How Does Drone Controller Work

How Does Drone Controller Work?

As a beginner, you may have questions when trying to understand your drone. One of those questions may be: How does drone controller work?

A drone controller sends signals through its transmitter to the drone’s receiver.

This receiver then uses algorithms and sensors to translate the information into commands the drone can interpret and implement. Also, the controller’s range determines how far your drone can fly.

This article helps you understand the drone controller parts and their functionality as well as troubleshooting connection problems, and more.

Let’s dive in.

What Is a Drone Controller?

What Is a Drone Controller - How Does Drone Controller Work?

A drone controller, also known as a radio controller(RC), remote controller, or radio transmitter, is a drone component that allows you to control your device wirelessly.

It’s a crucial piloting tool that gives complete control over all drone activities: Movements, flights, and features.

A controller can be a tablet/smartphone app, computer based, or handheld transmitter that gives convenience and flexibility in your drone flying exercise.

Basic History of a Drone Controller

The idea of using a remote controller to command a drone dates back to the 1900s. The military pursued the concept extensively by remotely controlling devices in their line of duty.

Consequently, the military developed remote-controlled teletanks, missiles, boats, torpedoes, and anti-jamming systems.

The wireless control of devices aimed to reduce the risk of soldier loss in the war significantly. This concept worked exceptionally well during WWI and WWII.

RC systems were upgraded over the years to become smaller, be fitted with transistors, and communicate in various channels. Hence, they could work in model aircraft by the 1950s.

Today, all Radio manufacturers produce RC systems that can fit various devices such as model aircraft, drones, and toy cars.

 Which are the Basic Parts of a Drone Controller?

The basic parts of a drone controller include the following:

  • Right Stick: Controls the drone’s roll and pitch to facilitate the right, left, forward, and backward movements of your device.
  • Left Stick: Regulates the drone’s yaw and control. It controls the device’s flight elevation and its clockwise or anti-clockwise rotation.
  • Antennas: Transmitters responsible for sending signals to the drone.

Other features found in some drones include: 

  • Return-to-home (RTH) button: Most controllers have the RTH buttons. RTH is an emergency button to ‘call’ the drone back to the take-off point or a preset location.
  • Trim Buttons: Align a drone when it drifts to one side or is unstable during flight.
  • Camera buttons: Start recording, take images without making sound, or control the gimbal.

How Does Drone Controller Work?

Drone Components Involved in Signal Transmission

The controller works by sending instructions to the drone. It uses algorithms and sensors to translate the input into commands.

Here is how:

  • Controller sends a radio signal from its transmitter to the drone.
  • Drone receiver receives the signal and understands the instructions and sends them to the flight controller.
  • The flight controller interprets the signals and translates them into executable commands.

The command may be sent from the transmitter to the drone receiver directly or to a computer, which then sends it to the drone for some controller types.

Let’s look at the parts involved during the transmission and their functionality to understand the process.

Drone Components Involved in Signal Transmission

There are four main features involved in the drone controller’s functionality, including the following:

Drone Transmitters

A transmitter is the drone controller component responsible for translating the controller’s commands into different Ghz spread spectrum radio signals the drone understands. The transmitter sends those signals to the drone.

Drone Receivers

The drone’s antennas intercept the controller’s signals and convert them into electronic data (alternating current pulse) that the flight controller board needs to execute.

Flight Controller

It’s the component that serves as the ‘drone’s central nervous system or brain.’ It interprets the electronic data and determines the appropriate action.

Also, the flight controller combines data from onboard sensors to familiarize the drone with its surroundings.

The sensors include the following:

  • Accelerometers: Measure rotation rate and determine regular velocity and tilt to decide the drone’s orientation.
  • Gyroscopes: Measures the rotation rate to ensure the drone’s stability during flight or when hovering.
  • Magnetometers: Passive instruments responsible for measuring the Earth’s magnetic field changes.

Electronic Speed Controller (ESC)

The ESC executes the commands by determining the necessary power for the action. It minimizes some motors’ power and increases the power of others depending on the drone’s designated direction or task.

What are the Drone Controller Functions?

You can use four primary drone controller commands to operate your device. They include the following:

  • Roll: Rolling your drone right or left (but not literally ‘rolling’) by moving the joystick from one direction to another. It helps the drone to avoid obstacles along its pathway.
  • Pitch: Tilting your drone to determine if it’ll move forward or backward. Hence, you can control the direction of your drone flight by moving the right joystick.
  • Yaw: Rotating the drone clockwise or anti-clockwise, creating atmospheric circles or patterns.

    It lets you change your device’s direction without propelling forward or backward by pivoting along its axis.
  • Throttle: Regulating your drone motor’s power, increasing or decreasing the device’s speed. Consequently, you change the altitude at which the drone flies.‍

How Do You Troubleshoot Drone Controller Connection Issues?

How Do You Troubleshoot Drone Controller Connection Issues

You can fix drone controller connection issues in the following ways:

  • Ensure proper connection: Poor connection process is the primary reason your device may fail to connect to the controller. Follow the proper steps (as outlined above) to ensure you do it the right way.
  • Reinstall the app: The connection may fail if your App is slow. Delete it from the device, reinstall it, and reconnect your drone to the controller.
  • Examine your flying location: Check if your flying site has many remote communications, such as electromagnetic interference, which can affect the connection’s strength. Avoid such areas; your drone may fly away if you lose control.
  • Reset the controller: The drone controller software may crash or fail, mainly when setting the remote.

    Hence, you need to reset it by updating the older software. Use the ‘user guide’ instructions to avoid causing more connection issues.
  • Check the drone and controller battery level: Low battery levels can cause connection failure. Ensure the batteries are fully charged.

Parting Shot

How does a drone controller work? A drone controller transmits radio signals to the drone, instructing it on what task to execute. The drone receiver understands the commands, causing the drone to act accordingly.

The transmitter, receiver, ESC, and flight controller are the key components that conduct the transmission process to establish a successful connection.

Additionally, depending on your drone type, you can connect your devices using or without an app, as this write-up outlines.

Though connection issues may arise, you don’t have to worry. Most drone manufacturers provide various troubleshooting strategies to get your device up and running again.

Peter Karanja

Peter is a licensed drone pilot and drone fanatic. He owns a DJI Air 2S that he uses to shoot videos for fun, enjoyment and for clients.

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