Step 8: Flight Controller Overview
The sensors being used are the BMA180 3-axis accelerometer, and the ITG-3200 3-axis gyro. Both of these are available in a breakout-board format from SparkFun so you don't have to solder the chips. Note that both of these are digital sensors, this means they both have internal analog-to-digital converters (ADC) that perform better than the integrated ADCs of most microcontrollers. Both of these sensors use the I2C bus, which means only two wires are required to interface both sensors. The I2C bus can run at 400 KHz.
The RC radio receiver will have 6 or more channel signal pins, each signal will be connected to one pin on the microcontroller. These signals will be pulse width modulated signals, so the microcontroller will measure the width of each pulse to take input from the user.
The ESCs each expect a pulse width modulated signal. One pin on the microcontroller will be connected to one ESC. The microcontroller will output pulses to each ESC to control their individual speeds.
Although an ordinary Arduino would have enough performance as the microcontroller, I decided to use an ATmega644P in my design so I have more memory and more pins to experiment with. My design still uses 16 MHz, uses the Arduino bootloader, and it is compatible with the Arduino IDE.
The ATmega runs at 5V because 5V is required at 16 MHz, this 5V power supply will be provided by the ESCs since they all have a built-in 5V voltage regulator.
The sensors run on 3.3V and thus our circuit will contain a 3.3V low-dropout voltage regulator that converts the 5V to 3.3V so we can safely interface with the sensors.