The vast majority of consumer drones are remotely controlled. Even drones with autonomous or semi-autonomous flight modes typically require a controller for manual flight. Remote control drone pilots rely on a transmitter in a controller to communicate with a drone carrying a receiver. Transmitters send input from controllers featuring joysticks, knobs, and other controls to achieve a range of actions and motions.
All of this means that choosing the right remote controller and drone is vital to your flying experience. Before getting further into specifics, here is a broad overview of what to keep in mind as you look for the best remote control drone.
What Kinds of Remote Controls Do Drones Need?
Some ready to fly or RTF drone models come with a remote controller designed and programmed for a specific drone, although these controllers may still need to be bound or paired with the receiver prior to liftoff. This makes RTF drones and controllers easier to fly right out of the box. If you are new to flying, you may find that an RTF model is the best remote control drone to get you started.
Other models referred to as bind to fly or BTF require that you purchase a receiver and transmitter separately. Almost ready to fly or ARF models vary in what they include. Some drones are packaged with controllers and make it easy to bind the controller and fly without the necessity of connecting receiver channels to the onboard flight controller or installing software.
If you select a BTF or ARF model, you will need to shop for a transmitter and receiver. You should carefully review the list of parts to determine what you will need to buy and install to make these drones functional. If you want an easier process, look for a controller made by your drone manufacturer.
However, you may have more options if you shop for a transmitter and receiver that are not associated with a specific drone manufacturer. Then, you can consider the comfort and design of the remote controller and choose this important component based primarily on your preferences and needs rather than ease of use. This can make it more possible for you to customize the best remote control drone rather than trying to find a model that comes with all the right options.
Connections and Controllers
It is important to make sure that the remote control transmitter you buy is able to communicate with the receiver in your drone. Even though many remote control devices operate on the 2.4GHz frequency, and Wi-Fi can also be transmitted on this spectrum, it is often the case that a transmitter and receiver need to be made by the same manufacturer in order to communicate. These components must be successfully paired and the channels and modes on the transmitter set to correspond with the receiver and flight controller in the remote control drone for you to fly it.
When it comes to connecting a remote control transmitter and drone receiver, you will need correctly connect the receiver channels to the flight controller channels and install suitable flight controller software. Once this software is installed, it is time to go through the process of assigning switches and inputs to channels. This makes it possible for you to use a remote controller to manage all of the actions and features of the drone. If you are interested in being able to pilot more than one type of drone, look for a remote controller with a range of channels and modes. Be aware that you will need to customize these modes and channels to be able to control any specific device.
A pre-programmed remote controller designed to work with a specific drone takes most of these opportunities for customization out of your hands unless you modify the default settings. If you decide on a separate transmitter and receiver, you will need a minimum of four channels to control throttle, yaw, pitch, and roll. Most experts report that quadcopter pilots need up to five or six channels. Remotes with more auxiliary channels are often large in size to make room for all of these controls.
Remote Control Connectivity
Some of the best remote control drone features include modes and channels that correspond with flight controller settings in ways that make it easy for you to fly your drone. Some remote controllers feature a USB connection that allows you to plug them into a computer and train using a flight simulator without running the risk of crashing your drone. Some recent models incorporate smartphones and tablets, whether these wireless devices function as first-person viewfinders or transmit live streams of footage that can be uploaded to the internet.
Certain remote control drone models are piloted using an application on a smartphone or tablet. While this can be an affordable and convenient feature, most expert pilots agree that it is difficult to fly a drone using a standard remote control transmitter after learning to fly onscreen. The skills needed to achieve performance using a proprietary application and the mechanical finesse that comes from practicing with a physical controller are different, even though both these methods are based on the same general principles.
Characteristics of the Best Remote Controls
The best drone controller is one that you feel comfortable using. Factor in the size of your hands and finger length when comparing designs. You should also look for a remote that corresponds to your skill set and style of flying. For instance, if you are interested in using a drone for image capture, you might look for a remote that makes it possible for you to easily control different cameras. All of these features are managed through separate channels on a remote control corresponding to a receiver and onboard flight controller processor.
If you are purchasing a remote separately, keep in mind that the price of a controller generally depends on its features and channel capacity. Remotes with more channels — sometimes as many as 14 — tend to be physically larger, have more input methods, and cost more than remotes with fewer channels. More advanced transmitters and receivers may also offer features like telemetry, or the transmission of flight data, which may be displayed on a screen located on the remote itself.
There are also options available when to comes to range, which can reach up to 1500 feet on the 2.4GHz frequency. These remotes may also offer a number of modes, allowing them to be used with different vehicles. Remotes with all of these features tend to be used for many purposes and are often designed for durability and longevity.
Shopping for a Remote Control Drone
You may find it helpful to visit a physical store that sells drones to try out controllers. Another option can be attending a hobbyist meeting or flight gathering and test out controllers to see which brands or types are most comfortable for you to handle, as well as which are favored for different types of aerial vehicles. You may also be able to determine which, if any, brands or types of controllers you would prefer to avoid. Trying equipment before you buy increases the likelihood that you can select the best remote control drone and controller to suit your preferences and needs.
Although information is not equivalent to firsthand experience, you can also read reviews of various drones, transmitters, and receivers online. Manufacturers, retailers, and user communities can all be helpful resources for narrowing down your options or even deciding on which drone or controller to buy. There is an extensive amount of information available online that can help you make more informed decisions. You also want to pay close attention to return policies, insurance options, and warranties to help make sure you don’t end up stuck with a remote or drone that is malfunctioning or not what you expected based on descriptions.
Where To Learn More About Remote Control Drones
The resources you can find helpful vary depending on whether you are interested in an RTF drone packaged with a receiver and remote controller all made or authorized by the same manufacturer or if you are choosing a transmitter and receiver. Regardless, it is a good idea to look for ways to observe or experience flying remote control drones firsthand to determine which products or equipment you want to learn more about or order for yourself.
If you are interested in buying a set with all of the parts that you need to fly, you may find reviews on shopping sites or forums dedicated to specific brands and models to be the most useful sources of information. On the other hand, if you are buying a BTF or ARF model or building your own drone, you will likely want to rely on more technical advice on sites for users dedicated to customizing the drone flying experience. While you may find reviews of some components to be helpful, you will likely have to rely on a wider range of resources to learn how to build the best remote control drone. Do your research and ask questions to increase the chances that you will be satisfied with the remote control drone you choose.