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Rules to follow when flying drones in the US

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Overview of hobby flying rules

When flying as a hobbyist in the US, you must follow the rules (US law) from the Special Rule for Model Aircraft. Those rules currently include the following:

  • Fly only for hobby or recreation

  • Follow the safety guidelines of a nationwide community-based organization

  • Fly a drone under 55 lbs (if not certified by a community-based organization)

  • Never fly near other manned aircraft

  • Notify airports within 5 miles before flying

  • Fly within visual line of sight (VLOS) of the person operating the drone

  • Register your drone with the FAA

Note: You can only fly as a hobbyist if you’re doing something that does not involve making money and/or furthering a business. If you’d like to fly commercially, you’ll need a Remote Pilot Certificate and you’ll need to follow the Part 107 rules. See more details here.

Note: A drone that does not meet every element of the definition, or is not operated in accordance with every element contained in Section 336(a) and 14 C.F.R. § 101.41, is not a Model Aircraft, and must be operated in accordance with part 107 or another operational provisions for a particular aircraft.

Note: On October 5, 2018, the President signed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. The Act establishes new conditions for recreational use of drones and immediately repeals the Special Rule for Model Aircraft. Per this announcement on the FAA’s website, the Reauthorization Act cannot be fully implemented immediately. Recreational pilots should continue to follow the current policies and guidelines (as described above) until the FAA implements this new legislation.

Drone registration reinstated

The original drone registration requirement was invalidated in May 2017 (see more details here). The requirement was later reinstated by H.R.2810, Section 1092 (d) in December 2017.

How to register your drone

If you’ll only be flying as a hobbyist, you should register under “Section 336” on the FAA’s website here. The registration fee is $5 and the registration needs to be renewed every 3 years. All of your drones (weighing 0.55 lbs or more) should be marked with your FAA registration number.

After you complete the registration process, you should receive a copy of your registration information via email. If you ever lose that information, you can find it by logging into your FAA account on this page at the top, right.

Note: If you accidentally register under “Part 107”, you’ll only be able to use your registration number for the drone you entered during the registration process. You can also fly as a hobbyist with that type of registration.

Labeling your drone with your FAA registration number

Before flying anywhere outdoors in the US, you must mark your drone(s) with your FAA registration number. As long as you registered under “Section 336”, you can mark all of your drones with the same FAA registration number.

You can mark your FAA registration number on your drone(s) with a label, marker, or engrave it. If you think you’ll ever sell your drone, then marking it with a label that can be removed later would be the best way to go.

Your FAA registration number must be marked in a location that’s accessible without tools. The inside of the battery compartment is a great location and one that will keep your number protected from the elements.

FAA-Registration-Labels

Note: If you don’t have a label maker, you can purchase tiny, inexpensive FAA registration labels here.

Keeping your drone in visual line of sight (VLOS)

Per Section 107.31, the person operating the drone is required to maintain visual line of sight (VLOS) with the drone throughout the entire flight. That means you should be able to see your drone with vision that is unaided by any device other than glasses or contacts. See more details here.

You’ll be able to spot your drone easier during the day and night by attaching some type of bright lights to the body or landing gear of the drone. STROBON Cree strobe lights are one of the most commonly used lights and are currently the smallest, brightest strobe light available.

Note: There are a few ways to legally fly with a spotter. See more details here.

Choosing a community-based organization (CBO)

The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 states a community-based organization is an organization that:

  1. is described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986;

  2. is exempt from tax under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986;

  3. the mission of which is demonstrably the furtherance of model aviation;

  4. provides a comprehensive set of safety guidelines for all aspects of model aviation addressing the assembly and operation of model aircraft and that emphasize safe aeromodeling operations within the national airspace system and the protection and safety of individuals and property on the ground, and may provide a comprehensive set of safety rules and programming for the operation of unmanned aircraft that have the advanced flight capabilities enabling active, sustained, and controlled navigation of the aircraft beyond visual line of sight of the operator;

  5. provides programming and support for any local charter organizations, affiliates, or clubs; and

  6. provides assistance and support in the development and operation of locally designated model aircraft flying sites.

While US law does not name a list of accepted nationwide community-based organizations (nor does the FAA since they have not been tasked to do so), here are some organizations that claim to be nationwide community-based organizations:

Note: You’re not required to be a paying member in order to follow the safety guidelines of the nationwide community-based organization of your choice.

Notifying nearby airports before flying

You’re required to notify airports within 5 miles before flying. If the airport says the operation may be unsafe or that they disapprove it, then you should consider flying in another location where you do not need the airport’s approval or where the airport operator states would be acceptable. Per FAA Notice N 8900.268, the FAA “would consider flying model aircraft over the objections of FAA air traffic or airport operators to be endangering the safety of the NAS.”

Use the DJI GO GEO map (also available from within DJI GO) or AirMap to determine if there are any nearby airports.

See the Best Practices for Flying your Drone within Five Miles of an Airport for more tips on contacting your local airports.

Power of the FAA

The FAA’s safety mandate under 49 U.S.C. § 40103 requires it to regulate aircraft operations conducted in the National Airspace System (NAS), which include UAS operations, to protect persons and property on the round, and to prevent collisions between aircraft or between aircraft and other objects. FAA regulations prohibit any person from operating an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another. See more details here.

Power of local cities and municipalities

In this press release, the FAA explains the power cities and municipalities have over drone flights. They are only able to prohibit taking off and landing on land they own. They are not permitted to have their own rules or regulations governing the operation of aircraft.

Fly safely

Following the rules above will both ensure you’re obeying US law and help you operate your drone safely. Keep in mind that the FAA has the authority to pursue enforcement action against people operating drones in a manner that they determine endangers the safety of the national airspace system (NAS). You could be liable if you harm other people and/or property even if you follow all of the rules above.

In the FAA’s Drone Safety Tips, they recommend that you:

  • Be aware of FAA airspace restrictions

  • Respect privacy

  • Never fly near other aircraft (especially near airports)

  • Never fly over groups of people, public events, or stadiums full of people

  • Never fly near emergencies such as fires or hurricane recovery efforts

  • Never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol


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Guides

HOW TO: Buying DJI Care Refresh for your DJI Drone

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What is DJI Care Refresh?

DJI Care Refresh is a service plan that covers accidental damage to DJI drones. It’s valid for up to 12 months from the activation date and will cover up to two drone replacements (after paying a small fee). When you request a replacement, you’ll need to send your drone to DJI and they will send you a new or refurbished drone in its place.

Is DJI Care Refresh worth it?

The DJI Warranty only covers damage caused by product defects (things out of your control). With the addition of a DJI Care Refresh policy, you will also be covered if you accidentally damage your drone (the most common type of damage). A DJI Care Refresh policy will greatly reduce the costs you need to pay out of your own pocket due to accidental damage.

Which DJI drones can be covered by DJI Care Refresh?

A DJI Care Refresh policy can be purchased for the following DJI drones:

DJI offers a similar replacement policy called DJI Care for older DJI drones. A DJI Care policy can be purchased for the following DJI drones:

Note: The main differences between DJI Care and DJI Care Refresh is that (1) DJI Care offers an unlimited number of repairs during 1 year policy period; and (2) there is no fee when requesting a replacement. The policy will expire after the repair cost has exceeded the policy coverage amount (between $599 – $3,399 depending on which drone you own).

Which parts of the drone does DJI Care Refresh cover?

DJI Care Refresh covers the following parts of the drone:

  • Mavic and Spark series drones: the aircraft, gimbal, camera, battery, and props

  • Phantom series drones: the aircraft, gimbal, camera, and props

  • Inspire series drones: the aircraft, gimbal, and camera

Note: The remote controller is not covered by any DJI Care Refresh policy.

What doesn’t DJI Care Refresh cover?

Here are some of the common things not covered by DJI Care Refresh:

  • Lost/stolen aircraft and/or accessories

  • Damage caused by flying in unsuitable flying conditions (see your DJI drone manual for a list of suitable flying conditions)

  • Deliberate damage

  • Damaged caused by 3rd party accessories or software

See a full list of exclusions in the DJI Care Refresh TOS or DJI Care TOS.

How to request a replacement with DJI Care Refresh

Follow these steps to replace your drone through your DJI Care Refresh policy:

1) Submit a repair request from the Online Repair Request page to explain why you’re requesting a replacement.

2) DJI will email you a free shipping label so you can ship the requested items to them.

3) DJI will send you an email as your drone goes through each step of the replacement process. You can also check the repair progress on the Repair Progress page.

Note: DJI will transfer your DJI Care Refresh policy to your replacement drone since it will have a different serial number.

Easiest way to buy DJI Care Refresh

If you buy your drone directly from the DJI Store, you’ll see the option to add DJI Care Refresh during the checkout process. When purchased together with your drone, DJI will automatically activate your DJI Care Refresh policy two days after your drone has been shipped.

Note: When you buy DJI Care Refresh, make sure you have the location in the DJI Store set to the country where you want to have your drone serviced. For example, you cannot buy a DJI Care Refresh policy for the US and use it in Europe. DJI will make you ship your drone to the US to be serviced.

Purchasing DJI Care Refresh separately

You can purchase DJI Care Refresh from the DJI Store, here on Amazon, or from other authorized DJI dealers. After receiving your DJI Care Refresh activation code, you can bind it to your drone by entering the activation code on the DJI Care Activation page.

Buying DJI Care Refresh after 48 hours

After activating your drone in DJI GO, you’ll have 48 hours to buy and/or activate your DJI Care Refresh policy. After 48 hours, you’ll need to submit a video to DJI to show your drone is in working order before DJI will allow you to buy a DJI Care Refresh policy and/or bind DJI Care Refresh to your drone.

Follow these steps to buy DJI Care Refresh after 48 hours:

1) Create a video like this to show your drone is in working order (or follow these steps). It’ll be easiest to record this video if someone else is able to operate the camera while you go through the required steps. If you must record the video yourself, set your camera/phone on a tripod so you’re able to keep it steady and pointed in the required direction while you’re performing any steps where you’re not able to hold the camera.

2) Create an account at YouTube and upload your video. It’s okay to upload it as a private video.

3) Go here, tick the “I have read the DJI instructions…” box, click the “Submit” button, and complete the form to submit your video to DJI.

4) Wait for DJI to email you with the results of your video verification.

Can DJI Care Refresh be renewed?

DJI Care Refresh expires after one year or after two replacements have been requested. Up until the point where your DJI Care Refresh policy expires, you can extend it for another year by purchasing DJI Care Refresh +. With the purchase of DJI Care Refresh +, you can extend the DJI Warranty for one more year and add one more replacement to your DJI Care Refresh policy.

Can DJI Care Refresh be purchased for a used/refurbished DJI drone?

You can buy DJI Care Refresh for a used or refurbished drone as long as a DJI Care Refresh policy has not been purchased for that drone in the past. And if the previous owner purchased a DJI Care Refresh policy, you’ll be able to use the remainder of the policy (if it hasn’t already expired).


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HOW TO: Use Precision Landing with the Mavic 2 Pro/Zoom

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When the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom drones were released in August, the Precision Landing feature was not included. Many people who upgraded from other DJI drone models were upset that this feature was not carried over to the Mavic 2 and a long debate started over in this thread in the DJI forum. DJI eventually gave in and decided to add Precision Landing in the latest Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom firmware release.

Prerequisites for using Precision Landing

In order to use Precision Landing on the Mavic 2, you’ll need to install firmware version 1.00.02.00 (or higher). Follow these instructions to update the firmware using DJI GO or the DJI Assistant 2 application. You should also install the current version of DJI GO 4 from the app store on your mobile device.

Differences when compared to other DJI drones

When using Precision Landing with other DJI drones, you need to enable it in the following section of DJI GO:

And when using the auto takeoff feature, you need to tick this box to ensure the takeoff point is recorded:

Neither of these settings are displayed in DJI GO when flying the Mavic 2. The takeoff point is automatically recorded each time you take off. All you need to do is ensure you take off properly and are flying in conditions where the Precision Landing feature can be used.

How to use Precision Landing

In order for the drone to be able to precisely land, you’ll need to do the following:

1) Fly during the day when there is sufficient light

The Mavic will not be able to record the takeoff point if the ground is not sufficiently lit. That means you’ll need to fly during the day or in a location that has bright lighting (like a baseball stadium).

Note: The lights on the bottom of the Mavic are not bright enough to illuminate the ground when flying at night. If you rely solely on those lights for illuminating the landing area, the Mavic will likely land in a random location that is within a 10 foot circle of the takeoff point.

2) Choose a takeoff spot that has distinctive features.

When the Mavic returns home, it’ll need some type of landmarks on the ground to use as a reference point. If taking off from a location that has a large span of uniform ground (like a large grassy field), you’ll need to lay some kind of marker on the ground beneath the Mavic. You can use something like a 3×3 inch piece of brightly colored Plexiglas or a landing pad — like one of these:

3) Make sure the terrain does not change after taking off.

When the Mavic returns home to land, it’ll attempt to match up the previously recorded terrain to the current terrain. Any significant changes in the terrain could reduce the accuracy of the landing.

4) Wait for the home point to be set.

If the Mavic has a good GPS signal, the home point should be automatically marked after the motors have been started. Check the map in DJI GO to ensure the “H” symbol is marked in the correct location.

5) Ascend straight up when taking off.

When taking off, it’s important to ascend straight up above the home point for at least 23 feet (7 meters) before moving the Mavic in any direction horizontally. That will allow the Mavic to properly record the takeoff location. There is no need to hover in place after the Mavic has ascended to at least 23 feet (the takeoff point has already been recorded at this point).

Note: The speed at which you ascend (slow or fast) will not affect the accuracy of the landing. You can even take off in Sport mode.

Landing Procedure

Precision Landing is only used when Return To Home (RTH) is initiated and the Mavic automatically returns home and lands. That can occur if either you manually initiate RTH by holding the RTH button on the remote controller (until the remote controller starts beeping) or the Mavic automatically returns home due to a low battery or lost remote controller signal.

After the Mavic returns back to the home point, it will correct its heading (point in the direction it took off) and begin descending. In most cases, the Mavic will be too high in the air for the downward sensors to detect the ground below. Until the downward sensors are within range of the ground, the Mavic will likely not be descending directly over the takeoff spot.

As you watch the Mavic descend, a Locating Landing Point message will pop up on the left side of DJI GO (like in the screenshot below) and you’ll see the Mavic correct its position as needed. It will do further corrections (if necessary) when it gets even closer to the ground. And if all works as designed, it should end up landing within about 6 inches of the takeoff spot.

Cancelling the landing

In some cases, the Mavic might not be able to precisely locate the takeoff point when landing. When that occurs, it could end up landing as far as about 10 feet away from the home point. If you notice that’s about to happen and that location is not a safe landing spot, you can cancel the auto landing by quickly pressing and releasing the RTH (or pause) button on the remote controller. At that point, the Mavic will hover in the air and wait for you to manually finish landing.

Note: It’s best to cancel RTH when the landing is not going as expected. Don’t try to counteract the landing procedure by pressing the throttle up or attempt to steer the Mavic to a different location. Always cancel RTH first so you are able to take full control of the Mavic.

Using Precision Landing at night

Precision Landing will not work at night even if the downward lights are set to auto on or on when taking off. While those lights are extremely helpful when taking off and landing in poor lighting conditions, they do not produce enough light for the downward sensors to record the takeoff area.


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Guides

DJI Spark compass calibration guide

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A good compass calibration is important to ensure a safe, controlled flight. Follow the tips in this guide to determine when and how to calibrate the compass on your DJI Spark.

Why should the Spark compass be calibrated?

The only purpose of compass calibration is to measure the components of the aircraft’s magnetic field so that they can be subtracted from the total measured magnetic field. Rotating the three-axis magnetometers allows the aircraft’s flight controller to separate the surrounding magnetic field from the magnetic field of the aircraft itself. It’s able to separate them since the aircraft’s magnetic field remains constant (in the frame of reference of the magnetometers) while the surrounding magnetic field rotates.

No amount of measuring will allow the aircraft’s flight controller to determine the deviation or declination at a location (since it has no idea where true north is located). Declination is determined from a global declination model within the firmware. There is no way to compensate for deviation since it’s unmeasurable. That explains why taking off in areas of significant magnetic deviation will lead to unstable flight.

Warning signs

The Spark can only detect when the compass is providing extremely poor (implausible) data. This typically occurs if you place it near a strong magnetic field. It will flash red and yellow lights and the Spark will indicate a compass error in the app.

Note: The lack of a compass error does NOT mean your compass is working and calibrated properly. You should always do these checks before taking off to ensure the compass is not being negatively affected by some type of external magnetic force.

Compass interference

You can view the current compass interference in the “Main Controller Settings” –> “Advanced Settings” –> “Sensors” section of DJI GO. The colored bars should be in the green (Excellent) range when the Spark is in a location that is away from magnetic influences. If the bars are in the red (Poor) range or close to it, move the Spark to a different location and check again. If the compass interference is still in the red (Poor) range or close to it, the compass could need calibrated or it could be magnetized/damaged.

Note: A good compass interference value does NOT mean your compass is working and calibrated properly.

When should the Spark compass be calibrated?

You do not need to calibrate before every flight and in some cases you definitely should not calibrate. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever bother doing it. It only takes one time for it to go very wrong.

Note: The ideal place to calibrate is a wide open location that is free of anything metallic within a 20 ft radius. Keep away from drainage pipes, irrigation systems, rocks, sidewalks (or other concrete structures), etc.

DO calibrate the Spark compass if:

  • Compass interference values are out of whack or DJI GO is displaying a compass error (check area for magnetic metal objects before calibrating)

  • The Spark is circling in flight while hovering in place (also check for other possible causes)

  • New metallic equipment has been attached or removed from the Spark (e.g. GPS tracker)

  • If you just degaussed your compass (don’t degauss the compass unless instructed)

DO NOT calibrate the Spark compass if:

  • The Spark is near concrete, buildings, and/or hidden or overhead power lines/pipes/etc.

  • You’re indoors, on a paved surface, on a stone surface, on the beach, on a boat, on a balcony, near a car, near speakers, etc.

  • There are magnetic metallic objects near the Spark or you’re not certain there are no such objects nearby

How to calibrate the Spark compass

  • Remove all metal from your person that could potentially be held near the Spark while you’re calibrating (e.g. watch or rings).

  • Find a location on grass or dirt and not on concrete or asphalt (unless you know the concrete or asphalt does not contain rebar).

  • Power up your Spark and any attached accessories (e.g. GPS tracker).

  • Wait until your Spark is ready to fly.

  • Click the “Calibrate” button in the “Aircaft Status” section of DJI GO. If the “Calibrate” button does not appear there, then you can calibrate the compass from the “Advanced Settings” section of DJI GO.

  • Confirm the rear Spark arm lights are solid yellow.

  • Pick up the Spark and turn it smoothly and steadily a full 360 degrees (or a little bit more) until the rear Spark arm lights turn solid green.

  • Note: While it’s okay to turn the Spark in your hands, it’s easier to hold the Spark steady and turn your body in a circle like this.

  • Point the front of the Spark straight down and turn it smoothly and steadily a full 360 degrees (or a little bit more) until the rear Spark arms start flashing green.

  • Note: Don’t be concerned if the Spark gimbal reacts poorly to being face down. Continue to smoothly and steadily turn the Spark. If for any reason you do not complete any of the above steps smoothly and evenly, restart the process.


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Guides

DJI Mavic compass calibration guide

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A good compass calibration is important to ensure a safe, controlled flight. Follow the tips in this guide to determine when and how to calibrate the compass on your DJI Mavic.

Why should the Mavic compass be calibrated?

The only purpose of compass calibration is to measure the components of the aircraft’s magnetic field so that they can be subtracted from the total measured magnetic field. Rotating the three-axis magnetometers allows the aircraft’s flight controller to separate the surrounding magnetic field from the magnetic field of the aircraft itself. It’s able to separate them since the aircraft’s magnetic field remains constant (in the frame of reference of the magnetometers) while the surrounding magnetic field rotates.

No amount of measuring will allow the aircraft’s flight controller to determine the deviation or declination at a location (since it has no idea where true north is located). Declination is determined from a global declination model within the firmware. There is no way to compensate for deviation since it’s unmeasurable. That explains why taking off in areas of significant magnetic deviation will lead to unstable flight.

Warning signs

The Mavic can only detect when the compass is providing extremely poor (implausible) data. This typically occurs if you place it near a strong magnetic field. It will flash red and yellow lights and the Mavic will indicate a compass error in the app.

Note: The lack of a compass error does NOT mean your compass is working and calibrated properly. You should always do these checks before taking off to ensure the compass is not being negatively affected by some type of external magnetic force.

Compass interference

You can view the current compass interference in the “Main Controller Settings” –> “Advanced Settings” –> “Sensors” section of DJI GO. The colored bars should be in the green (Excellent) range when the Mavic is in a location that is away from magnetic influences. If the bars are in the red (Poor) range or close to it, move the Mavic to a different location and check again. If the compass interference is still in the red (Poor) range or close to it, the compass could need calibrated or it could be magnetized/damaged.

Note: A good compass interference value does NOT mean your compass is working and calibrated properly.

When should the Mavic compass be calibrated?

You do not need to calibrate before every flight and in some cases you definitely should not calibrate. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever bother doing it. It only takes one time for it to go very wrong.

Note: The ideal place to calibrate is a wide open location that is free of anything metallic within a 20 ft radius. Keep away from drainage pipes, irrigation systems, rocks, sidewalks (or other concrete structures), etc.

DO calibrate the Mavic compass if:

  • Compass interference values are out of whack or DJI GO is displaying a compass error (check area for magnetic metal objects before calibrating)

  • The Mavic is circling in flight while hovering in place (also check for other possible causes)

  • New metallic equipment has been attached or removed from the Mavic (e.g. GPS tracker)

  • If you just degaussed your compass (don’t degauss the compass unless instructed)

DO NOT calibrate the Mavic compass if:

  • The Mavic is near concrete, buildings, and/or hidden or overhead power lines/pipes/etc.

  • You’re indoors, on a paved surface, on a stone surface, on the beach, on a boat, on a balcony, near a car, near speakers, etc.

  • There are magnetic metallic objects near the Mavic or you’re not certain there are no such objects nearby

How to calibrate the Mavic compass

  • Remove all metal from your person that could potentially be held near the Mavic while you’re calibrating (e.g. watch or rings).

  • Find a location on grass or dirt and not on concrete or asphalt (unless you know the concrete or asphalt does not contain rebar).

  • Power up your Mavic and any attached accessories (e.g. GPS tracker).

  • Wait until your Mavic is ready to fly.

  • Click the “Calibrate” button in the “Aircaft Status” section of DJI GO. If the “Calibrate” button does not appear there, then you can calibrate the compass from the “Advanced Settings” section of DJI GO.

  • Confirm the rear Mavic arm lights are solid yellow.

  • Pick up the Mavic and turn it smoothly and steadily a full 360 degrees (or a little bit more) until the rear Mavic arm lights turn solid green.

  • Note: While it’s okay to turn the Mavic in your hands, it’s easier to hold the Mavic steady and turn your body in a circle like this.

  • Point the front of the Mavic straight down and turn it smoothly and steadily a full 360 degrees (or a little bit more) until the rear Mavic arms start flashing green.

  • Note: Don’t be concerned if the Mavic gimbal reacts poorly to being face down. Continue to smoothly and steadily turn the Mavic. If for any reason you do not complete any of the above steps smoothly and evenly, restart the process.


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Guides

Do these important compass checks before taking off

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DJI GO does not always show a warning when the compass is being negatively affected by some type of external magnetic force. Before taking off, you should always do the following:

1) Find a takeoff spot that you know is not near any magnetic metal objects (e.g. rebar in concrete sidewalks).

2) Make sure your drone is never near magnetic metal objects after it has been powered on. It’s best to power on your drone in the exact location where you plan to take off.

3) Check the status message at the top of DJI GO and make sure it’s not reporting a magnetic interference error (like in the screenshot below). If you see this error, that’s a sign that your drone is near some type of magnetic metal object. Move your drone to a different location.

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4) When your drone is on the ground at the takeoff spot, look at the map in DJI GO and verify that the red aircraft symbol is pointing in the same direction as the drone. If the drone and arrow are not both pointing in the same direction, that’s a sign that your drone is near some type of magnetic metal object.

5) Make sure the red aircraft symbol in DJI GO is not slowly rotating as your drone is sitting on the ground. If the red aircraft symbol is rotating, that’s a sign that your drone is near some type of magnetic metal object.


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Guides

DJI Phantom compass calibration guide

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A good compass calibration is important to ensure a safe, controlled flight. Follow the tips in this guide to determine when and how to calibrate the compass on your DJI Phantom.

Why should the Phantom compass be calibrated?

The only purpose of compass calibration is to measure the components of the aircraft’s magnetic field so that they can be subtracted from the total measured magnetic field. Rotating the three-axis magnetometers allows the aircraft’s flight controller to separate the surrounding magnetic field from the magnetic field of the aircraft itself. It’s able to separate them since the aircraft’s magnetic field remains constant (in the frame of reference of the magnetometers) while the surrounding magnetic field rotates.

No amount of measuring will allow the aircraft’s flight controller to determine the deviation or declination at a location (since it has no idea where true north is located). Declination is determined from a global declination model within the firmware. There is no way to compensate for deviation since it’s unmeasurable. That explains why taking off in areas of significant magnetic deviation will lead to unstable flight.

Warning signs

The Phantom can only detect when the compass is providing extremely poor (implausible) data. This typically occurs if you place it near a strong magnetic field. It will flash red and yellow lights and the Phantom will indicate a compass error in the app.

Note: The lack of a compass error does NOT mean your compass is working and calibrated properly. You should always do these checks before taking off to ensure the compass is not being negatively affected by some type of external magnetic force.

Compass Interference

You can view the current compass interference in the “Main Controller Settings” –> “Advanced Settings” –> “Sensors” section of DJI GO. The colored bars should be in the green (Excellent) range when the Phantom is in a location that is away from magnetic influences. If the bars are in the red (Poor) range or close to it (or the “Mod” value is not between 1,300 and 1,600 if using DJI GO 3), move the Phantom to a different location and check again. If the compass interference is still in the red (Poor) range or close to it, the compass could need calibrated or it could be magnetized/damaged.

Note: A good compass interference value does NOT mean your compass is working and calibrated properly.

When should the Phantom compass be calibrated?

You do not need to calibrate before every flight and in some cases you definitely should not calibrate. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever bother doing it. It only takes one time for it to go very wrong.

Note: The ideal place to calibrate is a wide open location that is free of anything metallic within a 20 ft radius. Keep away from drainage pipes, irrigation systems, rocks, sidewalks (or other concrete structures), etc.

DO calibrate the Phantom compass if:

  • Compass interference values are out of whack or DJI GO is displaying a compass error (check area for magnetic metal objects before calibrating)

  • The Phantom is circling in flight while hovering in place (also check for other possible causes)

  • New metallic equipment has been attached or removed from the Phantom (e.g. GPS tracker)

  • If you just degaussed your compass (don’t degauss the compass unless instructed)

DO NOT calibrate the Phantom compass if:

  • The Phantom is near concrete, buildings, and/or hidden or overhead power lines/pipes/etc.

  • You’re indoors, on a paved surface, on a stone surface, on the beach, on a boat, on a balcony, near a car, near speakers, etc.

  • There are magnetic metallic objects near the Phantom or you’re not certain there are no such objects nearby

How to Calibrate the Phantom Compass

  • Remove all metal from your person that could potentially be held near the Phantom while you’re calibrating (e.g. watch or rings).

  • Find a location on grass or dirt and not on concrete or asphalt (unless you know the concrete or asphalt does not contain rebar).

  • Power up your Phantom and any attached accessories (e.g. GPS tracker).

  • Wait until your Phantom is ready to fly.

  • Click the “Calibrate” button in the “Aircaft Status” section of DJI GO. If the “Calibrate” button does not appear there, then you can calibrate the compass from the “Advanced Settings” section of DJI GO.

  • Confirm the rear Phantom arm lights are solid yellow.

  • Pick up the Phantom and turn it smoothly and steadily a full 360 degrees (or a little bit more) until the rear Phantom arm lights turn solid green.

  • Note: While it’s okay to turn the Phantom in your hands, it’s easier to hold the Phantom steady and turn your body in a circle like this.

  • Point the front of the Phantom straight down and turn it smoothly and steadily a full 360 degrees (or a little bit more) until the rear Phantom arms start flashing green.

  • Note: Don’t be concerned if the Phantom gimbal reacts poorly to being face down. Continue to smoothly and steadily turn the Phantom. If for any reason you do not complete any of the above steps smoothly and evenly, restart the process.


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