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NAZA M Lite vs Ardupilot vs Knockoff APM vs Others?

#1
I'm planning out a build of an electrohub quad to be used as an AP platform and potentially as an aircraft for getting involved in Airbears. I'm trying to decide on a flight controller, but am not sure which one would be best for me. I'd like to be able to do GPS hold, altitude hold, etc. Following waypoints would be nice, but is not a complete necessity. I am on a budget, so I'm looking at some sub $200 options:

NAZA M Lite - $165 on Amazon, seems easy to set up and has good reviews. Supposedly can be "unlocked" to have the same function as the NAZA V2. Super stable.
HKPilot Mega Master Set - $145 on Hobbyking. Seems to be reviewed fairly well. Not sure about how difficult it is to configure. Open source could open up a lot of potential later on.
Knockoff APMs - there are a ton of these out there and fall into a pretty wide range of prices. Some people swear by them, others say they are worthless. I like the lower price of some of them, but if they don't work it's a total waste.

I've heard some real horror stories about fly aways with the NAZA, but I've also heard they got those bugs worked out. Almost all of these flight controllers have some of these stories, which is a little concerning, but not a deal breaker.

What do you guys recommend and why? Where am I going to get the most bang for buck? Thanks for any help you can offer! I'm really looking forward to getting this in the air and getting some decent shots - hopefully while leaving some money in my pocket. :cool:
 

StuartPB

Senior Member
#2
I've used Naza M Lite, both stock and flashed with the Naza M firmware and I've also used APM/ Ardupilot. There are two distinct differences between these I noticed.

1: Ease of use and setup
2: Flight stability on stock settings

The Naza M Lite won it hands down for me in terms of ease of use and setup. I installed the FC and compass and ran a test flight with absolutely no dramas without changing anything in the settings, apart from running through the calibration processes. Whereas when I first used the APM 2.8 FC and took a test flight in the same way (stock settings and run calibrations) the quadcopter just felt rubbish to fly, to the point where I ended up losing control. I had to tweak the APM settings a lot just to get a stable quadcopter, the process was often infuriating and I did feel out of my depth quite a few times too. Having said that though, if you want to get into the advanced stuff that Ardupilot offers, the Naza M Lite can't beat it. I did some tweaking of the PID values on the Naza but I wasn't overcome with the sheer amount of options available like I was when I first used Ardupilot.

I guess the answer is a couple of questions, how long are you prepared to spend time on getting the quadcopter stable and how important are the enhanced features to you? Like follow Me, autonomous flight etc.

I'm sure others will see things differently to me, but I really do like the Naza M. I still have the APM but it isn't being used at present.
 
#3
Knockoff APMs - there are a ton of these out there and fall into a pretty wide range of prices. Some people swear by them, others say they are worthless. I like the lower price of some of them, but if they don't work it's a total waste.

I'm using a $25 APM 2.6 knockoff with a $13 GPS in a plane build. Now I run a PX4 in my professional AP 800 class quad but being my first plane I wasn't willing to risk big money in a foam airframe with zero protection.

Honestly I could not be happier with it and next build (be it plane or multi) I will be using the same parts, I dont use the extra features of Pixhawk vs APM so honestly I dont see any reason to spend the money (ten times as much). It does everything I need and then some and I didnt have a single problem during setup. It went just as smoothly as my 3DR px4

http://www.ebay.com/itm/331701304081?_trksid=p2055119.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK:MEBIDX:IT


On the APM knock off I'm using CHDK interface for camera control, telemetry over 4G LTE (MAVlink to a RasPi to the LTE modem), RC pass-threw for gimbal control and OSD. Once I get to feeling more comfy with the plane I may end up swapping the APM for the PX4 cause I want to play with auto landing but that's the only thing I'm missing out on. Yes the PX4 does tons more stuff that APM but not that I use...
 
#4
Hey! I know this is kind of off topic, but were you by any chance on the last FTAH podcast?
I'm using a $25 APM 2.6 knockoff with a $13 GPS in a plane build. Now I run a PX4 in my professional AP 800 class quad but being my first plane I wasn't willing to risk big money in a foam airframe with zero protection.

Honestly I could not be happier with it and next build (be it plane or multi) I will be using the same parts, I dont use the extra features of Pixhawk vs APM so honestly I dont see any reason to spend the money (ten times as much). It does everything I need and then some and I didnt have a single problem during setup. It went just as smoothly as my 3DR px4

http://www.ebay.com/itm/331701304081?_trksid=p2055119.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK:MEBIDX:IT


On the APM knock off I'm using CHDK interface for camera control, telemetry over 4G LTE (MAVlink to a RasPi to the LTE modem), RC pass-threw for gimbal control and OSD. Once I get to feeling more comfy with the plane I may end up swapping the APM for the PX4 cause I want to play with auto landing but that's the only thing I'm missing out on. Yes the PX4 does tons more stuff that APM but not that I use...
 

makattack

Winter is coming
Moderator
Mentor
#5
I've been flying both fixed wing and multirotor aircraft on APM, and have a RTFHawk installed in a twin boom mini-skyhunter that just won't fly (too high a wing loading/insufficient thrust, so it stalls on launch).

I was hoping the RTFHawk and some of the advanced features capable with the ardupilot software on that platform such as terrain following could be tested. Additionally the EKF based processing of sensor input just seems more reliable to me.

So, basically, if you will run APM, both fixed and multirotor branches are no longer supporting the APM hardware -- you need to keep to the old, last supported version. If you want more advanced features as Cereal_Killer mentioned, with use of additional fancy sensors, you need Pixhawk. If you want to try EKF based sensor processing algorithms or terrain following, you need Pixhawk/PX4.

I'm not familiar enough with the other options you listed. There are also other good options for autonomous flight: EagleTree Vector and Taulabs (or the new fork)/Sparky2

Hope that helps.
 
#6
I actually have a question about the Naza v2/Lite: do you have to update the firmware as you do on the DJI Phantom/Inspire every time that they come out with a new version?
I've used Naza M Lite, both stock and flashed with the Naza M firmware and I've also used APM/ Ardupilot. There are two distinct differences between these I noticed.

1: Ease of use and setup
2: Flight stability on stock settings

The Naza M Lite won it hands down for me in terms of ease of use and setup. I installed the FC and compass and ran a test flight with absolutely no dramas without changing anything in the settings, apart from running through the calibration processes. Whereas when I first used the APM 2.8 FC and took a test flight in the same way (stock settings and run calibrations) the quadcopter just felt rubbish to fly, to the point where I ended up losing control. I had to tweak the APM settings a lot just to get a stable quadcopter, the process was often infuriating and I did feel out of my depth quite a few times too. Having said that though, if you want to get into the advanced stuff that Ardupilot offers, the Naza M Lite can't beat it. I did some tweaking of the PID values on the Naza but I wasn't overcome with the sheer amount of options available like I was when I first used Ardupilot.

I guess the answer is a couple of questions, how long are you prepared to spend time on getting the quadcopter stable and how important are the enhanced features to you? Like follow Me, autonomous flight etc.

I'm sure others will see things differently to me, but I really do like the Naza M. I still have the APM but it isn't being used at present.
 

StuartPB

Senior Member
#8
I actually have a question about the Naza v2/Lite: do you have to update the firmware as you do on the DJI Phantom/Inspire every time that they come out with a new version?
If you had the Naza M Lite and done the unofficial and unsupported flash from the Naza M Lite to the full Naza M firmware you can't get the latest Naza M firmware. If you don't do the unofficial firmware flash and run with the supported and official firmware you can update if one becomes available but if you have a stable platform already and the update doesn't offer any enhancements you need then you don't have to update. Like most of my hardware I do like keeping current in terms of firmware, so I'd update.
 
#10
Thanks for all of the quick replies!

I've used Naza M Lite, both stock and flashed with the Naza M firmware and I've also used APM/ Ardupilot. There are two distinct differences between these I noticed.

1: Ease of use and setup
2: Flight stability on stock settings
This is something I'm going to have to think about more. I don't mind tuning as long as I'm seeing progress. I had a KK2 mini on a mini tricopter and I never could get it tuned to the point I was happy with it. I put a Naze32 in it and with just a little tuning it flies like it's on rails. The KK2 ended up being frustrating, the Naze32 tuning was actually enjoyable.
Once it's tuned out, is the APM as stable as the NAZA Lite? What does flashing the NAZA Lite to the NAZA M firmware do for you? I've read a few things about it and it doesn't look too difficult to do at all and seems to increase stability.


I really like the price of the $25 APM knockoff. Add in that $13 GPS and it's still under the price of the Naze32 full board I put in my tricopter. Do you configure it with the standard ardupilot software and does it do everything that the standard APM will do (RTH, land, loiter, position hold, waypoints)?

I hadn't heard much about the Taulabs or Sparky 2. That looks like a pretty good setup too though. A little more complex than APM from what I can tell, but looks like it has a lot of functionality and it's in my price range. I'll have to do some more reading on that one. I've heard good things about the Eagletree Vector too, but it's a bit to pricey for me right now.
 
#12
The reason I'm asking is that I've heard that the Phantom/Inspire will "freak out" and fly away if the firmware isn't updated. Is this true? Is it true for the Naza?
If you had the Naza M Lite and done the unofficial and unsupported flash from the Naza M Lite to the full Naza M firmware you can't get the latest Naza M firmware. If you don't do the unofficial firmware flash and run with the supported and official firmware you can update if one becomes available but if you have a stable platform already and the update doesn't offer any enhancements you need then you don't have to update. Like most of my hardware I do like keeping current in terms of firmware, so I'd update.
 

StuartPB

Senior Member
#13
I've never had a fly away, I do make sure that the home position is set on start up sequence and I have a solid GPS lock before I even think about using the assisted flight modes. Whether I'm one of the lucky ones or DJI have sorted a problem out that may exist or not I don't know.

Flashing the firmware of the lite to the full M resulted in slightly longer GPS lock times for me on cold starts but it does seem to offer less wandering in GPS/atti hold. When you flash with the M firmware you can also add M add on hardware such as the CAN-bus and Bluetooth modules etc.
 
#14
I've never had a fly away, I do make sure that the home position is set on start up sequence and I have a solid GPS lock before I even think about using the assisted flight modes. Whether I'm one of the lucky ones or DJI have sorted a problem out that may exist or not I don't know.

Flashing the firmware of the lite to the full M resulted in slightly longer GPS lock times for me on cold starts but it does seem to offer less wandering in GPS/atti hold. When you flash with the M firmware you can also add M add on hardware such as the CAN-bus and Bluetooth modules etc.
That's definitely good to know. That seems like a really good and cost effective option. I think I've narrowed my decision down to either the Naza M Lite or adrupilot of some sort. I think I just need to decide whether I want easy to set up, or a bunch of extra features. There seems to be a ton of setup information online for both of them, so not too worried about that. Thanks again for all your advice!
 
#15
I really like the price of the $25 APM knockoff. Add in that $13 GPS and it's still under the price of the Naze32 full board I put in my tricopter. Do you configure it with the standard ardupilot software and does it do everything that the standard APM will do (RTH, land, loiter, position hold, waypoints)?
Oh absolutely, its a direct clone, it does EVERYTHING a 3DR APM2.6 does. There is no difference.

Flight modes I'm currently using are STABILIZE FBWB, AUTO, CIRCLE, RTH, and MANUAL plus TERRAIN FOLLOW. It does full CHDK camera control, I communicate with it over 4G LTE (by way of RasPi talking to it via MAVProxy, same as on my 800) [but a standard 3DR telemetry radio set would work with it fine too]. I'm all for supporting the OEM and not buying knock-off's (and I own a OE 3DR PX4) but with legacy HW like the 'ol APM I decided to go with the clone and I honestly couldn't be happier with my <$40 investment!

If I was building another $1000+ multi (like my 800) with a big camera on it, or a big dollar plane I would probably go with an OE 3DR product but in a $100 foam plane (that's my first AP fixed wing) I dont see how spending (again literally TEN TIMES as much momey) on the newest 3DR controller would give me a better flying model than I've got with the $25 APM 2.6 knock off.


Edit: APM doesnt have an auto-land for planes (but it may for copter) but it's not lacking it cause this is a clone board, it's lacking the feature cause APM doesnt support it. Note I'm running v3.2.3 stable.

edit2: since we're talking about GPS startup time, with this cheapest $13 NEO 6M I'm getting no less than 5 sat's (INDOORS with heavy overcast) and get a 3D lock in under 60 sec. I regularly get 9 or 10 sat's.
 
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cranialrectosis

Faster than a speeding faceplant!
Mentor
#16
Oh absolutely, its a direct clone, it does EVERYTHING a 3DR APM2.6 does. There is no difference.

Flight modes I'm currently using are STABILIZE FBWB, AUTO, CIRCLE, RTH, and MANUAL plus TERRAIN FOLLOW. It does full CHDK camera control, I communicate with it over 4G LTE (by way of RasPi talking to it via MAVProxy, same as on my 800) [but a standard 3DR telemetry radio set would work with it fine too]. I'm all for supporting the OEM and not buying knock-off's (and I own a OE 3DR PX4) but with legacy HW like the 'ol APM I decided to go with the clone and I honestly couldn't be happier with my <$40 investment!

If I was building another $1000+ multi (like my 800) with a big camera on it, or a big dollar plane I would probably go with an OE 3DR product but in a $100 foam plane (that's my first AP fixed wing) I dont see how spending (again literally TEN TIMES as much momey) on the newest 3DR controller would give me a better flying model than I've got with the $25 APM 2.6 knock off.


Edit: APM doesnt have an auto-land for planes (but it may for copter) but it's not lacking it cause this is a clone board, it's lacking the feature cause APM doesnt support it. Note I'm running v3.2.3 stable.

edit2: since we're talking about GPS startup time, with this cheapest $13 NEO 6M I'm getting no less than 5 sat's (INDOORS with heavy overcast) and get a 3D lock in under 60 sec. I regularly get 9 or 10 sat's.


Got a link to that $13 NEO 6M?
 
#17
I used to swear by the Naza-m Lite. Then I upgraded the firmware on one, and swore by it. Recently I swapped out my Naza-m for the Graupner gr-18...Given my current style of flying I can't see going back.

That said, the Naza-m Lite is basically a crippled version of the Naza-m V2. There is a substantial change in flight characteristics once the firmware is upgraded, and I honestly felt like I was flying a completely different quad. It was SO MUCH MORE DIALED IN!!!!!!!

I have been really happy with the graupner though, My quad is a lot lighter than it was before, and while I still have some tuning to do, in rate mode it is down right scary to fly. :) I am old and my reflexes are slow.

Hope this helps,

DB
 
#18
So after doing some more reading this weekend, I think I've decided on the APM platform. Partly because of component price, partly because it's open source, and partly because of what seems to be some extra capability (terrain follow looks really cool). I looked at some of the clones on ebay and the pricing is good for sure, but I think I may get it from readytoflyquads. I have ordered from them before and they have always been fantastic to work with. I can get their ReadytoFlyer 2.6 with all the options for $163.50. I know that is quite a bit more expensive than the $30 one from ebay, but it includes everything I would need, has been tested, and their customer support is great. That is comforting for a newbie like me. Plus, that still is a pretty good price for everything it'll do.

http://www.readytoflyquads.com/readytoflyer-2-6

I'll likely be placing an order this week for an electrohub, some batteries, a taranis, and an APM module. That should be about everything I need for now. I'll probably put a brushless gimbal on there eventually, but not yet. I'm really excited to get into the Mission Planning side of things once I get the basic tuning dialed in. Thanks again for all your help and suggestions on this one! I'll begin binging on APM setup guides and forum posts now. :D
 
#19
Sounds great! Have fun with it and good luck.

I know this might be a little premature, but you mentioned a brushless gimbal: http://www.feiyu-tech.com/products/10/.

:)


So after doing some more reading this weekend, I think I've decided on the APM platform. Partly because of component price, partly because it's open source, and partly because of what seems to be some extra capability (terrain follow looks really cool). I looked at some of the clones on ebay and the pricing is good for sure, but I think I may get it from readytoflyquads. I have ordered from them before and they have always been fantastic to work with. I can get their ReadytoFlyer 2.6 with all the options for $163.50. I know that is quite a bit more expensive than the $30 one from ebay, but it includes everything I would need, has been tested, and their customer support is great. That is comforting for a newbie like me. Plus, that still is a pretty good price for everything it'll do.

http://www.readytoflyquads.com/readytoflyer-2-6

I'll likely be placing an order this week for an electrohub, some batteries, a taranis, and an APM module. That should be about everything I need for now. I'll probably put a brushless gimbal on there eventually, but not yet. I'm really excited to get into the Mission Planning side of things once I get the basic tuning dialed in. Thanks again for all your help and suggestions on this one! I'll begin binging on APM setup guides and forum posts now. :D
 

makattack

Winter is coming
Moderator
Mentor
#20
FYI, I'm pretty sure terrain following requires the pixhawk, which has more memory to store topo data...

Yep:

http://plane.ardupilot.com/wiki/common-terrain-following/

What's a little confusing about APM is that it stands for "ArduPilotMega" which is in reference to the original hardware, but it's also used to refer to the software project, which also runs on the PX4/Pixhawk hardware.

Sometimes people say "apm supports terrain following with version 3.4" in reference to the software, but forget to add "with the pixhawk hardware"

That RTFlyer hardware you listed is the older "APM hardware" -- if you want terrain following, you need the RTFHawk hardware.
 
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