Drone Controllers Explained

Understanding drone controllers

Today kids, we’re going to look at the different types of controllers for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), so you can make a more informed decision about your first drone purchase for your business!

When considering a drone for business, it’s important to look at the UAV features, sure – but your controller is just as important. A simple and easy-to-use interface will make your drone experience so much more pleasant, and enable you to focus on skilled flying instead of spending ages getting to grips with unclear icons.

Controller Type

There are two key controller types: traditional joystick controllers, and those using a tablet style pad.

Each has their pros and cons, as with any technology. A joystick may be easier to use for those who grew up playing Atari (and if you’re not old enough to know what that is, you probably should avoid joystick controllers). A tablet controller either uses an existing tablet, such as an iPad with downloaded software, or has a similar but specifically-designed pad to use.

The main benefit of tablet controllers is the touch screen often uses in-built accelerometers for more intuitive flying -while a joystick is easier when working on steady flight paths that require reverse trips. A survey drone that flies back towards you during the flight path will require skills in immediate reverse-control which is usually easier on a joystick!

Drone controllers provide more than a way to control the UAV mid-flight: on-board telemetry, gyroscopes, and altimeters are all examples of ways to build the level of control a pilot has over the drone. That’s even before you add extra technology to the payload, such as a camera or sensors! A good controller will keep only the essential information visible – and that includes details such as altitude, which helps you keep within your drone flying laws for a start…

What Are You Flying For?

A key consideration when choosing your controller type is to think about the type of project you’ll be using your drone for. A survey drone that uses set GPS autonomous flight paths will require little pilot interaction, if any, and a more basic and less power hungry controller could be ideal for this type of flying.

However, if you want to capture stunning footage using your drone, a tablet controller – or a joystick controller with an integrated live feed screen – is essential to make sure you’re getting the footage you want! You’ll also need to be able to control the camera in a different way to a fixed-position survey camera – so a simple interface is essential, as you’ll be both flying the drone AND operating the camera. Many UAVs designed for such  work, like the DJI Phantom series, will often have a two-person operation system, ideal for one pilot to control the drone and another to work the camera.

Do you need to look at a lot of in-flight data? If your drone is being used for very precise survey work, you may want to be able to view real-time data processing, in which case it’s also ideal to have a screen with your controller. Alternatively, you could set up a link to a laptop instead: this would free up your controller to keep it basic while enabling you to still view essential in-flight data.

Autonomous Flight Controllers

Does your drone have an autonomous mode? This means you can preset the GPS flight path, and it’ll launch, fly, and land without any pilot interaction (though you still need a licensed commercial drone pilot operating it).

For a controller linked to an autonomous drone, it’s best to have clear and accessible buttons for operations such as take-off and landing, as well as waypoint flying and data telemetry details. The great thing about autonomous flights is that you can focus more readily on the data captured in real-time!

Choosing your controller is just as important as choosing your drone – it needs to be easy for you to use and understand, without hindering in-flight processes such as independent camera operation or photograph captures. If you need help deciding on which drone model and controller are best for you, contact us at info@coptrz.com and we’ll be happy to help!

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