be, but since there are several very good models available, it’s hard to go wrong when buying any one of them.

In the picture – KK2.1.5 controller (in protective case)

KK2.1.5 with LCD screen
KK2.1.5 with LCD screen

Let’s take a look in detail at some of the more popular brands. I’ll mention briefly some of the other models too, in case you want to check them out as well.

What Does a Quadcopter Control Board Do?

As the brains of your quadcopter, the flight controller makes decisions, based on the signals you send it from your transmitter and other factors within the quadcopter itself. Depending on the complexity of the flight controller, it may control some or all of the following aspects of flight – possibly more.

  • Gyro stabilization
  • Self leveling
  • Orientation mode
  • Altitude hold
  • Position hold
  • Return home
  • Waypoint navigation
  • GPS

I could attempt to go into detail about programming flight controllers and about the several open source projects that delve into them in detail, but I don’t feel qualified to do so. If that level of detail interests you, there are plenty of places you can look to find such information. I’ll point you to a few of them.

Where Can I Find Detailed Info about Flight Controllers?

One of the more common flight controllers is the HobbyKing KK2.x board. I left the last part of the name as an x because there are several versions available – KK2.0, KK2.1, KK2.1.5. Some are easier to find than others.

The onboard LCD screen shows everything you need for programming it, including many presets for different types of aircraft besides quadcopters.

You can find more information in this forum thread: KK2 FC Forum Thread

KK2.1.5
KK2.1.5

Several controller boards use the open source MultiWii code which was originally used in the Nintendo Wii game control. Crius, PARIS, and MultiWii itself each have a different implementation of the code.

Read more about MultiWii here: MultiWii Project

3D Robotics has developed boards that use the Pixhawk system which is related to the PX4 open source project. It’s all kind of convoluted as to who is working on what, but here are some sources that might help you keep things straight.

Pixhawk Choices

DIY Drones

OpenPilot and CC3D (CopterControl 3D) flight control boards work together. As its name suggests, OpenPilot is another open source project for aircraft flying. One place you can get more details about this system is here: OpenPilot CopterControl Platform

What Flight Controller Models Are Available?

There are dozens of controller boards available for your RC quadcopter. We’ll take a look at over a dozen of them here. I’m sure someone will wonder why I didn’t mention their favorite board, but if you already have a favorite, you probably don’t need to be looking here for another one.

The controller boards listed here are not necessarily the best in the market, since that market is continually evolving and better boards are being created. However, these are among the top choices as of early 2015.

I’ve included just a few facts about each for comparison purposes. Hopefully this will allow you to narrow your choices a little. Adding more details here would be tedious reading as well as repetitious of what you can find at each manufacturer’s site. I strongly suggest you look at those sites for such information because it will be the most up-to-date facts and figures.

You’ll find links to some of these manufacturers or their boards below the table.

Quadcopter Flight Controller Comparison

FC BoardDimensions (mm)Weight (g)Mounting
AeroQuad 3250 x 50n/a4 holes, 3mm diam., at 45mm
AutoQuad50.8 x 63.5n/a4 holes at 45mm
Crius All In One Pro50 x 50 x 11.614.24 holes, 3mm diam., at 45mm
CRIUS MultiWii Lite40 x 40 x 1294 holes, 3mm diam., at 35mm
CRIUS MultiWii SE40 x 40 x 129.64 holes, 3mm diam., at 35mm
MultiWii PRO with MTK GPS70 x 50 x 12164 holes at 45mm
PARIS v5r3 Mega iOSD + GPS72 diam. (round)n/a4 holes at 45mm (square)
DJI Naza M Lite45.5 x 31.5 x 18.525No holes
DJI Naza-M V245.5 x 32.5 x 18.527No holes
DJI Wookong51.2 x 38 x 15.3118 (with IMU & GPS)No holes
Hobbyking KK2.1.550.5 x 50.5 x 12214 holes at 45mm
HoverflyPRO70 x 70 x 12.7264 holes at 60mm
OpenPilot CC3D36 x 36 5.74 holes, 3mm diam., at 30.5mm
SmartAP 3.0 PRO80 x 80604 holes
3D Robotics Pixhawk81.5 x 50 x 15.538No holes

 

3DR Pixhawk
3DR Pixhawk

Links Related to Items in the Table Above