I'm sure pretty much everyone has now heard of Raceflight, whether you know them by the products they are producing (such as their flight controller or 4-in-1 esc stack) or by the firmware they have written and are writing for flight controllers. Controversy aside (I'm not getting into that one bit, it's been talked to death and I'm so bored of it it's unreal), they are shifting the community in terms of freshness to firmware, and have many of the top world pilots flying their firmware - both racers and freestylers.
Many are still yet to try the firmware, the newer builds (written from the ground up) currently only support their own flight controller (the Revolt), with plans to allow easy additions of other flight controllers in future builds once it is stable. There's also the old BB Firmwares which support a variety of boards, and at that time it was still based on Betaflight's source code. I still use this firmware to this day on my CC3D Revolution's as they provide a great and stable quad that I am so used to right now.
But times are changing, everyone is jumping on the hype and experiencing their own ups and downs with the firmware. For the most part it is so straight forward there is basically no way you can get it wrong unless you cannot follow a wizard (you're a wizard Harry). With that being said, I have seen some people have issues which have not been easily solved - but that has mostly been down to bugs which took a bit of time to find and fix, but are now happy in the air on their new FC, away from CleanFlight, BetaFlight and KISS.
So why am I only posting this now? Well to be honest I was predominantly waiting for RF1, and after having spending a lot of time with Preston and Kalyn out in Hawaii (I still owe these guys many drinks for the troubleshooting and hospitality they provided) I had heard of the features that they were planning to incorporate into their new firmware - kind of a pipe dream at the time, thinking that 'Can a flight controller really be this easy to setup?'. Of course, Betaflight and others are not exactly hard, they just take more time than they need to. So with Raceflight, my Revolt's (all 7 of them) had been a little dormant as I was hesitant to risk trying any different firmware for fear of breaking working quads during race season. With that being said, we're now in 2017, Race season has just started and I've also got into freestyle so it's an ideal time to get testing. Plus, a lot of the vision these guys had back then in Hawaii have now made it into the software and we're able to get in the air in literally a matter of minutes once soldered up!
I originally planned to cover installation during my blog - so wiring layouts and all that kind of stuff - but I am not going to bother now for a few reasons.
- V2 is out now, and with that adds more complications and configurations that I cannot possibly demonstrate.
- Hardware layouts are actually still changing quite a bit depending on features such as SmartAudio, so by the time this is written it will no doubt be out of date again.
That also does kind of go against my setup video shown below but I am thinking at least with this the basic steps will not change, it may just be a case of slight differences during your own setup version.
As I say, I'm now no longer going to cover actually getting the board installated into your quad, but please refer to the setup guide found here.
For my own testing I started by setting it up in 2 very different quads - a spare Race quad I had built from parts I had lay around, and a freestyle quad which initially got me back into freestyle around 3 months ago!
Even though my boards are the V1, I opted to buy the Gummie packs to make installation easier - I had previously tried them with the original o-ring setup, and it was really hit or miss as to whether or not it worked depending on how you personally install them. With this setup, they are easy to insert, do not even need any nuts above them to be fully secured and cannot really go wrong. Drilling the boards themselves was super easy - a 3mm drill bit and going relatively slow as not to just stretch and snap the G10 made for an easy task of all my RF boards.
It contains many many sample configurations depending on what kind of features you want to get out of your board, what kind of radio system you are using and all sorts of stuff like this. It's actually way more complex than it used to be now so I recommend looking at this even if you know what you're doing!
To get RaceFlight One - you'll need to download their desktop client (Windows, Mac and Linux are all supported), and there are also mobile applications but I would strongly recommend going through the initial setup with your desktop as it is guaranteed to be supported. You can get the download from here.
You'll also need the firmware itself which is on the same page - I tend to go for the latest version available, but if there are multiple versions available it maybe worth going for the one below the latest - this should in theory be more stable, though that remains to be seen :).
In order to get the board flashed and setup, please refer to the video below. As I say at the time of posting this is accurate and works, but as you know with rapid development products like this, it is subject to change!
So if you hadn't guessed from the flight videos, I am very much enjoying how it flies, and how stable it is in the air! So with that in mind (please don't judge my early freestyle flights :D), let's move on to my thoughts at current, where I see it going, and whether I think it is worth your investment.
Now this is the first one many consider when buying a flight controller, and often one that is the immediate purchasing decision aside from firmware. The Revolt (available here), is priced competitively to other flight controllers, so is neither more expensive or cheaper than its' counter-parts. With that being said, the Revolt has the advantage of being able to support both Betaflight and Raceflight, so should you decide that RF is not for you, you can simply flash it with Betaflight and go back to as you were. There is also the other consideration that you are not just buying a flight controller, but as it is more obvious now - you are buying into their Ecosystem. Preston and the whole RF team have been working tirelessly to bring out products that complement each other, but of course more importantly entirely support each other. Right now they have some rebranded ESC's and Motors, as a stepping stone. However, they have just announced their own custom 4-in-1 speed controller that directly fits with the Revolt, and plan to do their other Micro hardware and other extensions on the Raceflight brand. At current it could be considered to be very much like KISS - if you buy the ESC's or the Flight Controller, you also generally buy the other item too as they seem to compliment each other in flight. How much this translates to in Raceflight remains to be seen yet, they are still running BLHeli_S and the hardware itself is just nice in how it mates to the Revolt, but currently has no performance or smoothness enhancements, but we may see those in the future.
That kind of brings me onto performance... so as I was saying above, while we are not yet directly seeing crazy custom ESC firmware and all the bells and whistles to churn out 20% more power etc from the same hardware, we are starting to see advancements in the firmware itself. If you compare flight footage across all 3 (there are videos out there), you will likely be able to tell the flight differences between Betaflight and the other 2 (KISS and RF) - right now I'd peg RF in terms of smoothness very much at the KISS level. Where I think it actually excels is on the PID controller itself - it seems to suffer far less from stalled manoeuvres that inherently you cannot stop - things such as prop wash and other manoeuvres where you are essentially starving the prop of non-turbulent air, or air that you have already flown through. A lot of people put this down to the Gyro and its ability to run at 32Khz - with ESC output, PID loop, and Gyro Loop all at 32khz, they are all synced at some crazy speeds (again, some are claiming there are no benefits), I have personally seen the firmware and quad handle these conditions far greater than any of its competitors.
In terms of future development, Preston has said they are working on race features that will help with situations such as hitting gates - where the Accelerometer will actually be running (you will still be flying in Acro mode), but it will detect a sudden impact which will be assumed to be a gate, and immediately try to self-level in an attempt to save the crash from taking you out of the race. While you may not agree with whether this is fair on other racers (personally I think it takes away part of racing), it is a very interesting idea that is sure to shake up the community if it makes it to a public release. I'm also sure there are other ideas these guys have had, or been given, that we're yet to see, so there's always the case of 'future proofing' your quads. We all know how hard that is mind, there is new hype out nearly every day.
Ease of Use
As you've seen from the video and installation guide above, the setup is pretty straight forward. Wiring itself is super simple if you have a simple setup like I do (just escs, power, rx), then it takes very little time - and with the layout of the board being optimised it is really a nice board to work with. In terms of the software we cannot really argue that is it by far the easiest out there, the wizard is quick, easy and straight forward. It saves the pain of having to go in and update your esc's, make sure your center points are correct, and all the nitty-gritty tasks that usually take a good amount of time.
There's also the support side of things to consider - Preston and the RF team are available on Slack and their Facebook group supporting so many users I've seen in my time there that the after-sales support is really second to none. No other hardware or software in this field have I seen support being given so quickly, that has fixed 99% of the issues.
I've always enjoyed the Raceflight experience; I've used their builds in my race frames for about 8 months now, probably longer, and I am now slowly moving my quads over to the new One software as and when I can be bothered (well it's a time issue right now haha). I would say if you haven't tried it yet and you are looking for a change in what you normally fly, or even just want a imo better flying experience then give it a go. There's really not any drawbacks in my books considering you can flash it with Betaflight should you dislike it!
Again, thanks to DroneBit.co.uk for supplying the Revolt, available here. Without people supplying the components (99% of the posts are products provided for free of charge - except for those I think deserving of a post anyway), the blog would be rather bare. I feel it also allows me to give a more unbiased approach, I have no financial investment in general in the product (though that is not the case here but you can take your own conclusions from the post). Every now and again I also put affiliate links into the product links - this is not just to 'make money' - I figured that if people are going to click the links, then it may as well help as a little extra income for the time I dedicate to this. I do not expect nor demand it, and for me it is not an important thing for the Blog to survive (I will continue doing it as long as it is fun and I have the interest).