Let's face it; drone compass calibration is not the most exciting topic in the world. But it's a critical process that every drone pilot needs to understand. While the specifics of calibration vary from one drone to the next, there are some general steps that all pilots should follow. These critical steps helps ensure that your drone flies in the right direction and maintains its position correctly.
If you have noticed your drone starts flying unsteadily or circling in flight, doesn't respond well to the remote or flies lower than its usual altitude, it may be time for a compass calibration.
If ignored, this can cause the dreaded flyaway, where your drone suddenly takes off out of control and is impossible to bring back. You want to avoid this at all costs, so it's important to take the time to calibrate your compass correctly.
With this ultimate guide, find out why or when you need one and a step-by-step guide to calibrate your drone’s compass.
Calibration on a drone’s compass is done to adjust its flight system to align with the Earth’s magnetic north instead of its true north. It is important because the earth’s magnetic field is constantly shifting, and calibrating gives the magnetometer (drone’s electronic compass) accurate positioning, which is critical for precise drone control.
The main purpose of calibrating the compass is to get the drone’s magnetic field and subtract it from the total measured magnetic field. When you spin the magnetometer, the surrounding and the drone’s magnetic fields separate because the drone’s compass remains constant while the surrounding rotates.
Knowing when to calibrate your drone will save you time and inconvenience, especially in critical situations that need fast actions such as assessing an apartment fire. Since not all cases require a compass calibration, you can start by first checking:
When the compass is giving extremely poor magnetic data, such as when you are near a strong magnetic field, the UAS’ rear lights will flash red and yellow lights. In such instances the app will show a compass error. However, note that even if you don’t get a compass error, it does not always mean that the drone is calibrated and working correctly.
When you see the light signals, check the settings to know whether you are getting interference from surrounding magnetic fields.
To confirm compass interference in your Mavic drone, go to the ‘Main Controller Settings’ > ‘Advanced Settings’ > ‘Sensors.’
If you are in an area without magnetic influences, the colored bars should be green ( Excellent). If they are red (poor) or a range close to it, move from that area and check whether it changes to the green range. You should calibrate the UAS magnetometer if the bars remain on the red range (poor) or close to it.
Other than checking for interference, calibrate the drone’s compass:
To ensure the compass does not alter its data, try avoiding phone cell towers or high voltage power lines, which will cause electromagnetic interference. While transporting your drone, put it far from the car’s speakers as they may also cause compass failure.
Do not calibrate the UAS compass when you are:
It is easy to calibrate your drone, though you will need the following to avoid failure in the calibration process:
Below are the steps needed to calibrate your drone and ensure its smooth operation:
An IMU is a circuit that controls the pitch and roll in a drone to keep it flat and level. The IMU might also cause your drone to fly unsteadily. To calibrate the IMU:
If your drone has the compass calibration app, the instructions are:
The drone compass always gets interference from magnetic fields caused by objects such as cars, wire fences, rebar reinforced concrete, and glass top outdoor tables. These and other magnetic fields affect and tune it, causing inaccuracy.
You need to calibrate your drone every time you fly it in a new location or when there is a magnetic field interference. However, some specialists argue that doing it too often might cause damage.
If you don’t calibrate your drone, it will crash after flying, or you might not be able to control and fly it.
Calibrating your drone compass is relatively easy and necessary to ensure your drone functions appropriately. Follow this guide to ensure your drone’s magnetometer always has accurate data through a DIY calibration.