Advice for f550 transmitter/controller hardware

I’m looking at getting an f550 ARF kit. I’m comfortable enough with the build, but relatively new to UAV’s. The plan is to use the vehicle for mapping/surveying, so I don’t necessarily want or need to fly the thing manually. I want to get a transmitter/controller that I can use with dronedeploy (or something similar) to set up automated flight lines. This is where my knowledge falls apart. Like I said I’m comfortable enough with the ARF build, and I’ll get a battery for the vehicle. But I’m not sure what controller I’ll need or what additional hardware I may need to automate flights. Anybody have and knowledge they want to share, or resources they could pass on?

Additionally I’m not married to the f550, but would like to keep costs down. So if there’s another ARF kit someone knows that might better suit mapping/surveying needs I’m open to it.

Hi @nctl, welcome! There aren’t very many custom builders on here so you would probably be best served going straight to support to make sure you get the flight control hardware that might be compatible with DroneDeploy. Their focus (as is with most boxed flight solutions) is to work with boxed drones. There are opensource flight controller and planning softwares out there, but building something from scratch that will be plug and play with one of the major commercial flight softwares could be a little tricky. I would also suggest you get on the Emlid forum as there are many custom builders on there and it is focus on the GNSS, Raspberry Pi and flight control aspects. I have seen several posts on the F550. I have thought about it quite a bit myself, but just haven’t had the time to dwell on it. I look forward to seeing how this goes!

@Kaitlin, do you have any advice on where to start? Have you had any other cases of custom builds to work with DroneDeploy?


I would suggest starting your research with Pixhawk if you want to go with a build rather than RTF.

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There is also Ardupilot which is very popular. At the end of the day it is going to be tough because of DJI’s sandboxed system. I always thought it was interesting how DJI and Apple seem so similar. It’s no wonder they end up being paired so much in our world.

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Ardupilot is the software that runs on Pixhawk hardware. It’s not going to work with Drone Deploy but there’s probably several grid mission templates that can be procured for little or no cost.

Right, but is there another software you would suggest for Pixhawk? Ardupilot seems to be the most common. Raspberry Pi and Navio combo are also popular in the Emlid community.

No, Ardupilot is probably the best software for custom builds.

I would absolutely look at Navio if building a custom mapping drone.
Some reading for the OP

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Thanks all for the comments. I’ll be sure to check out emlid for some additional advice. After looking around it seems like there will be software other than drone deploy to run some automated flights, but that a custom build and drone deploy might be a diffcult marriage.

I spent some time on the ardupilot website and found it very helpful. From what I’m gathering the esc are basically controlled by pixhawk and that pixhawk is taking commands from whatever ground software I end up using, is that about correct? I’ll be watching a lot of how to videos in the future before buying any hardware.

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That is correct Pixhawk is the hardware that PX4 usually runs on. Ardupilot is the autopilot that is typically paired with the Emlid Edge or Navio2/Raspberry Pi4 hardware. These are all open source code so there is that learning curve and endless possibilities as well.

Emlid and Navio 2 are barely supported anymore. The typical hardware is a Pixhawk 4 pro or mini.
If you go with the PI you will be pretty much on your own.
I hang out in the PX4 forums and this is what I see.

What makes you think Emlid and Navio are barely supported? If you go on their community there are plenty of people willing to help.

I can only speak for PX4 but:
How about this comment from a PX4 dev:
“The core devs are mostly not focused on RPi+Navio setups. THis means it’s up to you or anyone else using this. Feel free to make a pull request to fix it.”
If that is not “on your own” not sure what is.

Or go look here, do you see a pre-built binary for PI?

I am on the PX4 forum everyday.

I put zero stock in a rep from one company speaking negatively about another. The firmware has been done for a while and I don’t see any complaints about malfunctions of the hardware so the only thing that is left is custom builds which there are plenty of threads every day. I just finished beta testing with Yuneec for the H520E and the PX4 support to get the autonomous flight coding right was horrendous. I took us at least 3 months past what it should have. Beyond that they totally bombed the RTK unit and it completely failed to launch. I would rather rely on a community with practical experience than devs that know nothing about what they are trying to code for which in this case was simple mapping.

Huh? What exactly are you referring to?
The dev I quoted is a PX4 community developer. Nothing to do per-se with any company.
Yuneec is supporting there own custom PX4. Nice to know it is not working well.

What I am referring to is that the devs whether they be directly employed by Pixhawk or devs beta testing as we were with the hardware side could not get it right and failed to put up the flag when it should have been rethought. This was from the product managers on both sides. Despite the fact that Yuneec’s PX4 is customized, it was still done by Pixhawk. Yuneec does not have inhouse devs that code PX4. In the end many birds crashed, but the public release are now reliable with above averaged mapping functionality. That’s why we beta test. We now have 3 H520’s in our fleet that map 200-300 maps per year without issue.