For both the beginner experimenter and the experienced drone fanatic, finding a proper flight controller can be a confusing business. There are a number of options available, two of the biggest names being Pixhawk, by 3D Robotics, and Naza, by DJI. Most people will often simply choose a controller in line with their manufacturer, or simply out of brand loyalty. However, these two controller lines have shifted and changed over the years into two very distinct products. Neither is outright better than the other, but each definitely has its pros and cons. To truly make a choice between the two, however, one must first learn what each brand stands for.
About the DJI Naza
The Naza is designed to be an extremely user friendly controller, which simultaneously doesn’t hold back on functionality. It can be used by even the newest of beginners, and is great for children, as well. Simple operation combined with accessible applications for both PC and iPad mean that the Naza is an excellent choice for those with no prior experience in drone technology. However, it lacks some of the more advanced features of competitors, and while very stable and effective in its use, the Naza is limited in it.
About the 3D Robotics Pixhawk
The Pixhawk is on a very different end of the scale, as compared to the Naza. It has a much wider range of features, more than most will ever use. Unlike the Naza, which is designed to be ready to go right out of the box, the Pixhawk may require a bit of work to get functioning to its fullest potential. Its Mission Planner software is also a favorite among many, and is fantastic for getting precision statistics about the drone’s flight. It is also highly customizable, with a special coding environment which may remind many a user of Linux. Additionally, the Pixhawk can be used in many different devices other than copters, so if you ever get bored of yours or if it falls out of use, you can configure the Pixhawk to be used with a new build.
The Two Side by Side
The Pixhawk and the Naza are quite obviously designed for different users. The Pixhawk is designed to be used by enthusiasts, as its range of features may not all be appealing to the common man. However, on the other hand, the Naza is designed for the everyday user. That is to say, anyone can pick it up and figure it out, without much difficulty. While the Pixhawk is by no means a technical nightmare, it certainly is more complex, and for those less versed in computers and technology, the Naza may be a wise choice.
However, once you get past the initial difficulty challenge, the Pixhawk truly begins to shine. It is reliable, precise, and boasts a much wider range of features than the Naza. Its Mission Planner software is a huge selling point, as it allows for a degree of customization, flexibility, and precision seen in no other controller. However, when it comes to software, the Naza may again win over some users with its simplicity. Its 16 point Ground Station software is simple, yet effective, and allows for solid control of the copter while maintaining a user friendly interface, pleasing aesthetics, and smooth software functionality. It is available for free on both PC and iPad, which may be an added bonus for those with an iPad. However, this ease of use does come at a cost, in that it is just not as precise as Pixhawk’s Mission Planner.
Reliability may be a question on the minds of many. When it comes to reliability in the flight controller, neither brand should have any major issues. With either the Naza or Pixhawk, you can expect years of service, and potentially hundreds of flights. That is, of course, assuming you take proper care of the equipment, which may be quite fragile in both products.
Overall, although the DJI Naza is a much more beginner-friendly experience, the 3D Robotics Pixhawk does have a significantly higher degree of functionality and precision. For those who have done their homework and know their way around a drone, the Pixhawk can’t be beat. However, if you aren’t great with computers, or don’t have much or any experience with drones, the Naza is a fantastic controller, and should suit your needs well enough. Just don’t expect the same multitude of features, as it is, after all, a more basic controller.