The End Of BLHeli_32: Long Live AM32?

An essential part of drones are the Electronic Speed Controller (ESC) which translate the commands from the flight computer into responses by the connected brushless motors (generally BLDCs). As the ESC determines a lot of the performance characteristics of a drone, it has its own firmware, which for (FPV) drones is overwhelmingly BLHeli, specifically the 32-bit version (BLHeli_32). Now the Norwegian company (BLHeli AS) behind this closed source firmware has thrown in the towel, citing illegal use of its firmware by sanctioned countries like Russia for purposes like warfare. This news and its implications are covered in detail in a video by the [Mads Tech]  YouTube channel, including the message sent to customers by the company’s lawyer.

So far the GitHub repository is still online, featuring binary images for BLHeli_32, as well as the open source BLHeli (8-bit Atmel/Silabs) firmware and BLHeli_S (multirotor 8-bit Silabs) firmware. Due to the open source nature of these earlier projects forks already exist, such as BlueJay for BLHeli_S, and with the AM32 project there is an open source 32-bit ESC alternative. For 8-bit platforms it would thus seem that even with BLHeli_32 vanishing there is no impact at all, while for 32-bit platforms AM32 seems to be largely a drop-in solution.

Regardless of the reasons behind BLHeli_32 vanishing like this, the community and businesses can now hopefully move their (financial) support over to the AM32 project, making this more of a blip than an outright disaster for those who are into their high-end multicopter drones.

Thanks to [Frank Zhao] for the tip.

11 thoughts on “The End Of BLHeli_32: Long Live AM32?

    1. Somebody is just trying to be activist, which fine, whatever helps you sleep at night. Except it will do exactly zero to curb unwanted…OR it’s a pretext for expensive licensing.

  1. I know jack all about ESCs, but I’ve always wondered, why do they have so much decoupling? Aren’t they just basically MCU+3x FET totem poles? Do they really need that much filtering and stuff?

    1. The decoupling is to minimize noise caused by the hard fast switching of sometimes well above 100A. So a very low impedance capacitance is used – a ton of ceramics plus a larger external electrolytic or polymer cap. The noise is still often visible in the video image of analog systems, but massively reduced. Without the immense decoupling it would be unflyable because the noise also effects the IMU signals.

  2. I’d definitely consider shuttering a project if I found it’d been used for arms manufacture and in an illegal invasion of a sovereign nation by a rogue state, especially one my home country shares a border with because I’ve got a conscience and principles.

    1. I understand the sentiment, and it would work for hardware…but what a silly idea for software. If Russia is already using it, they already have it and will continue to use it.

    2. “definitely consider” is not much of a commitment. Wouldn’t this apply to 3D printing and tones of other areas that are under constant development?

    3. If they are currently using it then it is too late, they will just keep using it and by the sounds of things it will still be available just not worked on so shutting down the project or company does absolutely nothing especially as it is already a very polished and functional project which most people will not need to move away from or change the firmware they use for a while.

      1. It’s too late to stop them using it, it’s NOT too late to find yourself or your company up in court for violating sanctions and that is not a fun day out for anyone.

        Governments sometimes like to make examples of people violating sanctions too – there was a chap a number of years ago who sold a load of old military vehicles that ended up somewhere they shouldn’t have, he had a very bad time (pretty sure he knew what he was doing) but you’ve got to think that everyone in that whole chain would have had the investigators go over EVERYTHING they did with a fine tooth comb, and that’s pretty unwelcome no matter how squeaky clean you think you are.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.