Remote Controls

What do I need?

Most competitions will require you to be able to “remotely operate/control” your robot from a distance. In order to accomplish that task, you will need two components:

  • A remote control transmitter (This is the handheld unit you use to send signals to your robot to move and function.)
  • A remote control receiver (This is the device inside your robot that receives the signals from the transmitter and uses those signals to literally tell your robot components what to do; such as spinning the wheels forward, backwards, activating your weapon, etc.)

How do I make sure my RC setup is “bound”?

In order to function properly, the RC transmitter and receiver are “bound” together. This simply means they use a unique ID code in the remote signal to ensure they don’t interfere with other nearby robot RC systems.

When you purchase a remote control transmitter and receiver in a package, they are usually shipped to you already “bound”. If not, you may need to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to “bind” the receiver to the transmitter.

How do I choose a remote control transmitter and receiver?

There are many commercial options you can purchase today and there are many options for you to build your own custom RC system. If you’re just getting started, below are some tips for making a decision.

  • Signal Requirements: Almost all robot sporting events today require you to use a 2.4 GHZ wireless signal or better. This is to ensure minimal signal interference between your robot and others competing.
  • Commercial RC Systems:
    • These are products you can purchase online or in a hobby retail store.
    • This is a good option if you’re just starting out.
    • Most professional competitors use some type of commercial RC system bought from a retailer.
    • Only buy what you need. Think about how many channels you’ll need, reliability of system, and usability of the system.
    • Remember that most commercial RC systems were made to control model airplanes or cars. This is totally fine. Just don’t be confused when the manual talks about “elevation control” or “landing gear”. It’s all just motor controls to us. 🙂
  • Build your own RC System:
    • These are wireless control systems custom built from various electronic hardware components.
    • This is an option for those with some experience in electronics who require a custom RC system unavailable for purchase “off the shelf”.
    • You may need some computer programming skills as well; depending on which design you go with.
    • The Arduino micro-controller platform and software is a really fun and cheap option. See the section below on “Arduino Based Systems” for more details.

Standard Commercial Remote Controllers

FlySky FS-i6

The FlySky FS-i6 is a good RC unit to start you off. There are many videos and tutorials online and it is reasonably priced for a decent amount of features.

Programming the FlySky FS-i6 Transmitter for Combat Robotics

FlySky FS-i6 User Manual

Arduino Based Systems

Arduino Uno

Building your own remote control system using the Arduino micro-controller platform is possible but is more complex and difficult than just using an off-the-shelf RC set up. However, there are more options for design and control (i.e. adding sensors, loading pre-set programs for operations, etc.). If you’re interested, below are some resources to help you out.

The software for coding your Arduino is free and the parts are relatively cheap. (For example, the Arduino Uno is between $20-30 on Amazon.)

Quick Tip: Be careful to read the reviews and description before you buy. There are some cheap knock-off versions of the Arduino micro-controllers that don’t always work well for your project.

Arduino Home Page – This is the best place to start learning what exactly these systems are and how to use them. There are thousands of users across the world with just as many posts online about questions, problems, and their corresponding solutions.

Arduino Wireless Communication – NRF24L01: Tutorial on how to use the NRF24L01 2.4GHZ wireless module with the Arduino platform. (Yes, I did go through the pain of building an Arduino based combat bot and controller! It was difficult, but worth it for the learning experience.)

Decoding RC Signals Using Arduino: Tutorial using a Flysky FS i6X transmitter and receiver combined with an Arduino Uno.

Example of an Arduino “power glove” I built a few years ago. It uses flex sensors in the glove to translate my finger movements into signals that move a robot. It took me a while to build but it was so cool in the end!
This is a plastic Antweight bot “J5” using an Arduino Uno for controls.