Of late, we’ve been witnessing launches of various quad-copters and other drones with headless mode. The general perception is that headless mode makes it easier to fly and control a quadcopter/drone, but there’s still some confusing surrounding the idea of headless mode on drones.
…and none other than drone manufacturers are to blame for that, especially when you’re talking Chinese, inexpensive drones.
Before I begin to explain what headless mode is, let us first talk about how a quadcopter or a drone works at a very basic level. Like any vehicle, every quadcopter drone has a front and a rear, BUT often with a design that’s so symmetrical that its tough to make out between the front and rear.
To solve this problem, many drone makers ship their drones with propellers that are color co-ordinated; for example, red propellers on the front and black on the rear (and so on).
However, once the drone is a certain distance apart from you, depending on its size, it is virtually impossible to tell between the colors… which again poses the problem of orientation. Some manufacturers supply LEDs on drones which really help, but then again these LEDs are pretty ineffective in daylight.
What is Headless Mode?
In simple terms, headless mode is basically a method implemented on a drone that allows pilots to give up worrying about orientation altogether.
The functioning of headless mode is pretty simple; the only pre-requisite is that before taking off, you’re required to position the drone in such a way that its front is your front.
Since yaw (rotation around it’s own axis; controlled by the left stick on a Mode 2 controller) anyway doesn’t have anything to do with orientation (left is left and right is right all the time, regardless of where your drone is pointing at), it is how the drone reacts to rudder (‘swaying’; controlled by the right stick on a Mode 2 controller) that changes.
How Does Headless Mode Work?
When you take off with the drone pointing in the front, algorithms running in the drone’s micro-controller ensure that any directional change is compensated.
In other words, even when you yaw your drone 90 degrees to the left (so that it’s now ‘facing’ your left), it’ll still go forward when you push the rudder forward (on a non-headless mode drone, this would make the drone go left).
Should You Buy a Drone With Headless Mode?
Depends. If you want to take your hobby to the next level, I’d recommend you rather practice on a ‘regular’ aka non-headless mode drone. That’s because most drones that do offer headless mode are toy grade, whereas the more serious drones (aka ‘hobby grade’) don’t often have the headless mode feature. And anyway, nothing like being a master of your drone in all aspects!
But if you’re just looking to test the waters (and just really check if the hobby suits you), headless mode provides and easy entry into the world of drones.
However, it’s 2016 and almost every toy drone comes with features like headless mode and altitude hold mode. That said, if you do wish to fly in FPV anytime soon (it’s really not that expensive these days), you do not want to get a headless mode drone.
What Is The Least I Can Spend To Get A Headless Mode Drone?
click picture below to find listing on Amazon
The Eachine H8 Mini (read the full review here) is the cheapest headless mode drone (at the time of publishing this article). It is a mere $13.99 shipped globally, and is also available on Amazon US.
There are other headless mode drones under the $25 mark which you can find here. So, quite clearly, you don’t really have to spend too much to get one!
Feel free to drop any comments/questions/queries that you might have about headless mode and drones.