How To Calibrate Your Drone 

Drones have many sensors — barometer, gyro, magnetometer, and accelerometer that help to maintain flight efficiency. But impacts, vibrations, aging and, drift over time have altered the accurate values of the sensors. The magnetometer together with other sensors determines the spatial positioning and helps generate accurate flight control. Calibrating your drone will restore the accurate measurements of the sensors and prevent your drone from any form of malfunction, crashing, accidents, or fly-away. 

Calibrating your drone means synchronizing the precise sensor data with true physical data. This is simply correcting errors responsible for the inaccurate sensor measurements in comparison with a standard model while ensuring accuracy. 

Calibrating your drone is synchronizing your accurate sensor data with the physical data. This is essential for fresh-out-of-the-box drones and for drones with sensors that suffer from aging, impacts, vibrations, and drifts. Calibrating your drone will help maintain flight efficiency and prevent crashes, accidents, and fly-away. There are two drone calibration types – the compass and Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) calibrations. Calibrating short-ranged drones is as important as calibrating long-ranged quadcopter drones since each drone flight is an adventurous mission. Several instances require that you recalibrate your drones for efficiency and accomplished mission. Discover how you should calibrate your drones and when you should start the process here. 

When Should You Calibrate Drones? 

As a first rule, calibrate your fresh-out-of-the-box drone before the first flight to feed precise positioning data into your drone’s flight system. If you move from one state to another, such as relocating from Texas to California, you need to calibrate your drone to minimize errors arising from declination.  

You should also recalibrate your drone after significant hardware changes such as changes in the camera, gimbal magnetometer or large battery changes. You should also frequently recalibrate the accelerometer that keeps your drone balanced and stable in flight. This prevents unsafe and erratic flights. 

You should also know that your accelerometer is subject to several environmental influences such as temperature, vibrations during transportation and abrupt shocks, especially if you are flying with your drone. You should often recalibrate your accelerometer after every fifty hours of flight; after every six months or whenever your drone receives a heavy and sudden shock. Also, discovering an uneven artificial horizon on your drone’s ground control station when you place it on an even surface calls for recalibration.   

Conditions for an effective drone calibration

To effectively calibrate your drone, here are some basic things you need to know to synchronize your accurate sensor data with true physical data. 

You need your tablet/phone for programming, some batteries for remote control, and a fully charged battery. You should calibrate your drone in a large open area and on an even surface. This helps with a good line of sight. Do not forget that you have to do this in a cool environment to avoid overheating. Calibrating your drone when it’s hot is not ideal. If your UAV is hot, shut it down for about 10 minutes before starting the process again. Afterwards, prepare your drone by simply removing propellers, gimbal guard, etc.

Drone Calibration Guide 

There are two ways you can calibrate your drone; these include compass and IMU calibrations.

Compass Calibration 

Compass calibration aligns your drone flight system with the earth’s magnetic north in a process called magnetic declination. There’s an algorithm in your drone’s ROM memory that aids effective calibration of the magnetometer, the compass of your drone. Compass calibration makes it easy to find the true north. To get started, ensure that there are no cellphone towers, concrete lots or metal structures that may interfere with the process. 

Below are steps to calibrate your drone compass: 

  • Turn on your drone’s transmitter. You must fully charge your drone and power up. 
  • Make use of the controller for calibrating the compass. Ensure that the lights on your drone and remote are solid colors. 
  • Hold your drone level with the ground and spin it horizontally until a green light turns on. 
  • Rotate the drone vertically to the ground and then gradually spin until the green light turns on
  • If there is an error in the calibration process, there will be a flash of red. If this is the case with your calibration, you need to repeat the process. 

IMU Calibration 

An Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) is an electronic device that employs the gyroscope and accelerometer for the measurement of rotation and acceleration. It is a circuit that handles the roll and pitch. IMU calibration is most suitable indoors on a flat surface. 

Below are few steps to calibrating the IMU: 

  • Before starting the process, make sure the drone is on a flat surface and powered up; take out the gimbal and stretch out the legs while ensuring that the drone faces left. 
  • Open up the iFly application and find the safety line 
  • Tap on the IMU calibrate button, found on the lower left of the screen. 
  • Then, have your drone face right, place it on its side while the top of the drone is facing you. Hold the drone for a couple of seconds and allow it to calibrate.
  • If you get calibration errors, check to see that there are no ferromagnetic or electromagnetic sources such as underground power lines, irrigation systems, rocks, rebar and drainage pipes that may interfere with the process.  

Should You Calibrate Long-range Drones? 

Calibrating a long-range drone is as good as calibrating a short-range drone. Proper calibration of drones guarantees amazing footage at the best distance. If you must fly long-range quadcopter drones, you need to understand the connection between resistance and lift. Quadcopters have high lift values and this makes them easy to control. But their flights could be slow. This may pose a problem with control when you do not properly calibrate your gadget. 

Calibrating such drones requires plotting on the map the graphical representation of an accurate long-range flight path, best altitude, flying zone, the right time for flight initiation, the speed to reach altitude and the flying zone. Afterwards, send the drone into an area you have plotted at designed speed and an altitude. 

Errors arising from the sensors have compounding effects. If you are on a long mission, you must watch out for errors since a minute error could become a huge one in the shortest possible distance, even within kilometers. In this context, remember that a Flying BVLOS means that you’re not in the right position where you can verify the precise location of your drone. This also means that you will depend on remote feedback and how accurate your initial step was to make sure your drone is where it should be at the right time.      

Proper calibration is key and a test of the effectiveness of the mission of a long-range quadcopter drone. The drone has to navigate its way while returning after a flight. With no or improper calibration, your drone may have an unsuccessful flight in a place with obstacles.  

Calibrating Your Drone With Software

Most of the advanced new generation drones may require software for calibration. DJI, Yuneec and some other big names already have software for calibration of some of their major UAV. Another example of one of the software is the WISPr systems. 

Whichever software you wish to use, you need to check out the tutorial. And there are a few things you must remember: 

  • Recalibrate if the GPS LEDs blinks red
  • Keep smartphone, magnets or any metal at least 5 feet from your drone before initiating sensor calibration.  
  • It’s a general rule that you should fully charge your battery before you begin calibration 
  • Calibrating on a level surface is ideal 
  • Do not power or plug the CPE during sensor calibration 
  • It’s ideal to remove propellers before calibration. 

Finally, calibrating your drone will prevent erratic flight, accidents, crashes, and fly-away. Buying your drone is a tremendous investment and thus demands maximum care and protection. You should calibrate your drones to guarantee the efficiency of every mission and prevent wastage of resources. 



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