Originally Posted by Hajile
Does it have to be that much? We already have flight control boards that can do all that for under a hundred dollars. Couldn't you just put one of those on a helicopter?
Its like anything else and the price will come down with time. Just think of how cheap FBL systems are today compared to just a few years ago when the technology was new. The initial cost of development means any new product or feature will demand a high price for a while.
You must also consider the differences in features and what we are expecting from them. The low cost systems you are talking about have been used on quads for a while now. Quads are stable and always upright. Most are using these GPS features for filming platforms where all the pilot does is fly slowly to a particular location and lock it there.
Heli pilots on the other hand, are looking to use this technology as a training or bail out aid when things go wrong. The SK720 GPS for example, has a hard deck feature that will rescue the heli if it gets too close to the ground or even fly it back home if you lose oreintation. This means the GPS must be able to work in any position and keep its lock and keep track of altitude while being thrashed around. The cheaper alternatives you are speaking of cannot do this and aren't designed to work as a bail out. The Naza H for example is designed as a FBL controller with GPS for about $450, but in order to switch into GPS mode you just come to a complete stop, center the sticks and then switch into GPS. This is useless as a bail out feature, but great for an APS setup, so it really depends on what you are needing the technology to do for you.
On top of this, keep in mind that the unit must also be able to work in a wide variety of geographic locations. Magnetic deviation is different all around the world, so these devices must be able to behave properly in all sorts of different temp and geographic conditions. Its a very complicated endeavor, especially using these tools on a heli flying very fast 3D moves. Currently only the Skookum is designed for this and its about $450 for the FBL controller and another $495 for the GPS. There are cheaper alternatives like the Naza, but they are designed for very different things.
Its easy to think that GPS funtionality is all the same form one system to the next, but its much more complicated than that when you start to think about what we are asking the unit to do for us. Given time the technology will get cheaper and the Chinese ripoff clones will start to appear.