Betaflight, KISS, and Raceflight dominate the market share, though, since Butterflight is still up and coming. There is a hot debate – or a matter of which club someone is in – as far as the differences between Betaflight and Raceflight, and which is better.
I have not used KISS much so I can’t really say, but I have flown both Betaflight and Raceflight so I can give a pretty good comparison between Raceflight vs Betaflight.
This is by no means a highly technical review of the hardware or the nuances of the software. I am writing from the perspective of a consumer – someone who wants their quad to fly smooth and reliably. I will try to touch upon some hardware features where relevant, but most of the review will be about the configuration and flight performance.
Betaflight Pros and Cons
Betaflight, on the whole, is an incredible firmware. It supports a very wide variety of flight controllers, from inexpensive $15 clones on MyRCMart all the way up to top notch racing boards like the Bardwell F4 and the CLRacing F4S.
In this regard, the accessibility of Betaflight is a huge plus and can be flown by people with all budgets.
Betaflight is an open-source firmware, which means there is a whole community of developers working on the project, receiving feedback from the community, and implementing and testing the feedback.
This way, there are lots of new features added in every single release. From the time Betaflight first came out, there have been numerous improvements.
However, this is also a bit of a negative aspect. In Betaflight 3.3, for example, the earlier builds had something called a Kalman filter, which was a very sophisticated piece of code designed to make your quad fly incredibly smoothly. However, due to community consensus(at least of a few influential figures), the Kalman filter was scrapped in the final release.
This actually led in part to Betaflight getting forked to Butterflight, which does have the Kalman filter.
For a miniquad pilot, Betaflight has some key features that make it an excellent, reliable choice:
- Very sophisticated PID algorithm that requires very little tuning
- Very responsive rates
- Support for a wide variety of hardware and receiver protocols
- An in-built OSD (on boards which have the OSD chip, which is quite standard now) so you can change PIDs and other settings on the go
- Current sensing
- Support for blackbox logging to fine-tune your craft
- Support for customizing LEDs
- A “Turtle mode” where you can flip the quad right side up in case you land upside down
There are lots of other features like GPS(for tracking, not for navigation) and so on, but those are not of much use to a racer or a freestyler.
Setting up Betaflight
Betaflight is a bit daunting to set up if you are completely new to the game. However, once you are used to it, it takes less than 5 minutes to get a quad up and running.
You have to go through each screen individually to change all of the settings, but in my book, that’s not really such a bad thing. The pros outweigh this one con by a ton.
Plus, if you run into any bugs, the community is huge and the support is massive, so it’s very likely you’ll reach a solution really quickly.
Betaflight flies incredibly well right out of the box. The stock settings are really, really good and for most setups, only a small bit of tuning is required to get the craft really locked in and flying smoothly.
Whether you race or you freestyle, Betaflight works for both. The amount of tweaking and fine tuning you can do to get every last drop of performance out of the box is really unmatched.
Plus, the filters(or the ability to disable them) really make the craft fly like butter.
Raceflight Pros and Cons
Raceflight, unlike Betaflight, is completely proprietary and developed behind closed doors. This can be seen as both a pro or a con. It’s a good thing because there is a set vision for where the firmware is supposed to go, and the team is working to reach that goal.
It’s a con, however, because the number of people working on it is limited and the lack of external input can sometimes get a little stifling(though as far as the current flight controller firmware goes, there is no indication at all of that).
There is also limited hardware support. Like KISS, RaceFlight uses a proprietary flight controller hardware. The hardware itself is very advanced, with a sensitive gyro and the works, but you can only use Raceflight on Raceflight hardware, like you can only use KISS on KISS hardware.
Raceflight was designed with simplicity in mind. It’s VERY easy to setup, and the on-screen wizard takes you through each step and makes sure there is very little room for error.
In Betaflight, there are a lot of settings you can miss or mix up, which are all automatically picked up by Raceflight. From flight controller orientation, your sticks, your arm switches, the receiver, and the motor order, the Raceflight code does it all automatically.
It’s really quick and easy to get in the air.
Earlier, I had tried the Revolt V2 flight controller(which you can read about here). The flight performance was very good, but I didn’t like it for two reasons: you could not get a LUA script to work back then with the TBS Crossfire, and there was no OSD support.
Since the RevoltOSD has come out, that has changed. OSD is natively supported, which is a huge plus and makes changing PIDs and other settings so much easier.
It’s also very helpful to be able to see flight data like voltage, time, and current on the screen.
This was all possible with the Revolt V2 if you used a FrSky telemetry receiver, but the Crossfire was not supported back then.
I believe Crossfire is supported natively now, and either way, since there is OSD support, it makes life a lot easier.
The RevoltOSD has also been designed to make setting up very easy. There are connectors for everything, from motors to receiver to your camera and VTx, so you can get a build up and running with really minimal soldering.
If you don’t like connectors, you can of course use the solder pads and solder, too.
As far as design goes, I think the RevoltOSD has come leaps and bounds ahead of the old Revolt V2.
The Raceflight OSD in action
Flight performance on Raceflight
Raceflight too was really easy to set up and the stock PID settings worked very well for me. It flew smoothly on the preset settings available, and I had only changed the filters.
The real magic of Raceflight though is the ability to adapt. I’ve had friends who manage to complete races even after breaking an entire blade off of a prop on a gate and the quad is still very much flyable.
The only issue some people have had is that the motors get really hot, but that’s fixable to a good extent with tuning.
I think the best way to sum this up is that it’s an Apple vs PC debate. Apple in this case is Raceflight. Proprietary hardware, very easy and simple to use, and all in all great performance, if not a bit tough to diagnose things under the hood.
Windows is Betaflight, which is supported by a wide variety of hardware, there is a HUGE community around it, and though it works well right out of the box, a few tweaks here and there can really do wonders.
Similar to how there is no “right” choice between Apple or PC – to each his own – and people work with both types of systems.
If you have only flown Betaflight and nothing else, I highly recommend giving Raceflight a whirl. You may be surprised at how well it flies.