The best flight controllers for INAV – 2019 Q4 edition

Believe it or not, but choosing the right flight controller for your next airplane or a drone build is quite important. Yes, I know that some of you might say that hardware does not matter and your kwad will fly as good with the latest F7 flight controller as it would fly with Naze32. It is, not true. It would fly with Naze32, but do not even try to compare modern flight controllers with more advanced filtering, inputs, outputs, and peripherals.

Best flight controllers for airplanes

Matek F722-WING

Matek F722-WING

Matek F722-WING is the second generation of a big WING flight controllers started by a famous F405-WING. Comparing to the original, F722-WING offers more input/output options, including dedicated airspeed port, switchable camera inputs and switchable power supply for FPV installation.

FuriousFPV F35

FuriousFPV F35 is a well know and proven airplane flight controller brought to by by the FuriousFPV. Based on STM32F4 MCU provides plenty input/output options in a relatively small form-factor. Can be bought with matching GPS, Bluetooth and Airspeed modules. F35 utilizes plug & play idea, since most ports are broken out as JST-GH connectors.

Matek F411-WING SE

Matek F411-WING SE

When small size is required, F411-WING SE comes into play. Super small and lightweight but offers enought serial ports and outputs to satisfy most lighweight builds. Vertcal USB port makes it easily accessibke when installed inside alsmost any foam airplane.

Best flight controllers for drones

Kakute F7

Holybro Kakute F7

Holybro Kakute F7 managed to do what others failed. It fits powerful STM32F745, OSD, SD Card and enough serial ports for everyone in a form factor only slightly bigger than standard 36x36mm. The unique feature of the whole Kakute series is a gyroscope installed on a separate board connected with the main board with a thin ribbon cable and sponge. It helps to keep gyro noise under control. Made to use together with 4-in-1 ESCs.

Matek F722-SE

Matek F722-SE

Matek F722-SE is probably the best STM32F7 flight controller for drones on the market. Integrated OSD, power distribution board, output for 6 motors or 4 motors and 2 servos, integrated camera switcher and "power on a switch" function. INAV, Cleanflight, and Betaflight supported. Enough Serial ports of everything you need, including ESC telemetry.

Matek F411 Wing SE

Matek likes to release a new FC that is actually significantly different from a previous one every few months. This time it's time of a smallest and the lightest member of a WING family: Matek F411-WING SE. It's a new format for very small foamies and other cheap and simple build while it still provides the same features a bigger F411-WING. Let's see what goes where in the case of F411-WING SE.

Matek F765-WING – flight controller on steroids!

This is preproduction sample, some details of Mateksys F765-WING might change in the final version that will hit the market!

Mateksys F765-WING

Matek F765-WING on Banggood

Looks like Mateksys did it again, and the next flight controller in WING family will be one again the beefiest flight controller around! What's new? A lot. It's still the same format as F405-WING and F722-WING, but this time, the top plate is not only a plate. It holds 8A continuous (10A burst) BEC that you have to connect with wires to the main plate. From what I've been told, the step-down chip itself can hold 20A continuous, but due to limited space, the main inductor/choke limits it to 10A only. Well, only is probably not the best world 😉

Mateksys F765-WING

The brand new is also CPU. Now it is beefy STM32F765 in LQFP-100 package. Beefy because it has 2MB of flash and 512kB of RAM. And thanks to the big package, a lot of peripherals could be broken out:

  • 12 PWM outputs
  • 8 UARTs
  • 2 I2C
  • SPI
  • 6 ADC (Vbat, Current, Vbat2, Current2, RSSI, AirSpeed)
  • Micro SD
  • camera switcher
  • switchable 5V/9V output

Mateksys F765-WING

Compatible software: INAV, Betaflight and (probably) ArduPilot.

Matek F722-SE – brand new flight controller that brings STM32F7 closer to the needs of many

At the beginning of 2018 I've stated that Matek F722-STD is the first F7 flight controller that makes sense. Today, I have in front of me I have the first F7 flight controller that has all you need (and more) when 4-in-1 ESC is not what you are looking for.

It is Matek F722-SE!

Matek F722-SE Flight Controller

Matek F722-SE Flight Controller

Matek F722-SE Flight Controller

  • STM32F722 processor
  • MPU6000 and ICM20602 gyro/acc – user selectable to match the needs. Personally, I'm not the biggest fan of dual gyro design. From my perspective, MPU6000 is enough for everyone. Really!
  • OSD compatible with INAV and Betaflight
  • BMP280 barometer
  • 5 hardware serial ports
  • possible 1 software serial
  • 8 outputs
  • I2C bus

This is the standard data. Nothing super fancy at a first glance. Until you go into the details:

  • PDB with a current meter is integrated into the design
  • you can connect 2 separate FPV cameras and select the one that will be connected to OSD and VTX with your radio without any additional hardware. Super option for fixed wing flyers
  • power VTX on/off from your radio as well (I really will have to test that soon)
  • TX6 is conveniently positioned at every corner for ESC telemetry setup
  • F7 means that you can connect anything you want to any serial port you want. F7 series have integrated serial inverters, so SBUS and SmartPort is no longer a problem

I'm super eager to put this baby on one of my racing quads

Matek F722-SE is coming soon!

Mamba F405 and F40 40A 3-6S 4-in-1 ESC combo hands on

I have to honestly admit, up to the beginning of 2018 summer I was rather against 4-in-1 ESCs and flight controllers combos. The reason was quite simple: 4-in-1 were a rather new thing, had a tendency to burn without a reason and were quite expensive. Pretty much a normal state of a new technology. In comparison, FC + PDB + 4 separate ESC had more flexibility, were cheaper to replace when something puffed the magic smoke and seemed to be a reasonable choice when few extra grams of weight was not a problem. Lately, things started to change…
4-in-1 ESCs are no longer a new thing, manufacturers learned their lessons and prices went down! And that means you can get a decent quality flight controller and 4-in-1 ESC for less than $50. That's cheaper than 4 ESCs! C'mon, things ARE happening.

Today let's take a look at the example of a new age FC + 4-in-1 combos: Mamba F4 Power Tower.

Mamba F405 and F40 4in1 ESC combo

Mamba F405 and F40 4in1 ESC combo

Mamba F405 and F40 4in1 ESC combo

What comes inside the package?

  1. Mamba F405 flight controller
  2. Mamba F40 4in1 ESC

Mamba F405 flight controller

Mamba F405 and F40 4in1 ESC combo

Mamba F405 and F40 4in1 ESC combo

Mamba F405 comes preflashed with Betaflight 3.3 and uses target FuryF4 OSD (FY4O). It comes in standard 30,5×30,5mm hole spacing.

  • STM32 F405 processor
  • SPI connected MPY6000 gyro
  • 3 hardware serial ports: UART1, UART3, and UART6
  • LED support
  • built-in OSD
  • built-in 16MB flash memory for blackbox logs
  • I2C pads

Mamba F40 4in1 ESC

Mamba F405 and F40 4in1 ESC combo

Mamba F405 and F40 4in1 ESC combo

  • 40A constant, 50A peak current
  • DSHOT support
  • uses QN3109 MOSFETs
  • current sensor

Pros and cons

Some pros and cons after taking a "static" look at Mamba F405 and F40 4in1 ESC

Pros:

  • pretty good quality PCB, I would even say surprisingly good for a price
  • FC comes with rubber grommets for vibration damping
  • side mounted DFU button instead of flat buttons or just pads on some lower quality boards
  • c'mon! $45!

Cons:

  • FC can be used only with 4in1 ESC, no separate soldering pads for ESCs
  • There are many versions of QN3109 MOSFETs, and depending which PDF you take a look at, 40A rating is either overrated or underrated… hmm…
  • location of pads for motors on the 4in1 is problematic. It collides with mounting standoffs. Careful soldering required!

Overall verdict? So far, positively surprised! Really, this thing goes to one of my mini quads immediately!

Matek F722-STD not booting without battery and how to fix it

What to do when Matek F722-STD flight controller is not booting without connected battery and connection from Configurator is not working? Simple, power GPS and magnetometer from a different pad.

All 5V pads are powered only when external power is supplied to the flight controller. Not when power is applied via USB cable. If you connected GPS and magnetometer to 5V pad, it will not work and screw I2C bus up. To solve this problem, connect GPS to 4V5 pad instead!

qUark Vision F4: flight controllers designed for INAV

Things are changing in INAV world. Different manufacturers start to realize that world does not end on racing miniquads and people might be interested in other types of flight controllers. Flight controllers that were not designed with racing in mind. And today I can finally show you prototype of such flight controller: qUark F4 Vision

qUark F4 Vision Flight Controller for INAV

qUark F4 Vision Flight Controller for INAV

What is so special about qUark F4 Vision. To be honest, not that much. Setup looks pretty standard:

  • STM32F4 CPU
  • MPU6000 IMU (gyroscope and accelerometer)
  • built-in OSD
  • built-in barometer
  • 8 PWM outputs
  • S.Bus inverter
  • Buzzer port
  • pins for WS2812b RGB LEDs

qUark F4 Vision Flight Controller for INAV

Until now, nothing fancy, right? Good stuff begins when we take a look at details:

  • PMW outputs power rail is separated from the onboard 5V line. That means you can use high voltage servos, as well as do not worry about frying onboard 5V voltage regulator
  • There is no onboard 5V voltage stabilizer. 5V has to provided from external source of your choice
  • It is not 36x36mm with 30.5mm hole spacing. It's still 30.5mm hole spacing, but one side is longer to fit all PWM outputs
  • Bottom side of PCB is flat. There are no electronic components over there. And that means FC can be attached with double-sided adhesive tape. Great for foamies
  • There are 3 fully operational UARTs (1,2 with S.Bus inverter and 4), separate I2C port (not shared with any UART like on all Revo derivatives) and possibility to use Software Serial
  • Special work in progress UIB port that is specific to INAV. It does not do much now, but it might change in the future
  • dedicated pads for HC-SR04/US-100 sonar rangefinder (I have not seen that for a while)

Something different, right? I'm putting mine on my experimental flying wing where it will feel like at home.

qUark F4 Vision Flight Controller for INAV

Like I wrote at the beginning, this is a prototype. It can not be bought yet. But if you are interested, you might email Malcolm at [email protected]