ExpressLRS vs TBS Crossfire: The Best Radio Control Link for FPV Drones

by Oscar
Radiomaster Expresslrs Tx Modules Ranger Compare Betafpv 1w Micro

As FPV drone pilots, choosing the right radio control link is essential for a smooth and enjoyable flight experience. Two most popular options in the market are TBS Crossfire and ExpressLRS. Gaining popularity as an open-source project, ExpressLRS offers long range, low latency, and cost-effective features, quickly capturing market share. In this article, we’ll explore the features, advantages, and disadvantages of both systems, helping you determine which one is the better choice for your needs.

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For a step-by-step guide on setting up ExpressLRS, check out our tutorial: https://oscarliang.com/setup-expresslrs-2-4ghz/

TBS Crossfire Pros and Cons

TBS Crossfire is a well-established, highly regarded radio control system in the FPV community. With its robust performance, it has become a go-to choice for many long-range pilots.

Advantages:

  1. Proven performance: Crossfire has been around for years and has proven itself to be reliable and efficient in long-range flights.
  2. Wide compatibility: Crossfire is compatible with many popular radio transmitters, including FrSky, Radiomaster, and Jumper.
  3. Ease of use: The setup process is straightforward, and the integration with Betaflight and other flight controller software is seamless.
  4. Telemetry: Crossfire offers extensive telemetry features, providing pilots with real-time information about their drone’s status and radio link health.
  5. Comprehensive ecosystem: TBS boasts a wide range of products, such as analog VTX and receiver modules, which work well together, offering users a seamless experience.

Disadvantages:

  1. Cost: Crossfire is more expensive than ExpressLRS, both in terms of transmitters and receivers.
  2. Higher latency: While Crossfire has a maximum update rate of 150Hz, ExpressLRS can go up to 1000Hz.

ExpressLRS Pros and Cons

ExpressLRS, a relatively new open-source radio control system, has gained considerable traction due to its impressive features and affordability.

Advantages:

  1. Feature-rich: ExpressLRS is a modern RC system offering most, if not all, features FPV pilots need.
  2. Lower cost: ExpressLRS is more affordable than Crossfire, making it an attractive option for budget-conscious pilots.
  3. Higher update rate: With a maximum update rate of 1000 Hz for the 2.4 GHz version (transmitter sends messages to the receiver 1000 times per second), and 200 Hz for the 900 MHz version, ExpressLRS offers lower latency than Crossfire’s 150 Hz while providing comparable range.
  4. Long range: ExpressLRS outperforms other 2.4 GHz radio systems in terms of range, thanks to its use of SX127x hardware combined with ESP8285, ESP32, and STM32 MCU for RX and TX, and LoRa modulation in all packet rates, which is also used in ImmersionRC Ghost and TBS Crossfire, outperforming systems thatt aren’t using LoRa such as TBS Tracer. Note that Crossfire only uses LoRa in 50 Hz mode, switching to FSK at 150 Hz, which doesn’t provide the same range performance.
  5. Community-driven development: As an open-source project, ExpressLRS benefits from a large, active community of developers and users who continuously improve and expand the system.
  6. Firmware updates: ExpressLRS’s firmware is consistently updated with new features and optimizations.
  7. Abundance of hardware options: The open-source nature of the project attracts manufacturers to develop and produce compatible hardware, offering more options and availability of receiver and transmitter modules.

Disadvantages:

  1. Less streamlined user experience: ExpressLRS is somewhat more technically complex than other RC systems, making setup and firmware updates more challenging for some pilots. However, guides are available to assist with the process.
  2. Lack of encryption: ELRS communication isn’t secured and isn’t jam resistant. Data over the air isn’t encrypted, and there are no special security measures. While not a problem for hobby flying, a dedicated attacker could potentially gain control over your aircraft or disrupt communication. Note that most other hobby protocols like FrSky, Flysky and Spektrum also lack security, Crossfire is the only hobby RC link that has data encryption.
  3. Limited channels: ELRS supports up to 12 channels due to limited bandwidth. While sufficient for most users, pilots requiring more channels may need to consider alternative systems.

2.4GHz vs 900MHz

ExpressLRS offers two frequency options: 900MHz (915/868) and 2.4GHz. Understanding the differences between them is crucial when choosing the right system for your needs.

Tests reveal that ELRS in 2.4GHz can achieve over 30km range with only 100mW, so ELRS in 900MHz’s advantage in range isn’t significant unless you’re pushing beyond 30km, which most people won’t be. Moreover, your 5.8GHz video link will likely run out before your radio link. Nonetheless, the lower frequency 900MHz offers better signal penetration, because of physics.

Other key differences include:

  1. Update rate: ELRS in 900MHz has a maximum update rate of 200Hz, while the 2.4GHz can reach up to 1000Hz. The lower latency makes your quad feel more responsive.
  2. Bandwidth: The 2.4GHz system offers wider bandwidth, allowing more pilots in the air simultaneously.
  3. Antenna size: 2.4GHz antennas are smaller (2.5 times), with some 2.4GHz receivers even featuring tiny SMD ceramic antennas, perfect for micros and tiny whoops.
  4. Frequency compatibility: With 2.4GHz, you don’t need to worry about regional frequency restrictions. For 900MHz, you must choose between 868MHz or 915MHz based on your location and use antennas optimized for that frequency. This can be complicated for pilots who frequently travel and fly in different countries.

Bottom line: Choose 2.4GHz if you want the full ExpressLRS experience, it’s perfect for racing, freestyle, or just cruising around in your local park. It provides lower latency, smaller antennas, and ultra long range (tens of miles). Opt for 900MHz if long-range flight or signal penetration is a priority, but be prepared for larger antennas and frequency restrictions.

Telemetry Support

Telemetry in ExpressLRS is continuously being enhanced, currently supporting at least 14 types of data, including VBAT, current, downlink/uplink LQ, and RSSI.

Range Testing

ExpressLRS offers both 2.4GHz and 900MHz options, with some tests conducted on different frequencies. These promising test results showcase ExpressLRS’s potential:

Max Dist. Freq Pkt Rate TX Power Link to DVR
30Km 900M 50HZ 1W https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbWvFIpVkto
10Km 2.4G 250HZ 100mW https://youtu.be/dJYfWLtXVg8
6Km 900M 100HZ 50mW https://youtu.be/kN89mINbmQc?t=58
4.77Km 900M 200HZ 250mW https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0lY0XwB6Ko
2.28Km 900M 50HZ 10mW https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qi4OygUAZxA&t=75s

These tests demonstrate the impressive range capabilities of ExpressLRS across different frequencies, packet rates, and transmission power levels.

Conclusion

Choosing between TBS Crossfire and ExpressLRS ultimately comes down to your preferences and needs. If you value a tried-and-tested system with a straightforward setup process and are willing to pay more, TBS Crossfire is an excellent choice. On the other hand, if you’re looking for an affordable, high-performance, low-latency option with a strong community backing, ExpressLRS is a fantastic alternative. Regardless of your choice, both systems offer impressive performance and will serve you well in the world of FPV drone flying.

Looking for the best ExpressLRS gear? Check here: https://oscarliang.com/setup-expresslrs-2-4ghz/#ExpressLRS-24GHz-Hardware-Selection

Edit History

  • Feb 2021 – Article created
  • Apr 2021 – 2.4GHz version by Happymodel announced, added info regarding its TX and RX options
  • Jun 2021 – Added setup tutorial link, and info about how 2.4GHz compares to 900MHz
  • Apr 2023 – Article revised

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54 comments

ReviewD 24th December 2023 - 9:17 pm

Any thoughts on R9M (2019) vs 900mhz ELRS?

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Denis 1st June 2023 - 10:59 am

It’s a pity the videos are not accessible.

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jswjimmy 10th May 2023 - 7:59 am

It seems like on Apr 2023 (I didn’t see this before today so I’m just piecing it together here) you changed the picture to show 2 separate ELRS module instead of what I’m assuming was an ELRS and Crossfire module originally (again this is the first time I have read this)…

Does this imply that Crossfire is not even a valid choice anymore? Have your views changed this much since originally posting? If so I would update the text reflecting that and not just the picture.

I can say without hesitation that my entire fleet is on ELRS now minus one quad on frsky that refuses to die and I refuse to upgrade because its not that great. That drone and I are in a standoff and I will win.

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Oscar 10th May 2023 - 10:47 am

Yes, I recently edited this post to reflect my latest thoughts. As of the time of publishing this comment, I prefer ExpressLRS.

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Tanaga 15th March 2022 - 1:24 am

Hi. I am a newbie in ELRS or TBS. I just want to ask whether the bigger fresh rate is better or not if it relates to the range? For example if I put TX power on 100mW, is it refresh rate 250hz has better range than 150hz?

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James Mahoney 1st October 2021 - 10:26 am

Can these Tx/RX modules be used to convert JR PCM the Century version Txs to 2,4/915 frequencies?

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Modic2000 21st September 2021 - 9:49 am

Hi
I am new to the fpv hobby and I have a simple question if anyone can tell me.
Does expresslrs work well with digital VTX (DJI, caddx or sharkbyte)?
I cannot find any video or tutorial in google, facebook or youtube.
Even reading the github of expresslrs, I cannot find anything about the combination of expresslrs and digital VTX!?
Or did I miss anything fact (or limitation) that everybody knows???

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Oscar 21st September 2021 - 11:11 pm

Yes it does.

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Ricky.KS 16th September 2021 - 8:00 pm

Will this HappyModel 915mHz module work with this BetaFPV ExpressLRS Nano 915MHz receiver? https://www.getfpv.com/betafpv-expresslrs-nano-915mhz-receiver.html

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Leandro Serra Acosta 24th May 2022 - 4:50 pm

Hi! Did you find the answer for this question?

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christopher karcher 3rd September 2021 - 8:49 am

Hi Oscar,
very interesting about the lower resolution of channels +5. Do you know what the resolution of upper channels are on Crossfire?

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Yoni 26th August 2021 - 4:56 pm

Hi Oscar thanks for the info, do you think It Will work on a T8SG plus carbon V2?
And have you got some info about how to upgrades firmwares with this RC, i am a bit new on this respect of opentx. Thanks in advance.

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Kevin Smith 21st August 2021 - 8:06 pm

Is there any movement on the TX being incorporated into a future upgrade to the internal MPM of Radioking/Radiomaster/Jumper/eachine?

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Andrew 8th August 2021 - 9:15 am

Hi Osca,

Love your work! I’ve looked about and have not found an answer to the following question. I figured you would be the best person to ask as the Github list is not getting a response to this one, which has been asked by lots of others.

Can an Express LRS receiver, say a happy model EP1 or 2, be used to drive servos without a FC? Either by way of a header or a signal converter of some sort?

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Oscar 9th August 2021 - 11:12 am

Unfortunately no, EP1/2 doesn’t output PWM signal. You will need some sort of converter which isn’t currently available to be bought off the shelves. However I think iNav has servo outputs, so you might be able to use an FC to output PWM signal to control servos.

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Robert Stanford 4th November 2021 - 12:31 pm

Matek is producing 2 ELRS 2.4Ghz RX’s with two PWM for modules planes:

One with diversity and standard antenna and the other with a ‘ceramic’ antenna
http://www.mateksys.com/?portfolio=elrs-r24

One converter has 10 channels and the other has 6
http://www.mateksys.com/?portfolio=crsf-pwm

I have the diversity RX and 6 channel converter but have not set them up yet.

I have a question: As they are using CRSF as the protocol will the Matek PWM converters work with non Matek hardware e.g. Happymodel RX’s. If this is the case will the TBS PWM converter also work? This has the advantage of being smaller than the Matek.

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stephen 4th January 2022 - 7:18 am

I just solder the Betafpv nano Rx to matek current/ voltage sensor, CSRF to 10Ch PWM board. Works like charm. I use betafpv nano Tx module. Only after I update to Tx/Rx to elrs 2.0 can opentx read all telemetry data.

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JeffD 26th July 2021 - 12:04 am

Hi Oscar,
Is the R9 Slim (the one from 2018, not R9 Slim+) compatible with ExpressLRS ? I saw that the Slim+ seems to be supported but I didn’t found ant confirmation that the Slim from 2018 is supported… any thought ?

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Oscar 26th July 2021 - 9:04 pm

You might have to check with the Devs over at their Facebook group or Discord. I have no idea when it comes to R9 stuff, stopped using them a few years back.

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Kevin Wright 23rd July 2021 - 2:03 pm

Can you use expresslrs on fixed wing via a flight controller??

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Oscar 23rd July 2021 - 10:32 pm

Yes. It’s basically like setting up Crossfire.

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Rich 9th July 2021 - 4:43 am

Do I still have to do the crossfire mod on the QX?

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Dr Duck 29th July 2021 - 11:26 am

You don’t have to do the mod (on the QX7) but if you don’t then you will be limited to 115,200 baud. Doing the mod allows 400k. This translates to 62.5Hz updates rather than the full 200Hz (on 900MHz).

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Jim Wallo 17th June 2021 - 1:34 pm

Hello Oscar…would you recommend ExpressLRS or Ghost? Which do you think is better? I just switched everything from CROSSFIRE to GHOST because have problems around CELL TOWERS with crossfire. This is JIM with that invention…I sent you pictures and assume you don’t want one for free? Thanks and have a great day. Stay safe.

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Oscar 17th June 2021 - 2:22 pm

For me it’d have to be ExpressLRS for now – I think it has more potential, evolving faster, larger user base (easier to get support), and it’s way cheaper.
Oh about that, I thought I replied, guess I remembered wrong :) Sorry! Yea I think I still prefer to just remove the props when testing on the bench, your invention might be able to stop the motor spinning if thing goes wrong, but it will probably also burn the motor and ESC.

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Josh 10th June 2021 - 8:22 pm

Hey Oscar,

I am having a problem installing a fan on my ES915TX, I have the red wire for the fan to the “FAN” pin and GND to GND right next to “FAN”. It doesn’t seem to work at any power output. Any guesses why? And do you experience a faint buzz at higher power outputs?

Thank you!

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Oscar 11th June 2021 - 6:29 pm

Sorry, I don’t have the ES915TX, only the 2.4G version.

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Anirudh 18th June 2021 - 10:13 am

ELRS has 23 telemetry values and also supports 8 positions in switches.

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Roy Lamontagne 3rd July 2021 - 2:21 pm

Hey, I have Expresslrs 915mhz. If you want to attach a fan solder a header to the 4 pin for the UART header on the side of the board and then use the top as +3.3v and the bottom as gnd. Use female ends on the pins so that if you ever have to firmware upgrade over the UART then you won’t have to unsolder. The fan contact on the board appears to be a gnd that isn’t solid connected to the gnd on the uart. It may be a switched gnd intended for a fan that is controlled in some way by the module, but I just used the uart gnd so that it is always on and never tested it. I received 915tx v 1.0 and 3@900rx (which are the new version of the discontinued 915rx). The 900rx are smaller and the contacts are not labeled. With antenna side up and the board turned with the contacts on the right hand side the pads are gnd, vcc, channel 1(tx), and channel 2 (rx) top to bottom. Much like the crossfire nano pads. The binding procedure is a bit different than the 2 led 915rx. Apply power very quickly three times to the rx and then leave it on the third time. It will start to do a double blink. This is bind mode. Then having your LUA script installed, your open tx updated to support the crossfire protocol needed, and on the model you want with the correct number you want assigned to the reciever, and everything set to crossfire protocol in your receiver hit the bind once. It may not appear to do anything at all at first but don’t hit it again and wait a second it will go solid red (900rx only has a red led). It is bound and you will hear your radio tell you it has telemetry. Subsequently, powering your the receiver on or off will have your radio blabbing about telemetry going being acquired or lost. It is bound. If you wait and the rx goes into fast blinky then it is in wireless update mode. Start again.

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Andreas 9th June 2021 - 5:03 pm

Hi, do you no if I can use the smart port on my r9m to telemetry data over the hc-05 bt module, like it work on Frsky firmware? or didn’t elrs use this port? is it still inverted?

Many thanks andreas

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Oscar 9th June 2021 - 5:42 pm

Yes, Frsky receivers’ inverted signals are due to the hardware inverter at the output (NOT software), so you will still need to get the “uninverted” signal from them.

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Denis 3rd June 2021 - 3:26 pm

what are the chances of this being added to the TBS Multi Protocol Module?

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Kraig 14th May 2021 - 6:44 am

Can the ELRS be used on a Spektrum dx9 like crossfire?

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Oscar 14th May 2021 - 11:27 am

Only these opentx compatible radios are supported as you have to flash this firmware for optimal performance: https://github.com/ExpressLRS/ExpressLRS/tree/250-500-race-modes/OpenTX

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Uwe 2nd May 2021 - 3:07 pm

Can the ERLS receiver be connected to FC like Matek wing with SBUS? I am new on this technical things and dont understand it at all. How many canals have this receiver? I never have seen any data about it.
Thanks already for an answer
Uwe

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Oscar 2nd May 2021 - 5:13 pm

the ERLS receivers connect to FC via an UART (TX/RX), in addition to the 5V and GND, total 4 wires.
I am getting these in and I will do a tutorial on it.

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Jeffery Sievers 27th April 2021 - 1:07 am

Another question, I have updated the firmware that just came out, the new 1.0 rc1, I still don’t have gps telemetry. I was under the impression that the new firmware had almost full telemetry?

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Chris 20th October 2021 - 9:32 pm

Do you have a GPS module connected to your fc?

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Jeffery Sievers 27th April 2021 - 1:04 am

I noticed the update about being able to reflash R9 back on to the receivers, How exactly do I do that?

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MClay 26th April 2021 - 6:28 pm

Hi Oscar. Great article. I’m new to SBUS and ELRS. Do you know if the ELRS receiver connects to a dedicated SBUS pad on the fight controller to does it connect to a regular UART? I guess I’m asking if the receiver output is inverted or not? Thanks!

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Oscar 26th April 2021 - 11:05 pm

Only Frsky’s SBUS/Smartport is inverted, so no, ELRS receivers won’t be inverted.

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kaji331 25th April 2021 - 2:44 am

Do you know any radio controller company will produce an radio controller within native elrs? 2.4 or 900? I wish a radio controller like tango2 but not TBS, it’s elrs! I don’t like JR module.

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Fabio 23rd April 2021 - 11:12 pm

hi Oscar
Even thought i already got a TBS Crossfire, i stili have a R9M Lite pro, and actually i never used it.
I got curios about the express LRS project. Specs sound really intresting.
Some time ago i saw that software for R9m lite pro was “in development”, but now it seems to have disappeared. Do you know anything about it?

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Oscar 24th April 2021 - 11:43 pm

Sorry I am not actually following the development very closely, it’s best to join ELRS’s facebook group and ask the devs there: /groups/636441730280366/

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deeph 21st April 2021 - 1:47 pm

Hi, I owned frsky x10s with internal Access module mod from FrSky and using OpenTx 2.3.11 directly from companiontx. I saw in ELRS LUA that the Pkt. Rate didn’t match with LUA indicator (above right side in LUA). The control to my wing is OK on the bench, but I don’t know if its fly at field.
Do you know if there is a way out for this?

Thanks
deeph

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Aamir 10th April 2021 - 9:19 pm

Hi Oscar, been reading your blog since long. This is my first comment. This expressLRS thing seems too interesting. Is there a way to make a conventional pwm receiver for this system?
Nad also any 8 or 12 channel support rx?
Sorry for bieng a noob, but i am not very tech savy.

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Oscar 11th April 2021 - 11:43 am

I am not too sure at this point, you might need a SBUS to PWM converter or some sort for now. I am sure manufacturers would produce PWM receivers in the future.

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Joseph 8th April 2021 - 12:15 pm

Hi Oscar,
I am running an OPEN TX 2.2.3 with my QX7. Is it possible for me to use the Banggood version of Happymodel ELRS?

Thamk yoy,

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Oscar 8th April 2021 - 8:50 pm

Yea I think QX7 is supported by ExpressLRS, you just run CRSF as external RF module.

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James T. Jordan 7th April 2021 - 3:47 am

I’m a little confused about the R9m firmware upgrade. The R9M is known to be a strictly FRSky module. But once I flash espressLRS to it could it be used in a Radiomaster or a Jumper? Or is this particular path into espressLRS solely for the FRSky ecosystem?

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Colin Uhrich 26th March 2021 - 2:28 am

At the current state of things, could one get a Jumper T-Lite, running open TX 2.3.11(or most current build for ExpressLRS), Wire in the ExpressLRS ES915TX(might need that current boost Lite Module or battery) from HappyModel with paired ES915RX. Because I should be able to attach a crossfire module to it, flash it and make it work. It may be ugly but I kind of want the Jumpter T-Lite and Express LRS.

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Oscar 26th March 2021 - 9:54 am

Hold off for now if you need the Lite module, I’ve heard rumours that Happymodel is making a JR size as well as a lite size, so you won’t have to do any modifications. Release date might be April, but i cannot confirm.

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Felipe Holanda 16th March 2021 - 1:31 pm

Great article as always. Your blog is fantastic!

Happymodel product is a good option, but I think that R9M and R9Slim is a better deal to start in ExpressLRS.
Almost the same price and a very good hardware with powerfull output option.

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Oscar 17th March 2021 - 12:58 pm

That’s a good point. I bet you can even buy second hand R9 hardware quite cheaply these days.

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