Flying my drone is one of the best things in the world because of the amazing views and images I can capture. I have also enjoyed seeing all of the amazing images that you guys shave taken and cannot wait to see more. Hopefully, this little article of mine can help you continue to enjoy droning as I know the ones that I have read has helped me. We are a united community that must always remember to lend a helping hand when we can.
Now, if you are like I was the first time, you are probably panicking because your drone has to be calibrated before using it. I know I panicked and started doing a bunch of research to figure out what it meant and what I had to do. Thankfully I found a great article that helped me through it and thought me all I needed to know, which I am now sharing. It is not as hard as what you may think, and once done, you get to spend plenty of time flying your drone.
One of the questions that I came across a lot is knowing when to calibrate the IMU. The app will sometimes tell you, but there is no guarantee it will every time. I have had a few times where the app did not tell me, but I calibrated anyways. I noticed some odd behavior coming from the drone, which is what prompted me to try calibrating it.
IMU? What is that?
When I first began to drone, I often wondered this same thing, and a lot of none experienced drone users have the same thought. Well, I am going to explain to you want an IMU is and why it is important. First, IMU stands for the inertial measurement unit. This device is built into your drone, and it does a lot of important things to keep the drone running properly. It measures the specific force, attitude, and angular velocity. These are all done by using a network of sensors. Now lets breakdown these different sensors.
There is a bunch of technical jargon that you will come across if you look this word up, so let me simplify it for you. This sensor detects the acceleration of your drone, and that is all it does.
This sensor is the one that will detect your drone’s course, roll angles, and pitch. In other words, it helps you hover with complete stability, meaning you can get some glorious shots that do not come out blurry. I know I prefer clean shots.
This sensor is used for detecting the changes in height as the drone flies.
I am sure you know what this sensor is already, but I bet you do not know why it is so important. It is important to have your drone calibrated to a certain temperature because the drone has to hit that temperature before it will fly. Now, some people seem to think their drones should be put into a refrigerator before it is used. I follow what DJI has stated is best, and that is room temperature.
How do I know when to calibrate the IMU?
As I stated above, the app usually will tell you when you need to calibrate it. It makes it where you cannot fly your drone until the calibration is completed. Now, that does not mean the app will tell you every time. As I stated, I have had to calibrate it even the app did not say it was needed. My drone just started to act off, so I tried calibrating it, which fixed the problem.
Now, you may think you can just simply as the DJI team, but I can tell you now that you will get some conflicting answers on when you should calibrate. The information I am giving you is a combination of their answers, what other people who have the drone has said, and my own experience.
There are times that your drone should be calibrated based on what DJI has stated, what I have found on different web sources, and what I have found on forums.
- App Error Code: This is the one time where the drone has to be calibrated because this only happens when there is an IMU error. You might also see flashing red lights on the drone when this warning pops up on the app, but you do not have to panic. It could just be the drone needs charged.
- Drone Flies Crooked or Drifts: Now, this problem is not caused by the IMU itself, but calibrating it can help you find the problem and fix it in the end.
- Crashes or Lands Hard: When this happens, your drone’s sensors are jarred a good deal, which means you need to calibrate.
- First Arrives: A new drone should always be calibrated before it is first run because things may not be set up fully or the delivery could have jarred things around. I am sure you have gotten things delivered before that has been shaken during the transit.
- After Updates: Software updates change a lot in the internal mechanisms of the drone, which means calibration is needed afterward to make sure everything is set just right. I always try to calibrate after an update, but some people swear it is not needed.
Now, just because there are a lot of reasons to calibrate, that does not mean you have to do one right now or even before every flight. It is important to remember to only calibrate when it is needed.
How is the IMU’s status checked?
It is very easy to check the status of the IMU, and I recommend you do it regularly. All you have to do is go under the main controller settings, click on advanced settings, and then click on sensors. This screen shows you the accelerometer bias and gyroscope bias. You should see colored bars underneath both and they should be green. Now if they are yellow or red, then your drone needs to be calibrated.
How is the IMU calibrated?
I can assure you that this is a very easy task to complete and does not take very long at all to complete. I have found that it takes me around five minutes to complete a calibration. When you calibrate, make sure your drone is sitting on something completely flat and that the area where the calibration happens is cool. If the area where the drone is sitting is not completely level and flat, the drone can have some major instability while flying. When I tried to calibrate once I could not find a level, so I found an app on the phone that is a level.
Now comes the step by step guide on how to run the calibration, which I assure you is very simple.
- 1. lay drone on a completely flat surface
- 2. let the drone get to room temperature (which should be on the cooler side)
- 3. check if the battery is 50% charged or more
- 4. open up the app
- 5. turn on the controller
- 6. turn then drone on
- 7. click the following in order: main controller settings, advanced settings, sensors, calibrate IMU, start
- 8. do what the instructions on the screen say (which will mean moving the drone around some)
- 9. restart the drone once the calibration is completely done
If you are unsure about following these steps, some wonderful videos can be found on YouTube which will walk you completely through the process of the calibration.
When and How to Calibrate IMU for the DJI Mavic Pro
When and How to Calibrate IMU for the DJI Spark
When and How to Calibrate IMU for the DJI Phantom 4
I hope this has helped you and ensures you enjoy using your drone for a long time to come. I know I will always enjoy using my drone and love seeing others enjoy theirs too. Now, the main thing I hope this whole thing has shown you as I know it has shown me is that you should always listen to your drone. Your drone will tell you if something is wrong even when there is no error message popping up. Your drone will show you clearly if something is wrong, and most of the time it can be easily fixed. Doing a simple IMU calibration can do a lot to fix the smallest of problems with your drone.
If you have any questions about using your drone or have come across any problems, I would love to hear from you. We are a community that needs to stick together and help each other as much as possible. I will help you as much as I can as long as you promise to pass along the help to others. For all we know, you might be helping me with something someday.