Flying with a flybarless (FBL) head also called a Bell rotor head on RC helicopters is nothing new for the larger scale crowd as many big scale birds or scale birds with multi bladed rotor heads have been around for years.
They were extremely sensitive and difficult to control, not to mention the ballooning issues in fast forward flight (where the bird would pitch up if you didn’t hold in forward cyclic) was a constant worry.
Most average people in the hobby (sport, general, semi scale, 3D, and certainly beginners) would have never even considered using a true Bell rotor head with no flybar stabilization. Well, those days are gone thanks once again to the huge improvements in electronic miniaturization and gyro / accelerometer technology. Going flybarless is now a reality and has some wonderful benefits over the trusty old flybar for all types of RC helicopter flying.
With costs coming down all the time and the systems getting easier to configure and setup, FBL systems are getting more and more popular. Most RC helicopter manufacturers are offering all their RC helicopter kits in flybarless versions (in fact, flybars are getting harder and harder to find). Even the entry level micro segment are embracing this technology such as Blade with their mCPx and other Blade heli "X" (flybarless) versions offered in most of their single rotor lineup now.
I have 9 helis now that are using electronic flybars and I personally feel once you fly with one, chances are you won’t ever go back to a mechanical flybar.
Most electronic flybar systems consist of the gyro sensors and the mixing/control unit/servo Bus. These can be combined in one unit as shown here with Bavarian Demon's 3X electronic flybar system, or they can have the FBL sensor separated like on Futaba's CGY-750 3 axis gyro system. Combined systems generally give neater and easier installs, whereas systems with "remote FBL senors" give you the flexibility to mount the sensor in various areas on-board the helicopter.
All micro sized helicopters with electronic stabilization will generally have a combination control unit that incorporates the receiver, ESC, and the flybarless stabilization gyros.
The other part of a FBL system is naturally the head itself. There are various designs of collective pitch FBL Bell type rotor heads but the 3 main types I have listed below (I'm just showing two bladed heads, not multi since I have limited experience with multi and am all for keeping it that way). The main thing to note on all examples however is there is no flybar.
First up is the non integrated washout type.
This design uses a washout (also know as a swash driver or swash follower) that is a stand alone unit (circled in green). It is clamped onto the mast to transmit rotational forces to the upper half of the swashplate to keep it correctly phased with the rotor head.
Next is the integrated washout type FBL head.
This design eliminates the washout/driver/follower base and places the washout arms directly on the lower part of the head block (circled in green). The three advantages with this design over the separate washout is setup/head build is easier since you don't have to mess with washout height setting or angle phase.
Parts count is down slightly and the mast can usually be shortened a bit to bring the rotor disc down closer to the helicopter's center of mass. In my opinion, from a purely mechanical workings point of view, this is the overall best design of all three; but that is just my 2 cents.
Last up is the DFC or Driverless head.
No green circle in this photo because the washout (swash driver) has been eliminated. I have an entire write-up on DFC / Driverless and encourage you to click on that link to read about DFC if you don't fully understand how it works and some issues to be aware of with it.
How Does It All Work?
First off to understand how a FLB system works you need to know how and what a flybar does. My page here on flybars and head types covers that in detail, but a very simple explanation of flybar function is to add stabilization to the rotor disc by automatically changing the cyclic pitch angles of the rotor blades to help make cyclic control much more manageable.
As the name suggests, flybarless (FBL) does away with the flybar and with the help of electronic stabilization systems, "virtually" replaces the flybar (why they are also called “virtual” or "electronic flybars"). Once again we owe this to the scale boys and girls since they were really the ones to first experiment with electronic stabilization systems on their no flybar birds. I remember reading several articles a number of years back when solid state heading lock gyros were first coming on the market – the Futaba GY240 to be exact.
More and more scale fliers using Bell heads (no flybars) were now putting not only a tail gyro in their birds to detect and correct for unwanted yaw movement, but they were also installing two more gyros mounted vertically to pick up the pitching and rolling movement of the heli.
The aileron (cyclic roll) servo was plugged into the gyro that detected roll, and the elevator servo (cyclic pitch) was plugged into gyro that detected pitch. Now when the heli would pitch forward for example the gyro that detected pitching movement would send a command to the elevator (cyclic pitch) servo to have it tilt the swash backwards to automatically bring the bird back into level flight.
This is the basic principle of how all electronic
flybars operate and as seen in the picture to the right of a typical
flybarless sensor that has the 3 solid state gyros oriented within the
sensor just as if 3 separate tail gyros were used to detect yaw, pitch,
& roll. And just like the tail gryo most all use a form of PID control loop algorithms (link takes you to a very good PID Basics article submitted by one of my loyal visitors).
The same cyclic pitch changes that the mechanical flybar would impart to the main rotor blades are now done by the two (vertical) electronic gyro sensors that detect the pitch and roll attitude of the heli and then move the servos to tilt the swash to make the precise and quick cyclic changes.
You can see this with any FBL setup that uses an electronic stabilization system and it is actually how you test to confirm the system is working properly. If you are holding the bird and tilt it forward, you will see the swashplate tilt backwards. If you tilt the bird left, the swash will tilt right.
One of the most frequently asked e-mail FBL questions I get is "how does it feel or fly compared to a flybar". Well it is quite hard to explain in words but the heli "feels" more locked in. By that, I mean it tracks better while in flight like it's flying on an invisible set of rails. For example, with a flybar bird when you pitch the nose forward to get the bird into a fast forward flight direction, if you center your forward cyclic stick the heli will gradually slow as the flybar slowly tracks back into a horizontal plane causing the main rotors to do the same. With an electronic flybar, the bird will stay pitched forward in the exact same attitude after you center your cyclic and you don’t have to keep holding in a little forward cyclic to keep it tilted at the same forward pitch angle.
This actually makes a lot of sense when you consider the same heading lock gyro technology that is used in the tail is also now being used for your cyclic. If you pitch the bird forward at a 30 degree angle – it will lock on that flight path more or less until you give a cyclic command to do different making cyclic stick counter corrections more pronounced. Now that is a very simplified explanation of what it feels like. Depending on the setup and in many cases how the electronic stabilization is programmed, you can vary the feeling quite a bit to the point they will mimic mechanical flybar response fairly accurately. Another way is to say FBL feels more like a simulator heli in some respects – but again it depends on the specific flybarless system you are using and how it is setup/programmed.
Hovering is less dramatic of a "change in feel". If you have the cyclic gains set right – the birds can hold very still and usually don't require the same level of cyclic correction from the pilot to remain perfectly steady as a flybar but do require a little more pronounced cyclic counter corrections as I just mentioned. You still have to actively pilot them however, it is not hands off hovering by any means!
Honestly, (with a larger heli anyways), hovering either flybar or flybarless feels very similar and there is not too much difference in the feel. A good quality & well setup flybar bird with fairly heavy paddles can be every bit as stable as the same heli with a flybarless system. I know I have had some perfectly setup and trimmed out flybared machines over the years that could hold a hands off hover for up to 10 seconds in zero wind conditions which is just as good or even better than any FBL heli I currently own. Anyone who tells you a flybar heli is not as stable in a hover, simply has never experienced flying a top end flybar machine. Again, that applies to larger RC helicotpers (say 500 and up). The smaller the heli, the more FBL systems help stabilize them - no question.
As I was just mentioning – performance is a big one! Without the added drag of a flybar and the paddles, not to mention a certain amount of extra weight in all the flybar head hardware, there is a noticeable increase in power & performance. For electric power, this also equates to slightly longer flight times. Overall flight speed is also up slightly (again due to a cleaner head and less drag off the flybar). Cyclic input is more immediate and less washed out feeling. The birds fly so locked in feeling and they track through the sky with amazing precision - like they are on rails.
The other obvious advantage is the reduction in head hardware and parts count making the head build process faster/easier and crash damage both less costly, and in some cases less damaging. You are basically eliminating not only the flybar and paddles, but also the flybar mixing cage assembly along with the washout base guide pins on the head and usually 4 pushrods.
In stark comparison, a pure Bell rotor head seems almost naked with only the head, the washout, and two single pushrods (for a two bladed rotor head) that go from the swashplate up to the two main blade holders.
This picture on the right is of a conventional mechanical flybar rotor head (Hiller type head) - lots of components when compared to the picture of the flybarless Bell type rotor head at the top of this page.
Flybars also tend to eat up tail booms and canopies in most respectable crashes. Eliminating that long piece of steel with heavy paddles on each end twisting and flopping about like some angry ball & chain while your bird is frantically dancing around doing the "funky chicken" usually means less damage. You may come away with only a bent main shaft, head axle/feathering shaft, and fragmented rotor blades – if you’re lucky.
Tiny micro collective pitch helis like the Blade mCPx, 130X, and Nano, are only possible because of their FBL AS3X electronic stabilization systems. A complicated Bell/Hiller mixed flybar/head and associated components would be so tiny and fragile, it would not be practical to use on a micro not to mention nearly impossible to work on for all but skilled Swiss watch makers. On top of that, micro flybarless systems are what keep such tiny collective pitch helis somewhat predictable & stable reacting more like larger RC helicopters.
What about looks? Yep, that's after all why I decided to get a FBL system in the first place, to make a scale bird look better – unfortunately the performance benefits won out in the end! Even if scale is not your cup of tea, a flybarless head looks good – clean and simple.
The latest feature offered in a few flybarless stabilization systems is "rescue" or "save" mode which will level out the heli or put it back into an upright orientation when activated by the pilot. Moreover, some systems feature a "horizon mode" or "self-leveling mode" that can make a collective pitch heli behave like a stable coaxial.
The BavarianDemon 3SX, MSH Brain/Ikon, and Skookum SK 720 are three such examples where you can program in a maximum amount of roll or pitch angle off the fixed horizon level and the heli will never pitch or roll past those limits. This feature is also very helpful for aerial photography, video applications, and of course FPV.
No, nothing is perfect and a virtual flybar is no exception.
Cost is the biggest one (talking regular size birds here, not micros), but the differences in prices are coming down all the time. I can see the day when both versions (flybar & flybarless) are pretty much on par with each other. One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is almost every electronic FBL system on the market now also incorporates the tail servo gyro in the sensor. This means you don’t need to purchase a separate tail gyro and that money can go towards the flybarless system.
You will however need good high quality, high speed, and high torque digital servos for most FBL systems. Remember, the same heading hold gyro technology that is used in the tail rotor gyro is now being used with your cyclic/collective servos and therefore for it to function correctly, requires fast response times.
If you recall from the flybar page I linked to earlier, one of the other important functions of the flybar is to take some of the load off the swashplate servos. With no flybar, the servos are doing 100% of the workload to move the main rotors blades so they have to be powerful enough. Most intermediate to advanced RC heli pilots will already be using good strong & fairly fast digital servos on our swashplates, but definitely double check the specs on your electronic FBL system to make sure your servos meet the speed and torque requirements, not to mention the higher power loads these servos will be pulling. I for one would not power the on-board electronics on any larger flybarless heli with a BEC. I use dedicated LiPo and LiFe RX packs only!
Setup can and usually is more complicated on a flybarless heli when compared to a flybared one. In the video section below, the first video I show will give you a fairly good primer on what is involved. For a little background on this topic, my very first FBL unit was a HeliCommand Rigid flybarless system. I used it in my Bergen Intrepid turbine helicopter and it was a nightmare to setup correctly for my first introduction to FBL. It literally took me weeks/months of experimenting to get it where I liked how it responded and felt. Thankfully, the setup wizards have improved over the past several years and are getting easier to configure and use. No question however, they still take a fair amount of understanding.
Reliability??? This is my main concern with electronic stabilization and perhaps it shouldn’t be a concern at all, but I have to at least mention it. Mechanical flybars have been around for years and are proven. Sure there are more mechanical moving parts that could loosen, wear, or even come flying off the bird if you are not looking after things, but in general – flybars are bullet proof.
So are electronics, but they can fail or hiccup due to a poor connection, low voltage, loose gyro sensor, etc. Again, not something to dwell on and face it, when was the last time one of your tail gyros failed in mid air? That is the question I ask myself when I’m looking for reassurance as I spool up. I'm sure after flying several years on flybarless, I will come to think of them as bullet proof as mechanical flybars.
UPDATE: In the past 6 years now of flying with FBL, I have yet to have a FBL related crash. I have certainly experienced some funny & weird stabilization characteristics from time to time, most likely due to a poor FBL programming setup on my part, and a firmware download blunder that almost drove one of my 600's tail first into the ground (that was certainly a change of underwear moment); but no all out FBL in flight failures. I guess the reliability fear can now be put to rest (knock on wood).
Lastly (as I just touched on causing my underwear change) there is firmware/software updates. If you really hate performing software updates on stuff, flybarless is likely not for you (at least with the more advanced higher end systems)... It seems updates are as much part of FBL systems these days as is correct setup. The nice thing is with the internet at our fingertips, there are generally many tutorials on the updates, what they do, and suggested settings to at least get you started.
Okay, another very popular question I get asked almost daily that requires a fairly complicated and long answer! The simple answer is – yes, no, maybe... As you see – I don't have a simple answer. It depends on the person, what they are flying, how they are learning, and of course what flybarless system they are using.
Setup as I said can also be more difficult/involved seeing that not only do you have to understand the programming/adjustment of the flybarless system, but on top of that, most require that you are able to at least hover and fly some simple circuits to tune them correctly. If you have someone with FBL experience to help you out or are getting one on one lessons from an instructor who could setup the system & gains properly, then that would certainly be okay and is a great/best option.
To really put this "difficult setup" issue in perspective, think of tail gyro setup. This alone can be very difficult for a newbie to grasp and get their head around. Flybarless essentially adds two more gyros to the mix and anywhere from a few to well over a few dozen other parameters to set correctly - much of it all abstract. Mechanical setup (at least level swashplate recording) has to be nearly perfect as well. In short, it's less forgiving to less than perfect setup than a flybar in most cases.
Some FBL systems also do very funny things when training gear is attached or while performing ground handling exercises. Just like a heading lock tail gyro that can get confused while on the ground from either vibration or command input induced feedback, the two cyclic gyros can also get confused from training gear oscillations or get stuck in a feedback loop while the heli can't move freely as it does once airborne. When this happens the swashplate can be tilted far over even though your cyclic stick is centered. As you can imagine, this can cause some excitement during take off or even after a landing during the spool down.
I only say some, not all and this has become less & less of a problem with todays newer FBL units and/or updated firmware version. If you have watched the nose-in hovering video lesson I have on day 10 of the flight school, you will notice I'm flying a flybarless Trex 600ESP with the Align 3G system and with training gear on. It worked perfectly fine and reacted almost the same as the flybar version while performing ground handling exercises. Most systems will give warnings if training gear should not be used, so take that into account if you have your heart set on learning on a flybarless machine - make sure you know the flybarless system will function okay with training gear in place.
Lastly, some (not all) virtual flybar systems offer increased performance and crisper more reactive cyclic control. For a beginner, this is generally not what you want or need. There is a reason soft head dampening and lower head speeds are recommended for beginners – so they don’t over control the cyclic. Most flybarless heads are set-up with stiff dampening and require faster head speeds to work correctly; not all, and it depends on the system as most now can be tamed down to be less reactive and very beginner friendly.
I've also been seeing a lot of misinformation lately that states things like a flybarless heli with electronic stabilization is easier for a beginner to learn on and in most cases that is just not true. FBL feels different, but it's certainly not easier in most cases not to mention some training gear compatibility issues. So watch out for all the "easy to learn on" flybarless hype right now - there's a lot of it!
There are of course exceptions to this with units such as the MSH Brain/Ikon, Bavarian Demon V.2, and Skookum SK 720 that have beginner stabilization features); or full on GPS autopilot FBL systems such as DJI's Naza-H. The only way a flybarless stabilization system is truly easier to fly for a beginner over a conventional mechanical flybar is when they have the aforementioned "easy beginner mode" or hands off "autopilot" features.
The learning curve for a beginner getting into collective pitch is already steep, some flybarless systems can push that curve to near vertical! Just keep all that in mind when deciding between flybar vs FBL or even a certain FBL system. It doesn't mean it can't be done and we are all different in our abilities; but I know if I had to self learn all this flybarless stuff when I was first starting out in the hobby on top of everything else, I likely would have never got off the ground - but that's just me - monkey brain ;) I also can't begin to guess at how many specific flybarless configuration email questions I get every month.
My Swashplate Setup, Levelling, & FBL Configuration eBook goes over much of FBL setup & tuning, so if you can't get any help locally, you may be interested in it. If not only to help you out with the setup & tuning, show you what's involved so you have a good idea if FBL is for you.
In the end, it's the individual who is best suited to decide if they want to start on a flybar or FBL. As I said, most people I talk to find the flybar easier at first from an understanding and workability standpoint; but find flybarless superior after they have learned the basics. You may or may not fall into that category.
As with gyros , I honestly can’t tell you what is best since that depends on your needs, budget, and what ends up "feeling" the best to you while flying. Other particular features you might like or dislike such as ease of programming at the expense of customization, or on the flip side, lots of customizable options making for a more difficult programming configuration. Connectivity for configuration/programming is also another feature into consideration. If you can't easily access your FBL unit once it's in the helicopter - you better stay away from units that require direct physical access and choose one that has USB or wireless connectivity.
In other words, I don't for a second believe there is one FBL unit that stands head & shoulders above the rest - it's totally personal choice. Hopefully however, my humble little recommendations here will at least give you an idea of what's out there, what to look for, and some general costs & features.
For those on a Flybarless budget yet still want a fairly decent performing FBL system, I have to make mention of Tarot's ZYX S2 unit. I have a couple myself in two Align clones and have helped a couple friends set theirs up and really can't get over how well they perform at such a low price. They all suffer a little from temperature drifting, have fairly poor vibration immunity, and are not the easiest FBL units to configure; but they do come with a fairly good setup wizard and are parameter rich in configuration options. Would I trust one in an expensive bird, not a chance! I'll stick with Bavarian Demon; but for smaller/low cost electric powered helis, if you want to save a few "flybarless bucks" - the Tarot ZYX-S2 is one to check out.
The 3GX MR and MRS is Align's answer to a beginner friendly, plug and play flybarless unit. The cost is low but the performance and ease of use are high.
The 3GX MR is a combination 3 axis gyro stabilization system with a built in Futaba S-FHSS receiver. The slightly more expensive 3GX MRS version is essentially the same unit, but has the addition of a satellite receiver port to plug a Spektrum or JR DSM2/X satellite RX into for all you Spektrum/JR DSM2/X users; making it both DSM2/X & S-FHSS compatible. My guess is the MR version will be phased out and totally replaced by the newer MRS.
These systems are specifically for the beginner new to both collective pitch and flybarless; flying a Trex 250 up to nothing larger than a 500. The system is limited in what parameters can be adjusted (again it's for the brand newbie into flybarless collective pitch) to make for a nearly goof proof install and configuration. It also has no firmware update capability or placement options (no directional gyro changes in other words). Again, this is a budget minded, super easy to use, beginner friendly FBL system. I talk more about the 3GX MR/S in my Trex 450 Plus DFC Review .
Requires physical access to adjust settings.
Align's 3GX flybarless system is more complicated, but much more adaptable than the basic beginner friendly MR and MRS version - it's geared toward the experienced collective pitch and flybarless pilot. I've been flying a Trex 600E Pro and 800E Trekker with the 3GX and it's superb - especially after upgrading to firmware 3.1 & 5.0. Fully customizable feel, support of all swash mixing types, good piro compensation, flybar simulation, integrated governor, and full integration of both Spektrum/JR DSM2/X satellite receivers & Futaba S-Bus support. The 3GX also has a GPS based auto pilot system (APS) that is used in combination with the 3GX for pin point hands off hovering, way point set flights, and even a return to home and land feature if your radio system fails or you go out of range.
The 3GX has been getting bad press & reviews pretty much since it first came out. Some issues were real, others were very much due to improper setup & understanding along with inadequate supply power. All I know, is they have been working very well for me on the latest firmware versions and due to the bad press - the prices are nice and low now being able to pick them up for under $150 and less!
has released their new GPRO FBL unit to replace the 3GX so it will be interesting
to see how it performs in the coming years. Already it has got many great reviews & feedback and promises to be an improvement over the 3GX.
One long awaited feature is full Android & iOS App support for Bluetooth connectivity to a smart phone or tablet as well as the customary USB plug connectivity & Windows PC wizard. Wireless connective is such a nice feature if the unit is hard to access within the model.
Being a Canadian boy and living in BC, I have to mention the folks at Skookum Robotics located in Vancouver. I love it when a small Canadian company can go head to head with some of the big players and comes out with one of the best FBL units on the market that gets great reviews and is priced competitively.
The SK-720 Black Edition is a feature rich flybarless unit encased in a strong anodized CNC case and has a super fast 32-bit processor (one of the fastest currently on the market). A few of these features include flight log recording, vibration analysis, and with the self-level feature turned on (using 3 axis accelerometers as well as the gyros), you'll get an easy coaxial flight experience if you choose to dial it up, or turn it off completely for hard 3D aerobatics. A great system in other words for collective pitch newbies, sport fliers, scalers, and aerobatic junkies alike. Add on the GPS accessory and you'll get position and altitude hold, a rescue system, and return to home functionality. Thinking of turning your CP heli into a FPV machine? This is the FBL unit for you! A true "do it all" system no matter what or how you fly.
The SK-520 is the less expensive "no frills" little brother to the SK-720. No self-level and no GPS add on, yet gives the same rock solid performance of the SK720 with the dual 3 axis MEMS gyros and fast 32 bit processor.
Futaba's CGY750 is modeled after the highly successful GY701 heading lock gyro, but of course with two more gyros to detect pitch and roll.
The CGY750 uses the same large, easy-to-read display as the GY701
tail gyro and is just as easy to setup using the display as the visual
interface to see exactly what you're doing and what values you're
setting. This along the basic and expert menus helps for hassle free
Ikon (MSH Brain) out of Italy is one of the most sought after flybarless stabilization units on the market right now being both Spektrum DSM2/X remote receiver compatible as well as Futaba S-Bus compatible.
As mentioned earlier, is has a neat "right-side-up" rescue feature if you get into trouble while inverted and become disoriented, the unit will bring you back into an upright and level orientation when told to do so.
The Ikon has great vibration immunity so it can be used in gas and nitro environments without issue. Standard USB connectivity with optional CIRUS Bluetooth module. The Ikon has one of the best and easiest setup wizards on the market in my opinion.Click Here For Ikon FBL Deals On eBay
What can I say - I love this FBL system! I currently use the 3X in my Trex 700E BlackShark, Bergen Intrepid turbine, and Roban 700 Super Scale AS350. They are hands down the best FBL systems I have flown to date! BavarianDemon currently has three different types of stabilization systems. The Rigid V.2 uses a built in sensor camera for optical stabilization (if you wish to use it) as well as conventional 3 axis gyro stabilization. The Cortex is their fixed wing specific 3 axis stabilization system.
Here's my Intrepid on a very windy day with the Bavarian Demon 3X taking out all the "bumps".
Their most popular X-series (3X & 3SX) is a pure
hi-end flybarless system with no optical stabilization and has been
specifically developed for scale right up to very aggressive 3D type
flying supporting all swash types and multi bladed heads for the scale
crowd. They are also the only high performance FBL unit (at least when I
was trying to get a firm yes/no answer from several manufacturers) that
definitely confirmed their latest 3X & 3SX systems are 100% turbine
friendly and can handle the ultrasonic sound frequencies that mess most other FBL gyros up.
The 3X & 3SX range in price from about $250.00 USD up to $500.00 USD for the SX. The units are encased in a strong aluminum shell (it's stunningly beautiful by the way), use the latest generation MEMS gyro technology, plus every bit (more so in fact) as customizable as the original Rigid but easier to configure with a very good full on setup wizard that has lots of helpful tips for each programming field. With full firmware updatability online download support, the X series are indeed an impressive & exclusive FBL choice.
The other nice feature is the USB connectivity input on the Demons are a stardard 3 pin servo plug so you can simply use a servo extension wire harness if your unit is hard to gain access to once installed in the helicopter.
One of the neatest new features the SX version supports that I already mentioned is something called "Rescue Mode" or "Captain Rescue". Basically no matter what position your bird is in, when you hit whatever toggle on your radio that you assigned to engage "Captain Rescue", the heli will come back into a level & horizontal attitude and gain altitude. For those of us practicing aerobatics and getting comfortable with all the orientation reversals that occur when inverted or just simply getting disoriented, this feature alone has me wanting one and may be the final solution to end my simulator boredom!
As previously mentioned, the 3SX also has a Horizontal Mode that when turned on, prevents the helicopter from pitching or rolling past a certain angle behaving similar to a micro coaxial making it perfect for beginners or aerial photography/video applications.
The Mikado VBar and mini Vbar flybarless systems out of Germany are also very popular and very performance minded. Quite a few pilots feel they (the full size Vbar) is the best feeling and performing flybarless system out there.
There is no doubt the VBar will continue to be a popular choice because, just as with most of these systems, the software keeps getting tweaked and allows so much setup flexibility. Once again, the 3 big name radio manufacturers are fully supported with the Mikado V-Bar systems acting as your RX being both Futaba S-Bus friendly as well as Spektrum & JR DSM2/X satellite receiver friendly.
The MicroBeast by BeastX (again out of Germany) is another FBL system many pilots are very happy with.
Fully Spektrum/JR DSM2/X remote RX and Futaba S-Bus compatible in a single contained unit - again showing the direction this technology is heading.
I personally feel it is one of the best stabilization units for people's first introduction into virtual flybars due to its out of the bag plug and play simplicity along with easy to understand setup instructions & menus. The MicroBeast works equally well on tiny electric 250's all the way up to large 90 size nitros.
Spektrum have also teamed up with BeastX (or maybe it was the other way around) and are offering their AR7200BX & AR7300BX (replaces the 7200) 7 channel receiver which is essentially a 7 channel DSMX Spektrum receiver with the MicroBeast flybarless system built in with provision for one addition satellite Spektrum RX.
For about $130.00USD (for the 7300BX), this is a great value option if you fly with a Spektrum or JR DSM/X radio and want to get a combination RX and Flybarless stabilization unit to save a little money over getting two separate components not to mention make for a cleaner and simplified install.
The AR7300BX has an integrated power bus eliminating the need for a dedicated BEC in these HV applications.
The one issue with these BeastX/AR7200/7300 FBL units however is you need to be able to physically access the units to configure them or adjust them. In some installs where the unit is buried in the frames or in a fuselage, this is a real pain.Click Here For Spektrum AR7300BX Deals On eBay
DJI's Naza-H is perhaps one of the best FLB systems if you want a full on autopilot with optional GPS without breaking the bank.
It incorporates a very sophisticated inertial measurement unit, a magnetic field meter and a barometric altimeter with the most robust algorithms in robot control theory. With the advanced GPS/INS sensor fusion algorithm technology and the highly robust H-infinity control as the foundation, it makes the whole system more accurate even in high vibration and high mobility environments.
What does all that mean? It basically gives you a collective pitch helicopter that is as easy to fly as a quad/multi rotor that has GPS. Like the mutli rotor Naza M, the H version has 4 flight modes - GPS, Atti, Failsafe, and manual/normal. GPS offers hands off hovering, Atti is like horizontal mode on other FBL systems that won't allow the helicopter to pitch or roll past a certain attitude, and manual/normal allows full on aerobatics where the unit functions just like a conventional FBL system.
As I said on my FPV Aircraft page, if I was going to fly a collective pitch RC helicopter by FPV, this is the flybarless autopilot system I would choose seeing it's roughly half the cost and just as good if not better than most other autopilot/FBL units with GPS. Please note however, unlike its multi-rotor brother (the Naza M), it does not support return to home or auto land.
The setup wizard is also very poor in my opinion with little in the way of helpful tips. Naza really needs to improve this as there are just too many arbitrary values that make little sense not to mention conflicting menus that seem to duplicate configuration steps yet omit some obvious ones if you don't take the time to dig deep into the advanced settings menus. Very frustrating!
As you can see, the continuing trend and holy grail of flybarless stabilization right now is to create systems that respond with the predictability and consistency of a flybar, yet give that "tracking on rails" flight experience. Ease of setup for complete beginners is another big direction push with all these systems (most now coming with very good setup wizards) and their subsequent firmware and model updates. The other obvious direction FBL stabilization is headed is towards stand alone units that act as both the FBL stabilization system and the receiver (either with an internal receiver or the ability to plug in a small satellite receiver/s) as well to make the install easier and more attractive. Additional bells & whistles such as rescue modes, self-leveling, mobile device connectivity, and autopilot GPS add on's will undoubtedly continue to grow in popularity.
To conclude, I will leave you with 4 flybarless videos.
First up is a detailed walk through of the Skookum 720 Setup Wizard. I specifically chose this video series because they will give you a really good understanding of just what is involved in basic flybarless system configuration programming. I felt the Skookum 720 wizard was a good example because it's not the easiest, nor is it the hardest. Every system of course has a unique wizard, parameters to set, and ways to set them; but again, the SK-720 video here is a decent all round primer. In other words, it should give you a solid understanding of what is involved in most of these systems to get them configured correctly allowing you to judge if you are ready to tackle FBL configuration on your own, get help from an experienced FBL flier, or maybe stick with the good old flybar for now.
Next we have Alan Szabo Jr. putting both the Trex 700E DFC Speed and the Align GPro through the paces. Impressive piro-compensation!
Here's the BavarianDemon/HeliCommand 3SX showing the "rescue mode" in operation...
Last up is DJI's Naza-H in GPS hold - hands off rock solid hover...