So you’ve had your DJI drone for a while, built up some confidence and are now ready to start exploring more advanced stuff. You’re right to start looking for more than just simple flight, because your DJI drone can do much more than fly up and down, right and left.
There are several DJI flight modes which I’ll explain in this article that can take your drone flying to the next level.
A DJI flight mode is a pre-made setting that determines how the drone will fly and behave, automatically in most cases. The reason I’m saying it’s automatic in most cases is because there are two types of flight modes: Standard and intelligent modes.
Before you even think about standard or intelligent flight modes however, the first thing to do would be to disable the “Beginner mode” first, which is the default mode on your drone, and enable multiple flights mode.
Beginner mode sets a maximum 30 meters range between the drone and the pilot. It also sets a maximum 25km/h velocity. The sensitivity is also extremely decreased.
DJI does this so that beginners don’t accidentally switch into an advanced flight mode and crash their drones on their first flight. To disable it, click the three dots in the top right hand corner of your dji go app and then click on main controller settings.
So, you’ve disabled the beginner mode, you’ve finally removed your training wheels. Like I said, there are two types of DJI flight modes. You can look at the standard modes as “manual modes”.
That’s because unlike intelligent modes, standard modes change the behavior of the drone, but the control is still up to you, the pilot. There are four standard modes; Position, ATTI, Sport and Tripod. They can either be activated from the remote controller or from the DJI app.
This is the mode most beginners will use and spend the majority of their time in after they upgrade from beginner mode. And that’s because all the sensors on the drone will be active and you'll have a strong gps signal strength at all times.
All of this makes the drone hold its position in the air, decreasing the chance of drifting if you take your fingers off the remote controller and making it hard to crash it… That is, unless crashing is your aim…
Let’s talk about the newbie breaker, the ATTI mode. By now you’ve probably been warned to not use the ATTI mode, like ever. And that’s because it’s commonly linked to most crashes and fly-aways.
This mode turns off all GPS and vision sensors, meaning it’ll drift away and move with the wind if you’re not in manual control of it at all times. It also doesn’t have an auto-break, it will keep the drone going until it crashes or runs out of battery. This mode is not recommended for beginners.
This is my personal favorite. It’s safer because it has the GPS sensors turned on so there is less of a risk of crashing the drone, but it also gives you the adrenaline pump with the increased speed and snappy movements.
This mode is optimized for speed and agility. Obstacle detectors are disabled in this mode, so be careful when flying in it.
Tripod mode slows down the overall speed of your DJI drone to eliminate jerky moves during shooting. It makes for smoother footage and clearer shots. It’s perfect for photographers who want to keep things simple.
I recommend you check out this video if you’d like to learn further about the standard modes:
Intelligent flight modes are modes that are automatic and allow the drone to execute flights on its own. They’re extremely helpful for beginners since they take away the burden of having to control the drone on your own which usually requires experience to get good shots and videos. Unlike standard modes they can only be done from the DJI mobile app.
Intelligent modes can work with standard modes except for sport and ATTI. A simple way to think about it is to see the standard modes as the “core” or foundation of the drones behavior, with the intelligent mode working with and making use of that foundation.
So Let’s dive into the various DJI intelligent flight modes.
This list has no particular order, I’m starting with the ActiveTrack mode because I absolutely love it!
As the name suggests in this mode you can lock the drone unto an object (which could be you, the pilot) and the drone will follow that object. Contrary to the more known follow me mode, you don’t need to have the remote controler on you for the drone to follow you!
The mode first became available in the Phantom 4 in 2016, and since then it has become the most popular intelligent flight mode among DJI fans. The mode itself has three sub-modes: Trace, profile and spotlight.
Trace mode allows you to follow a person/object from behind or from the front, you can even circle the person. Real time manipulation of the drone angle (to make it circle or move to the side) can be done directly from the app, without needing the controller.
Profile mode allows the drone to move alongside a person or object from a distance that you normally set through the app.
This one’s really cool because it allows you to choose the direction and distance yourself and keep changing them. Meaning you can actually move the camera however you like, as long as the object is within sight the drone will keep following them.
The ActiveTrack mode is perfect for vloggers and youtubers and can make for very good cinematic shots.
You know how timelapse is basically taking a set of pictures at a set interval and then “stitching” those pictures together, hyperlapse is basically the same thing except the drone/camera is moving while doing it.
All those videos you see online where the camera/drone are moving/flying slowly, but everything else is moving at speed… That’s what Hyperlapse is.
In HyperLapse there is Free mode, which as the name suggests means you’ll be flying the drone manually while doing HyperLapse, you have full control over the camera angle. Pro tip: don’t use it, you’ll never be able to fly the drone in this mode in a smooth way and the end results will be terrible.
Instead, use Circle mode. You can use this mode to capture the picture in an interval, it'll reveal the landscape around you and orbit around you completely autonomously (hence why it’s called circle mode).
Then there is another Hyperlapse mode called course lock, basically you set a direction where the drone will fly and the interval of the pictures. The drone will fly along the course you set for it, taking pictures in the interval you set.
Waypoints mode is definitely one of the most interesting DJI intelligent modes out there. It allows the drone operator to select points on the map (waypoints), the drone will then fly along that path.
This is especially useful for filmmakers who want to lay out the course of their shots in advance. Whether the drone will make smooth turns along the waypoints or not will depend on which drone app you’re using. I’ve done a comparison on the waypoints aspect for 3 different apps in this article (DJI default app is in that comparison).
Next up on this list is the Quickshots, which compiles several premade drone movements. You may already be familiar with some of its movements like Orbit or Helix.
This is an intelligent mode that allows the user to control the drone (to a certain extent) using gestures only. It primarily came out with the DJI Spark to make it easier for drone beginners and make the spark more mainstream, but it has made its way to other DJI drones.
There are several gestures which I won’t go into in detail, that’s because all of them are only available for the DJI Spark. They’re: Video mode, PalmLand, PalmLaunch, PalmControl and Follow.
One last gesture mode that is also available in other drones is the Selfie mode. To activate it, put your arms up and wide to get the drones attention, once you do so the drone will lock on you (you can see in the app that you’ll get a green square around you), that means the drone is waiting for your gesture.
After that all you have to do is make a square with your hands (as if you’re trying to capture a picture). The drone will pick up on that and take a shot (selfie) after 3 seconds. You don’t need to have the remote controller on you for this to work.
This is a mode that can work with the waypoints mode. As the name suggests it’s used to lock the drone on an object or point, that way the camera will always stay on that object even if the drone turns.
Before, you had to be really close to the object you want to keep the camera on for the drone to recognize it. Now however the mode has become extremely easy and intuitive to set up.
It’s separated into two modes, Vision mode which basically means you can just go into the app and tap on the object on the screen. The drone will treat it as a point of interest.
The second mode is GPS mode, which allows you to lock an object as a point of interest by using its coordinates.
This is a direction-based intelligent flight mode. The way you use it is by tapping a location on the map (from your app), the drone will fly to it in a straight line. While the drone is in flight you have full control on the camera and gimbal.
It’s useful if you don't want to focus on flying the drone in a direction, you just tap the area where the drone will fly and focus on taking good shots instead.
Here are two extra flight modes for you that I didn’t think warranted their own section. First we’ve got cinematic mode, which makes the controls really smooth and sensitivity low, it also slows down the drone. Kind of like the Tripod mode we discussed.
Then there is the Follow me mode, it’s like ActiveTrack in a way. The difference is that it doesn’t have much functionality options, and it also requires that the person has the remote controller on them. Otherwise it won’t follow them.
Alright that’s it for this article, I hope you guys got an idea on DJI’s standard and flight modes by reading this far. Some drone veterans argue that intelligent flight modes prevent you from fully learning and enjoying drone flights.
Personally I think intelligent flight modes are useful if you’re more into the filming aspect of drones rather than flight.