Gobble Squabble: Selecting A Transmitter

You will need a matched transmitter and receiver to control your robot and drive it around the combat arena. The only rule here is that your transmitter cannot interfere with anyone else’s robot. But you will want a system that is reliable, has the flexibility to control all the features of your robot, and is easy to use. There are many options for this, but the majority of combat roboticists use “standard” hobby RC transmitters and receivers, updated to use spread spectrum radio technology. Be aware that infrared-based transmitters (used in LEGO products and Arduino systems) won’t work through the polycarbonate windows around the combat arena, and Bluetooth-based systems are very low-power and may have connection problems with all the radio noise in the combat area.

You’ll hold the transmitter in your hands to drive the robot. The matched receiver will be in the robot connected to the control system. All the recommended transmitters have 2 sticks. To drive the robot around the arena, you can use tank drive mode in which one stick controls one side of drive wheels, and the other stick controls the other side of wheels — this mode makes it more difficult to reach for your weapon controls. Or you can use arcade mode, in which the robot speed and direction is controlled by 1 stick, and the other stick is used to control your weapon. Arcade is the preferred mode, but it requires channel mixing. Channel mixing is much easier on the first 2 units listed below, due to their programmability; this one feature could save you a lot of time and frustration.

Here are our recommendations, with a few comments:

  • Best value and features: FlySky FS-i6 at Amazon. Has all the features you want, including on-screen on-unit programmability (you’ll really want this). Runs a long time on 4 AA batteries. Includes 1 receiver, which you’ll need for your robot.
  • Same features, higher price: Turnigy TGY-i6 at Hobby King. The exact same model as the FlySky at Amazon, with different labeling.
  • Similar cost, less features: T6A at FingerTech. Requires this receiver too. All mixing is manual.
  • Lower cost, less features: T6A at Hobby King. Receiver included. All mixing is manual. (2nd best value in this list.)
  • Lower cost, less features: Hobby King 4 Ch. This is the very minimum you can use; not programmable, but can be configured manually with switches. (Recommendation: even if cost is an issue, spend a few extra $’s and buy the T6A from Hobby King.)
  • Experimental: some very-low-cost combination transmitter/receiver/ESC devices have become available recently, replacing $70 of recommended equipment for $15. These probably have the quality of a cheap RC toy, but we have one on order and will test and report in an update to these posts.
Examples of the listed transmitters: FlySky fs-i6 (recommended) on the left; and a model equivalent to the T6A on the right

This information is original work by Techno Chaos and is published under the terms of Creative Common license mode Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA).