Why Does My Drone Drift 7 Ways To Fix It

Why Does My Drone Drift? 7 Ways To Fix It

Before I learned why does my drone drift and how to fix it, my flying experiences were often frustrating rather than joyous. The inability to navigate my drone smoothly sometimes deterred me from flying!

But that was before. Now I know why does my drone drift and even the ways to fix this problem. And I’m happy to share with fellow drone enthusiasts!

There are several reasons for a drone drift. Some are external, like weather and launch platform issues. While others are internal, like propeller malfunction and hardware or software problems.

Read on as I decode the problems along with simple solutions that will have you flying that drone in a straight line!

Understanding the Causes of Drone Drift

Understanding the Causes of Drone Drift

Based on my personal experiences and insights from fellow drone pilots, I’ve compiled the most common reasons for drone drifts. Take a look and identify what’s causing your drone to drift.

A. Environmental Factors

These are the external determinants that are sometimes not in our control. But it is good to be aware so you can fly accordingly.

Wind

The wind’s direction and speed can both impact your drone’s flight significantly. A high wind speed means high resistance, which results in the drone flying sideways and veering from its intended path.

A swift gush of wind from one side can also push the drone sideways in the opposite direction.

Foggy weather is another condition that must be avoided as drones tend to encounter issues in their flight path while flying in fog

Electromagnetic Interference

Powerlines, Wi-Fi routers, etc., are sources of electromagnetic radiation that can tamper with the drone’s communication systems.

This can sometimes be the reason for your drone’s sudden and unexplained drifting. Hence, avoiding GPS and compass interference is advised for a smooth flight. Read more about it here

B. Calibration and Settings

I learned about the importance of calibration from a friend who is a drone flying trainer and often deals with new drones.

Calibrating a drone means ensuring that the sensors are working properly and accurately.

By accurately reading its surroundings through the sensors, a drone is able to fly smoothly with no drift.

There are two types of calibrations:

IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) Calibration

The IMU is pivotal in keeping your drone stable and in control. It houses the magnetometer, gyroscope, and accelerometer, which measure the drone’s orientation, rotation, and acceleration.

Needless to say, without these crucial components working cohesively, a drone cannot be expected to have a smooth flight.

Some drones require individual calibration of each component, while others automatically calibrate the parts when the IMU is calibrated.

Compass Calibration

A drone’s compass is sensitive to the Earth’s magnetic field, which may vary from one place to another.

Compass calibration counteracts this interference and improves the accuracy of the drone’s compass.

Without proper compass calibration, your drone may be unable to determine its location or fly to the home point.

C. Mechanical Issues

The drone’s inner and outer machinery is prone to wear and tear. Identifying and fixing mechanical issues in drones can easily be done at home.

Here are some aspects in particular that may be drone drift causes.

Propeller Speed Imbalance

If you look carefully, you will see a slight difference in the shape of the propellers. This is done to balance and stabilize the drone. You can read more about this in my previous article, where I’ve discussed the reason behind this in detail.

Now, if you attach a propeller to the wrong motor, there is bound to be instability in flight due to the uneven lift.

Most manufacturers number the propeller and motors. So, be mindful of this when performing the attachments for correct propeller balancing for drones.

 Drone Motor Malfunction

Sometimes, debris gets stuck in motors, which results in them not functioning properly.

Even the slightest reduction in the power of a motor causes imbalance, which will make your drone drift.

 Impaired Propellers/Frame

If your drone has ever crashed or even bumped against an object, there are chances of propeller or frame damage.

Either of which can disrupt the balance and cause the drone to tilt to one side during flight.

So, a new set of propellers is recommended for fixing drone drifting issues.

D. Other Factors

Some additional factors that are often overlooked when figuring out the reasons for drone drift:

Asymmetrical Weight Distribution

The weight/payload on the drone needs to be evenly balanced on all sides. If the payload is heavier on any side, the drone will tilt in that direction. Therefore, ensuring proper weight distribution for drones is vital.

 Pilot Error

Beginners or those unfamiliar with the drone’s controls may find their drone drifting initially.

This is a temporary phase and will resolve itself as soon as one is acquainted with the controls.

7 Ways to Fix Drone Drift

7 Ways to Fix Drone Drift

And now, for the ways in which you can handle the above issues. All of these are tried and tested ways that will fix a drone drift in most cases.

7.1. Calibrating the IMU

A drone flying sideways often indicates that the IMU needs calibration. Here is a drone calibration guide to successfully calibrate your drone at home:

  • Remove the gimbal guard and keep your drone on a flat and even surface.
  • Power up the drone and remote control. Do not switch on the motor.
  • Open the drone app installed on your phone and go to the sensors section.
  • You will see the calibrate option here. Click on it and follow the instructions on the screen to begin calibration. Please note that these will vary from drone to drone.

7.2. Compass Calibration

Compass calibration is especially critical when flying the drone in a new location. To calibrate the drone’s compass, carry out these simple compass calibration techniques:

  • To avoid interference, perform the procedure away from large metal structures and cell phone towers.
  • Switch on the transmitter. Ensure that the drone is fully charged.
  • Now go to the compass section in the app and click on calibrate. Follow the instructions that appear on the screen.
  • Based on the instructions, calibration usually requires rotating the drone on its x, y, and z axes.
  • Once the calibration is complete, a message will appear on the screen.

7.3. Checking and Adjusting Propellers

When checking the propellers, we need to look out for two things: one is checking for damage, and the other is balance.

A damage check can be done by visually inspecting the propellers for cracks or scratches. I usually do this by gently running my fingers over the propeller to feel unevenness.

Even a single crack can lead to drone drifting. So, replace any damaged propellers as soon as you spot them.

For balance, I’ve already discussed that the propellers must be attached to their proper slots.

Apart from that, you also need to ensure they are correctly fixed and not hanging loose.

These pointers should take care of any drift being caused by propeller inconsistencies.

7.4. Adjusting PID Settings

PID, short for Proportional, Integral, and Derivative, is a flight controller software algorithm. Its job is to analyze the data from the sensors and calculate the motor spin required to maintain the desired rotation speed of the drone.

The ‘P’ setting determines whether you have a soft or strict control over the drone. It will determine the effort your controller puts in to minimize errors in the set flight path.

A higher P will give you sharp control, but do not increase it overtly. This will put the drone in an over-correcting mode, causing it to oscillate.

The ‘I’ setting is the control that shields the stability from external factors like wind. When you notice the drone drifting without command, try increasing the ‘I’ setting. Again, refrain from increasing the value too much.

The ‘D’ setting handles the strength of dampening in the drone. A high D offers more dampening that can reduce the overshoots caused by the ‘P’ setting. Again, be cautious and keep the value moderated, or you risk burning your motors!

7.5. GPS and Compass Interference Avoidance

The only way to evade GPS and compass interference is to not fly the drone where these exist! Radio towers, trees, tall concrete structures, cell phone towers, and power lines are areas to avoid. 

Crowded places must also be avoided, as there could be other drones or devices that use the same frequency bandwidth as your drone.

7.6. Checking for Mechanical Damage

Here, too, visual inspection is the key to identifying any issues. Very often, debris, like dust particles, hair, etc., can get stuck in the motor. Dust or water entering your drone can also result in system malfunction.

To eliminate this problem, drone maintenance is very important. Only regular checkups and cleaning will keep the drone’s sophisticated systems functioning properly.  

7.7. Ensuring Proper Weight Distribution

As discussed, proper weight distribution is an essential step in ways to fix drone drift. This can be done by adjusting the center of gravity to provide stability to the drone.

If your drone drifts after mounting a payload, then adjusting it to evenly distribute weight will resolve the issue. 

Test flights after drone adjustments

Test flights after drone adjustments

Once you’ve checked your drone for all the above drifting reasons, it’s time to take a test flight.

Select an open and uncrowded area for this purpose. While flying the drone, observe closely to see if the drone is flying straight without leaning.

Perform all maneuvers, like circling, hovering, and flying high and low, to do a thorough check. If you find that the drone is still drifting, it means the right problem has not been addressed. 

Retract it immediately and recheck. If you still cannot solve the drifting problem, it’s time to consult a technician or seek customer support.

I speak from experience when I warn you not to fly a drifting drone. I’ve seen cases where pilots continued flying, assuming they could control the drone subsequently. They ended up crashing their drone!

It could’ve been worse if we were flying in a crowded area, as a plummeting drone can seriously injure a person. So, whatever you do, land your drone ASAP the moment you notice a drift.

Conclusion

There’s no simple answer to why does my drone drift. It may be one problem or the culmination of a few. Regardless, it is crucial to address the issue for the safety of your drone and the people around it.

I hope you find the above checklist useful in case of troubleshooting. Another golden mantra I swear by is regular drone maintenance and software updating. It keeps minor issues at bay and prevents them from turning into major problems.

Happy flying!  

FAQ

1.  How often should I calibrate my drone’s IMU and compass?

Drone calibration must be carried out whenever you are flying in a new location. It should also be done if the drone is drifting sideways.

Again, this depends on the drone model, as some drones may carry out this process automatically.

2. How can I clean the drone’s motors?

To clean the motor, use a soft brush and compressed air. This will help remove any dust or debris on the surface and ensure smooth functioning.

3. Is it safe to use propellers from a different brand on my drone?

To clean the motor, use a soft brush and compressed air. Using these tools, gently remove any dust or debris on the surface and ensure smooth functioning.

Author
Diptesh Das

Diptesh Das is your friendly ‘content maniac’ and drone enthusiastic! Being passionate about content writing. He is a firm believer of the power of words and thereby ended up leveraging them to create an impact by sharing his drone knowledge and experiences.

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