I have tried some different flight controllers for my different multicopter projects. I have only used open source flight controllers, and none of the commercial ones such as DJI Wooking M, Mikrokopter or Hoverfly Pro. The ones I own are KKmulticopter, Open Pilot Copter Control and Arducopter.
KKmulticopter vs Open Pilot Copter Control vs Arducopter
Even though my flight controllers are very similar in many ways, they also have some differences. Here is my brief comparison of the multicopter flight controllers. I will tell you what I like and what I don’t like about the different boards.
The KKmulticopter is the simplest board of the three. It’s developed by a norwegian dude named Rolf Bakke aka Kaptein KUK (I guess KUK also is an acronym or something, and not the only norwegian word for the male genitals, which it is in swedish) My specific board is the blue board from Minsoo Kim in korea. I bought it with pre-installed firmware for my first quadrocopter, and it was easy to reprogram it when I wanted to change to Y6 hexacopter control.
The components are very simple. It uses cheap piezo gyros instead of the more modern MEMS gyros that Arducopter and Open Pilot Copter Control uses. You set the gyro gain using analog dials which is very convenient if you quickly want to tweak your settings.
It has no accelerometers and cannot auto-level, but it’s a really great flight control for beginners who want to learn basic maneuvering.
There are cheaper KKmulticopter boards available from Hobby King, but I honestly think it feels better to support the KKmulticopter community and buy it from Rolf Bakke or Minsoo Kim. Even though Minsoo Kim runs a commercial business with his online store, he has also made a huge achievement for the KKmulticopter community by providing improved code and many new ideas and concepts.
The pros for the KKmulticopter is that it’s super simple and easy to get started for beginners. You can practically only buy it with preinstalled code, so you don’t need to connect it to your computer, and make a lot of setup etc.
The cons are that it has less features than my other two boards. It does not autolevel and it has only 6 pwm outputs, so I cannot use my servo stabilized camera mount on my Y6 frame. Actually am I not sure if it supports camera stabilization even on a quadrocopter, but there are so many different versions of the code, so don’t take my word for it.
My card was about 100 dollars, but you can buy them cheaper from Hobby King.
The KKmulticopter is the best choice for anyone who quickly want to try the multicopter concept. It’s pretty much a ready to fly product. You can almost just plug it in and take off.
Open Pilot Copter Control
Open Pilot Copter Control has the fastest and most modern hardware of my three flight control boards. It has a faster processor (STM32) and the code seems to be well written too. A major difference from the KKmulticopter is that the Open Pilot concept consists both of the flight board and a ground control station (GCS) that runs on your computer. The GCS is used for setup, flight data, flight planning and more. Open Pilot GCS is also available for Mac (which I use) and for Unix.
What I first noticed is that the board is really really tiny! Yet it’s the best performing FC board of the three when it comes to basic flying maneuvers. It’s very stable, quick responding and generally easy to control.
The setup using the GSC is very quick and easy. Here is a video how to configure it within 10 minutes.
It has support for camera stabilization, but it only has 6 pwm outputs so that doesn’t go for my Y6 hexacopter. I think there might be some workarounds using PPM etc, but I haven’t tried that yet. Since I really like the performance of the board, I might build a large quadcopter with camera stabilization just to be able to use the Copter Control for aerial photography.
I haven’t tried the Copter Control with GPS or any other support for autonomous flying, but there seems to be solutions for that too. There is also a more advanced version of the Copter Control advertised, that is called Open Pilot PRO/INS, but there is not any info about it yet.
The pros for the Open Pilot Copter Control is that it flies so well and it’s easy to setup. It has some advanced features too and support for telemetry. A very appreciated feature is that the motors are always spinning slowly when the multicopter is armed. The armed mode is then very visual and helps you to avoid NASTY accidents while handling those powerful deadly flying lawnmowers.
There are actually some cons too. It seems to be out of stock most of the time. It has only 6 PWM outputs. The progress tracker on their site indicates that the project doesn’t develop very fast. It has been stuck on 289/310 for many weeks now. I know it’s not right to criticize the very generous team that gives us all this good things on as open source, and the pace of the progress is not really a problem since the available versions work magnificent.
Open Pilot is about 100 dollars and is the best choice for someone who want’s a well performing multicopter platform, but don’t need tons of flight modes and autonomous flying tasks. It’s the best performing platform when it comes to basic flying.
Arducopter has the most features of my control boards, and you can add on lots of sensors and stuff such as telemetry. There are also many other software platforms using this hardware, such as ArduPirate and Aeroquad.
Arducopter is the trickiest board to configure and it has a lot of flight modes and advanced features for autonomous flying and more. Just as the Open Pilot, the Arducopter too uses a Ground Control System on your computer. You use it to configure your multicopter, collect flight data, program autonomous flight tasks and more. It’s not quite as easy to use as the Open Pilot GCS, but it’s not rocket science either.
I bought my board pre-assembeled from Udrones with magnetometer and GPS. Those two sensors opens up for some useful flightmodes. You can put your multicopter on a specific position, pointing in a specific direction. That might be useful for some aerial photography tasks. You can add more sensors, like sonar for better measuring of altitude. That enables features like soft autonomus take offs and landings. I should also mention that Arducopter has basic functionality as auto-level etc.
The pros for the Arducopter are all the features, and that the Arducopter community is very large, so all code is thoroughly tested by many people. It’s Arduino based, so there is a lot of knowledge about the hardware. Arducopter also has camera stabilization and 8 PWM outputs which is why this FC works best for my DSLR Y6 hexacopter.
The cons are that the hardware is slower and older than Open Pilot. A slightly annoying thing is that there are many releases of the 2.0 beta. I get the impression that they add functionality in each new 2.0 build, instead of closing the scope and release a stable Arducopter 2.0 and then add more functionality in the 2.1 and so on. I think there has been 42 different betas so far. And if you have a pretty secure and stable version, it might suddenly get buggy and dangerous next time you update it.
But then again, it’s not fair to complain when the developer team gives us all this as open source, and overall the Arducopter is a fantastic fully featured multicopter platform.
Arducopter is about 300 dollars. Arducopter is the best choice for someone who is into aerial photography, or like to program advanced autonomous flying tasks. Arducopter is my main board that I use in my XL carbon Y6 for aerial photography.
I hope this will help you find a platform that matches your needs.