How Do Drones Communicate With a Controller?

David Lemay27 Dec 2022

You've probably wondered how drone remote control works, whether you're a novice or an experienced drone pilot. Drones, unlike their cabled predecessors, can be piloted from anywhere between a few feet and several miles away thanks to remote controllers. Knowing their inner workings is essential for getting the most out of them.

Just how do these remotes for drones work, exactly?

The process entails, in the simplest of terms, communicating between the controller's transmitter and the drone's receiver. These signals are processed and carried out with the aid of the flight controller and ESC, which help to keep the drone at a stable level in the air.

What is a Drone Controller?

A drone controller is a piece of equipment that lets a pilot fly a drone remotely from the ground. The electronic speed controller (ESC) and the flight controller are two different types of controllers that drones use. However, in this context, "controller" refers to whatever it is that the drone's operator uses to operate the drone.

This device also goes by the name "radio controller" or "RC."  It's possible that some people will allude to it as a transmitter or remote control.

How Does a Drone Controller Work?

A drone control works by sending radio signals from a controller to the drone. The radio transmitter in the remote control sends out radio waves, which are picked up by the radio receiver in the drone. For this reason, a drone controller is often known as a drone radio transmitter or a drone radio controller. 

What Are the Basic Features and Maneuvres of a Drone Controller?

Some of the top drones on the market don't have a display built into the remote that flies the drone. If the controller you're looking at doesn't have a display, usually your phone or tablet can be used to view the controls and fly FPV (First Person View).

Here are the four basic features of a controller:

  • Right Stick - The perfect joystick gives you command over the drone's pitch and roll, letting you move it right and left as well as go forward and backwards.

  • Left Stick - With the left stick, you can adjust the drone's yaw and angle of flight, enabling you to change the drone's altitude and spin it clockwise or counterclockwise while it's in the air.

  • Trim Buttons - There is a kill switch on each drone controller. In the early stages of flight, if you see your drone leaning in one way, this is likely an indication that it needs trimming. Adjust the weight distribution by pressing the appropriate trim button.

When first learning to fly, little pressure on the controller is recommended. Not only that, but you must always keep in mind that each and every control is unique. Experienced pilots still need to familiarize themselves with a new drone's controls before giving it their all.

A drone can be controlled in four major ways:

  • Roll - Takes a left or right turn in the air, or "Rolls" your drone.
  • Pitch - Shifts your drone backwards or forward.
  • Yaw - Allows you to spin your drone in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction to make patterns or circles in the air.
  • Throttle - Adjusts the current flowing through your drone, thus controlling how fast or slow your drone moves.

How To Pair Drone to Controller

A drone needs to be properly connected to its controller to fly smoothly and reliably to perform surveillance, inspections, and other tasks. Drones often have a simple and clear controller hookup process.

Here's how to link a drone to its remote controller:

  • Start up the drone app.
  • Go to the device menu and pick the camera view.
  • Connect the remote control to the app's settings by pressing and holding the function button for a few seconds, then letting go. 
  • Once the connection is established, the drone will make a beeping sound, and both the drone and the controller will illuminate in green.

In certain instances, you can also link the drone to the controller without an app. The need for an app to tie the drone to the controller depends on the drone type. Whether you hook them via an app or without an app, radio signals are transmitted. The signals are picked up by the drone's radio receiver, which then acts on them. The technique relies on the drone's stable connection to the controller.

Here’s how to hook a drone to its controller without using a mobile app:

  • Press and hold the drone's function button. After three seconds of holding the drone's function button, a beep will sound. The drone's front LEDs will flash red rapidly when it establishes a connection with the controller.
  • Turn on the controller by holding down the pause, function, and customizable buttons for a few seconds. When you hear a beeping sound, you can let go of all three buttons. The link between controller and drone will initiate at this time.
  • In a minute or so, the beeping will stop. When the status LED on the controller glows steadily green, the connection has been established. At this point, the controller will begin transmitting radio signals to the drone, allowing the operator to pilot the drone using the remote controller.

Why Is My Drone Not Connecting to the Controller?

There's still a chance that your drone won't connect or will repeatedly become disconnected. However, the process of solving this issue involves a lot of trial and error. The good news is that it is usually easy to quickly rule out the most likely causes of the issue.

It's possible that your drone isn't establishing a connection with the controller because of a power issue, a bug in the software, or a malfunctioning piece of hardware. Even a slight mishap during the repair process could trigger the problem.

It also won't connect or keep disconnecting if the controller wasn't synced properly. It's also possible that the drone's controller is not compatible with your model. There is typically incompatibility between controllers, so you'll need to buy a new one for every drone you buy. And since drone models and controllers can vary, so can their respective setup procedures. Therefore, use the proper controller for your drone and set it up in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.

While these are the most plausible reasons, there could be a more underlying issue at play, in which case you might need help from a professional.

Making sure that your drone and controller are synced properly is vital to ensure that you can fly your drone with no issues. Make sure you follow the right instructions and in no time, you’ll be flying your drone from your very fingertips - all thanks to your drone controller.

David Lemay

David Lemay

I'm David Lemay, a lover of tech and have had an interest in drones for years. Bought my first few drones, before I started building my own. I want to share my passion with others, so I started this site to help others who want to get into the hobby.

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