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Understanding the Importance and Process of Drone IMU Calibration

Updated in 2023 by Andleeb
understanding drone calibration

The drone IMU Calibration is Drone IMU calibration is crucial to get right as it will help balance your drone.

When certain features are not correctly calibrated and in sync with other components, the drone could operate out of balance. The IMU's sole purpose is to keep your drone as level and flat as possible.

The sensor will realize zero motion with no movement up, down, left, or right when calibrated correctly. The reverse is also true. A  Wrong calibration on your IMU will bring inaccurate angular velocity, leading to a short rapid drift of integral orientation. When your drone keeps drifting, it becomes challenging to control and stabilize the aircraft.

The IMU is a built-in device that measures force, angular velocity, and attitude. This is done through the aircraft, barometer, accelerometer, gyroscope, and thermometer. Let’s explain further about these components.

  •     Barometer: Detects changes in height
  •    Accelerometer: Determines position and orientation of the drone in flight
  •     Gyroscope: Detects your course, pitch, and roll angles allowing you to hover with precise stability
  •     Thermometer: Allows your drone to warm up to the ambient temperature at which you calibrate the IMU

Why is the drone IMU calibration necessary?

Drones can be a huge sacrifice of your money and time, so calibrating them is a critical step to keeping the aircraft level in the sky. Calibrating your drone:

1.    Allows you to set standards for your drone and fly it with minimal accidents.

2.    Helps reduce the errors caused by inaccurate sensor measurements, thus preventing drone crashes.

3.  Elevates the performance of your drone by keeping it straight and level.

4 tips to consider before calibration

Before calibrating your drone ensure:

1.    The drone is on a flat surface while avoiding concrete, electronics, and metals where possible as they can cause interference. 

2.    Your drone is cold to the touch if you've flown it recently. If you perform an IMU drone calibration on a warm or hot drone, the initialization time on your aircraft will increase.

3.    All your batteries are fully charged or at least 50% before calibrating.

4.    You remove propellers before you start the calibration process (optional).

Here are the steps you need to follow for DJI drone IMU Calibration

The calibration process can be quick and easy if you follow these steps:

1.    Power on your drone, remote, and connect the device.

2.    Open up the controller, launch DJI fly or DJI go application, and pair your drone.

3.    Tap the three dots on your upper-right-hand corner; go to camera view screen, and then Settings menu.

4.    Tap the Small Drone icon on your left-hand side of menu and go to MC Settings.

5.    Scroll to the bottom of this page and choose Advanced Settings.

6.    Once you get to the Advanced Settings menu, press Sensor State.

7.    Now, select IMU Calibration.

8.    Follow the guidelines shown on screen and manipulate your drone as per devices’ instructions.

9.    Once the process gets to 100%, you'll receive a notification message saying calibration is complete. Restart your drone and press okay.

10.    Power down and then restart your aircraft to complete the calibration process.

11.    If you had removed the propellers, you'd need to power down your drone again and put them back on.

12.    Finally, take your drone to an area with high interference and see how it flies. If everything runs smoothly, then the IMU calibration will be a success.

13.    Place your drone on a different level surface and restart the process if it fails. Calibration may fail if your drone is not positioned as per instructions in the DJI Go app.

How long does drone IMU calibration take?

The IMU calibration operations and manipulations are pretty quick and straightforward. hough not necessary, it's highly advisable to recalibrate your drone before you start flying for a smooth flight experience.

Drone calibration takes anywhere from a few seconds to a minute or two, depending on the drone. This process can be done in a number of ways, but usually involves flying the drone in various patterns while it records data.

After the calibration is complete, you will need to do a test flight to make sure that the drone is working properly in Gravity Mode. This is important because if there are any issues with the calibration, it could affect how the drone flies in Gravity Mode.

When should I calibrate my drone?

You can do your drone calibration when:

  1.  Unboxing the aircraft - Calibrating a drone immediately after buying ensures that you start your flying experience on the right foot.

2.    You plan to fly it in a new location or environment - Calibrating your aircraft after traveling is essential due to compass bouncing.

3.    You intend to fly your drone outside a 50KM radius from the last place you winged it, calibration is highly recommended.

4.    Changing elevation -This works best for 1000 feet increments.

5.    Your app gives you a compass interference warning, 

6.    Your DJI drone starts blinking red and yellow lights - The Go Fly App will notify you that you're due for re-calibration.

7.    The drone has been involved in a crash or hard landing - In such instances, fully calibrate for a smooth running with your unit. This is crucial because your sensors might be jarred.

8.    You receive any error messages - Error messages  on your drone could be a notification the aircraft is due for service. The errors may include your aircraft tilting on the horizon, drifting forward, or braking hard. These errors may be an indication that your drone requires calibration.

9.    There's a problem with the balance of your drone during flight or standing still when it hovers. Your aircraft may also suspend at an angle when there's little to no wind or drifts without being prompted. While the cause of these patterns may be unrelated to IMU, calibrating it would be a good idea.

10.    The IMU calibration hits six months due to rough handling, hard landing, or when necessary.

11.    You receive a firmware update -The drone sends prompt notifications if it requires an IMU calibration before flying. Although it might be unnecessary to do a drone IMU calibration after every update, it's still considered good practice.

How to check the IMU's status

In addition to the app sending a notification when you're due for calibration, you can also check IMU's status. Go to the central controller settings, press advanced settings, then sensors.

You can check a drone's IMU status by flying in ATTI mode for a few seconds and checking the attitude indicator. If it's not working or is giving you inaccurate readings, it needs to be calibrated.

You'll notice the accelerometer and gyroscope bias with bars below each. The bars will have one of these colors: green (excellent), yellow (good), or red (poor). An IMU calibration will be ideal if the bias value appears too large with either a red or yellow sensor.

The DJI drones require regular maintenance to keep them operational and functioning like any other precision tool. With the rough use of drones sometimes, a quick and simple calibration will keep your unit in good shape for a long time.

The calibration process, though necessary, gets ignored by most pilots. IMU calibration allows a proper balance to the drone, helping your aircraft recognize which way it goes; up, down, right, or left. It is also an integral part of keeping your drone flat in the air by leveling the aircraft. 

Paying maximum attention to your drone will determine its longevity and functionality. Drones are designed to give the pilot a sign when something is off. An error message or a tilted hover means that you need to investigate the problem and take action. Give your drone IMU calibration to keep away any discrepancies in attitude and movement. This will keep your aircraft straight while preventing drift and the risk of crashing it.

Hi, I'm Paul.
A big drone enthusiast, reviewing, comparing and writing about drones since 2015. I'm all about helping people enjoy and even monetize their hobby.

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paul posea
Paul Posea
Hi, I'm a long-time drone reviewer and I hope my articles and comparisons on this site as well as Dronesgator's youtube channel are of as much help as possible.
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