To learn all about how the parts on this page are wired together, I suggest checking out my video series, Flight Controller Wiring For Beginners.
The flight controller (FC) is the brains of the quadcopter. It receives your commands from the receiver and translates that into motor outputs that make the quadcopter fly. Modern flight controllers typically also include accessories like voltage regulators, and on-screen-display (OSD), a power-distrubtion-board (PDB) and more.
If there is one product that I care about, it's flight controllers. I spend a lot of energy nit-picking the feature sets of flight controllers. So I jumped at the chance to design a flight controller of my own.
The JBardwell F4 AIO is basically my perfect flight controller. It supports all major Betaflight functions, such as SBUS, SmartPort, SmartAudio, ESC Telemetry, and FPV Camera Remote Control, simultaneously. Two inverted UARTs so no hassling with uninvert hacks. Built in Camera Control pad means you can simply wire up your FPV camera... no additional resistors and capacitors needed. And of course, it's got an SD card for Blackbox.
Under the hood, the power system has been designed for cleanest video and minimal gyro noise. It's got an MPU6000 gyro--the "good one". And the power supply includes a well-filtered 7.6v output for your vTX and FPV camera. The lower output voltage means better filtering.
For more about the product, check out the product page, and definitely dig into the 20 PAGE USER MANUAL that I wrote (linked on the product page).
Of course, you can hit me up if you have any questions.
Products with a prominent person's name on them usually come with a premium price. You'll be glad to know that I'm not going to gouge you for this board. The price is $35, the same as the "cheapest I'd recommend" board that used to fill this slot before my board came out.
The Matek F405 is a standalone flight controller with must-have features like built-in Betaflight OSD and SD card for blackbox logging. Instead of a built-in PDB, it pairs with the Matek FCHUB via a convenient ribbon cable. This means you get all the features of an All-In-One flight controller, but none of the hassle. For example, if you damage a solder pad on the PDB, you don't have to throw out your expensive flight controller too. Another advantage of the separate FC and PDB is that the FC can easily be soft-mounted, without heavy power and ESC wires touching it and transmitting vibration.
The FCUB-6S has a 5v 1.5A regulator for receiver, FC, and other 5v accessories and a 10v 1.5A filtered regulator output for most vTX and FPV cameras. (The 10v regulator can be used to power most accessories rated for 12v. The lower input voltage will provide superior filtering especially on 3S copters.) The 5v regulator on this PDB can be used to power high-output 5v vTX like the TBS Unify Pro. The board's current sensor is rated for up to 184 amps.
If you are not fully confident in your soldering skills and if your frame gives you room to fit these two boards into your flight control stack, the Matek F405 and FCHUB-6S is the one you'll buy.
The Kakute F4 AIO is similar to the CL_Racing F4 above in that it's an All-In-One flight controller with built in PDB and OSD. It has two really innovative features.
First, the gyro chip is mounted on foam for vibration isolation. This makes tuning easier and improves flight characteristics, especially on quads where it's not possible to soft-mount the whole flight controller board.
Second, the Kakute has an incredibly awesome user manual that takes even an absolute beginner through every step of wiring it up. Who was it who wrote the user manual for the Kakuate F4 AIO? Oh yeah. It was me!
If you're into blackbox logging, the Kakute has a dataflash chip instead of an SD card reader. This means you'll always have storage for blackbox, without having to remember to put in an SD card. But the amount of storage is quite limited--only a few flights' worth.
The ribbon cable that connects the gyro to the flight controller is pretty sturdy. But there are a couple of solder pads nearby to it, and you'll want to be really careful not to touch the ribbon cable with your soldering iron when you're working on the board.
At first glance, it might be hard to tell the difference between this product and the FCHUB combo above. This one includes a video transmitter! It's like getting an F405 flight controller, FCHUB PDB, and vTX-HV video transmitter in one neat package.
The ribbon cable even includes a connection for vTX remote control, so you can change video transmitter channels and transmit power levels using your controller. No more annoying button-pushing! Excellent!
The main reason you might choose a different FC would be if you had your heart set on a different video transmitter. For example, the FCHUB VTX doesn't have pit mode, and its maximum output power is not the highest on the market. But for a lot of people, this setup is going to be absolutely perfect. It has almost all of the features you could ask for (OSD, SD card for Blackbox, SmartAudio-controlled vTX, and more) in a compact, simple, inexpensive package.
For total Cheapskates
Okay... fine... you got me. Let me be clear right up front that I don't recommend this FC. But I put it on the list because I know that some of you out there need to save EVERY single penny (especially those of you in countries with a poor exchange rate to the dollar, for whom a quadcopter might represent an entire month of income). If I absolutely HAD to pick an even cheaper flight controller, this would be it.
The Omnibus was my favorite flight controller for a while. It was one of the first to include an SD card on board for blackbox logging, which I adore. It will support all of the major features of Betaflight.
This flight controller doesn't have a built-in PDB (power distribution board), and as I said above, this alone will often make up the price difference between the Omnibus and a more expensive board. But many frames come with a PDB, or maybe you are using a 4-in-1 ESC and don't need a PDB. In that case, this is the one you'll buy.
Total Integration All-In-One
Holybro Tekkos / Kakute / Atlatl Stack
I'm the kind of person who prefers to pick my own gear, one piece at a time. If you'd prefer to totally avoid the hassle of wiring up your flight controller, this Holybro stack is perfect. Basically, all you have to do is connect a receiver, motors and a camera, and you're ready to fly.
The real beauty of the Holybro stack is that it's totally modular. Each of the boards is connected to the others with a wire plug. So you can quickly and easily swap out a broken part, or you can even substitute some other part that you like better, if you prefer.
The Holybro stack is available as an FC and ESC only, if you prefer to use some other vTX.
ELECTRONIC SPEED CONTROLLERS (ESC)
The ESC makes the motors spin. BLHeli_S ESCs have okay performance, but lack some features that pilots today usually expect. BLHeli_32 is the latest and greatest. In terms of flight performance, there isn't much difference between them, but BLHeli_32 is where most development is going now, and we recommend that you use it if possible.
One catch is that BLHeli_32 requires an Internet connection to update firmware on the ESCs, and is not open source. Some people prefer BLHeli_S for this reason. Another reason to prefer BLHeli_S is that they are usually a bit cheaper, so if you don't care about the "advanced features" and just want to fly, BLHeli_S might be for you.
There are two important motor protocols: Multishot and Dshot. Dshot is better, and all of the ESCs below support Dshot600 or higher.
One of the biggest challenges in buying an ESC is choosing the right size. Here's some general advice. ESCs rated for 20 amps are good for all builds using 4" props and most 5" props with motors of size 2206 or smaller. Larger motors like 2207 and the 23XX and 24XX class, and any motor running 6" props, may require 30 or 35 amp ESCs.
You may notice that the 20A and the 30A versions of some ESCs are priced exactly the same. So why wouldn't you just buy the larger one? The answer is size and weight. The 20A one is often significantly smaller. This matters most on really tight, small racing builds.
One last thing: all of the ESCs listed below are rated for up to 4S voltage. Some of them are rated for up to 6S, but I'm not really focusing on that because most people reading this page will be using 4S. If you are building a 5S or 6S rig, you'll need to do your own research. In general, the 30 amp ESCs are more likely to be rated for 6S, while the 20 amp ESCs are not.
These ESCs are today's choice of the beginner-on-a-budget. Here's the bottom line: they will 100% get you into the air, and their performance is more than adequate. But they have a small chance of burning up for literally no reason except that they're cheap (and I don't mean inexpensive). In fact, don't just buy four. Buy five or six so you'll have a spare. And at that point, maybe you'd rather just buy a better ESC.
These ESCs are priced basically the same as the RacerStar ones. And unlike the RacerStar, the DYS don't have a tendency to spontaneously light on fire. The only down-side of these ESCs is that they appear to only be sold in packs of four, which makes it a bit more expensive to buy spares. The RacerStar can be bought individually.
Here's a dirty little secret that ESC manufacturers don't want you to know: almost all BLHeli_S ESCs perform very well. So why buy a more expensive one? Reliability. Reliability means the ESC is going to handle the abuse of mini quad life without burning up or dying out. Reliability also means the ESC will be able to drive challenging motors like the new rush of massive 23XX and 24XX motors.
Spedix ESCs have great performance, decent price, and spectacular reliability. That's why I recommend them as my "top of the line" pick.
The Aikon Ak32 is one of the best ESCs available today. It runs BLHeli_32 firmware so it's got cutting-edge performance and feature set. It supports ESC Telemetry and current sensing/limiting. It's also one of the most reliable, durable ESCs you can buy.
The links above are to just a few of the Aikon resellers out there. Aikon has many distributors around the world, so if you're in anywhere but the U.S., check the list of Aikon distributors here.
A 4-in-1 ESC means that all four ESCs for a quadcopter are built into a single circuit board. This saves space and weight. The down-side is that if one ESC fries itself, you have to replace all four. That's why, for a 4-in-1 ESC, reliability is very important! And that's why I recommend the Aikon SEFM 30A. It's as close as I can imagine to a truly bulletproof 4-in-1 ESC.
This ESC runs BLHeli_S, so it doesn't provide the most cutting-edge features like Dshot1200 support. The performance of BLHeli_S is more than enough for many builds, and some pilots even prefer it because of the DRM protection that's built into BLHeli_32. Nevertheless, the days when this ESC was my hands-down favorite 4-in-1 are passing.
This ESC includes a 12v voltage regulator, which sets it apart from competitors that only provide 5v. But I don't recommend that you use it, as I have heard many reports that it's unreliable. Even taking this into account, the performance and reliability of the Aikon makes it my recommendation.
If you want to use this ESC with an All-In-One flight controller, check out my guide for how to wire it up without losing current sensing capability.
This ESC made a big splash with it's automobile-engine-inspired heat sink. But it's not just good looking, it's feature-rich and powerful. It runs BLHeli_32, and supports Dshot1200, the highest-performance variant of Dshot. It can handle up to 5S voltage. Its current rating is enough to handle basically every 5" or even 6" prop setup without breaking a sweat.
The Engine ESC is relatively new, but initial reports suggest that it is incredibly robust and reliable. One demonstration video shows a mini quad propeller being spun up and then repeatedly jammed with a stick. The sudden voltage transients that this causes would fry many ESCs, but the Engine just keeps going.
One disadvantage of 4-in-1 ESCs is that they often require bulky wiring to use the current sensor built into many flight controllers. The DALRC Engine has a built in current sensor output that neatly solves this issue. Only thin, light wires need connect the FC to the ESC.
I love Aikon ESCs in general, but this ESC is $10 more than the DAL Engine, and has a slightly lower amp rating. So most of you should go buy the Engine. The reason the Aikon is here is that it supports up to 6S voltage, while the DAL is limited to 5S. There actually aren't very many 6S-capable 4-in-1 ESCs at this time, so this one gets a place on the list just for that.
CHEAPEST WORTH HAVING
rcx rs2206 v3 2400KV
The MyRCMart RCX line was the first budget mini-quad motor I ever found worth having. Their thrust is similar to motors costing twice as much. They come with the same high-quality Japanese EZO bearings as more expensive motors. They use the same durable 7075 aluminum. They have the same N52 magnets. On top of all that, MyRCMart sells replacement bells, shafts, and bearings, so you don't have scrap a whole motor if you damage it. And they're ridiculously affordable.
So why doesn't everyone just buy these motors?
You don't like red?
When you buy motors from MyRCMart, you have the option of saving a few dollars by choosing "No Warranty & Support". Once you fly the motor, there isn't really any warranty to speak of, so basically the warranty protects you against DOA products and not much more. I suggest choosing this option.
Once, this motor shook the quad racing world. It was the first motor to use the ultra-powerful N52 magnets that are now commonplace. It put up thrust numbers that nobody else could touch.
Yesterday's cutting-edge face-ripper is today's budget rock-star. That this motor is still produced more than 2 years after it was introduced is as much proof as you need that it's good.
The RS2205 lacks some high-end features that increase power in cutting-edge motors today, but overall it's a solid performer both in terms of power and durability.
To be honest, there are several modern motors in this same price range that make more power and torque than the RS2205. But here's the reason I keep it on the list: it's basically always in stock, all over the place. A great motor at a great price is no good if it's never in stock.
This motor is available in 2300kv and 2600kv versions. The 2300kv version is best for general purpose flying on 5" and 6" props. People wanting more power at the expense of efficiency, or running 4" props should choose the 2600kv version.
Light. Efficient. Economical.
RaceDayQuads BadAss 2205 2450kv
This motor is RaceDayQuads' OEM version of the BrotherHobby R2. And that's a good thing, because I love the R2, but it's a little hard to find, and that's why I pulled it off of the Shopping List a while back. The RDQ version of the motor uses 7075 aluminum for improved durability and adopts an open-bottom design for even lighter weight.
This isn't a rip-snorting motor. It won't blow your socks off. But if you're a beginning racer, you probably need to keep your socks on and your snorts un-ripped anyway. This motor shines on lighter builds, where its efficiency can give 6 to 7 minute flight times. And I'm talking real race laps! On heavier builds, it will start to reach the limits of its speed and power, but still is worth considering for beginners who will just crash if they go too fast anyway.
PS: Don't take any of this to mean that the motor is slow. Here's Quest FPV doing some laps with it if you need proof.
If this motor looks very similar to the Hyperlite V2 that is next in the list, it's because they're both based on the Returner R2. Although they have slightly different kv, their performance should be very similar, so pick whichever one is in stock, or from your favorite vendor, or in your favorite color.
HyperLite is the house-brand of motors from Pyro-Drone. They're OEM'ed for Pyro-Drone by BrotherHobby. This is kind of like saying, "What if Superman and Wonder Woman had a baby, and it was a quadcopter motor." Okay... you know what, don't think too much about that one.
This motor is ideally suited to lighter 5" builds, weighing perhaps as much as 350 grams without battery or HD camera. But it will easily get the job done on heavier builds up to 400 grams or maybe a little more.
The "Team Edition" of this motor uses tougher 7075 aluminum, compared to the softer aluminum of the non-Team motor. It's also higher kv.
People today are often focused on larger motors, sized 2306, 2207, or larger. But the quality and performance of the HyperLite line, combined with the excellent price of this motor, demands that you at least give it a look. It's priced similar to the RS2205 motors above, but it's got far more modern design features and performance.
Unfortunately, here's the catch: it's also usually out of stock. In fact, this is the main reason you don't see more HyperLite motors on this list. So if you click the link above and see the product in stock, move fast. And if it's out of stock... well there are lots of other great choices here.
Filling this category has proven challenging. Race-focused motors often seem to cost too much to be called "mid-priced". This category used to be filled by the Returner R3, but it seems to mostly be out of production. And the R3's 2206 size isn't really state-of-the-art any more. Many racers today seem to view 2207 or 2306 as the smallest motor worth having.
Then I found out that MyRCMart had released a 2306 sized motor! It's got everything amazing that I said about the 2206 RCX motor, with 2306-class performance! Imagine my relief.
If you choose the 2700kv version of this motor, be sure to pair it with a light quad (let's say 450 grams AUW maximum, and 400 would be better) or your batteries will hate you for it. The 2400kv version is more suited to heavier builds and more aggressive props. It would probably even make a decent freestyle motor, to be honest.
There's a video out there, where some guys built a 500 lb chainsaw out of a V8 engine. That's what my original impression of this motor was: an interesting novelty, but too big and power-hungry to be practical. But then I started noticing that top racers were running these motors... and winning! So who am I to argue?
This motor is preposterous. On a 5x5x3" prop, it made almost 1600 grams of thrust! The tradeoff is that you really have to tailor the quad around the motors, or the battery simply won't be able to keep up. The key is extremely light weight and careful prop selection.
The F40 Pro-II updates the original F40 Pro design to include modern features like a naked bottom (saves a few grams of weight) and anti-split knurled bell top, to keep the prop from slipping without requiring you to over-tighten the nuts. The motor also has silver-coated windings for slightly lower resistance and increased temperature rating.
Frankly, it will be a challenge to build a quad that could last long enough to finish a race on these motors. But if you feel up to the challenge, more power to you.
The F40III is T-Motor's entry to the 2306 size class. This size of motor provides ridiculous torque and fast prop transition times. When a 2306 motor is designed in the 2500 to 2700kv range, it often draws so much current that the battery simply can't keep up. This motor's 2400kv rating is a good balance: impressive power and speed with livable efficiency. However, this motor's conservative design means that even the 2750kv version isn't too demanding.
The bell of the T-Motor F40III is designed with internal cooling fins, similar to T-Motor's larger motors. This protects the fins from damage (check out the BrotherHobby Tornado motors for an example of exposed cooling fins that are too easily damaged). The motor also has larger-gauge wires for less voltage loss.
If you're looking for a top-of-the-line motor in the $25 price range and you don't want to commit to a pure freestyle or a pure racing motor, the F40III 2400kv is the one you'll buy.
Designing the ultimate freestyle motor requires a careful and precise balance. It needs enough power to wow the audience with massive punchouts, but it also has to be efficient enough that you can fly for several minutes without killing your batteries (so you can finish your awesome choreography). It has to be smooth, so that your FPV video has no "jello" vibrations. And it needs to be responsive enough to handle propwash oscillation perfectly. The HypeTrain is one of the only motors in existence today that pulls all of this off, perfectly.
If you're more concerned with jaw-dropping freestyle tricks than flat-out speed, and if you like to get more than 20 cycles from your batteries, then the Rotor Riot HypeTrain is the one you'll buy.
Rotor Riot has now released the HypeTrain LeDrib Edition, which ups the motor's kv rating from 2450 to 2650. Although I haven't flown this motor, its specs suggest it might be good for those who want a little more punch at the cost of a little shorter battery life,
A prop has three main characteristics: size, pitch, and number of blades.
Size is the diameter of the prop. Quadcopters are divided into classes by the size of prop that they take. So people will refer to a five-inch quad, a six-inch quad, a four-inch quad, and so forth. The best general-purpose prop size for an acro or racing quad is 5". All of the props on this page are 5". There's nothing wrong with other size props, but we have to start somewhere.
Pitch is the steepness of the angle of the blades on the prop. A low-pitch (shallow) prop will make less thrust and generally be more efficient. A high-pitch (steep) prop will make more thrust and generally draw more current from the battery. This is a drastic over-simplification, and the actual shape of the prop blade can have dramatic effects on prop performance that aren't reflected in the pitch number. Modern props seldom have a single, fixed pitch over the length of the blade. These days, prop "pitch" is sort of a generic label to distinguish one prop design from another.
Mini quad props typically have between 2 and 4 blades. Two-blade props are most common in top-speed runs, but they aren't ideal for general purpose use. They tend to feel a little bit "slidey" and imprecise in turns, and they don't have as much bottom-end thrust. Four-blade props have tons of bottom-end thrust but aren't as fast at the top end. They're sometimes preferred by freestyle pilots who want to make a lot of abrupt moves. They're terrible for most types of racing. Three-blade props are the most widely used both by freestyle pilots and racers. They balance precise cornering with decent bottom-end thrust and top-end speed.
Freestyle pilots--especially ones on a budget--sometimes choose lighter, smoother motors than racing pilots. These motors usually have less torque, and need to be paired with lighter props for best handling.
Until recently, the king of this domain was the HQ 5x4x3, and other props that imitated its blade shape. But I'm ready to declare a successor: the DAL Cyclone T5040C.
The T5040C keeps the relatively gentle 4" pitch, but it switches to the wider blade profile similar to all Cyclone props. So it makes a little more thrust.
But what about responsive handling? The good news is that motors have come a long way, and even the "weaker" motors today have enough torque to get good handling out of the T5040C.
Motors sized 2306, 2207, or larger, are probably best matched with a more aggressive prop. If you're using a motor in the 2205 or 2206 size class, and you want to maximize smoothness and minimize oscillation, the DAL T5040C is the one you'll choose.
The DAL Cyclone can do it all. It makes enough thrust for either racing or freestyle. It's aggressive enough that it'll liven up a 2300kv motor, but it won't over-load a 2600kv motor either. It's unbelievably durable. Even if it gets a little nicked up, it seldom breaks, and you can just keep flying it if you don't mine a few vibrations.
So what's not to like? It's not exactly cheap (although its durability balances this out somewhat). And it's kind of sharp... I'm not kidding, I regularly get little cuts on my hands from changing props.
Although this prop is listed as the Best All-Round, it's also my favorite for freestyle, as long as your motor has enough torque to spin it properly. Pretty much any modern 2206 or larger motor should be fine. A 2205 or a weak 2206 may struggle to fully eliminate propwash oscillation.
If you want the exact same prop with a little bit more thrust and less efficiency, the T5046 is your choice.
Can we just start by acknowledging how controversial it is to declare any single prop the "best for racing"? Racers are constantly searching for the best gear, and there won't ever be any one thing that's just plain best. But in this shopping list, we're trying to cut through the clutter and recommend widely-available equipment that will work for the largest variety of people, so in that context, we claim that the DAL Cyclone T5050C is the best for racing.
Don't let the fact that it looks just like the T5045 fool you. The T5050 has a similar blade profile, but steeper pitch, so it makes a lot more thrust. This prop is best matched with a high-torque motor, 2206 size at least. If used with a motor of around 2500kv or higher, this prop will scream, but it'll also draw a lot of power, so make sure you have a top-notch battery to supply it.
The HQ V1S series finally puts to bed HQ's reputation for making fragile, expensive props. The V1S is only expensive. But holy cow is it durable, and that at least sort of makes up for the price.
But look, I'm really under-selling it. If all this prop did was update the classic HQ 5x4x3 to be more durable, then it would be a heck of a good prop. The V1S series comes in four pitches, to suit whatever motor and flight style you have.
The 4.3" pitch version is for light, low-torque freestyle motors. Just a little more thrust than the classic 5x4x3, for stronger modern motors.
The 5" pitch version is for people who want lots of thrust, and don't mind hurting their batteries a little. It's best paired with high-torque motors in the 2306, 2207, or larger size class.
The 4.8" pitch version is closer to the 5" than the 4.3". It still needs a relatively torquey motor to handle best, but it's just a little less amp-hungry.
The 4.0" pitch version of this prop, in my opinion, is a little light for modern motors, even the smaller ones. If you really wanted to give up thrust in order to maximize flight time, then the 4.0" would be your choice. But for me, the 4.3" is as light as I would want to go.