By Bob Hammell
One of the most interesting parts about quadcopters is their ability to self-stabilize in air.
This autonomous leveling that takes places makes flying them very ‘beginner’ friendly by removing that need for control out of the pilot’s hands.
In the perfect scenario, a quadcopter should stay completely level in the air and hold its same position above the ground. The pilot can then maneuver it by adjusting its altitude, spinning it, or moving it in its lateral directions.
Instead of staying level and in place the quadcopter will move slowly out of position in a sideways direction, and this is referred to as drifting.
When drifting happens the pilot is constantly forced the compensate for it by adjusting the controls in the opposite direction, which can become very tedious.
So why is this happening and what can we do about it? First, we need to investigate a little more into how the quadcopter operates to understand the situation.
When it measures that it is out of balance and leaning too much in one direction it adjusts the thrust of the motors independently to correct for this. ‘
So if the quadcopter is leaning to the right it will correct for this by increasing the thrust for the two right motors, therefore pushing that side upwards and leveling it out.
This correction is happening hundreds of times a second to keep the whole system stabilized.
How does drift get introduced? Well, there can be a few different factors.
First, the gyroscope itself may be miscalibrated. This means it thinks the quad is level when it is really tilted.
When this is the case the quad will keep trying to correct to its ‘level’ position which is really not level, making it drift in one direction or another.
Even if the gyroscope is off by a single degree of accuracy in its level measurement this can cause drift. This problem is can usually be dealt with by recalibrating the gyroscope before a flight.
To do this lay the quad on a perfectly level surface, then follow its instructions for recalibration which usually involves pressing some controller buttons and waiting a few seconds.
In these few seconds, the gyroscope is redefining what its internal value of ‘level’ is now that you’re telling it is on a flat surface. You should perform this calibration regularly just to prevent any drift from occurring in the first place.
The second factor that may cause drifting is a misbalance in the components of the quad. Stabilization is all about balance, so when the quad is heavier on one side it makes it tough to achieve.
A lot of times it is the batter that causes balance issues. Batteries need to make sure that they are balanced in the middle of the quads framing so that they are weighing it down evenly on all axis’.
If your quad is drifting too much try to balance the quad in your hands to see which way it falls, determine what is causing it to lean that way and balance it out.
When drifting is occurring there is a way to compensate for it within the controls.
All quad controllers have trim adjustment controls available. These are there to manually correct for any drift that is occurring but may take some practice to use them correctly.
When you try to hover your quad and it drifts, apply the trim controls in the correct direction until it becomes stable in one position. This can take some time adjusting each trim back and forth before you reach the perfect balance.
Once you have it all trimmed up you’ll be able to hold a quad level without a problem.
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