How to Connect/Flash FC to Betaflight with Broken USB Port?

Flight Controller Damaged Usb Port Fall Off Broken Disconnected Missing

USB port falling off is not uncommon in flight controllers. If your FC has a broken USB port and can’t connect to Betaflight (or INAV Configurator) and flash firmware, here are some fixes you can attempt to save your FC.

Before you begin, check if you can solder the USB port back on though it’s not an easy soldering job. In my experience, if your USB port fell off, chances are the tiny solder pads are probably ripped and irreparable, but it’s worth checking, flight controllers are expensive these days!

Connecting FC to Computer via FTDI Adapter

If you just want to connect your FC to Betaflight Configurator (or INAV configurator), all you need is just a FTDI adapter (aka serial converter).

It’s a versatile and useful tool to have around, I highly recommend getting one. You can also use an Arduino board loaded with custom code, but it’s a lot more complicated than using a $3 plug-and-play FTDI adapter. Feel free to google it I won’t go into detail here.

Depending on the type of USB connection your flight controller has (i.e. CP2102 or VCP), extra steps might be necessary which I will explain in this tutorial. Almost all modern FC uses VCP connection these days, only some very old FC use CP2102.

Old FC with CP2102 Chip

For older FC with CP2102 chip, you just need to connect the FTDI Adapter to UART1 (and only UART1), connect these 4 wires:

  • TX to RX
  • RX to TX
  • 5V to 5V
  • GND to GND

Make sure nothing else but the FTDI adapter is connected to that UART.

Then connect the FTDI adapter to your computer, you should see a new COM port appear.

 

Generally, you shouldn’t need to worry about driver if your computer is already working with your flight controller, which means driver is already installed. But if driver is needed, you will see a warning sign icon on that COM port. You can normally get the driver file on the product page of your FTDI adapter, or simply google the type of adapter you have.

In Betaflight/INAV Configurator, select this COM port and hit the Connect button. That’s it.

FC with VCP

If you bought your FC in the last 4-5 years, it probably uses VCP connection. It’s not as straightforward as CP2102 because hardware UART’s are not necessary enabled for USB connection by default. The good news is, it’s pretty common that flight controllers are shipped with UART1 enabled for MSP (it allows USB connection), so you can try connecting your FTDI adapter to UART1 and see if you can connect to the Configurator. Try other UART if that didn’t work, if you are lucky one of the UART might have MSP enabled.

Make sure nothing else but the FTDI adapter is connected to that UART.

See this example below, UART1 has “Configuration/MSP” enabled on UART1, this allows you to use the FTDI adapter

 

If none of the UART’s have MSP enabled, this is going to get a lot more complicated.

You will have to erase and flash your flight controller with a custom firmware that has MSP enabled on UART1, so you can connect using the FTDI adapter. But you will lose the existing config on your FC.

You can’t flash FC firmware using just the FTDI adapter, because it needs to be in DFU mode. You will need a STLink Tool that allows you to upload a firmware file (.hex) to the processor using the STM32 ST-Link Utility.

Connection:

  • 5V to 5V
  • GND to GND
  • SWCLK (clock) to SWC
  • SWDIO (data) to SWD

One of the main challenges with this method is finding the SWC or SWD pads, they are not always broken out to solder pads on the FC. Check if you can find them on yours before proceeding, if present, they are usually tiny and near the processor for debugging purposes, sometimes not even labelled so you might have to do a bit of “trial and error”.

To be honest most people would have given up at this stage and just get a new flight controller. I think scraping off the solder mask and expose the USB port data traces would be easier if you don’t already have the tools on hand. Keep reading.

Mepsking FPV Forum, where you can learn everything about drone and flying skills. Check mepsking store if you want to buy drone parts.

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