The motor can be directly pulsed by the arduino. The arduino can also supply power to the motor, but normally this is only a good idea for demonstration purposes. The arduino has a very weak power supply, and attempting to power a motor through it can destroy the arduino. Furthermore, the arduino may not be able to supply the exact correct maximum voltage. For this reason, an ESC is placed between the arduino and the motor.
Speed can be varied by either changing the voltage or pulsing the motor. Most computer controlled DC motors are pulsed. Pulses of a fixed voltage are sent to the motor, usually by an Electronic Speed Controller or ESC. A pulse of 1.5 ms causes no motion. Wider pulses cause faster spinning in one direction. Shorter pulses cause faster spinning in the opposite direction. Eventually, an overstressed ESC stops pulsing and turns one wire on and one wire off, depending on the direction.
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