Two years ago it was simple: you wanted to connect ESC to Flight Controller or radio receiver, you were just doing it. There were only one (maybe 2) protocols that allowed to pass information to ESC. It was a standard PWM protocol. And it was enough. No, with faster hardware, mini or even micro quads, this one protocol is not enough. So, we also have OneShot125, OneShot42, and Multishot. Should we care? A little.
- Legacy 'Analog' PWM signal – this protocol is not used in the multirotor world. It is supported only by an extremely limited number of ESCs and radio receivers. 0% PWM duty cycle means 'Stop' and 100% PWM duty cycle means 'Full power'. Modern UAV pilots/builders should not take about it at all. The interesting fact is that BLHeli supports it as
PWM Inputoption that is disabled by default.
- 'Standard' PWM signal – I've previously described this protocol here. To recall: protocol encodes requested output as a length of a pulse. The pulse length of 1ms means 'Stop' and the pulse length of 2ms means 'Full power'. Because of this, maximal theoretical update frequency is 500Hz (490Hz in practical applications). Signal delay in case of PWM protocol is 2ms. It means, that ESC can start to update output 2ms after the flight controller started to send this information. All of that makes PWM rater slow, and using loop times below 2000us (refresh rate 500Hz) makes no sense.
- 'OneShot125' protocol – this protocol uses 8 times shorter pulses than standard PWM protocol: from 125us (stop) to 250us (full power). That means 2 things: it allows for 8 times faster PID control loop update rate (looptime 250us / 4kHz update rate). It also has 8 times shorter signal delay: only 250us instead of 2000us. Currently, OneShot125 is the minimum for mini quads. Even bigger machines will appreciate smaller delay. Supported by most flight controllers and ESC (SimonK, BLHeli, KISS, other). If both Flight Controller firmware and ESC supports OneShot125, it should be used.
- OneShot42 is 3 times faster version of OneShot125. Max 12kHz update rate and 42us signal delay. It was developed by Flyduino as part of KISS FC and ESC 'program'. Not widely supported yet.
- Multishot – the fastest ESC protocol in this comparison, developed by RaceFlight, allows for 32kHz update rate. It is almost 10 times faster than OneShot125 (80 times faster than PWM). Requires both fast FC (preferably STM32F4) and fast ESC (Silabls F390 preferably). Not widely supported mainly because of a limited number of 'Multishot ready' ESCs. And it has fancy startup melody too… man…
- DSHOT that comes in many versions, DSHOT300, DSHOT600, DSHOT1200… This is the "digital" protocol. It's not based on the length of a pulse but uses zeros and ones send just like over a serial port to control ESCs. With error control, fast update and commands like "beep" or "reverse". In theory the best on. It's not supported by all the software and hardware tho.