HomeDroneHow Drone Controllers Work (Defined for Newbies) – Droneblog.com

How Drone Controllers Work (Defined for Newbies) – Droneblog.com

Whether or not you’re new to drones or have been flying them for some time, you will need to have questioned how drone distant management works. Distant controllers are the rationale you possibly can fly your drone to a distance starting from a number of toes to a number of miles away from you with out counting on cables. And realizing how they work helps you take advantage of out of them.

So, how do drone controllers work?

To place it merely, it entails sending a sign from a transmitter within the controller to a receiver within the drone. The flight controller and ESC assist interpret and execute these alerts whereas sustaining a secure flight.

Distant controls additionally ship directions relating to cameras, sensors, and some other payload the drone is carrying.

Please preserve studying to study extra about drone distant management.

What’s a drone controller?

A drone controller is a tool that enables a drone pilot to regulate a drone from the bottom wirelessly. Drones produce other controllers, such because the ESC and the flight controller. However on this case, we’re referring to the system the drone pilot holds when controlling the drone.

It’s possible you’ll generally see this system known as a radio controller or RC. Some may also discuss with it as a transmitter or a distant controller.

A quick historical past of radio management

Whereas client drones gained recognition fairly lately, the entire idea of Radio management dates again to the 19th century. This was when the thought of remotely controlling gadgets for army functions was pursued extensively. 

Consequently, the army invented remote-controlled torpedoes, missiles, boats, teletanks, and anti-jamming methods. This was to reduce the chance of dropping troopers in fight. Radio-controlled gadgets have been extensively utilized in each WWI and WWII.

Through the years, numerous nations refined their RC methods by making them smaller, inventing transistors, and even enabling them to speak in a number of channels. These enhancements made it doable to make use of RC methods in mannequin plane by the Fifties.

Quick ahead to the 21st century, the place each Radio producer produces RC methods that can be utilized on a variety of gadgets, together with toy automobiles, mannequin plane, and drones. 

For individuals who’d like to construct their very own drones, you should purchase an RC system for as little as $30.

How drone controllers work

Drone controllers work by sending directions to a drone through radio alerts. To know how they work, let’s take a look at the primary elements and the way all of them operate.

Drone transmitters

The drone transmitters are situated on the drone controller and are the piece answerable for changing the controller’s instructions into radio alerts, that are then despatched to the drone.

Drone receivers

The receivers are antennas that obtain the alerts from the controller and convert them into digital information that the flight controller can act on.

Flight controller

This part acts because the drone’s mind or the central nervous system. After receiving the interpreted data from the receiver, it determines the facility obligatory to hold out the directions despatched from the controller. 

The flight controller additionally combines information from sensors that make the drone conscious of its environment. 

These embrace:

  • Accelerometers – These sensors measure the speed of rotation and decide the drone’s orientation by figuring out the lean and angular velocity.
  • Magnetometers – These sensors assist a drone orient itself in relation to the magnetic north.
  • Gyroscopes – Gyroscopes additionally measure the speed of rotation, permitting a drone to stay secure when hovering or when in flight.

ESC (Digital Pace Controller)

After the flight controller has simplified the directions into voltage, now it’s as much as the ESC to execute these instructions by minimizing the facility on some motors and rising the facility on different motors relying on the duty or route you want the drone to take.

Components of a drone controller

Under are the primary elements of a drone controller.

Proper Stick

That is the stick on the proper, and it’s answerable for Roll and Pitch actions.

Left Stick

That is the stick on the left and parallel to the proper stick. It’s answerable for yaw and throttle.


These are the transmitters that ship the radio alerts to the drone.

Different options

Under are extra options you’ll discover in most controllers:

  • Trim Buttons – These buttons enable you to align a drone in case it begins drifting to 1 facet or is unstable when in flight.
  • RTH (Return To House) – You’ll discover this button in most controllers and in numerous areas. It’s used to “name” the drone again to the take-off level or one other preset location if there’s an emergency.
  • Digital camera buttons – For drones with cameras, you can begin recording, take nonetheless pictures, or management the gimbal utilizing the controller.

Fundamental drone actions

Under are the primary drone actions and what occurs while you push the controller’s sticks.

  • Roll – That is the motion that enables the drone to maneuver to the proper or the left alongside the roll axis that runs from the entrance of the drone to the again of the drone. It’s completed by pushing the proper stick left or proper. For a drone to roll, the ESC will scale back the facility of the motors on one facet of the drone (left or proper).
  • Pitch – This motion permits a drone to hurry ahead or backward alongside the Pitch (X) axis. It’s achieved by pushing the proper stick ahead or backward. The ESC reduces the facility of the again propellers and will increase the facility of the entrance motors to make them rotate sooner. That’s why the drone’s entrance part suggestions downwards when the drone is dashing ahead.
  • Yaw – That is the place the drone turns clockwise alongside the Yaw axis that runs from the highest to the underside of the drone. On the controller, you push the left stick left or proper. To perform this, the ESC minimizes the facility of the motors in a diagonal sample.
  • Throttle – That is the place the drone will increase or decreases in altitude. On this case, all motors are rotating on the similar velocity. The sooner they spin, the upper the drone strikes.

How drones talk with the controller

Under are the primary communication channels utilized in drones and controllers.

Radio frequencies

This is among the commonest ways in which drones talk with controllers. Radio frequencies are invisible waves that kind a part of the electromagnetic spectrum. For them to work, there needs to be a transmitter and a receiver, which I’ve already described above.

For a drone to speak with a controller, they have to all be ‘tuned” to the identical frequency. However what occurs if there’s one other system in the identical vary and utilizing the identical frequency? That’s the place the RFID is available in.

The RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is an identification code assigned to the communication between a drone and a controller. And the drone will solely reply to alerts that comprise that particular RFID.

Drone communications desire decrease frequencies since they’ll function at wider ranges, permitting a drone to maneuver additional away from the controller. Nonetheless, if the frequencies are too low, you’d want very massive antennas. So, to strike a superb steadiness, most drones function in frequencies starting from 800 to 900 MHz.


Most drones now have Wi-Fi, particularly these with an app and a digicam. Wi-Fi makes it doable to stream the footage from a drone in real-time, giving beginning to one of the crucial sought-after hobbies within the drone world, FPV racing. 

That is the place you put on VR-like goggles and fly your drone such as you’re in its “cockpit.” In contrast to radio frequencies, Wi-Fi operates in frequencies starting from 2.4 GHz to five.8 GHz. These are very excessive frequencies. That’s why Wi-Fi works greatest at shorter ranges.

International Place System (GPS)

GPS has drastically enhanced drone navigation. It does this by means of enhancing stabilization, enabling Return To House, and figuring out No-Fly zones. 

So, how do drones talk with controllers by means of GPS? You straight ship the coordinates to the drone, and the drone’s GPS will observe these coordinates.

Some drones are designed to not take off in No-Fly zones, however the communication about these zones truly comes from the drone’s app. These days, it’s even doable to pick waypoints within the type of coordinates, and the drone will observe them autonomously. It is a frequent software within the land survey subject the place it’s essential to take aerial pictures of a spot.

It is a extra subtle technique of communication and is barely relevant to army drones such because the Hawk or the Predator drones. Communication by means of satellites permits the army to regulate their drones whereas they’re 1000’s of miles away. Nonetheless, they nonetheless must have a floor station throughout the space the drone is working to coordinate taking off and touchdown.

Absolutely Autonomous

This side continues to be in improvement, nevertheless it’s already seeing some purposes within the inspections and army sectors. Historically, a pilot has a controller to ship alerts to a drone. However for totally autonomous drones, you may give them an space of curiosity, and so they’ll fly in these areas, collect information, decide the perfect route, keep away from obstacles, and fly again to the take-off level on their very own.

Why drone controllers are distinctive within the RC plane world

Under are some explanation why drone controllers stand out.

The “RC” abbreviation

As talked about earlier, whereas radio management has been round for greater than a century, RC mannequin plane and autos have solely been round for the reason that Fifties. When the RC abbreviation was first coined, it meant Radio Managed, however relating to drones, it usually refers to Distant Managed. 

Regardless, it refers to how a drone might be managed remotely. The RC expertise utilized in UAVs can also be extra subtle than different mannequin gadgets.

Variety of rotors

One other vital distinction is the variety of rotors. Most RC plane solely have one rotor, which makes it straightforward to regulate since all it’s a must to do is management the velocity of the rotor and the angle of their propellers to maneuver. 

Alternatively, drones are available in 4 rotors or extra. And the controller has to regulate all 4 rotors to ensure the drone maneuvers because it’s imagined to. The flight controllers and ESC make it doable for the controller to regulate the velocity of every rotor with out interfering with the drone’s operations. Think about how hectic it could be should you needed to management the velocity of every rotor manually.


In case your drone received’t connect with the controller, beneath are some doable causes, and methods to repair this challenge.

You’re doing it improper

When you can’t join your drone to the controller, likelihood is you’re doing it improper. Every drone has directions on methods to do it, so be sure to verify them and observe them strictly when organising your drone.

» MORE: For extra data on methods to join your drone to the controller, try our guides:
Methods to Join a Drone to the Controller
How To Join DJI Drones
Methods to Join Holy Stone Drones
How To Join Snaptain Drones

Low battery ranges

One other challenge that might trigger connection issues is low battery ranges on the controller, on the drone, or each. It’s essential to verify the battery ranges of all of your gadgets earlier than flying your drone.

Be sure you’re utilizing the most recent firmware model

Drone producers usually launch firmware updates for drones, controllers, and apps. These updates usually repair any underlying points, however they’ll additionally intrude with the connection between a drone and a controller in the event that they’re not all utilizing the identical model. One other option to repair it could be to uninstall the drone app and set up it once more.

Sign interference

When you’re attempting to fly in areas with electromagnetic interference, it could hinder the connection between the controller and the drone. In case your drone connects to the controller and takes off, you danger dropping it since chances are you’ll lose the connection when the drone is in flight.

You’re flying too distant from the controller

If after efficiently connecting your drone to the controller, and after flying for a while, you get an error that you simply’re out of vary, or the video footage loses high quality or stops, chances are you’ll be flying too far. 

Every drone has its restrict. Some can fly a number of toes from the controller, however some can fly so far as 6 miles, relying on the kind of communication you’re coping with. Nonetheless, rules in most areas require you to fly throughout the Visible Line of Sight (VLOS). So, at all times preserve your drone in sight, and keep away from flying previous the drone’s restrict.

» MORE: How Far Can A Drone Fly (From the Controller)?

Search technical assist

If not one of the above suggestions assist, attain out to the drone producer’s technical staff, or ask a query in boards. You’ll probably come throughout a member who has skilled an identical challenge and is aware of methods to repair it.

Notable developments in drone distant management

Under are some tech developments to look out for.


OcuSync is DJI’s state-of-the-art transmission system that gives among the longest ranges within the drone world. Under is how OcuSync has superior over time.

  • OcuSync 1.0 – This model was utilized in all Mavic drones launched earlier than the Mavic 2. These embrace the Mavic Professional and Mavic Professional Platinum. It was designed to transmit 1080p video high quality for short-range transmission and 720p for long-range transmission, and it has a spread of as much as 4.3 miles (7KM). In optimum circumstances, OcuSync will obtain movies at 40 Mb/s.
  • OcuSync 2.0 – This model got here with the Mavic 2 in 2018 and exists in many of the drones launched after that. It got here as an enchancment to 1.0 because it transmits 1080p on each long-range and short-range transmissions. One other enchancment is that the OcuSync 2.0 mechanically switches between 5.8 and a pair of.4 GHz. This makes it excellent for areas with many sources of interference.
  • OcuSync 3.0 – That is the most recent model, and it makes use of an entire new video transmission system that makes use of 4 antennas as a substitute of two like within the 2.0 model. DJI additionally improved the video transmission system, permitting it to transmit HD movies from a spread of as much as 7.5 miles (12 KM).

Sensible controllers

These are controllers designed to work with a number of drones. A very good instance is DJI’s Sensible Controller, a complicated controller that comprises a 5.5-inch show display screen, the OcuSync 2.0 transmission system, a spread of as much as 6.2 miles (10 KM), and in-built app capabilities. 

You should utilize the DJI Go or Fly app or obtain different third-party apps. Higher but, it has a DJI Go Share function that means that you can stream your photographs on to social media channels.

The DJI Sensible Controller combines the functionalities of a smartphone or pill and an ordinary controller. Nevertheless it’s additionally improved to make it extra sturdy and dependable than an ordinary smartphone.

Presently, the drones appropriate with the DJI Sensible Controller embrace:

  • DJI Mini 2
  • Mavic Air 2
  • Mavic 2 and Mavic 2 Enterprise Sequence
  • Phantom 4 Professional V2.0

BVLOS (Past Visible Line Of Sight) flying

As talked about earlier, most areas require drone pilots to fly their drones inside their line of sight. However this limits how drones can be utilized, particularly in purposes similar to meals supply and industrial inspections. Nonetheless, of late, most drone producers and stakeholders have been pioneering BVLOS to broaden the scope during which drones can be utilized.

So how wouldn’t it work?

The pilot would depend on sensors, telemetry information, and GPS navigation to know the place the drone is and navigate it. Flying BVLOS wants extra abilities in comparison with VLOS.

Under are among the advantages BLVOS has over VLOS;

  • It’s safer – In areas the place a drone pilot must fly in harmful areas, similar to hearth zones and gasoline leaks, it could be harmful for a pilot to enter the realm and fly VLOS. However BVLOS makes it safer for the reason that pilot can place himself or herself miles away at a protected distance and nonetheless handle to fly over the realm.
  • It’s cheaper – In areas the place drones aren’t allowed to fly BVLOS, they’ve to make use of helicopters that are costly and never versatile. However drones designed to fly BVLOS have longer flight instances, that means they might fly over the identical space a number of instances with out costing as a lot as a helicopter.
  • The information is extra correct – Drones can fly at very low altitudes, permitting them to take high-res pictures from which customers can derive extra information in comparison with utilizing manned plane.

Sadly, there are nonetheless too many restrictions towards BVLOS, particularly within the US. It’s important to apply for a number of waivers, and there’s no assure that you simply’ll be allowed to fly. However drone legal guidelines are nonetheless evolving worldwide, so we are able to anticipate BVLOS to be allowed quickly.


Are you able to join any distant controller to a drone?

Not likely. Normally, drone controllers aren’t interchangeable. As an example, you possibly can’t use an Autel distant controller to regulate a DJI drone. However there are some instances the place drones throughout the similar collection can use the identical controller, such because the Mini 2 and Mavic Air 2. There are additionally controllers designed to regulate a number of drones, similar to DJI‘s Sensible Controller and the Autel Sensible Controller.

Are you able to management a drone with a smartphone?

Sure, you possibly can. Most drones include apps that will let you management the digicam, gimbal, take-off and touchdown, and a few clever flight modes utilizing a smartphone along with a controller. 

Some drones, such because the Tello, are designed to be flown strictly with a smartphone with out utilizing a separate controller in any respect.

Is there a common drone app?

Not likely. Drone apps are designed to work with a particular drone mannequin and model. You possibly can’t interchange them. Nonetheless, there are apps like Litchi, DroneDeploy, and RainBow that work with most drones and can be utilized to increase the performance of a drone. However not all drones are appropriate with these apps.

Can you purchase a distant controller?

Sure, you possibly can. In case your controller is broken, acquired misplaced, otherwise you’re planning to construct your individual drone, you should purchase a controller. It’s at all times advisable to get the controller from the drone producer to forestall voiding the guarantee. 

When constructing a drone, yow will discover third-party drone controllers, however constructing your individual continues to be an choice. The kind of drone you might have determines the drone controller you need to use. So, begin by getting a high-quality drone.

The historical past of radio management
Picture by William Bayreuther



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