If you are planning to build your own quadcopter, you most possibly will have to buy a radio transmitter for your drone from a local hobby store. There’s really no way around this – unless you are so skilled that you can modify a gaming console and build a transmitter yourself. But that level of skill is uncommon and certainly beyond the average hobbyist.
If you are going to be buying a transmitter, then in most cases a receiver comes bundled with it as well. So you do not have to worry about buying a receiver separately. But since most receivers work only with their own transmitters, the only time you will want to buy only a transmitter or receiver would be when either of them are broken. In such a case, you will want to buy the same brand – and ensure the pair works together before buying.
Best Quadcopter Transmitter : Top 3 Transmitters
FlySky FS-T6 2.4ghz Digital Proportional 6 Channel Transmitter and Receiver
|See Today's Price on amazon.com||6||2.4 GHz||20 model memory||Great for beginners and those on a budget. Receiver included.
**Possibly the best 6 channel transmitter in its price range today ***
Spektrum DX6i 6 Channel Transmitter (Only MD2)
|See Today's Price on amazon.com||6||2.4 GHz||10 model memory||very easy to program, mode 2 only. No receiver.
Spektrum DX8 Transmitter (Only MD2)
|See Today's Price on amazon.com||8||2.4GHz||30 model memory||For intermediate to advanced users. Works with simulators. Easy to program. No receiver
There are a few very important features you will want to look for in a rc transmitter for your quadcopter. These are …
1> Channels :
A R/C transmitter can have anywhere from 4 to 9 channels. Each channel refers to a particular frequency the transmitter and the receiver use to communicate with each other. And each channel allows you – the operator – to control one particular kind of movement of your drone. For instance, with a 4 channel transmitter, you will be allowed to control 4 kinds of movements – throttle, turn left or right, pitch forward or backward and roll right or left. Four is the least number of channels required to fly a quadcopter.
With 5 channels – which is the minimum recommended by many, you also get an additional channel that allows you to switch between two possible flying modes – while the quadcopter is in flight.
Flight modes : The number of flight modes you have available to you depends on the quadcopter and also on the transmitter. Most quadcopters have flight modes like manual, stabilize, training, guided and more. Some modes require the drone to have a GPS – and you can have a GPS only if your transmitter has adequate number of channels.
Every flight mode has its unique purpose, and may require the use of unique electronic modules and sensors. The number of flight modes you will have access to is mostly determined by the number of channels your transmitter has. With more channels, you will be able to make fuller utilization of all the hardware in your quadcopter.
For the best flying experience, 7 to 9 channels are preferable – but then this piece of advise is only for expert level flyers and not beginners. Beginners would want to buy a transmitter that has 4 or 5 channels and not more.
2> Modes :
Your R/C transmitter can have one of two possible modes – mode 1 or mode 2. The mode basically decides which features of the aircraft you will be controlling with each of your hands.
With a mode 2 transmitter, you will be using your right hand to control the elevators (pitch) and ailerons (roll) and your left hand to control throttle and the rudder (yaw).
With a mode 1 transmitter, your right hand will be controlling throttle and the ailerons while your left hand will control the elevators and the rudder.
So which one should you choose? The debate has been raging on for a long time. It’s up to your individual preference. In the US, mode 2 is more popular than mode 1.
3> Frequency :
If you are building a quadcopter without a fpv (first person view) system, choosing an appropriate frequency is a lot easier. If, however, you are planning to use a fpv system then selecting the right frequency can require some deliberation. With an fpv system, you will need two frequencies – one for the radio and one for video.
Here are a few thumb rules to help you select the right frequencies for fpv systems …
Low frequencies have high range and high frequencies have low range. This means that waves of 74 MHz (a commonly used frequency) will travel for a greater distance than waves of 2.4 GHz (another commonly used frequency).
Higher frequencies require smaller antennas and lower frequencies require larger antennas.
The frequency used for video should always be much higher than the frequency used for radio control. This is so that you will not be tempted to fly beyond the range of your radio transmitter and end up crashing your quadcopter.
The frequencies used for radio and video should not be the same – or else they may end up interfering with each other.
With a fpv system, your quadcopter will have a on board video transmitter in addition to the radio receiver. While designing the craft, you will want to keep the two as far apart from each other to minimize radio frequency interference.
Here’s a brief look at some frequencies you can use for video and radio. Depending pon where you live, you might need a license to operate in some of these frequencies.
5.8 GHz : This gives you super high quality video and a really small antenna, but the range is very, very short – not more than a couple of miles. If you are flying somewhere where there are a lot of obstructions – like mountains or very tall trees, this may not be suitable. Another disadvantage is not all fpv goggles can be used with this frequency.
2.3 / 2.4 GHz : This provides a very high quality video and has a longer range as well, and is more suitable for places with lots of obstructions. And most fpv goggles these days are equipped to handle 2.4 GHz.
1.3 GHz : The video quality is good enough for most practical purposes. But the real advantage is the penetrating ability and much greater range. The antenna isn’t small – but not too big and unwieldy either. And just about any fpv equipment can handle this frequency, so finding compatible hardware is not a problem.
900 Mhz : The video quality is not the best. But then these waves have excellent range and penetrating ability. If that’s what matters most to you, then this can be a good frequency to use.
Radio Control Frequencies :
2.4 GHz : If you choose to use 2.4 GHz for your radio, then you will have no choice but use 5.8 GHz for the video. But 2.4 GHz for radio might not be the best idea if you are flying someplace with lots of obstacles around.
433 MHz : This will enable your drone to have a range of several miles – but you most likely will need a amateur radio license to use this frequency. Also, current laws in most countries require quadcopters to be operated only within line of sight which might mean a range of not more than a mile or two – so it’s very likely that you will not be allowed to fly your quadcopter with a 433 MHz radio transmitter.
72 MHz : This is a lot more commonly used frequency. You will not need a license to operate in this band, and finding compatible hardware is a breeze because this has been around for a long time. What’s more – this may be cheapest option as well because it’s so easy to find good 72 MHz radio transmitters that cost only a fraction of what other, higher frequency transmitters cost.
If you are a beginner, the best option for you might be 72 MHz for radio and 1.3 GHz for video.
This is perhaps the most important part 🙂
A RC transmitter can cost anywhere from $20 to $1000 or more. What you would want to buy depends mainly on two things : 1. Your skill level, and 2> Your interest in the hobby.
If you are just starting out with the hobby, you will want to buy a really cheap 5 channel radio transmitter, and skip the fpv system altogether. And then, once you have practiced flying a quadcopter and can easily handle the controls of the 5 channel transmitter then you could consider graduating to a more expensive transmitter with more channels.
On the other hand, if you are really, really committed to the hobby you might want to buy a more expensive transmitter – even though you may be just starting out. If you are totally sure that you will be flying quadcopters at least for a few more years, then there’s no reason why you should not buy a 7 or 8 channel transmitter right away. If you are 100% committed to the hobby, then you can be certain you will advance to flying more sophisticated models and at that time you will need more channels for gimbal controls and GPS navigation. So you could as well get a more advanced transmitter right away.