EXPERT TECH BY GUS CALDERON PHOTOS BY JOHN REID FLIGHT MODES 101 FLIP A SWITCH FOR PRECISION CONTROL! In full-size aircraft, autopilots can reduce the pilot’s workload so that he or she is able to safely perform other tasks. Similarly, when you’re flying a multirotor, the on-board flight controller performs tasks that can assist with the flight. A flight controller may be as basic as a stabilizer for manual flying or a complex system that can be programmed to fly GPS waypoints at specific altitudes. Many flight controllers have a “Failsafe” mode that can be activated to “return to home” in case a problem is encountered during flight. It is good practice to always label the switches you assigned your flight modes to (see top left of the transmitter). Flight controllers have a variety of modes and can be classified into three main categories. The first includes modes that maintain position vertically and laterally, such as altitude hold and GPS hold. The second category includes modes that control orientation of the multirotor with respect to pilot position. The third category includes failsafe modes. Because many manufacturers use trade names for their flight modes, this article will classify each mode with a generic name to give you a clear understanding. You should have a thorough knowledge of each flight mode on your specific flight controller. Equally as important, the flight modes that are assigned to switches on the transmitter must be properly labeled. As always, a preflight checklist is recommended to ensure that all modes are in the desired position prior to flight. Manual Mode This is primarily used when you want maximum control for maneuvering. This is the mode preferred by aerobatic pilots and First-Person View racers. Some basic flight controllers only operate in this mode. If the aircraft is pitched forward in this mode, it will move forward. With the stick is centered, the attitude is stabilized and the aircraft will return to level, although it will continue to drift a little. Throttle control is also manual, and what input on the transmitter will be translated directly to the throttle output (the stick response will be rather quick). n Skilled operators who fly obstacle courses or pylon racing use manual mode for the quick response. n Novice operators should never use manual mode because the multirotor will require a lot of skill and experience to control and the response will be quick. n Aerial cinematographers may use manual mode if they are filming a moving object and need to rapidly vary the position of the multi-rotor during the flight.
Altitude Hold Most advanced flight controllers have barometric sensors that enable them to detect subtle changes in atmospheric pressure. Selecting this mode helps the aircraft maintain the desired altitude, but there may be some fluctuations during windy and gusty conditions. As a result, the aircraft will drift a little in the direction of the wind, but it will maintain the altitude. Increasing or decreasing the throttle stick may still perform changes in altitude. When the stick is returned to center, however, the multirotor will hold the desired altitude. n Altitude Hold is used when smooth lateral movements are required during aerial filming and you need to hold a certain altitude. n This mode may also benefit infrastructure inspections (i.e. underneath bridges) when a GPS signal is unavailable. n A transmitter that has been modified with a selfcentering throttle stick will allow this mode to be engaged without needing to visually confirm the stick position. This is great for new pilots who are not adept at adjusting the throttle stick to center after each altitude change. Altitude Hold is a perfect mode when you are following a subject that is moving, such as this mountain biker. For aerial still photography, GPS Position Hold will maintain the multirotor’s position so you can wait for that perfect shot. GPS Position Hold This mode maintains the multirotor’s position both laterally and vertically and is ideal for learning to operate the craft. This mode is very forgiving because it allows you to maneuver the aircraft, but when the sticks are released the new position is maintained. For this mode to function properly, it is imperative that the GPS receiver acquired the requisite number of satellites before takeoff. Because of this, GPS mode will usually require a start up sequence that can take longer than that of other modes. n GPS Position Hold, which also may be called Loiter Mode, is ideal for beginners. n Aerial still photography is often accomplished in GPS Position Hold so the multirotor can maintain its position during the flight. n Operators doing inspections of rooftops, towers, and smokestacks use this mode almost all the time. Flight Success 23
DRONE SAFETY GUIDELINES Here are so