Update 9/7/2016 – Updated for new “Expert Mode” feature.
After you’ve flashed your FC and ESCs and configured BLHeli, the last software set-up you’ll need to do before getting out and flying is Betaflight. The tricky thing about this process is that flight controller these days have almost a hundred different options that you can enable and configure. The goal of this guide is to get you started with the absolute minimum featureset needed to get out and start flying. If this is your first time flying a miniquad, this is exactly what we recommend you do. Keep it simple at first, establish a flying baseline – then add extra features.
Throughout this guide, we are making some important assumptions about your gear and set-up. These assumptions are reinforced throughout our Drone Racing Guide – so if you’ve followed us up to this point, you should be good to go.
- Aircraft is a quadcopter with motors hooked up in standard configuration.
- RC RX connected via PPM or Serial RX
- BLHeli ESC configured per our BLHeli set-up article.
- RC TX configured properly. If you need help setting up your transmitter, you can check out our guide here.
If you are using a different set-up, certain parts of this article may not apply to you. We have linked the relevant sections from the BetaFlight documentation for this purpose. Even if you are not using a different set-up, we highly encourage you to follow these links and learn from the mouth of the developers who brought you this amazing software.
Vesp put together an awesome video outlining this process. It is by far the best flight controller set-up video I have ever seen. I strongly urge you to check it out:
The video complements this guide very well. We recommend you use both!
Enable Expert Mode
The “Expert Mode” checkbox was added recently to hide tabs that some users may never use. Unfortunately, it hid some tabs that we think are vitally important for a proper set-up. Therefore, we recommend all users just turn on and leave on “Expert Mode” by toggling the switch in the top bar:
In this tab we set-up communication with your RC RX if you are using SBus, iBus or a Spektrum Satellite receiver.
The only thing that needs to be done is enabling the Serial Rx switch on UART2 or UART3. On F1 flight controllers like the Naze32 this will always be UART2. On F3 flight controllers like the SPRacing F3, this will generally be UART3. If you are using a PPM connection to your RC RX, don’t do anything. Don’t forget to click “Save and Reboot”.
Read more about ports from the Betaflight Serial documentation.
In this tab, we do basic configuration of the various features you want on your quadcopter. As discussed above, we recommend you set-up the bare minimum.
1. Start with the Receiver Mode. If you are using SBus, iBus or a Spektrum Satellite RX, pick “RX_SERIAL”. If you are connecting via PPM, use “RX_PPM”.
2. If you are using SBus, iBus or a Spektrum Satellite, you will need to pick your Serial Receiver Provider. Follow this table:
|RX Type||Serial Receiver Provider|
3. Configure your ESC/Motor Features. If you are following our template build, set this up exactly as pictured. If you are using a different brand or set your ESC up in a different way, you should check out the Betaflight Controls documentation.
Scroll down to access more configuration settings.
4. Set up your flight controller update rates. We recommend beginners start out with the F3 defaults – that is as pictured above. If you are using an F1 flight controller, these may default to different values – we still recommend you change them to 2kHz/1kHz. You can read more about looptime in the Betaflight FAQ.
5. Enable Blackbox – this is a logging feature that is used in tuning and troubleshooting. Learn more about Blackbox here.
Don’t forget to click “Save and Reboot” before leaving this tab.
After handling the Configuration Tab, it is best to set-up your Receiver. Let’s go to that tab next.
- For most of the pilots out there (particularly anyone flying with a Taranis, FlySky, Turnigy or Spektrum radio) – you will need to change the “Channel Map” to “JR / Spektrum / Graupner”. Do this first and click “Save”.
- Now, turn on your RC TX and start moving the sticks on the different axes from full left to right and full down to full up. Make sure that the corresponding slider in the GUI moves from 1000 to 2000 and centers on 1500. The centering part is the most important for the roll/pitch/yaw channels – if it does not center at 1500, use trim or subtrims to adjust it (consult your Radio’s user manual). The exception is throttle, which should rest at 1000 when in the fully down position – this is critical, and you should use trims and end-point adjustment to fix it if it does not.On many radios, you will notice that the values on the slider do not center directly on 1500, but quickly oscillate between a range of values close to 1500. Don’t panic! This just means your radio Gimbals are not centering perfectly – every radio I have used has this problem. Watch the sliders for a little while and note how the largest or smallest numbers you see. Now subtract those numbers from 1500 and enter them into the deadband fields in the GUI. For example, if you are seeing a range of 1497-1500, then enter a value of ‘3’. If you are seeing a range of 1500-1506, enter a value of ‘6’. I am seeing an error of roughly ‘2’ on this quadcopter so I set the deadband to 3 to be safe.
Finally, before you move to the next tab, check to make sure your arming and mode switches are working properly by flipping them. You should see the AUX1, AUX2 or AUX3 sliders move in the GUI. Note which switch corresponds to which slider and let’s move on.
In the modes tab we’ll configure two things:
- Your arming switch – which enables you to turn your quadcopter on (the props will start spinning).
- Flight modes so that you can enable and disable self-leveling (called ‘angle’) mode.
Binding a mode to a switch is pretty intuitive. Here is how:
- Clicking “Add Range” on the appropriate mode.
- Picking the appropriate AUX channel for the switch you want to use for that mode.
- Flip the switch in the on position and dragging the sliders so that they fully encompass the indicated switch nub in the GUI.
- Click “Save”
- Verify that the mode is now highlighted when the switch is flipped on, and not highlighted when the switch is flipped off.
Most pilots will want to configure two switches: an arming switch and a flight mode switch:
- The arming switch should be bound to both the “ARM” and “AIR MODE” modes. “AIR MODE” is a feature which greatly increases stability at low throttle values and we recommend most pilots turn it on. Be aware that when air mode is enabled, your quadcopter will use up to 100% power to stabilize when armed even when the throttle is at zero.
- The quadcopters default mode is acro or rate mode. If no other modes (like “HORIZON” or “ANGLE”) are active, this is the mode it is in. Therefore, you only need to bind your mode switch to non-acro modes. We recommend most new pilots activate ANGLE mode to take advantage of self-leveling flight – at least starting out.
You can learn more about all the different modes available to you in the Betaflight Modes Documentation.
In the failsafe tab you’ll set-up an extremely important feature which takes effect if your RC Radio ever fails or if you fly out of range. This is the feature that will prevent your quadcopter from “flying off” into someones house, a forest, or wherever the winds take it. It does this by totally disarming the quadcopter shortly after radio signal is lost.
Before you go to the failsafe tab, you’ll need to confirm that failsafe is working on your RC RX first. Go back to the Receiver tab and turn off your RC TX. Observe what happens to the throttle slider. It should instantly move from a 1000 to a low number between 850-950 when your TX turns off. This indicates your RC failsafe is working correctly. If this does not happen, consult your TX manual on how to set it up.
Note the value that throttle settles at when the TX is turned off.
The only thing you need to do in the Failsafe tab is set the “Minimum length” in the “Valid Pulse Range Settings”. This value needs to be slightly above the throttle value your RC RX reports when the TX is turned off. For me, that was “885”, so I set this value to “895”.
Don’t forget to hit “Save and Reboot” after changing anything on this page.
You can learn more about how the Failsafe works in the Betaflight Failsafe Documentation.
PID Tuning Tab
This is the tab where you will do all of your tweaking from here on out. It contains all of the settings which control how your quadcopter will fly – as opposed to whether it will fly. You will want to eventually learn about every field in this tab, but for your first set-up we will only need to deal with the basics:
- As of BetaFlight 3.0, we highly recommend everyone enable “SUPEREXPO_RATES”. These provide a very reasonable control curve that virtually eliminates the need for further expo tuning.
- Set your preferred RC Rate and Rate. These values are universal across all quadcopters of equal capability – so if you have the same values in all your quadcopters theoretically all of your quadcopters should respond to the sticks in a very similar manner. If you are just starting out and don’t have a preferred value, the defaults are very reasonable. You may want to reduce the rates a bit though if you find yourself overcontrolling your quadcopter:
- Fortunately, for doing this, Betaflight Configurator provides a handy graph and speed figure. As you adjust your rate values the graph will change to show you how the control curves look. With SUPEREXPO_RATES enabled, I don’t recommend you go below a roll/pitch speed of 480 deg/s. Going higher will make your quad more reponsive so if you go that direction, take it slowly.
- Finally, there are the PID settings. For pretty much any 3S or 4S quadcopter on the market, these defaults will be undertuned and should fly just fine. We recommend you get your first flight in before touching these. See the conclusion for some handy links on where to go to learn about making adjustments here.
Both PID Tuning and rate configuration are discussed in the Betaflight PID tuning documentation.
This tab is pretty simple – you just want to check the “Blackbox logging rate” and set it so that it is 250Hz or lower. Anything higher will consume CPU cycles and fill up your log faster while providing little to no useful data.
Before you put your props back on, we recommend you perform some checks to prevent any issues when you’re ready to fly.
First, arm your quadcopter from your transmitter. Verify that your motors are spinning in the correct direction:
With the motors still spinning, shut off your radio TX. Your quad should disarm within 5 seconds of the TX fully powering off. If not, you need to investigate your failsafe settings again.
Now, lets go to the Setup tab for the remaining tests.
- Move your quadcopter on the pitch, roll and yaw axis. Verify that the pictured quad in the setup tab moves identically to your quad. If not, investigate how you have your flight controller installed. The arrow on the board should be pointing towards the front of the quad.
- Turn your RC transmitter back on and arm your quadcopter again. Check the “CPU Load” figure as indicated by the ‘2’ in the image above. If it ever indicates 100%, you are overworking your flight controller and may have problems while flying. Lower the looptime or remove features to get this working properly.
- Finally, Backup your settings by pressing the “Backup” button. We like to save all of our FC/ESC firmware, Backups and Blackbox files in a single directory on our computer so we always know the latest software configuration of the quad.
We also put together a video guide to make the process easy to follow! This guide parallels the setup here, so you can watch it alongside your software setup. Check it out!
After following all of our software setup guides, you should finally be ready to go out and fly your miniquad. If it is your first time flying, make sure you have plenty of space to move around and that your “LEVEL” switch is enabled so that the quadcopter self-levels. We hope you have a blast.
Please remember that while the default Betaflight PIDs are pretty good for most quadcopters, they are not always perfect. You may experience vibrations in turns or descents or sluggish handling. If your quadcopter vibrates in a hover, land immediately – the motors will quickly overheat and break.