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.
Flight controllers on this page come in two flavors: those with an F4 processor and those with an F7 processor. F4 is capable of running all Betaflight functions today, but not at the absolute fastest loop times that Betaflight supports.
Before Betaflight 3.4 came out, I said that there wasn't any point in buying an FC with a F7 processor. Betaflight wasn't optimized for it. That's all changed. With Betaflight 3.4 and above, you can run full 32 kHz gyro sampling and PID loop on an F7. Does it matter? DO YOU CARE? 32 is more kilohertzes than 8. IT'S FOUR TIMES AS MANY.
All kidding aside, F4 is more than sufficient for most pilots. F7 is a bit more expensive, but allows you to play with cutting-edge features like 32k gyro sampling and has a little more future-proofing.
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 dataflash chip 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 9v output for your vTX and FPV camera.
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 Kakute F7 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.
If you want to use the Kakute F7 with individual ESCs, get the AIO version. It has built in PDB so the ESCs and battery lead can solder right to it. If you're using a 4-in-1 ESC, buy the standard (non-AIO) Kakute F7 and use its 4-in-1 socket to connect it to your ESC.
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.
Airbot has been on the forefront of flight controller design almost as long as flight controllers have existed. The OmniNXT is their flagship unit. With an F7 processor, it can run all Betaflight features even at the fastest 32 kHz gyro sampling rates. It's got an 8v regulator for camera and vTX (lower voltage provides more filtering for cleaner video). A ribbon cable allows direct connection to Airbot's Typhoon ESC for a no-solder connection.
The OmniNXT sports dual gyros: an MPU6000 for low-noise 8 KHz sampling and an ICM 20608 for sampling up to 32 kHz. This gives you the option to play with Betaflight's fancy new filtering if you prefer, but fall back to a safe and reliable option if you run into trouble. The gyros are soft-mounted inside a protective acrylic cover to prevent them getting jarred. The ribbon cable going to the gyros is well protected from damage.
Airbot flight controllers are feature-packed and have efficient, functional layout. But they may be a little challenging for a beginner to build. The sheer choices can be overwhelming. Figuring out the wiring can be tough even though Airbot makes detailed wiring diagrams. Some of the soldering required is tough for beginners due to small pad sizes.
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.
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.
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.
When I started making my own branded products, I swore I would never say my product was best just because it put money in my pocket. The truth is, the "best" product is different for different people. But I truly believe my ESC is the best for most people. Here's why.
The Bardwell ESC is $50, which puts it firmly in the "budget" category. But we've tested it in the harshest conditions we can, and it just kept coming back for more, which gives it "top of the line" credentials. It runs BLHeli_32 and Dshot1200. It's got ESC Telemetry. It supports up to 30 amps at up to 6S voltage. What more could you ask for?
If you're using my JBF4 flight controller, this ESC will plug in directly for zero-soldering connection. It also works with other flight controllers, but you may need to re-order the wires in the plug.
Of course, no single product is best for everybody. This ESC doesn't have a 5v regulator, so if your flight controller can't take vBat, you might consider another ESC. This ESC also only does telemetry, not analog current sensing; if your FC is short on UARTs and can't do ESC telemetry, another ESC might serve you better.
The Aikon AK32 is a bit more expensive than some competing ESCs. It's on this list because of its reputation for rock-solid reliability. Nothing is more frustrating than when a 4-in-1 ESC dies and you have to replace the whole thing just because 1/4 of it has gone bad. The Aikon AK32 is as close as you can get to a bulletproof 4-in-1 ESC. This is especially true if you're running 6S, which pushes many other ESCs over the edge.
MOTORS for 4S
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.
With the Samguk series, DYS aims to provide power and performance to budget-minded builders. One of the best features of this line is the variety in motors: there's a size and kv rating for almost any application. A few compromises have been made to keep cost down, but especially if you're a beginner, you'll really appreciate how affordable it is to replace them when you crash.
My personal favorite of this line is the 2207 / 2600kv version. 2207 size gives a bit more top end with a bit less linearity in the thrust curve. This means the motors "pop" more when you hit the throttle, which I like for freestyle. The 2600kv rating will suck your batteries dry if paired with an overly aggressive prop, so if longer flight time or more aggressive prop selection is a priority, consider the 2306 / 2500 kv version.
The biggest place these motors fall short is durability and quality control. The bearings tend to wear out faster than higher-quality bearings used on more expensive motors. A few motors even come from the factory with rough bearings. The wide availability and low cost of these motors will make up for these deficiencies, for many pilots. After all, you can buy five or six of the Samguk series for the price of four premium brand motors.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The original HypeTrain Freestyle pulled all of this off perfectly. But many freestyle pilots asked for a "punchier" motor with a less-linear response curve. The obvious answer was to move to a 2207 size motor: the HypeTrain Acro. The taller stator gives a sharper power curve and more top-end thrust. It's perfect for freestyle pilots, who often punch the throttle to full, but seldom hold it there for very long.
The HypeTrain Acro includes several improvements that have been made across the HypeTrain product line, including upgraded EZO bearings and a reinforced bell design for increased durability.
MOTORS for 5S and 6S
Four-cell (4S) voltage is still the standard for the majority of freestyle and racing FPV pilots. But it's more and more common to see pilots using higher voltages like 5S and 6S. The general approach is to reduce the motor kv to produce a similar RPM as before. So for example, a 1750 kv motor on 6S produces approximately the same RPM at the prop as a 2450 kv motor on 4S.
If the RPM at the motor is the same, then what's the advantage? This is a hotly debated question. But proponents of 6S low kv argue that you get longer flight time and more torque for better handling. The tradeoff is that 6S batteries are more expensive than 4S; there simply aren't any "budget" 6S packs available. You can get a good 1500 mAh 4S pack for $20. An equivalent 6S pack will cost $30 or more.
Racing is about pushing the performance envelope as far as it can go. Freestyle is about striking a balance. That's why freestyle pilots have been reluctant to buy into the "6S low kv" movement. The real sweet spot is 5S. You get a little bit of the benefits of higher voltage, without all the hassle and expense of 6S.
Credit has to be given to Ummagawd who developed the HypeTrain Ummagawd for 5S use over a year ago. But if I had to pick a motor for 5S freestyle today, it'd be the Hypetrain Stingy. It's 2207 sized, for a punchier throttle curve with more top end. The HypeTrain Stingy includes several improvements that have been made across the HypeTrain product line, including upgraded EZO bearings and a reinforced bell design for increased durability.
BrotherHobby is known for rip-snorting powerhouse motors that leave your opponents in the dust and your batteries crying. So it might be surprising to see them listed as a great freestyle motor! But the Returner R6 is something different. It's smooth and... dare I say it? Efficient? Well... reasonably so. If you're building a 6S low kv freestyle rig, this motor is a great choice.
Top Of The Line 6S Racing
PyroDrone HyperLite 2207/1722kv
I'll be honest, I'm not much of a racer. So I asked the fastest racer I know, HeadsUpFPV, what motor the top racers were running on 6S. This was his answer. The fact that he's sponsored by Pyro-Drone probably played into it a little bit.
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.