Your drone is connected, blades are spinning and you’re ready to fly. As you take off to hover, your drone instantly starts drifting to the side. I’ve been there, so don’t worry. Here’s what is stopping your drone from hovering in one place.
The most common reason why a drone won’t stay still while hovering is because the drones Inertial Measurement Unit, (IMU,) or compass is not calibrated properly. If the calibration is off then your drone won’t be able to stay still while hovering.
You can simply fix this by calibrating your drone’s IMU and compass. This fix will cover the more popular drones such as the DJI. However, with mini drones, you need to calibrate the controller since they don’t have compasses and inertial measurement units.
If you’re not sure how to do that make sure you keep reading. However
Before You Begin IMU & Compass Calibration
Before you start the calibration process you need to be aware of some precautions.
- Choose an open area to do the calibration. An uncalibrated drone might go rogue, so also make sure there aren’t any people around.
- Remove all the guards and other accessories from the drone before you do the compass calibration. When accessories are present this may affect the calibration.
- Make sure you do the process away from any metal objects. That includes any metal accessories like watches, rings, etc. Including your Apple Watch. These items can mess up the compass calibration.
- Make sure you use a flat surface.
Drones have a lot of sensors all working together to maintain flight efficiency. you need to make sure these sensors are working properly and are giving you accurate measurements.
Calibrating a drone’s IMU and compass is the process of correcting the errors that cause inaccurate sensor measurements. The sensors may drift in their response over time due to vibrations, aging, and various impacts. If you calibrate, the sensors will remove the errors and avoid malfunctions.
The Quick “Drone Won’t Hover” Fix
As mentioned above your drone’s IMU and compass is probably not calibrated. So we need to calibrate this to fix the issue. Although some drones might be different, this fix should apply to the vast majority of the drones. *In the below example we used the DJI Mavic Pro.
Here’s how to fix the calibration:
Here are the steps shown in the video above:
- The first step is to let the drone cool off in a dry environment.
- Open the DJI GO app and select “Calibrate IMU”.
- Place the drone in the positions shown on the screen.
- When you have completed this process, restart the drone.
- For the next step, you will need to find a large, open area away from buildings. You will now be doing the compass calibration.
- In the DJI GO app, open Aircraft Status>Compass>Calibrate.
- You will then spin 360 degrees holding the drone horizontally.
- Do the same thing while holding the drone vertically.
What is the purpose of the IMU and compass?
The drones Inertial Measurement Unit, ( IMU,) and compass which is also known as the magnetometer gives the drone a sense of direction. The magnetic field data in the area is processed in the microcontroller and gives heading angles with respect to the magnetic north.
The compass guides the drone as it flies. Since the magnetic field changes depending on your position or area you’re in, if you fly your drone over a large distance this could cause the drone to misread its heading.
INSIDER TIP: Try using a nearby sports field or an open park in the mornings to calibrate your drone, these are usually open.
Below we included instructions for other drones types and also mini drones. Smaller drones need to be calibrated differently. Some even need to be trimmed.
Nutel Robotics X-Star IMU, Compass Calibration Solution:
- Power on your X-Star and remote controller.
- Connect your mobile device to the X-Star Wi-Fi network.
- In the Starlink app, tap Settings > Flight Control Settings > Compass Calibration > Calibrate. Once the calibration process is initiated, the four LEDs will flash yellow.
- Hold and rotate the aircraft 360 degrees horizontally. The for LEDs on the drone will flash yellow during the process, and then will flash green when the calibration is successful.
- Turn the drone 90 degrees so the battery is facing up. Rotate the drone 360 degrees while keeping the battery in the same position. When the calibration is successful, the app will alert you and the four LEDs on the drone will turn solid green for five seconds before going back to their normal indicating color mode.
- If the calibration is not successful, the four LEDs on the aircraft will turn yellow. Start the calibration again from Step 1. If the calibration continues to fail, contact customer support.
Ryze Tello IMU, Compass Calibration Solution:
- Release the guard and the propellers. Use the tool that comes with the drone to release the propeller.
- Turn on the drone and then connect to the Ryze Tello app.
- Go to Settings > Menu > Calibrate.
- Start the calibration process.
- Change the Tello drone’s position to match the instructions.
- When you have completed the drone calibration process turn off your drone.
- Put the guard and propellers back on.
- Make sure the propellers are in the same way and secure.
FPV IMU, Compass Calibration Solution:
- Turn on your controller. When you have turned it on it will have a blinking yellow light.
- Turn on your drone and you should notice the LEDs turning on and blinking.
- Make sure you have the landing gear on and are on a flat surface.
- Then you want to arm the drone normally.
- Push the left stick down then all the way up, then down again.
- Push the right stick down and to the right. You will see the LEDs stop blinking. This means that the drone is finished calibrating.
DJI Phantom IMU, Compass Calibration Solution:
- Tap on the aircraft status bar that is located in the DJI GO app.
- When you have done that select calibrate.
- Follow all of the on-screen instructions exactly.
- Hold and rotate the phantom drone horizontally and turn it 360 degrees in a counterclockwise direction.
- The drone status indicators on the bottom of the propellers should remain yellow while you do this.
- When these indicators turn green the horizontal calibration is complete.
- Next, tilt the drone vertically so the camera is facing the ground.
- Repeat the 360-degree counterclockwise motion from the horizontal calibration.
- The drones indicators should flash green rapidly to indicate to you that calibration is complete.
Calibrating Mini Drones
The reason why mini-drones have a different calibration method is that they don’t have an IMU system nor do they have compasses. So if your drone is drifting in this case, it has to do with the controller itself.
The fix? Simply calibrate the controller. I’m going to cover the best method on how you can calibrate a mini drone, however, please keep in mind that other drones might slightly differ.
- Put your drone on a flat surface
- For most drones, move the direction step up and the throttle sticks down. *Depends on the manufacturer. Check your manual.
- The lights should flash and then remain constant. At this point, your drone should be calibrated
It’s worth mentioning that the steps above might not work for all drones. Some drone needs to be trimmed.
What About Drones That Need To Be Trimmed?
Some drones don’t automatically calibrate. In this case, you would need to trim the drone. Trimming simply means that you are readjusting the way you would like your drone to lean ion the air.
If you performed the above steps and your drone is still no hovering in one place, try to locate the trimming section in the user manual, and trim your drone in the opposite direction that it’s leaning into.
Here’s how to trim your drone:
- However your drone and take notice of what direction it drifts.
- Land, and trim in the opposite direction.
- If your drone is leaning and drifting right, trim your drone to lean left.
- Repeat the process until you get your drone to, however.
How to Avoid Compass Failure:
A drone compass can be thrown off by any magnetic frequency or radiofrequency source. So what can you do to avoid your drone’s compass from being detuned? Here are things to avoid.
- Avoid magnets. When transporting or storing your drone try and avoid any sort of magnets such as those in speakers, like in a car or Bluetooth speaker.
- Avoiding high electromagnetic interference. You should avoid flying in areas with high electromagnetic interference, such as close to high voltage power lines, which you really shouldn’t be flying near anyways.
Why is My Calibration Failing?
You may have tried to calibrate your drone but sadly your drone may still be drifting and not hovering properly. Here are some reasons why your calibration may be failing.
- You may have tried to calibrate your drone with the arms folded.
- When calibrating your drone you may have been near some metal objects that affected the calibration.
- Magnetic interference can throw off the drone’s calibration so it is best to do the calibration on the natural ground as well as keeping smartwatches away during calibration.
- When powering up your drone make sure that you are not moving. Movement while powering up the drone may mess with the drones’ compass orientation.
Why is my Drone Flipping Over?
This is a frustrating but not uncommon occurrence. Usually, this issue is caused by the wrong configuration or faulty parts.
If the propellers on the drone are loose this generates little to no lift. Make sure all the propellers are fastened on tightly and make sure that when holding down your drone the propellers do not move.
Another reason why your drone may be flipping over when you try to take off is that you did not follow the initial configuration of the drone properly and need to redo the whole process.
This is a rare occurrence but sometimes it is possible for some drones that have the feature to have turtle mode activated. turtle mode enables a drone to flip over after a crash which saves the drone pilot the time and effort of walking over to the drone and manually turning it over.
When this mode is activated it may cause your drone to flip over immediately after take-off. Make sure this mode is disabled as well.