Electronic Speed Controller & Propellor

An Electronic Speed Controller, or “ESC” controls the speed of the motor.  ESCs will have a power limit.  The more power an ESC can handle, the larger, heavier and more expensive the ESC will be.  When choosing an ESC, it needs to match or exceed the motor’s peak amperage.  If the peak amperage of the motor is 13 amps, then an ESC rated at 15 amps will be sufficient.  An ESC with a lower rated amperage will overheat and possibly fail.

Some common features of an ESC are a low voltage cutoff.  The low voltage cutoff will cut the power to the motors when the voltage drops to a specific level.  This is a protection feature for LiPo batteries.  If a LiPo battery’s voltage drops below its minimal voltage, it can permanently damage the battery.  The low voltage cutoff protects the battery from dropping below its minimal voltage.

Some ESCs can be programmed to have different throttle responses, adjust the low voltage cutoff limit, reverse the motor’s direction and change the switch rate.


Propeller choice is one of the most important decisions of your quadcopter.  These are the footwear of your quadcopter.  Propellers affect the agility, stability and efficiency of your quadcopter.

Propellers commonly come in 2, 3 and 4 blades.  The more blades on the propeller, the less efficient they become.  However, more blades produce less noise and are able to handle higher power requirements.

Propellers are specified by their diameter and pitch.  The diameter is measured length of the propeller.  The pitch is how far the propeller will advanced in one revolution.  For example, a 10×4 propeller has 10 inch diameter and will travel 4 inches in one revolution.

Propeller Size

The diameter of a propeller dictates how much thrust can be generated.  The larger the propeller the more thrust can be generated and also the more energy is needed to spin the propeller.

Propellers come in two spinning directions: clockwise and counterclockwise.  The spinning direction is also referred to as “tractor” (counterclockwise) and “pusher” (clockwise) propellers.  Tractor propellers are more common than pusher propellers.  A quadcopter needs a matched set of tractor and pusher propellers.   Because pusher propellers are less common than tractor propellers, propeller choice will be dictated by which propellers are available in pusher configuration.

Importance of Propeller Pitch

I discovered that my initial propeller choice of a 3-blade 8×6 propeller was the root of all my frustration in trying to stabilize Scout’s flight.  After weeks of tuning Scout’s stability, I began to hit a wall.   Even with the best tuning, Scout would still drift and sway during flight.  I could not get Scout to hover in one place.   I began to track down why Scout was so unstable.  I initially thought it was too much vibration that was overloading the sensors.  I added more foam padding to the sensor board and balanced the propellers.  The stability marginally improved, but not as much as I would like.

I then thought it was the ArduPirates code that was the problem so I switched to the ArduCopter code.   Scout was still unstable.  I then remembered I had bought a set of 2-blade 8×4 propellers.  I decided to give them a try.  Eureka!  Scout’s performance was remarkable.  Scout transformed into a different animal.  Without changing the tuning settings from the previous propellers, Scout’s stability is as smooth as glass.  I surmised that the issue was not the 3-blade to 2-blade choice but the pitch of 6 inches was creating choppy turbulent air and the quadcopter could not stabilize.

I recommend using APC propellers.  They are both rugged and perfectly balanced from the factory.



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