In this post I will try to explain why I personally no longer recommend buying FrSky products. This can also be seen as an open letter to FrSky - although I highly doubt that they will be interested. Some of my issues I tried to discuss directly with them, but they did not really seem to care too much about any of my input.
I have been thinking about writing this article for some time - and even let it sit for a couple of months - but neither my views nor the situation at hand did change, so I decided to finally publish it and if it is just for the sake of linking people here when they ask why I no longer recommend FrSky products.
Disclaimer: I try to be as factual as I can, but this is a heated topic and obviously this article will be heavily opinionated - so take all of this with a grain of salt and make up your own mind.
FrSky started out as a company bringing cheap receivers, transmitter modules and radios to the hobby RC market. Their first major success was the Taranis X9D - basically a clone of the much higher priced Futaba T16. As of now, they provide a lot of different products for the RC hobby, mainly related to airborne RC models.
I am not going to get into the issues or ethics of cloning or copying a product. Just keep in mind that they did not always start with their original idea but rather released cheap substitutes for higher priced ones.
FrSky also introduced a couple of OTA protocols (Over The Air - meaning the communication protocol from the radio to the receiver, in contrary to, for example SBUS which is the communication protocol used from the receiver to the flight-controller): D8, D16 (both using ACCST as over the air protocol) and last but not least - Access.
D8 and D16 got pretty popular over the years and other manufacturers started making their own D8 and D16 compatible receivers (after reverse engineering the protocol) and selling flight-controllers with integrated, compatible receivers. For the longest time, this did not seem to bother FrSky, in the contrary - lots of people decided to go with a FrSky radio, simply because there was a healthy eco-system of supported products - especially “Bind and Fly” products - take it out of the package, plug in a battery, bind it to your radio and you are ready to go.
At least for me, this was a big selling point. I switched from Flysky (Turnigy Evolution) to FrSky when they released their original X-Lite radio.
This all changed when new hardware was released in early 2019, supporting their newest radio link protocol - Access. When the new hardware came out, lots of users were surprised that this new hardware no longer supported two of FrSky’s own protocols: D8 and D16. The outcry was big, and FrSky decided to paddle back and add support for D16. Although a lot of people speculated, that D8 might also be back-ported, this was not the case and D8 support never hit the newest hardware and is only still available on their old, obsolete hardware - at least without third party modules.
I was a bit too over excited about the new hardware (and promised features like over the air updates) and bought into the new hardware. I basically swapped my X-Lite for the X-Lite Pro - one of the biggest mistakes I made in the RC hobby. I was sure that FrSky will at one point back-port D8, which unfortunately never happened and I was stuck with a radio for which I needed an external module to support a bunch of my copters - basically all of my whoops.
I had also bought into R9 - FrSky’s 900MHz “long range” system. At this point the reputation was not too good, but some improvements were made recently and I decided to run with it - also a decision that I regret to some degree. I only ran it on a couple of my 5” rigs and have already replaced it with CRSF in the meantime.
This one is an interesting one, which I personally did not know about. I asked Georg of quadrocopter.at to fact check my article since he is in the hobby for longer than me and I thought he might have something to add - and indeed, he did not disappoint.
V8 was introduced before D8, the main difference being, that it did not have telemetry, so it was a one way communication protocol. After the introduction of D8 there was a short time period where you had FrSky receivers that were switchable between V8 and D8 mode like the V8R4-II.
Those V8 receivers were compatible with FrSky’s external modules, to which I can no longer find a reference, except in the manuals of the V8 receivers. There were also a couple of third party modules supporting V8 and D8 receivers.
But that is not all - FrSky continued to break their protocols, they released a V2 of their ACCST protocol which was no longer compatible with V1. Technically this is something you can work around (at least for now), by flashing older radio firmware to still be able to support your AIO boards that might also support V1 of D16. Or flashing newer receivers to D16 V1.
This is especially problematic with D16 on SPI receivers - those you can not easily flash yourself, meaning that if your radio is flashed with the latest Firmware, you will only be able to use D16 V2. In order to use those models with SPI receiver on D16 you will need to flash the firmware on the radio module back to D16 V1 - a major pain in the ass.
At least for now, the older firmware might still be downloaded from the official FrSky site, but I am pretty sure, that those files will - at one point in time - disappear.
Their obvious goal is to push their customers to use the Access protocol which also uses some kind of encryption making it difficult to clone and make 3rd party receivers and transmitters for the system. I am quite confident, that this will be broken or circumvented eventually, especially if there is enough interest in third party receivers. On the other hand, maybe it is not worth the time to do so - especially now that ELRS is gaining a huge user-base.
After releasing their new hardware supporting their new Access protocol, FrSky obsoleted all their previous radios, some just being on the market for about half a year. They stated, that you don’t need to buy into the new eco-system and should just keep on using the old stuff if you want. Obviously this is only a short term solution, since you will at some point simply no longer be able to get the older stuff, or it will be replaced by newer versions, no longer capable of running the old protocols.
I am not entirely sure why they got so butt-hurt about 3rd parties using “their” protocols - I mean FrSky themselves were not offering AIO’s with integrated D8 receivers, so no loss there. Maybe they wanted to profit by the customers buying an extra receiver for every whoop - who knows. It is also possible that they had different intentions that did not come from the quadcopter hobby, maybe something related to planes or helis. I don’t have any insight in those parts of the RC hobbies, so this is all just speculation on my side.
On the way to the “top” FrSky also learned a thing or two from their competitors - unfortunately not good things. At one point TBS threatened vendors that they will no longer be providing their products, should they also sell FrSky’s competing R9 modules. A move that FrSky later tried to pull off with vendors who were also selling the Jumper T16 radio. In both cases the companies back paddled and there were no real consequences except for bad publicity.
Multi Protocol Modules
There is a very interesting Open source project, which is used on all the third party Multi Protocol modules. This Multi Protocol module utilizes 4 different RF chips to support a plethora of RF protocols. The supported FrSky protocols all use the same chip - the TI CC2500.
This means, that there is no reason for a D16 capable transmitter to not easily support D8 too - heck, even V8.
The complete list of FrSky protocols in the 2.4GHz spectrum is:
|Protocol||new TX||old TX||SPI RX||Multi Module|
|D16 (ACCST V1) FCC/LBT||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|D16 (ACCST V2) FCC/LBT||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
Conclusion / TLDR;
I will not throw my money at a company that is breaking compatibility with their own protocols to the point where you need third party hardware to run their own protocols on their own hardware. Especially if I can get equally good hardware for the same price from a different manufacturer having all the bells and whistles.
FrSky now has basically broken all of their older (more than two years old) protocols. Who is going to give me a guarantee, that they will not break Access in the future. And Access you can’t even run from a third party module, so the chances are high to be stuck with basically a brick that is not useful for anything - not even as a paper weight.
I know I am not alone with this opinion. FrSky had good reputation and a big following in the FPV community, but they flew high just to crash and burn. Or maybe I am being over dramatic and their decisions do not hit them as hard as I suspect - in any case, they will no longer get support from me.
My goal here is not to run FrSky into the ground - and I would myself not be able to do so anyway. I am also not criticizing the quality of their products here - some of them are really good and innovative. My main concern is simply their politics.
As consumers we are very limited in influencing the decisions of a company: they can either listen to us - the user base - and if they don’t, our only option is to stop buying their products to show them that we do not agree with what they are doing.
What should I buy instead of FrSky?
In my opinion you should go with either Jumper or Radiomaster radios instead of FrSky. Those brands offer built in multi protocol modules on basically all of their newer radios allowing you to use D8, D16 and a plethora of other protocols. Further they often also have support for external TX modules so that you can run TBS crossfire, TBS Tracer, ImmersionRC Ghost, ELRS or any other 3rd party manufacturer module. Heck, you could even run R9 if you wanted to, but at this point - why even bother with the FrSky eco-system anymore?
If you know that you will only use TBS Crossfire, you might straight go with the Tango 2 - at least if you like the game-pad form factor.
In regards to receivers I would probably go with integrated FrSky compatible SPI receivers on whoops and go with a completely different protocol on everything where I need to get a separate receiver - for me this is TBS crossfire. But you could also go with third party D8 receivers - Radiomaster has some available, but there are others too.
Also ELRS is a great choice - an open source control link - a lot of different manufacturers offer ELRS capable hardware and it will get more in the future.
Chris is a Vienna based software developer. In his spare time he enjoys reviewing tech gear, ripping quads of all sizes and making stuff.
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