The motor technology used in multicopters is so advanced that it needs a very intelligent electronics to command itself. The speed controller sits between the main intelligence, the flight controller (more on this in a moment) and the motor. Speed controller's task is to interpret the incoming control commands from the flight controller and determine how it should feed the motor based on that input.
The speed controller is chosen by the motor and each motor needs its own. If the motor’s indicated input current is max. 18 amps, this motor works well with a 20A speed controller or any speed controller that can handle more. In the picture there is an example of 30 amp speed controller or ESC (Electronic Speed Controller). It is designed for brushless motor technology. This particular ESC expect the input voltage to be between 5.5 - 11.4 volts, which means it is suitable for a maximum of 3S batteries (more on this in a moment).
You should also notice the following marking: BEC 5V/2A. This means that the speed controller also includes a BEC (Battery Eliminator Circuit), whose task is to act as power source for eg. flight controller or any other device that needs 5 volts. Thus, in addition to main flight battery you do not have to have additional batteries for other devices using different voltages. So the ESC in the picture gives volts and in maximum 2 amps to other electric appliances when they are connected to the speed controller via the three wired servo cables.
When selecting the speed controller you should also find out what kind of programming device it requires. The speed controllers are a bit too smart for their own good and they contain all kinds of protective features that are great when you use them with eg. boat or a RC car. When flying with one, you must remove a some of these of security features that can actually damage your copter.
Each ESC type has its own programming unit and in the picture there is one of these. The essential things you need to adjust is to remove the brake and the auto shutdown based on the battery voltage. At the same time you adjust the right battery type and select the preferred timing advance etc. In the following articles we will probably deal with a topic, where the standard software for ESC is replaced with an optimized version and then this kind of programming card becomes unnecessary. However, these don’t cost more than a couple of euros, so for now, be sure to pick the one that your selected speed controllers need.
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