Freestyle rates suck for racing. Do this instead.

If you're a freestyle pilot who occasionally races, I'm about to blow your mind. If you're a racer first and foremost, get ready to feel smug.

Freestyle rates are terrible for racing.

This weekend, I was finally convinced by a friend of mine to try his race-tuned rates, and I could not believe the difference. I'm not exaggerating when I say my laps got 10% faster, almost instantly. I crashed less too.

Wait until you hear how low the race rates were: 300 degrees per second! Racers who already knew this: time to feel smug. You've been telling me for a while and I just didn't listen. I'M LISTENING NOW!

Basically, turning down your rates massively increases the effective resolution of the stick. Your turns get smoother. You hold your line precisely instead of swinging wide. You can swerve quickly through a split-s or pylon-turn with control, instead of veering madly and having to work to get back on your race line.

If you haven't done this yet, do it before the next time you race.

  1. Set RC_Rate to 1.00 for pitch, roll, and yaw.
  2. Set RC_Expo to zero.
  3. Adjust pitch and roll S.Rate down until you get to about 300 degrees per second on pitch and roll.
  4. Adjust yaw S.Rate until you get to about 600 degrees per second. Yaw is higher because most of us aren't used to managing the throttle while making big yaw-stick deflections. If you want to try more precision on yaw too, lower it down to about 300 dps also.

I predict that you will absolutely hate this feel for about three to five packs. Once you adjust, you won't believe how much faster you are. How much more confident you feel.

I was absolutely prepared to scoff at the claim that lower rates make a huge improvement in lap times, but literally halfway through the first lap, I was grinning and rolling my eyes at how wrong I'd been.

Norris vs. Leggero: The Real Dirt

I reviewed the Catalyst Machineworks Norris recently, and I compared it to the AvantQuads Leggero. In my reviews, I try to present the facts neutrally and let you decide. But here in the newsletter, I'll tell you my personal opinion.

The Leggero is $350. The Norris is $500. Assuming I was going to buy one of the two, would I personally pay $150 more for the Norris?

If you asked me that about the two quads I actually reviewed, my answer would be that the better vTX, OSD, and SmartAudio support on the Norris probably put it over the edge for me. Are those features alone worth $150? Well, if you assume that I'm buying a pre-built quad, then I'm already over-paying for everything, so maybe they're worth $150, yeah.

But what if I told you the Leggero will soon come with the Matek F405 flight controller (with Betaflight OSD) and the Matek vTX-HV (with SmartAudio support)? Well, then it's a no-brainer. The Norris is still a superior quad, but not in any way that's going to really affect my day-to-day experience of owning and flying it to the tune of $150. I'd buy the Leggero. It flies amazing. It's durable as hell. And can we just stop and reflect for a moment that you can buy a Bind-N-Fly of this quality for this price??? Unbelievable.

Watch Evan Turner Go From WTF? to WTF! In Five Minutes

Evan Turner (HeadsUpFPV) might be the fastest drone racing pilot in Knoxville. He won the Joe Nall FPV race and the MultiGP Division 2A regionals. I was lucky enough to get to watch him fly on Sunday, and I DVR'ed it to share with you.

Here's what's great: the quad he was flying had totally different rates than he uses. So at the beginning of the pack, he is all over the place, and then, lap after lap, you can just see him locking in and getting faster and smoother. At the end, he's faster than most of us will ever be, even though he's probably only barely scratching the surface of his own capabilities. As a bonus, he lands the quad right on the takeoff platform.

You can watch a pro put in a record-breaking time all over YouTube. Here's your chance to see a much less obvious skill: the ability to adapt to a new quad and master it. (PS: The video is about five minutes long, but personally, I was riveted.)

Can You Trust Affiliates?

It's nice to see that my post about affiliate income has sparked some discussion. I've really enjoyed seeing what Bruce and Stew have to say on the topic. I have massive respect for Bruce... one of the titans of this hobby for sure. To know that he's out there watching my videos means a lot.

Some commenters have suggested that if a reviewer uses affiliate links, they can't be trusted any more. I don't agree with that--but not for the reason you probably think. The thing is: there are lots of ways that a reviewer can be biased without revealing it to you.

  • Sometimes a vendor will simply pay a reviewer for placement on their channel.
  • Sometimes a vendor will give a coupon code to a reviewer and then pay the reviewer a percentage on all sales using that code. (This is the same as an affiliate link, but less obvious to the viewer.)
  • Sometimes a vendor will agree to pay a reviewer a percentage of all sales within so many days of the video coming out. This would be more in a case where the vendor doesn't have a lot of marketing and the sales can be assumed to come from the review.

The bottom line is this: you can't know if a reviewer is being compensated for their review. If they want to hide it, they can. In this sense, affiliate links are MORE honest. At least they're up front. Ultimately what it comes down to is, either you trust a reviewer or you don't. Either you find their advice useful, or you don't. If you find their advice useful, then it doesn't matter whether they're getting compensated. In fact, it's all the better if they are. If they're doing a good job helping you find good products and avoid bad ones, that's a valuable service for which they deserve to be paid.

Short and Sweet: vTX Roundup

I rounded up video transmitters recently. There were a few that I left out, and one that I have to admit I totally got wrong.

Mandatory Disclosure: Most of the links below are affiliate links. I will receive a small commission if you use them.

I showed you the Unify HV and Unify Pro 5G8, but I didn't touch on the Unify HV Race. This transmitter is only $30 and has all of the features of the Unify HV, except that it tops out at 200 mW. If you're racing, you won't use more than 200 mW anyway, and even if you fly freestyle, 200 mW is more than enough for most environments.

The Rush vTX is pretty impressive. It's $30. It has a built in microphone with noise cancelling for great audio. And it has specially tuned 20 MHz bandwidth, to reduce interference with other pilots. Finally, it's got an MMCX connector, which is far more robust than the IPEX connector used on many other vTX's. I could certainly see someone choosing the Rush over the Matek vTX-HV, especially if they didn't care about SmartAudio and wanted to use the on-board microphone on the Rush.

People really hated my choice of the MI200 as the budget option! This is the one that I think I got wrong, because people showed me a few MUCH BETTER transmitters that I just didn't think of when I was making the list.

The first one is the Eachine VTX03. This is an ultra-small, ultra-light vTX intended for micro quads, but with output power up to 200 mW, many people are apparently using it on big quads too. It costs $14.

A few other Eachine transmitters that were mentioned were the TX526, which goes up to 600 mW, and the TX801, which adds several low-power modes including 0.01 mW pit-mode and 5 mW.

But the real rock-star of the show was the EWRF e7086TM3, which costs $17, goes up to 600 mW, and... SUPPORTS SMART-AUDIO!!! Finally, a Chinese vendor made a cheap vTX that supports Smart-Audio!!!!

And I would like to remind anybody out there who doesn't know it that Smart-Audio is an open protocol, free for anyone to implement without any licensing requirement. This is consistent with the laws of (at least) the U.S. and the EU. In addition, Betaflight would not have implemented Smart-Audio at all if it had not been released as an open protocol. So anybody who claims that a license is required to implement Smart-Audio is confused on several fronts.

Thanks to the commenters who helped me find these video transmitters, especially the EWRF. I've been looking for a cheap transmitter that does Smart-audio forever and now I've found it!


F4 Flight Controllers Stink. No, FrSky Stinks.

My video about how to wire telemetry would have been a lot simpler if not for the issue of telemetry inversion. I can't decide who to blame more: the F4 for not supporting inversion, or FrSky for using inversion in the first place. SBUS was invented by Futaba, and my understanding is that Futaba SBUS is not inverted, so I don't think there's a technical reason why inversion is needed.

I'm really looking forward to F7 flight controllers. The F7 chip has something like 10 UARTs, and all of them support inversion. This might sound like more UARTs than anybody could possibly need, but there are lots of exciting uses. For example, you could easily run telemetry from each ESC, and still have enough UARTs spare for SmartAudio, SBUS, Telemetry, and your IoT coffee maker!

People sometimes question whether the additional speed of the F7, F4, or even the F3 processor is really needed. "I'm still running my Multiwii FC and it flies just fine!" There's definitely some truth to the idea that people tend to chase numbers just for the sake of it, but I do think there's tangible value to the faster processors. The single biggest thing I anticipate is more sophisticated filters, which isn't really sexy enough to put into the marketing materials, but it's really the single biggest thing that will make our quads fly amazing. Another factor that is often overlooked is the additional program memory of the faster processors. Even the F3 chip is starting to get cramped with Betaflight's current code base.

Kakute Gyro Soft-Mount: Does It Work?

People have asked for blackbox examples of how well the Kakute F4's soft-mounted gyro works. Here's an example of what the gyro looks like hard-mounted in a QQ190 frame. The raw gyro is the top trace, while the soft-filtered gyro is the bottom trace.

m3 foam gyro.jpg

To recreate this trace, make sure you have "set debug=gyro" enabled in your CLI. This will cause Blackbox to log the raw gyro in addition to the filtered gyro. Then zoom the gyro trace all the way out to 10% by pressing the Z key in the Blackbox Viewer. You can compare the thickness of the gyro lines for your copter to this one and see how well the foam is doing.