RaceFlight One and Revolt V2 – Hype Train or Real Thing?
“The RaceFlight Revolt flight controller is the most advanced, performance driven, flight controller ever designed.”
RaceFlight has been generating a lot of buzz for a while, both good and bad. There was that little “mix up” with open source licensing a while back and a lot of people are still miffed, but since then there have been a lot of good pilots claiming RaceFlight is the one firmware to rule them all. I don’t know, I’m sure it’s decent, but a good pilot is a good pilot. What magic code could they possibly have come up with that makes RaceFlight so much better? What crucial piece of hardware made them special? Most importantly, would a mediocre pilot like me even notice? Only one way to find out I suppose, so I begged the RaceFlight team for a Revolt V2 flight controller to test and review. Surprisingly they agreed, and here we are!
The product description for the Revolt V2 boasts many features, but I’m going to concentrate on what was working now:
- “Integrated vibration dampening dummies” – Probably meant to say “gummies” here, but one shouldn’t assume.
- Dual inverters for Taranis and Futaba radios
- Selectable voltage for your UARTs
- LED Driver for WS2812b programmable LED
- High Speed 32khz gyro, lowest noise floor and highest sensitivity gyro ever used
- Through hole solder pads
- Integrated buzzer driver
- Voltage and current ADC pins, for full voltage and current monitoring
- ESC flashing and configuration built into configurator
- 4 serial uarts
- F4 processor
- 16mb of flash memory
- Dimensions: 36mm x 36mm
They claim these other features will be available at some point in the future:
- Infrared LED Race Transponder support
- iPhone and Android configurator support
- Full telemetry output support
- Bluetooth expandable
- GPS expandable
The Revolt V2 came packaged nicely in an anti-static pouch. The gummies were packaged separately, and they included a sticker and some sort of plastic plate with the RaceFlight logo. I assume it is used to protect the flight controller. Regardless it was a nice gesture. The Revolt is very well made, one of the better flight controllers I’ve seen as far as component assembly. Every solder point is labelled, though many from the bottom of the board. This is understandable since the top is full of components, but it doesn’t do much to help when soldering. One detail I really liked was that while most solder points are rounded, all of the ground pads are square. It is a small detail, but helps to avoid mistakes.
The motor outputs are on the four corners of the board, which really helps to keep the top of the board free from wires after assembly. There are two UART ports on the side with both configurable voltage and signal inversion via solder bridges. Those pads are tiny, but even a novice such as I has no issues getting it to work. There are clear solder points for powering the board, as well as voltage and current monitoring, though without and external current sensor you’ll only get voltage readings.
Unlike the BrainFPV RE1, I do not see a clear dedicated spot for and IR Transponder. If they do in fact get it working in code, then I would assume it will make use of some other port. Another thing you may not find is a pad for RSSI monitoring. Looking at the back of the board there are some very tiny pads, one of which is labelled RSSI (another being PPM), which may work but I don’t see this mentioned in their documentation. If it is the RSSI pad, I can’t help but feel like they could have put it somewhere else… somewhere useful perhaps. Soldering to those tiny pads feel would more like a hack than it should.
Once you have your power, ESCs, receiver, etc. wired up you are ready for configuration. RaceFlight One nails this, as almost everything has a wizard to go through and most things are automatically detected. The configurator will even update your ESC firmware and can read/write some settings such as motor direction. It is probably one of the simplest setups I’ve gone through. The only thing I needed to do manually was to set the ESCs to oneshot form the default of multishot in order for them to communicate with the Revolt. As a matter of fact, you can watch the whole process I went through here!
Now that I was configured it was time for a maiden…
The weather here in West Virginia has been rough for a long time, so it was a while before I could get this build in the air. Luckily a good Saturday came along and I was able to maiden with stock PIDs, and it just so happened I was also maidening a rebuild of another frame running the latest BetaFlight -also with stock PIDs. It was a good opportunity to take two aircraft with similar qualities and dimensions and see how they compared.
For the RaceFlight aircraft I was flying a SpaceOne FPV Formula 220X with the available 3d printed pod, using a set of RMRC Black Series 2205 2300kv motors. For the BetaFlight aircraft I was flying my rebuilt Catalyst Machineworks Speed Addict Super Light 5″ with a BrainFPV RE1 / mPB combo and the ever popular Emax Red Bottom 2205 2300kv motors. I realize these are not exact matches, the SpaceOne being a good bit heavier than the Super Light, but they are similar enough for this purpose.
The last time I flew the SuperLight was with the SirinFPV AIO flight controller, which uses a similar gyro to the Revolt. The result was… less than spectacular…
Still, there could have been a lot of reasons for that failure. I was excited to see how the Revolt would do, but I wanted to test the control first – so the Super Light went up first.
As expected, the Super Light flew nicely. BetaFlight has come a long way since its inception, and the latest stock PIDs are flyable on almost any aircraft. There were a few quirks that seemed to result from dropping from high throttle to zero, but nothing major. All in all it flew great for a maiden, but that wasn’t why I was out there.
After a few laps around the runway it was time to put the Revolt to the test. Surely it would perform similar to BetaFlight, there is no easy button here right? I armed the aircraft, gave it some throttle, and put it into a very stable hover. Flicking the stick to test roll and pitch it was quick to return to stable flight. Okay, I’ll admit, it looked solid. Really solid. Let’s take it out…
Mediocre pilot skills aside, it flew great. I mean really great. Beyond adjusting my rates I don’t foresee much work needing done on this build. It cut through the air like a knife, handled gusts like they ain’t no thang, and really just felt locked in. It’s impressive really, the RaceFlight team have done a great job.
It’s not all sunshine and roses though, I have my complaints. First off (and I’ll probably get some hate for this) there is no excuse anymore for a flight controller not to have an integrated OSD for at the very least voltage monitoring. Am I spoiled? Probably, but come on. We’ve evolved beyond this! There are some cameras out there that now include a basic OSD so perhaps the point is moot, but there is the other benefit – field tuning. Being able to open up a menu and adjust PIDs and rates between test flights without the need for a PC is awesome and I don’t want to go back to using a laptop. Heck, now I can even set my VTX frequency via OSD in BetaFlight – no need to mess with a Taranis. Without an OSD these features are sorely missed, and sure I could eventually (maybe) add a Micro OSD – but those things never lasted more than a few weeks in my experience and so far RaceFlight doesn’t support them. And don’t say that racers don’t need an OSD, because RaceFlight also advertises that Bluetooth and GPS will be available at some point and I have never seen a race pilot out there calibrating their GPS and compass…
Secondly, being that RaceFlight One is closed source it is hard to tell if they are doing anything special in the software or if they’ve just got really good stock PIDs. They talk about how you can hit a gate and keep racing, even with jacked-up props, but I’ve seen an old CC3D do that running dRonin. DRONIN!
Finally, (and yes I AM spoiled on this one) no integrated or stackable PDB… yet. They just announced a 4-in-one ESC that powers the Revolt but the announcement came after I began this review. If it turns out to be a solid product then that’s a big plus. There’s not a ton of info out there yet, so we’ll just have to see.
So with the RaceFlight Revolt what you end up with is a very nicely made flight controller with integrated soft mounts, using a very fast and sensitive gyro, and proprietary (maybe) filtering. Does it work? Yes, incredibly well, and it’s ridiculously easy to configure. You really can’t complain about the performance here, whatever they are doing they’ve done well. Is it the best thing out there? Eh, it is in the top running for sure. It’s great, but so are a lot of other top-end flight controllers.
Look, I’m not knocking it but a lot of this is hobby is advertising and image. From the very beginning the RaceFlight team wanted to set themselves apart, and they have done so to a certain extent. Some rocky PR moves aside, these guys know how to generate hype and they’ve got a lot of help doing it. The RaceFlight Revolt and RaceFlight One firmware is a LOT of hype – but its performance backs it up. I was not let down at all, and I am a very cynical person. It isn’t the be-all-end-all that many claim it to be, but it’s a damn good package and that says a lot. In a top 10 list of flight controllers, this is going to be in the top three at the very least. If you’re looking for something that “just works” and flys like a mofo, you would do well to go with the Revolt.
I just wish it had an OSD. 🙂