One of the main questions when buying the first quadcopter is related to the functionality known as the headless mode. Drones of all price points have this option, but there are several differences when it comes to more advanced models. The next sections explore the basics of the headless mode, how it helps to fly a drone, and what exactly it can do.
The Flying Basics
Initially, the headless mode was only a feature of complex, more expensive drones. Given the advances in technology, it has become more and more popular so that most drones for kids or beginners feature it. As a result, it is necessary to understand what it does since there is a very high chance that your current or future drone will have it.
Drones have a symmetrical shape, so it is quite difficult to identify which part is the front; in general, the front of your drone has brighter colors, while the back side may be blue or black. This difference is important, otherwise, you cannot control your drone.
For example, the drone is placed on the ground facing the same direction as the person who controls it – this is easy to fly since forward for the drone is the same direction for you. However, if the drone is turned 180 degrees, facing you, the drone will fly in your direction when you press forward. In this case, when the drone is facing you, pressing left turns the drone to the right and vice-versa.
This is even more complicated when the drone is flying and you cannot tell its direction for sure. This is where the headless mode becomes highly useful, especially for beginners.
What Is the Drone Headless Mode?
Building on the explanation above, the headless mode allows you to fly the drone according to the controller position, not its orientation. For instance, when you move it to the right, the drone also moves to the right. When the mode is turned on, as a flyer, you do not have to monitor the drone’s orientation anymore, but rather fly according to your own orientation.
For example, in the normal mode, the drone turns to its left when you turn to the left, which might actually be your right side, based on the drone’s forward position. In the case of kids, it can be very difficult to explain the orientation of the drone, and might be tricky to master this understanding, too. Some children or beginners could get confused about why the drone turns left instead of right. The headless mode eliminates this confusion by moving the device according to the flyer’s orientation.
Do All Drones Have Headless Mode?
More and more models come with this function nowadays. Some manufacturers might market it differently, such as “care free mode” or “head free mode”, but it works the same way as the headless mode explained above. However, very advanced drones that require expertise do not have such a function.
In most cases, the drone controller has a button labeled with one of these terms. You may also read the drone’s instructions which usually contain plenty of useful information about this function, such as how it works on your drone, how to activate it, and more.
If your model is not so complex, it can be as easy as placing the drone in front of you and turning the headless mode on. The drone usually takes off after you do this.
For more expensive drones, such as those with a digital compass, their controls may be more advanced. In this case, it is mandatory to read the instructions before you activate the headless mode.
How Safe Is Drone Headless Mode?
The function is essentially controlled by a computer, so there’s little to no room for error. In fact, it may be a lot safer than normal mode if you do not have much experience flying your drone. The main benefit is that it removes the need to figure out how to control the drone and which way it is facing, so flying can be considerably safer.
It is important to understand that, while the headless mode is effective, it should not be used next to electromagnetic interference, such as telecommunication towers, power lines, and others. Similar to any other sensor, it can malfunction, so attention and prevention are a must.
Is Drone Headless Mode for Children or Inexperienced Flyers?
Most people would be tempted to state that automating the drone is more like cheating. However, it is easy to notice that more and more devices around us become increasingly automated, so they require less and less skill from humans controlling them – one example would be self-driving cars.
Keeping the analogy, the headless mode is similar to the ABS (anti-lock braking system) in so many cars. One purpose of the functions is to boost safety while using these vehicles. As a result, using the headless mode makes drone flying much easier, but it will not help you develop actual flying skills. For instance, a driver with an automatic transmission is a good driver but may be utterly confused if they switch to a manual transmission. As a result, flying a drone using the headless mode will not teach you to control it when it is in normal mode.
Can You Buy a Cheap Drone With Headless Mode?
Most of the drones on the market come with headless mode nowadays. Apart from affordability, most models with a headless mode are also packed with beginner-friendly features. If you want this type of drone, you should consider that most of them can only fly for up to 20 meters away.
For a fun adventure, the battery should last for more than 5 minutes after a full charge, and you may also want the drone to be capable of doing some tricks, such as rolling or flipping. There are numerous models available, as previously stated, such as Altair AA108, Syma X5C, and others, and they are quite affordable.
Is a Drone With Headless Mode Worth It?
As a drone pilot, you probably have unique expectations, purposes, and preferences. Some people might be quite discerning and want to develop their flying skills, so a headless mode drone is not necessary. Kids and beginners might find that a drone with this function is worth every cent.
If you are inexperienced, these automated functions can help you get started in no time. For instance, the headless drone can be paired with altitude hold, helping you to understand the aerodynamics of your flying object, especially during different weather conditions. Once you get used to your drone, you may consider purchasing a more advanced model and try flying it in normal mode.
Benefits of Headless Mode
- Ideal for children and beginners
- Easy to fly without mastery or skills
- Stress-free drone flying
- Easy to activate and use
Drawbacks of Headless Mode
- The sensor can malfunction when in the proximity of electromagnetic fields
- If you plan to advance your skills, you still need to learn how to fly a drone without this mode
Can You Use FPV While Headless Mode Is On?
If you are interested in enjoying the first-person view (FPV), headless mode is not compatible. FPV is when you can see every object through your drone’s camera using goggles or a screen. As a result, you need to know your own drone direction and orientation to use FPV, while headless mode does not allow you to do this.
Other Tips for Quick and Easy Flying
If headless mode sounds like something you’d love to try, there are a few aspects that help you get started with your drone and make flying an easy, pleasant, and safe experience.
Make sure you thoroughly read all the instructions before flying the drone. Some drones have other beginner-friendly options, such as obstacle avoidance. Do not rely excessively on this function or any other, including headless mode, as there might still be room for error. For instance, the sensors inside the drone might not detect very small obstacles, such as thin ropes or telephone lines. Flying in the proximity of telephone lines may also interfere with headless mode.
When learning how to fly a drone, start with a quiet environment. Avoid people as they might distract you. Ensure that there are no birds or animals around you to prevent any accidents. The area should be open, so you minimize the risks of crashing.
Once your drone takes off, it’s best to let it hover for about 30 seconds to check its stability. Keep flying only once you ensure that you have complete control over your drone. Also, most models come with a beginner mode, too; usually, this turns on GPS and all sensors, helping you to safely fly the drone and keep it within your sight.
Finally, always make sure your drone is fully charged before use and check weather conditions. Apart from the dangers of flying during rain, snow, or wind, the drone’s battery can be negatively impacted during very cold temperatures. The battery should be preheated to 68F during winter.
All in all, drones come with a wide variety of functions to automate flying and make it accessible to everyone, regardless of their skill and experience. The headless mode is ideal to get you to start in no time and avoid any dangers, since it essentially makes the drone fly according to your orientation, not relative to its front side. If you want to move on to more complex models, it is worthwhile to understand that expensive drones or quadcopters do not have this function, so you should still learn how to fly your drone in normal mode.