Introducing Polystack Flight Controllers

A few weeks ago I launched a brand new modular flight control system. Instead of taking the all-in-one approach, Polystack introduces an open hardware design for stacking mods on top of a base control board. At its core is a high density 80 pin connector which can carry up all of the microcontroller IO to the mods that need it. They are now available from the Chickadee Tech website.

There are a variety of mods available to start and more will be developed over time. Launch mods include FrSky X4R-SB and D4R-II cradles, a Receiver Breakout, a MicroMinimOSD cradle, Dual Serial Breakout and MicroSD. Two flight control boards are available at launch also. One is based on an STMF303 and the other is an STM32F405. Both run Betaflight and have MPU-6000s on board. I'd love to support other flight software in the future too. Unlike Arduino shields, Polystack can stack up to seven mods worry free. So, you can mix and match to achieve the functionality you want.

Right now Polystack is in its early days. My hope is that people can learn how to fix and develop Polystack boards to build a diverse community of boards. Some designs that are being brainstormed are a native PDB, an autonomous flight mod, a native OSD and native VTX.

Boards are now available from Chickadee Tech. They are perfect for building your own custom rig the way you want or developing a ready to fly with tiered functionality. Feel free to email support@chickadee.tech with any questions or comments. Thanks!

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Comment by dhiraj on August 4, 2016 at 12:09pm

That looks interesting! And seems like a lot of work, from your blog.

But is it really necessary to separate out common features which you can easily get in a single packaged autopilot? Is there any special configuration required at basic autopilot state?

This will surely become interesting idea when autopilots will be interfaced with companion computers and stuff, but until then is there any real modular configuration which is not possible with off the shelf autopilots?

And also with modularity there is increased connector failure chance, but you seem to have taken good care of them with those solid connectors.

Are you planning to port px4 or apm to your boards?

Comment by Phillip Kocmoud on August 4, 2016 at 1:20pm

Very nice, glad to see someone thinking outside the box!

Comment by Maxime C on August 4, 2016 at 1:58pm

Hello,

Is the big connector the Pixhawk v2 standard?

Comment by Scott Shawcroft on August 4, 2016 at 2:47pm

dhiraj, I'm glad you find it interesting! Its not necessary but with the 36mm x 36mm form factor I wanted to maximize the IO to the connector rather than fitting everything else in its place. Autopilot functionality will require an additional mod that has yet to be designed in order to provide magnetometer, barometer and GPS connections. This issue can be used to collect ideas for it: https://github.com/chickadee-tech/polystack/issues/8

I haven't had many issues with the connectors when flying and crashing my racing quads. I'm happy with it.

I would like to port px4 and/or APM if there is interest. I'm coming from Betaflight so I'd love pointers on where to start. The designs are open if anyone wants to set up the pinouts for the boards.

Phillip Kocmoud, Thanks! I love pushing the envelope.

Maxime C, Its not. The Pixhawk has the DF17 and mine is the DF40. They are both made by Hirose though. I picked the DF40 because it has a smaller footprint and short connectors that range between 1.5mm and 4mm. I am hoping to be very space efficient with the designs.

Someone just linked me to the spec though and its interesting to see the different pin layouts of the connector. Mine is designed so multiple things can be stacked on top of one another while the Pixhawk 2 looks to only handle an autopilot being stacked on top.

Comment by Nicholas Witham on August 4, 2016 at 6:07pm

Have you given any thought to getting dRonin installed on it.

Should be fairly simple.

https://github.com/d-ronin/dRonin/wiki/Development-Adding-a-new-boa...

Comment by Nicholas Witham on August 4, 2016 at 6:10pm

Also, would love to see a 4 in 1 ESC module for this stack. That would complete it.

Comment by Scott Shawcroft on August 4, 2016 at 6:12pm

Nicholas Witham I haven't yet. I'm starting with what my friends and I run. :-) Thanks for the link! I'll look into it when people with the hardware want it.

Theres a discussion for an ESC module here: https://github.com/chickadee-tech/polystack/issues/4

Comment by Scott Shawcroft on August 4, 2016 at 9:56pm

Swift I chose the DF40 because its got a higher density. The GH is 1.25mm pitch which won't get anywhere near as the 80 pins the DF40 has. Its 0.4mm pitch. The Polystack connector has room for 6 GPIO, 12 timer pins, 1 i2c, 8 UART, 3 SPI, and 1.8A of power.


Developer
Comment by John Arne Birkeland on August 5, 2016 at 12:46am

Placing ESC's close to CPU, sensors and signal buses would probably be.. problematic..

Comment by Scott Shawcroft on August 5, 2016 at 9:42am

John Arne Birkeland The TBS PowerCube does it. At least with Polystack we can try it but not require anyone to use it. I like the ESCs on the arms as is. Its good for heat and having them separate makes them easier to upgrade IMO. That doesn't mean we couldn't try having them built in.

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