At first, I thought building a multirotor was going to be hard.
Then I tried tuning.
I feel tuning is not so easy to grasp because it’s both objective and subjective at the same time.
It’s objective because it’s math! But at the same time, it’s subjective because everyone’s idea of a good tune is significantly different.
It was one of the toughest things for me to learn, and honestly, I still don’t have a completely firm grasp on it. I do have a general idea of it, though, enough to make tweaks to get my craft to fly a little better. I am yet to find the elusive “perfect tune”, though.
Luckily, there are many excellent PID tuning resources put out there by some very talented pilots. Studying them, going through them over and over again, and studying them a bit more has given me a bit of an idea how to go about PID tuning.
How your copter behaves when you change values
Step by step guides
These guides are helpful for tuning in both LOS and FPV.
Boris does a great job of explaining what values you really need to worry about and prioritize, and gives you a brief technical explanation as well as a step-by-step method of getting your PIDs where you want them.
This guide is very in-depth – it takes you all the way from PID theory to how each factor effects your copter to a step-by-step PID tuning guide.
Oscar Liang has great multirotor content on his blog, and his PID tuning post is right up there. Oscar’s explanation is fairly simple and straightforward, and he has also made distinctions for values for acrobatic and smooth/gentle flight.
This is a very detailed guide that specifically looks at tuning Cleanflight/Betaflight using a Taranis X9D transmitter. The beauty of this method is that you can increase each value while your copter is in the air and see each minute difference as the values change. To get an initial tune for a very nicely flying copter, this guide is spot-on.
iFlyQuad’s PID tuning guide explains P, I, and D in pretty simple terms, and there is also a step-by-step tuning guide. The tuning guide is pretty concise, and the additional sections on TPA and yaw PIDs add great value as not much information about them is available elsewhere.
PID tuning in FPV for Cleanflight and Betaflight
This is one of the best single video tuning processes I’ve seen. Kevin AKA Stingersswarm does an excellent job explaining a repeatable process you can use on both KISS and BetaFlight.
This is not to say the other guides listed here are not good – if I didn’t have the background I gained from the posts and videos above, this video would have been difficult to understand.
Tuning using Blackbox
An advanced part of tuning is using the Blackbox feature in Cleanflight/Betaflight to tune your copter. If you have a flash memory chip(either separate or built into your flight controller), you can log the flight data to a file and open it up in Cleanflight’s Blackbox Explorer. Of course, if you don’t know what you are looking at, it’ll just seem like a bunch of squiggly lines. Joshua Bardwell has done hundreds of Blackbox analyses on his channel – going through some of them will give you a really good idea of what to look for.
Learning how to tune your PIDs is an ongoing process. Sure, you can take shortcuts with Betaflight and get pretty decent flying from just the stock settings, but tuning will really get your copter flying the way you want it. Once you fly a tuned quadcopter, you will never want to go back to a stock one!
These are some of the resources which I have found most useful during my research. I am sure there are many more – if you know of any, please do share them in the comments and I’ll be happy to add them to the list.