Update 9/5/2016 - Since Betaflight 2.9, it is no longer recommended to use Cleanflight Configurator for doing set-up or tuning on your Betaflight quadcopters. Therefore, you should not use this guide when setting up your Betaflight flight controller.
Instead, we highly recommend you check out our new and updated Betaflight / BLHeli software installation and set-up guide.


Cleanflight Configurator has one of the best-designed user interfaces for configuration software in the industry. Compared with Mission Planner, it is an absolute joy to use to set-up and tune your miniquad with Configurator. That being said, its flow is not very well set-up for first-time set-up of a quad. Correct configuration will find you hopping back and forth between many of the tabs, hoping you don’t forget anything in the process.

This post is a walkthrough and checklist for the entire process of setting up your miniquad flight controller using Cleanflight Configurator. It has been written for first time builders and experienced pilots alike. It accomplishes this by having collapsible “explanation” sections under each procedure, which can be used to access a full description of the procedure including screenshots of how to accomplish it and why it is necessary.

For experienced builders, opening up these sections should rarely be necessary, and this page can serve as a step-by-step checklist which can be used to ensure that all of the set-up procedures are accomplished before the maiden flight of your new miniquad.

This post focuses on the software configuration using the Cleanflight Configurator for the purposes of building an FPV miniquad that flies in rate mode with the BetaFlight firmware. It does not cover the topics of radio binding and set-up, OSD set-up, etc. Where possible, links to articles that cover these topics have been provided. Likewise, it is not a good article to follow if you are trying to set-up a quadcopter with advanced automatic flying abilities.

MiniQuad Configuration

To provide the best checklist possible for your miniquad build, you will need to answer a few yes/no questions about the equipment you are using:







Click here to toggle all of the details sections below

Checklist

Initial Set-up

Loosen your prop nuts so that the props spin freely on the motors. Details 
You never want to have the propellers on and tightened when connecting a miniquad to Cleanflight Configurator. However, during the set-up process, the props are a very convenient way to tell which direction a motor is turning. I personally like to loosen the prop nuts so that the props can spin freely without also turning the motor. This will allow the props to turn with the motors but will make it all but impossible for the quad to attempt to fly off or hurt you in any way.
32-loose-propes
Plug a flight battery into your miniquad. Details 
Throughout this process, you will need most of your electronics operating. Make sure you have an antenna on your video transmitter or that it is unplugged. If this is the first time you are powering your miniquad up, you should use a fuse to ensure you do not burn any electronics out if any of the wiring was done incorrectly. Here is my home-made fuse:
31-Fuse
Bind your RC receiver and configure your transmitter as required. Details 
This guide won’t walk you through the process of binding your TX and RX, but now is the time to do it. You can find instructions for this process here for FrSky radios (e.g. the Taranis) and here for Spektrum radios.

Once binding has been completed, you may need to configure your TX. Generally, the only thing you will need to set-up is the switch binding you will use for arming or disarming the quadcopter. For the purposes of this guide, you should use channel 5 for this switch.

Download the latest BetaFlight release. Details 
The latest Betaflight releases can be downloaded here. If your flight controller is not explicitly listed in the downloads on that site, choose the Naze option for F1 boards and the SPRacing F3 option for F3 boards.
Plug your miniquad into your computer and launch Cleanflight Configurator. Details 

Cleanflight Configurator is a Chrome browser app. Therefore, you will need to install Chrome if you don’t already have it. Once Chrome is installed, you can install the app here.

Once Cleanflight Configurator is installed, you can launch it from the Chrome Apps page. This is accessible at this URL: chrome://apps.

Load the latest BetaFlight firmware onto your flight controller. Details 

This process is accomplished through the firmware loading page of the configurator. Open this page and set up the checkboxes as pictured below.

01-FirmwareLoadStandard Next, click “Load Firmware[Local]” and select the Betaflight release you downloaded earlier. Finally, click “Flash Firmware” to start the flashing process.

Sometimes, the above procedure will fail for a variety of reasons. In these cases, you will need to force your flight controller into “bootloader” mode. This is done by first setting up Configurator as pictured: 02-FirmwareBootPin Next, unplug your quadcopter from the computer and unplug the flight battery. Inspect the flight controller board and find two copper pads labeled “Boot”. You will need to use a pair of metal tweezers to electrically short these two copper pads together. Here is a video tutorial on how to do this on a Naze32. If you are one of the lucky owners of a FC with a bootloader button, you don't have to deal with this pain.

Connect to your quad using Configurator and verify gyros are responding correctly. Details 

Once your miniquad has the latest version of Betaflight installed, you can connect to it through Configurator using the pictured button:
04-ConnectButton
This will bring you to a screen that looks like this:
05-MainScreen
On this screen, the 3D quad should rotate properly when you pick up your quad and move it. Verify that the movement directions exactly match those of the 3D models. If they do not, you probably did not mount your flight controller properly (the white arrow should be on the top of the board, pointing towards the front of the miniquad). If you do not see any movement at all, you may have a defective board and should contact the vendor you bought it from.

Configure RC Receiver

[Ports Tab] Enable RX UART Details 

On the ports tab, find the UART slot you plugged your RX into and switch on “RX” for that port. Turn off any other switches on that slot.

For F1 flight controllers like the Naze32, the UART slot for the serial RX will always be 2. For F3 controllers, it is generally 3. 06-RXPorts Click “Save and Reboot” after you make your changes.

[Configuration Tab] Set Receiver Mode and Serial Receiver Provider. Details 
Select “RX Serial” under Receiver Mode and pick your provider under “Serial Receiver Provider”. DSM2 satellites should use “SPEKTRUM1024”. DSMX satellites should use “SPEKTRUM2048”. Futaba and FrSky receivers should use “SBUS”. 07-RXConfig Click “Save and Reboot” after you make your changes.
[Receiver Tab] Set your channel map mode Details 

On the receiver tab, wiggle each transmitter stick and verify that the correctly labeled axis in the Configurator moves. These are the correct axes for mode 2: Left horizontal = Yaw Left vertical = Throttle Right horizontal = Roll Right vertical = Pitch

If you are using a Spektrum or Taranis radio, this mapping is likely incorrect. Fix it (for both radios) by selecting “JR / Spektrum / Graupner” from the Channel Map drop down. Click “Save and Reboot”, then re-check. 08-RXPage

[Receiver Tab] Check control throws on radio Details 
Check to make sure that the throws on each of your radio channels go from 1000 to 2000. If they do not, adjust your end points on your transmitter until they do.
[Receiver Tab] Record Throttle mid-point and high-point Details 
Record the mid and high-point values for the throttle input for use later.
[Receiver Tab] Set-up RC deadband Details 

RC deadband is a very important feature that, until recently, did not even show up in the Configurator main UI. Deadband is important because radios may have slightly sticky Gimbals, and some RX’s have noisy outputs. This means that they may not center exactly perfectly, which will cause your quad to roll, pitch or yaw very, very slowly in one direction. You can tell if you need deadband by looking at the values on the Receiver tab. If Pitch, Roll, and Yaw hold steady at 1500 without changing at all, you do not need to adjust your deadband. If they do not, you will need to add some deadband configuration in, otherwise your quad will drift in a hover and be more difficult to control precisely.

How much deadband is needed depends on how much the values in the Receiver tab fluctuate around 1500. Note how much each axis fluctuates.

Now, go to the Receiver tab. Set “RC Deadband” to the greatest amount of fluctuation you see on either the pitch or roll axis of the receiver. Set “Yaw Deadband” to the greatest amount of fluctuation you see on the yaw axis of the receiver. 26-Deadband

Make sure you click “Save” after you are done.

[Modes Tab] Configure flight modes Details 

If you want to use Air Mode (and you should), you’ll need to set-up your miniquad with an arming switch which will also enable Air Mode. To do this, you’ll first need to configure your RC Transmitter so that the switch you want to use to arm you miniquad operates one of the AUX channels. Refer to your Transmitters manual for information on how to do this.

You can check that it is working in the “Receiver” tab. Flip the switch and verify that the desired channel moves up or down in value. Now, let’s go to the Modes tab and set-up Arm and Air Mode.

In the Modes tab, you will want to first click “Add Range” in both ARM and AIR MODE. Next, you will want to select the channel you assigned to your switch. I use AUX 1 for arming on all my quads, as is pictured below. 20-Modes Finally, flip the switch into the “Arm” position, note there is a little green tab that moves up or down along the number range. This is the position of your RC transmitter output. You will want to move the slider bars so that they expand out a green range over the tab’s location when the switch is flipped to “Arm”. Make sure you do this for both ARM and AIR MODE. 21-GreenTab Now, flip the switch back to the “Disarm” position and verify that the green tab moves outside of the green range, meaning the quad would now be disarmed. Click “Save” to save the configuration settings. Be aware that at this point, the switch will now arm your quads motors and cause them to spin. I hope you loosened your propellers.

Configure power system

[Motors Tab] Verify motor configuration is correct & note which motors need to be reversed. Details 
Now we will verify that the motor placement is correct. You can do this in the motors tab. First, double check that your props are loosened or removed so that they move freely from the motors. Get out a notepad to write down the spin direction of the motors. Next, go to the motors tab in Configurator and check the Arm motors confirmation box: 09-MotorsArm Now spin up each motor one at a time by sliding the little progress bar adjacent to the motor number up about 25% of the way. Note which motor spins and crosscheck that it is the correct numbered motor in the diagram. 10-MotorsSpinUp If any of the motors do not match their numbers in the diagram, you didn’t wire the ESC signal wires properly. Swap the signal wires to fix this.
11-MotorsDirectionAndNumbers
Also check that the motors are spinning in the right direction. Write down the motor numbers for the motors which are not spinning in the right direction on your notepad.

If you are using BLHeli ESCs, continue on with this guide. If not, you will need to fix your motor reversing now through whatever software configuration options your ESC offers.
[BLHeliSuite] Disconnect from configurator and open Bl Heli Suite Details 

Now we are going to set-up your ESCs and correct your motors that are rotating in the wrong direction. You should do this process even if all of your motors are spinning in the correct direction so that you can turn on damped light mode on your ESCs (to read more about damped light, open “Turn damped light mode on” below).

This is going to be done through a different piece of software, called BLHeliSuite. It is only applicable if you are using a BLHeli ESC (notably, KISS ESCs are not BLHeli ESCs) and your flight controller allows BLHeli passthrough (which most do).

The first step is to disconnect from your flight controller by clicking the “Disconnect” button in Configurator.
12-Disconnect
Next, download and install the BLHeliSuite software, which you will use to configure your ESCs.

[BLHeliSuite] Connect to ESCs using Cleanflight passthrough Details 

In BLHeliSuite, click “Select ATMEL / SILABS Interface” and select “SILABS BLHeli Bootloader (Cleanflight)” (or ATMEL if you are using an Atmel chip). 13-BLHeliInterface Pick the COM port that your flight controller is plugged into (usually the COM port that is not “1” – this is the same one you connect to in Configurator). Press “Connect” and then “Check”. Each ESC should be recognized and populated in a small grid on the bottom right corner of the program. 14-BLHeliConnected If you get an error message, fully power down the quad by unplugging the flight battery and USB cable, then power it back up in the reverse order.

[BLHeliSuite] Turn damped light mode on Details 

Automatically, on connect, all of the ESCs will be selected for programming concurrently. The first thing you want to do on any miniquad is turn “damped light” mode on.

“Damped light” mode enables active braking on the ESCs. What this means is that when one of the motors on your ESC is turning the motor at full throttle, then receives a command for 50% throttle, it will brake the motor using a reverse drive command (similar to how a Prius brakes when driving downhill), causing it to rapidly reach that 50% throttle value. In a normal situation, it is left to aerodynamic drag to cause this braking force, which is much slower. The end result is that quads responsiveness will be significantly better.

The only downside to damped light mode is that it can cause large voltage spikes in your miniquad system. This is why it is essential to run voltage regulators between the battery and all of your electronics. If you haven’t done that, you may want to skip this step.

To enable damped light, click the right arrow under “PWM Frequency/Damped” until it reads “Damped Light”. Then, click “Write Setup” to save your changes. All of the ESCs should beep as they reboot. 15-DampedLight

[BLHeliSuite] Reverse motors as required Details 
Now it’s time to reverse any of the motors which are spinning in the wrong direction. You should have written the motor numbers which were incorrect down in a previous step. The following process will need to be repeated for each of these motors:
  • Deselect ALL ESCs in BL Heli by clicking on their numbers in BL Heli. The software should look like this: 16-BLHeliESCDeselect
  • Select the ESC corresponding to the motor you want to reverse by clicking on it’s number: 17-BLHeliESCSelect
  • Change the “Motor Direction” to “Reversed” (or, if it was already “Reversed”, to “Normal”): 18-BLHeliMotorDirection
  • Click “Write Setup” to continue.
[BLHeliSuite] Disconnect and close BLHeliSuite Details 
Click “Disconnect” to disconnect BLHeliSuite from the COM port so that you can go back to Configurator. Go ahead and close BLHeliSuite.
Re-connect with Configurator Details 
Re-open Configurator and connect to your miniquad.
[Motors Tab] Verify motor spin direction is correct. Note spool-up start point. Details 

This step is almost identical to the original motors step. Re-check that your props are loose, arm and spin up each motor individually. Re-check that each motor is on the proper numbered arm and is spinning in the correct direction according to the diagram at the top of the motors page. This time, also note the lowest value shown under the slider over which the motors begin spinning. Write this down with the motor number for each motor.

If this number varies by more than 100 between any 2 motors, you may have a problem with your ESCs or how they are configured. We recommend you check out a BLHeli set-up article to see if you can fix this in software. If not, you may want to exchange your ESCs.

[Configuration Tab] Set Throttle Range and Minimum Command Details 

19-ESCMotorFeatures Minimum throttle should be set to 10 more than the spool-up start point noted above. Middle throttle should be set to the value recorded when the throttle stick is at its midpoint as recorded above. The same goes for Maximum throttle. Minimum command should be left at 1000 unless the spool-up start point is less than 1000, in which case it should be set to 850.

Make sure you click “Save” after you are done.

Configure mini-quad performance

[PID Tuning Tab] Configure initial roll/pitch/yaw rates Details 

22-PitchRollYawRates “Rates” refers to the sensitivity of your quadcopter to the movement of the control sticks on the RC transmitter. Higher rates mean a quadcopter that is generally more sensitive. It also means a quadcopter that is more capable – at very low rates, you will not even be able to flip the quadcopter before it hits the ground, whereas at higher rates you can flip it many times without losing much altitude.

The rates found on the PID Tuning tab of Configurator adjust the sensitivity and rotational speed of each axis individually. I increase these values when I want a quicker rolling, flipping or yawing quadcopter.

I think a good starting point for an intermediate pilot on these values is .3 for Roll, .3 for Pitch, and .6 for Yaw. For an advanced pilot, .5 Roll, .5 Pitch, 1.0 Yaw will give you better responsiveness.

Make sure you click “Save” after you are done.

[Receiver Tab] Configure initial RC rate Details 

23-RCRate “RC Rate” is the other factor that adjusts the sensitivity of your quadcopter to the control sticks. For this variable, I like to find a single value early on and stick with it, adjusting the individual Pitch/Roll/Yaw rates in the PID tuning tab for better flips/rolls/spins. The default value of 1.00 is a good starting point for both advanced and intermediate pilots, but you may find that you have another preference that you should input here. Beginners may want to decrease this down to .8 or even lower.

Make sure you click “Save” after you are done.

[Receiver Tab] Configure Expo Details 

24-RCExpo “Expo” is a type of “Rate” adjustment that allows you to make your control stick inputs less sensitive near the center of the control stick throw and more sensitive near the limits of the throw. This means you can have fine control over your quadcopter while hovering or making small adjustments but can still do ballistic rolls and flips on command.

This is a very handy feature that everyone flying miniquads should use. I recommend all pilots use a value above .7. A good starting point would be .8, then adjust it up or down when you have time to see what setting you prefer. Once you have found a setting you like, use it on all your future quads.

You will notice Configurate provides a graph showing the effect of the Expo to the left of the setting. This is useful to visualize how the sticks will feel closer to the center of the stick (left side of the graph) and further from the center (right side of the graph).

The one exception is if you want to use the Expo settings on your RC Transmitter. If you do, make sure you set this value to 0, effectively turning it off.

Make sure you click “Save” after you are done.

[PID Tuning tab] Configure initial PID values Details 
At this point, if you know you need to adjust the default PIDs for some reason, you should. I can’t think of a good reason to deviate from the Betaflight defaults until you have flown the quadcopter, though. I have never flown a miniquad that performed poorly on the Betaflight defaults.

We have a great guide on doing your initial tune the easy & fast way. Check that out here.
[Configuration tab] Set looptime Details 
Betaflight defaults to a looptime of 1000. This flies great for most people. If you want to be on the bleeding edge, however, consider dropping this value to 500 or 250.

Configure Failsafe

[Failsafe Tab] Set-up Failsafe throttle value and disarm Details 

Proper fail-safe set-up consists of using the Failsafe tab in Configurator to set the Failsafe throttle pulse range setting, and then verifying that the setting will work on your quad.

Once again, I am going to stress that if your props are on your miniquad, take them off now.

First, go to the Failsafe tab, and check the “Minimum length” in the valid pulse range settings area: 27-FailsafeConfig By default, this is set to 875, the lowest possible pulse value. You want to make sure that when you shut off your transmitter, the pulse value on the throttle channel falls below the length specified in the picture above. You can do this by going to the Receiver tab, shutting of your transmitter, and observing the pulse value on the Throttle channel after the transmitter has fully powered off. If the pulse value does not change at all, you did not configure the failsafe on your RC RX correctly, you should consult the set-up guide or manual for that first.

Once you know the failsafe value your RC RX falls to when the transmitter goes offline, make sure your “Minimum length” value in the Failsafe tab is higher than that number (but lower than the lowest possible throttle value).

You may also want to force your quad to disarm when it loses the RC connection, thereby preventing it from “flying away”. You can do this in the “Channel Fallback Settings” configuration by setting your arming switch to the lowest possible value. You can see how I’ve done this here: 28-ForceDisarm Now that you’ve configured these settings, it’s time to test them. Arm your quad with the motors off then turn your transmitter off, and verify you get the results you wanted.

Extras

[Configuration] Enable Blackbox Details 
In the Configuration tab, scroll to the bottom of the window and turn on the “Blackbox” feature: 29-Blackbox
[Blackbox Tab] Set-up Blackbox Details 

30-BlackboxTab First, set the logging device you will be using for Blackbox. If you are using an external datalogger that communicates via serial, like open log, pick “Serial port”. If you are using the onboard NAND memory on the flight controller, pick “On-board dataflash chip”.

Next, set your logs per cycle counter. The number of log entries per second you will get is: 1000000 / looptime * x, where x is the value you are setting here as a fraction. If you are running a looptime of 250 or 500, you almost certainly want to set this to 25% or less, otherwise you will fill up whatever you are logging extremely quickly and will almost certainly lose some of your logs. Lower values mean somewhat less accurate logs, but there really isn’t a ton of value in having logs at more than 100 times per second.

Make sure you click “Save” after you are done.

[CLI] Configure custom motor mixing Details 

c-mixing gives the flight controller a rough proportional layout of the miniquad. What this means is that if the quad is longer than it is wide, the flight controller will need to know to correctly apply throttle mixing to achieve the commands you send to it. Not setting up this value can cause your quad to become slightly imbalanced on the yaw axis and have unmatched pitch and roll response.

Oscarliang has a great post on setting up c-mixing here. Included in the post are pre-measured settings for ZMR/Blackbolt miniquads. We highly recommend you use this tutorial to figure out your own c-mix if you are flying an H-quad.

[Configuration] Set-up vbat and current measurement in Configurator for use by OSD Details 
These values are generally used for logging and OSD. Calculation and set-up of these values is an advanced topic that won’t be covered in this article. Please look for our article on how to configure an OSD for more information.

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