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.
For Serious Hobbyists
4 AA cells
4 AA cells
FRSky Taranis X9D Plus
4 AA cells
FRSky Taranis Q X7
Budget Models - For Those Just Getting Started
Spektrum Dxe DSMX
4 AA Cells
GoolRC Flysky FS-16S
4 AA cells
No screen; LED indicators
8 AA cells
This is a pretty expensive transmitter but that's hardly surprising considering how really good the quality is. If you're currently happen to be using any other transmitter it's very likely that the Jeti DS 16 will eclipse them easily. While this does cost more than other transmitters it also has the biggest bang for the buck, so to speak.
The materials used are of a very high quality and the craftsmanship is excellent, to say the least. The gimbals are possibly the best you will ever find in a transmitter.
The LiPO battery that comes included does not require any balance charging and the charger charges the battery pretty fast. And the battery lasts for more than 10 hours - which is mighty impressive. And when it comes to configuring the transmitter, you can configure it pretty much as you like. It's extremely flexible in this regard.
And the transmitter is extremely responsive- which is exactly what you would want for smooth flying.
And the telemetry on this model is a dream - practically no other transmitter allows you to record and view telemetry data as well as this model does. Not only does allow you to view the data, you can also graph the data in real time. If you are really serious about getting the very best quadcopter transmitter, this might be just what you are looking for.
This is a relatively low priced transmitter released by Hobbyking that has some pretty impressive features. This is a competitor to the Spektrum DX6i. The user interface is very simple to understand and a breeze to use. The receivers are very inexpensive and work on the Spektrum DSM2 protocol. The latency of this model is very low and hence it's very responsive.
It's a 2.4 GHz, 6 channel transmitter with 10 model memory. It's DSM1 and DSM2 compatible, but is not compatible with DSMX. It has a backlit LCD display. While you can use 4 AA batteries, you can also plug in a LiPO or a LIFE pack. And since this allows you to use LiPo batteries, it does have a low voltage alarm - which is an essential feature if you are going to be using LiPO batteries.
That said the gimbals are not very good and the materials used for construction or not of high quality. But that's to be expected since this is priced so very low.
This is by far one of the most reliable transmitters and the market today. If you are a professional videographer or someone who needs their quadcopter - and all of the systems - to be 100% reliable all the time then this perhaps be the number one choice for you. The gimbals in particular are exceptionally good and you can expect them to be working great even after hundreds of hours of use.
The build quality is very good as well. The screen is resilient and does not scratch very easily.
The one problem with this model is the manual. The manual that comes with this is not very easy to read and leaves a lot to be desired. That's a pity since this is a great product.
This great little controller looks great and has a very good range of about 1500 feet (500m). The menu is very complex so it does take time to get it setup. However, it becomes very easy to use once you wrap your head around it. It comes with a 2.4GHz inbuilt antenna as well.
The controller also costs just $60 so you get excellent value for your hard-earned money. However, the 9X does have some downsides to it. The antenna cable is directly soldered onto the circuit board and a removable connector is not used. Therefore, to add on a different 2.4GHz module (such as a Frsky one), you will need to unsolder it first.
It has an AA 8-cell battery holder also which has a very tight fit. So when you are trying to get the cover on again, the little tags may break off. However, the worst thing is its beep. Each time the buttons are pressed it emits a loud beep. That makes this controller appear to be gimmicky. However, you do need to keep in mind that it is a cheap transmitter.
This 2.4GHz system comes with 14 channels. The Futaba T8FG Super features a really nice design and also has a decent grip as well.
When in use, the quality of the gimbals and switches feels really great. You really can't but love how the antenna is able to bend quite close to the transmitter. This makes the controller very compact and therefore a lot more portable. Its memory can be increased by using an SD card. If you do a lot of flying that is very helpful. However, the device is not telemetry ready yet. It is very expensive and also the neck strap is quite uncomfortable to use.
There are some key features that come with the Spektrum DX6i. It uses DSMX technology and has 6 two-way switches, 10 model profiles and 6 channels. In order to control a quad, you would need at least four channels at a minimum (roll, pitch, yaw and throttle). The best thing about the DX6i is there are two extra channels that allow you to add extra switches as the pilot (for instance a switch for changing between horizon flight mode and rate mode).
However, this controller does have a few things that not everyone might quite like. It has just two-way switches, and isn't very precise since you only have a "high position" and "low position." A "middle position" would need to be added if it was a three way switch, meaning on the same channel you would have an extra value.
The DX6i, however, is quite easy to configure. The selector interface on the controller is ideal for beginners since it is very quick to go through the menu, which means you can change the settings without having to connect to a computer. One thing that is strange is that the screen is not backlit. It is a good controller that feels good in your hands and is well made. It has a great grip and its switches are smooth. However, there are some key features that are missing that other controllers offer. For example, it does not have more channels, audio speech output, a larger backlit LCD screen, three-way switches or telemetry.
It is a straightforward process to configure the DX6i. The roller/selector user interface is very handy, which makes it very easy and quick to navigate through the menu. Among all of the Spektrum transmitters, is has one of the smallest LCD screen. However, it does a great job. The only drawback to the display is that it is lacking an LED back-light. For many radio controllers these days, this is a very common feature, but it wasn't included here for some strange reason.
This RC transmitter has been designed only for multirotor users. It has 8 channels and the design quality is as good as the Pixhawk and APM flight controllers. That makes it a lot easier to program the transmitter. The controller has no screen and features a nice clean design.
This is great for beginners since you won't have to worry about confusing settings. If you prefer to have a screen then this might not be the best controller for you. The major drawback to not having a screen is needing to connect the controller up to a computer whenever you need to adjust its settings. The i8 comes with 4 gimbals, 8 channels and 4 for other controls which includes a 6 position pot located on the top right side.
This is an great radio. Once you use this radio, you most likely wouldn't want to use any other one. For the relatively low price, the radio is loaded with features that you usually would need to pay a lot more money for.
There is Open9x firmware on the Taranis, which is completely programmable and very powerful, meaning you can control all of the functions. At first it might seem overwhelming, but after practicing your hobby for a few months, you will start to get very comfortable with all of its bells and whistles.
You can customize all aspects of this radio. It isn't necessary to customize it in order for it to work. However, if you would some customization then it is possible to do.
It supports as many as 64 models, and may be used seamlessly with a computer that is on a simulator as well.
The sticks or gimbals are very smooth. They are not ever resistant,and they can easily be moved around without any problems.
Where this radio really shines is you can assign the switches to any channel that you want. The channels are fixed on other radios - channel one is stick X up always, and channel two is stick X down always and so forth. With the Taranis, you are able to program each of the channels to be on whatever switch you want them to be on.
So if flicking the switch located on the left hand side for activating your failsafe feels more comfortable to you, then your channel can be set to that switch. Or you can set it to another if you prefer that.
It also has awesome range - the radio system used by FrSky provides you with a range of 1.5 km, which is more than sufficient for both aerial photography and racing.
This controller can do almost everything that Taranis X9D can do, except that it is less expensive - almost half of price. That is an oversimplification, however it is basically a budget Taranis X9D. You won't outgrow this one as easily as you would most other radios.
There are a couple of things that the OX 7 is lacking that are better suited to plane. Therefore, if you are just flying simple planes and multirotors, then you won't need any more of radio than this one. I would have chosen this radio if I had started with this hobby now instead of in the past.
This is a cheap and excellent mini quad radio that sells at an unbelievable price (for a portable, decent transmitter you won't believe just how cheap it is). When you using a simulator is it plug an play, and for tight builds it supports SBUS and PPM receivers.
It is lightweight and is equipped with all of the features that you would like a transmitter for a quadcopter to have (miniquads specifically). It is also comfortable to hold in your hand - if you use your thumbs only on the sticks.
If you happen to be in a pinch, then most likely you won't find this radio to be very comfortable. However, it is a great radio otherwise. It is very portable, and has the proper amount of customization needed for miniquad flying, including adjusting endpoints, adjusting subtrims and mapping switches - 1 2 position and 2 3 position.
This cheap but excellent receiver uses FlySky iBus receivers. The FlySky iBUS receiver, up until recently, were the cheapest. However, they are currently facing some fierce competition from the XM+ and other FrSky budget receivers.
There are a few very important features you will want to look for in a rc transmitter for your quadcopter. These are …
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.
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.
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.
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.