How to Calibrate a Drone? Step-by-Step Guide!

After reading this, you should be equipped with the why and how regarding the calibration of drones.
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Last updatedLast updated: November 30, 2021
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You watch drones fly on the big screen or online, and you think to yourself, “I want to own one of those.” Thanks to the developments in the manufacture of these airborne wonders, you can make that thought a reality, but you would enjoy drone flight if your drone weren’t well-calibrated.

To calibrate a drone and finally enjoy a satisfying flight, the knowledge of how to calibrate a drone is important. The knowledge will also come in handy if you find that your drone isn’t flying as well as it normally does, and we are here to provide this information for no charge at all.

The calibration of a drone is important, but there might be a few downsides to doing this too much as some experts have indicated that it could cause damage.  The only way to prevent any damage (if the experts are right) is to get your calibration right when you do it.

When to calibrate your drone?

We have indicated that drone calibration is an important factor in how your drone performs during a flight. As such, all drones require calibration, even drones considered to be relatively cheap. The following instances are when you need to calibrate your drone:

  1. Before the first flight
  2. If you haven’t flown your drone in over a month
  3. If the location of your previous calibration is more than six miles from your current location
  4. If there have been some drastic changes in the season or weather
  5. If your compass is bringing up interference warnings after a change in location
  6. If your drone seems to be unbalanced during flight
  7. After a crash

Things you need for calibration

The calibration process itself isn’t very complicated. Still, if you want the results to be long lasting and as close to perfect as possible, the following tools and conditions are recommended:

  1. A level surface (this is particularly important for an IMU calibration)
  2. A full battery
  3. A few extra batteries for the controller
  4. A mobile device for programming (this is needed for most drones)
  5. An open space/area
  6. A drone that is cool and free of its propellers
  7. The drone manual (to access the calibration requirements within)

Step by step instruction

When it comes to drone calibration, there are two types; compass calibration and IMU calibration. Trusted Source How to choose the right IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) for an UAV | Embention An IMU with good performance, vibration robustness and temperature stability will improve the flight operation with the drone. www.embention.com The following is a guide to implementing both types of calibrations when you need them:

IMU calibration

How to Calibrate a Drone? Step-by-Step Guide!

The IMU unit in a drone is critical to ensuring its stability.

When well-calibrated, it helps the drone stay level and flat, making it easier to control and predict. It can be done indoors because of the lack of wind or any such interference. The method of calibration might also differ by brand, but the following steps should help:

  1. Place the drone on a flat surface, with the gimbal guard Trusted Source Drone Camera Gimbals | UAV Gimbal Payload | Gimbal Sensors for UAVs, UGVs Find suppliers and manufacturers of drone camera gimbals and gimballed imaging systems for unmanned aircraft (UAV / UAS / RPAS), unmanned ground vehicles (UGV), robotics and surface systems. 2-axis and 3-axis gyro-stabilized gimbal camera payloads with EO/IR, thermal and laser sensors for multi-spectral imaging, ISR. www.unmannedsystemstechnology.com off and the arms folded
  2. Power up the drone
  3. Start the remote controller
  4. Connect the controller/drone to your mobile device. The app must be for the same drone, or else it would work. For instance, Holystone drone connects to Holystone apps and DJI drones to DJI apps
  5. Launch the drone app
  6. Access the controller settings/ advanced settings
  7. Find the IMU option and select IMU calibration
  8. Follow the prompts in the app and calibrate the drone in the directions as guided
  9. After calibrating in all directions, the app would inform you that the calibration is complete

It should be noted that there might be slight variations in accessing the settings depending on the brand of the drone. Still, drones from the same manufacturer, such as the DJI Air 2S drone and the DJI Mini drone (both quadcopters with high-quality video transmission), are likely to be calibrated the same way.

Compass calibration

How to Calibrate a Drone? Step-by-Step Guide!Where the IMU calibration helps with stability and control, the compass calibration helps with direction. This would be critical in helping a drone find true north and preventing embarrassing flyaways, like one reported by CNN and involving the White House Trusted Source Drone maker 'highly unlikely' | CNN Politics The owner of a small drone that crashed at the White House earlier this week is blaming technical problems with the DJI Phantom quadcopter for the apparent mishap, though the creator of the device says it’s “highly unlikely” the device malfunctioned. www.cnn.com .

It is important to calibrate the compass if you are flying a drone more than 6 miles from the location of its last calibration.

In addition, you have to make sure that there are no metal or concrete structures capable of interfering with the calibration around (hence, the recommendation of open space). The following steps should help get the process over with:

  1. Power up the drone and ensure its battery is full
  2. Turn on the transmitter of the drone
  3. Turn on the controller of the drone
  4. Launch the drone app
  5. Locate the controller settings/advanced settings
  6. Select compass calibration and start calibrating
  7. Follow the prompts on the app and spin as directed
  8. When complete, the drone would indicate that the compass calibration is complete

Calibration applications

As you might have noticed, many drones have mobile applications to facilitate their calibrations. These apps would need to be downloaded on mobile stores and installed. Once connected to the drone, they would allow the user remote access to certain features and, in some cases, control over the drone without the controller.

Drones that do not have applications can still be calibrated, though. To calibrate such devices, it is advisable to follow the instructions present in the manual.

Final thoughts

Without calibration, drone flight would be problematic, and if done wrongly, it would still be problematic. That’s why we have put together this rough guide to help users navigate their drones for safer flights.

In addition, the calibration of the IMU and compass would also indirectly help reduce crashes, and the incidence of lost drones. When dealing with cheap drones, cases of flyaways might not be as serious, but higher-end drones are costly and represent a massive financial investment.

Hence, to protect such an investment, you should know how to calibrate a drone. If the problem with the drone is not calibration, though, but an inability to fly, these solutions might be worth a try. Good luck and enjoy a safer flight.

References

1.
How to choose the right IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) for an UAV | Embention
An IMU with good performance, vibration robustness and temperature stability will improve the flight operation with the drone.
2.
Drone Camera Gimbals | UAV Gimbal Payload | Gimbal Sensors for UAVs, UGVs
Find suppliers and manufacturers of drone camera gimbals and gimballed imaging systems for unmanned aircraft (UAV / UAS / RPAS), unmanned ground vehicles (UGV), robotics and surface systems. 2-axis and 3-axis gyro-stabilized gimbal camera payloads with EO/IR, thermal and laser sensors for multi-spectral imaging, ISR.
3.
Drone maker 'highly unlikely' | CNN Politics
The owner of a small drone that crashed at the White House earlier this week is blaming technical problems with the DJI Phantom quadcopter for the apparent mishap, though the creator of the device says it’s “highly unlikely” the device malfunctioned.
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