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Becoming A Better Drone Pilot, Part 4 – Learning To Fly With Precision & Confidence: ATTI Mode

Welcome to part 4.  If you haven’t read and practiced Parts 1, 2 and 3 of this article, I recommend you do that before proceeding. You can find Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

Warning! You could crash your drone when practicing these maneuvers.
Note: the Mavic Pro does not have ATTI mode on the Flight Mode Switch.

ATTI mode is the most challenging mode to fly in because you’re no longer using GPS to lock the drone’s position. and there’s also no obstacle avoidance systems active in ATTI mode. That means it isn’t going to warn you if you are going to fly into something. Because of this, it has the highest potential for crashing the drone when you are first learning ATTI mode.

When learning ATTI mode be ready to switch back into GPS mode if you get disoriented or the drone gets out of control. See below about positioning a finger over the Flight Mode Switch.

That being said, don’t go into this practice thinking you’ll crash. Go slowly. Take your time. Don’t push faster than you’re able. And don’t let others push you beyond what you know are your limits!

What is ATTI Mode?

ATTI mode is a flight mode that a DJI drone and some other drones can switch into, if the GPS connection is lost or is sporadic. On some models of DJI drones, it is a physical switch, that can be flipped, that puts the drone into ATTI mode. In either case, ATTI mode disables the GPS, GLONASS and obstacle avoidance systems in the drone, but the drone will typically maintain altitude and attitude.

Why ATTI Mode?

When you’re flying your drone, there will be times when something outside your control interferes with the GPS or compass and the drone may switch to ATTI mode automatically or tell you to switch into that mode. Flying around tall buildings in downtown areas, under bridges and around large metal structures, can cause GPS to either stop working or work sporadically. See my article, Knowing How To Fly In ATTI Mode Might Save Your Drone, here.

When you want smooth video footage from your drone, you can often get away with using GPS mode. But there will be times when it’s windy or wind gusts push the drone. The GPS tries its best to compensate for the wind, but what often happens is that this translates into wobble or unintended movement in the video footage. In gusty conditions, when done properly, ATTI mode can create smoother flights than GPS mode. This translates into smoother video footage.

Another situation where GPS mode can create problems is when you stop a fast moving drone quickly. Often GPS mode will stop too abruptly and introduce unwanted movement in the footage. In ATTI mode, you control how the drone stops and again this can translate into smoother footage.

Another trick you can use with ATTI mode is to fly upwind of what you want to shoot using GPS mode. Then switch to ATTI mode and let the wind carry the drone back down wind, gently controlling the drone and gimbal, as the wind moves the drone. This can often create very organic looking footage.

In all these situations, to fly with confidence and control, you need to know how to fly in ATTI mode.

Preparation

We’re going to use the same preparations as in Parts 1, 2 and 3. You can find Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

At the field

Begin your practice on a light wind day. Using what you learned from Parts 1, 2 and 3, set up a square using the bricks and identify your takeoff/landing location. In GPS mode take the drone off and hover at an altitude of about 15’.  Now look down at your remote and position a finger over the Flight Mode Switch.

Make sure you know where the Flight Mode Switch is. Any time you feel you are out of control in ATTI mode, switch back to GPS/P mode.  Take a deep breath and reorient yourself, before switching back into ATTI mode.

Finger over Flight Mode Switch
Finger near Flight Mode Switch

Once you feel comfortable hovering the drone in ATTI mode, fly to brick 1. Begin to slowly fly the bricks like we did in Part 1. As you gain confidence and the ability to fly all of the Part 1 layout, move on to the Part 2 and 3 layouts. When you can fly the Part 3 figure 8’s in ATTI mode confidently, start flying stronger winds.

Your next challenge will be to explore taking off and landing in ATTI mode. In ATTI mode, takeoffs and landings are the most likely place a crash will occur. Be very careful as wind gusts will push the drone in the direction of the wind. In ATTI mode, keep your finger/thumbs on the sticks at all times to reduce the chance of crashing.

As you gain skill in ATTI mode, you’ll begin to anticipate the push of the wind, even feeling it on your face or see branches or bushes moving, and enter corrections on the sticks, before the wind moves the drone. Soon you’ll find yourself flying even more smoothly than you would in GPS mode.

Fly safe and have fun!

DJI Mavic Air at B&H

DJI Mavic Pro at B&H

DJI Phantom 4 Pro at B&H

BJI Inspire 2 at B&H

All Drones at B&H

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