The excitement of flying a drone can soon turn into frustration when nothing seems to go your way. One issue arises after its launch, when the drone keeps drifting sideways instead of staying still.
But don’t worry, every drone pilot has been there at one point or another. And fortunately, a fix isn’t far beyond your reach.
You can fix a drone that keeps tilting to one side by gradually working through the factors that influence its flight, which can be categorized into situational and hardware issues. You can then apply a suitable approach like changing the launch surface, swapping the propellers, or recalibration.
Regardless of what the actual fix is, identifying what makes your drone tilt is the very first step. In this post, I’ll be helping you do just that.
We’ll be going through the proper measures to follow so you can make your drone hover perfectly still.
Let’s get straight to the specifics. There are numerous factors that directly influence a drone’s capability to stay still.
But how do these factors play a role? Take a look.
Your drone may be tilting to one side largely due to uneven weight distribution. Other common reasons may be situational, like poor weather or a slanted launch surface. It may also depend on the drone’s inner workings, which refer to the calibration, the hardware, and the software.
It’s fairly obvious that an unbalanced force can cause tilt, but the other reasons may require a bit more thought. You’ll need to assess them one by one to effectively solve the problem.
So, let’s take a brief look at each potential cause.
The operation of a drone is entirely subject to its components. And when they start malfunctioning, things are bound to go wrong. In this case, I’m referring to the motors and the propellers.
A modern drone generally makes use of four motors. If one of them stops operating at peak performance, the other motors are tasked with more work than they can handle.
This does, in turn, affect the propellers. However, the propellers can also have issues of their own. If they’re not connected in the right orientation, an uneven lift is generated which causes the drone to drift sideways.
You can also check out my article on how to connect or reset a drone controller to rule out some of the potential issues.
Another issue could be an error you get on the drone app called gimbal overload, which can be easily fixed in most cases.
This one most commonly turns out to be the cause for new drone pilots. Calibrating the drone’s components is a step that really shouldn’t be overlooked.
But when the calibration is off, you’ll end up with a drone flying all over the place.
A drone’s components are always working simultaneously. Therefore, a miscalibrated unit can distort the information the drone receives - resulting in an unstable flight.
This part refers to the communication signal between the drone and its remote controller.
A drone always operates based on the instruction it receives. So, when a controller goes in and out of connection, the drone can start flying unpredictably.
This generally happens due to an issue with the connection itself, or because of signal interference. To put it simply, the latter can block out the sensors the drone uses to maintain its balance.
A drone’s software generally isn’t a cause for concern when considering the popular models, since they’re programmed and tested thoroughly.
However, flawed software may be to blame for drones that are manufactured by lesser-known companies. This could be due to hidden software bugs or maybe just a loophole in the system.
And in this case, unfortunately, anything can go wrong regardless of the pilot’s effort.
This one is pretty straightforward, but it’s another aspect that new pilots tend to forget about.
Launching a drone from an uneven surface can shake up the drone’s components, particularly the camera’s stabilizer. The footage captured with a misaligned camera isn’t at a straight angle.
And as you might have expected, this gives the impression of a tilted drone.
So, we’ve gone through the potential problems and their details.
The question now is this: how do you fix those issues? I’ve got the answers.
You can fix a drifting drone by working out the issues in the internal working of the drone. This includes calibration, refitting components, checking the motors and propellers, and giving it enough charge. You may also solve the problem by looking out for an unsuitable environment.
This is, however, just the tip of the iceberg. Here are some of the measures you can take in a bit more detail.
Checking the drone beforehand is a simple step that’ll save you from a lot of headache in general.
Make sure your drone is in tiptop condition and more importantly, that it has enough charge. A slight tilt may be the least of your problems if you fly on a low battery level.
And once your drone is powered on, give it a few seconds; instead of launching it instantly.
One of the first things you need to be doing is making sure the drone’s calibration is on point.
The thing is, you can fly a drone without regularly calibrating its compass. However, this isn’t safe and it may degrade your drone’s stability in the air.
Therefore, it’s important to go through with the calibration when the drone’s app or software prompts you to.
We’ll also be discussing the process of calibration, so make sure to stick around.
This one’s probably the most direct solution. You need to make sure the drone’s overall weight is evenly distributed to stop it from tilting to one side.
To make this happen, you can readjust the drone’s components in a way that each propeller is carrying an equal amount of weight. This step is particularly important for payload-carrying drones.
You should also ensure that every part is tightly screwed in. A loose set of propellers, for example, generate inadequate lift.
Checking the hardware for issues may seem like a daunting task, but a visual test might be all you need.
If you find your drone drifting sideways, you can try switching its propellers. Make note of the side the drone is tilting to and swap the propellers on that side.
This video goes through this process for the Mavic Mini:
On the other hand, make sure the motors are operating at an equal temperature. If they aren’t, there might be something obstructing one of the motors. Common examples include hair strands and dust particles.
It’s important to remember that these components may just be defective in general. In that case, you can consider buying new ones and replacing them altogether.
As I’ve mentioned before, the cause isn’t always to do with the drone itself - sometimes it’s situational. This refers to the drone’s surroundings.
The best way to get rid of situational problems is to move to a different location, particularly one that’s relatively open. This is because open spaces generally have minimal sources of interference.
And as a side note, always remember that the weather also plays a role in the surroundings. So, make sure the conditions aren’t too harsh as the drone won’t be able to counteract strong winds.
This part is targeted towards the drone pilots that are just starting out
Regardless of what you might think, you need to have enough experience under your belt to make sure it’s not your control that’s letting you down.
Experience comes with practice and regularly educating yourself. Once you know how to use every single button on your controller, you’ll be better equipped to maneuver your drone however you like.
If you’re looking for inspiration, this YouTube video shows fifteen ways to practice your skills.
I’ve been stressing the importance of calibration but we haven’t properly delved into it.
Here’s the thing: miscalibration produces a large amount of drift. This is because the sensors end up relaying inaccurate information.
So, how do we fix that and what does the calibration process look like?
You can calibrate a drone by initializing the recalibration process for each of its components. These components mainly include the inertial measurement unit (IMU), the compass, and the accelerometer. It’s recommended to start this process in an open area.
Before you begin, here are a few tips you should keep in mind:
Now, let’s take a look at how you can calibrate each component.
You can generally recalibrate the IMU and compass from the flight control settings on the drone’s app. Once you boot up the process, you’ll be prompted on what to do next.
This will involve you physically rotating the drone. Once you’re done following those instructions, you should receive a confirmation message.
In case the process fails, restart the drone and try going through the steps again.
This short YouTube video shows what the process is like for DJI drones.
To put it simply, the accelerometer measures the rate of change of movement. The drone uses that information to maintain stability as it accelerates.
You may not be prompted to calibrate the accelerometer, but I recommend going through the process nonetheless. Start by plugging the drone into your computer and opening the flight control settings.
You may do this on the user interface you prefer. Once the settings are launched, click the option to calibrate the accelerometer.
If you’ve successfully calibrated your drone but it’s still tilting to one side, you might have tried trimming it.
And sometimes, these settings can get a bit too messy. The process to reset them may differ from drone to drone, but here’s the general idea.
You can reset your drone trim by resetting it to default from the launcher. You may also use the buttons and push the trim to the extreme on both sides. You can distinguish the center position from the others as it often has a unique tone of middle frequency.
It’s always a good idea to have the user manual with you to find out which buttons on the remote controller you need to be using.
If you’re lost on what drone trimming is and what the tones sound like, this video might help.
As long as the drone is calibrated and GPS-enabled, hovering it in one place really isn’t complex. Here’s how you can do it.
You can hover a drone in place by using the sticks to make small, controlled adjustments when needed. You start off by using the throttle until the drone takes flight. You may have to subtly use the right stick to keep the drone in place, and the left stick if it starts turning.
The wind can make this a bit more challenging, but it should be manageable as long as the conditions aren’t noticeably harsh.
Ultimately, your ability to hover an operative drone will come down to your experience. But this isn’t a cause for concern for the newer pilots; a few drills might be all you need.
To summarise everything, the drift may be a result of more than one problem. Therefore, you’ll need to conduct a few checks to rule things out.
You can stop your drone from drifting by identifying the cause and diminishing its effect. This may involve inspecting and recalibrating the hardware, switching locations, and resetting the trim settings to adjust the way it leans. However, defective components may force you to make replacements.
As you go through the range of issues, it’s important to ensure safety by following the right steps. And once everything’s checked and updated, your drone should be back to normal in no time.