What is Headless Mode on a Drone?

This post was last updated on: July 1, 2021

Learning about the flight features available on a drone is a sure way of becoming a better drone pilot. While these may vary from one drone model to another, one of the most ever-present flight modes you’ll come across, especially in entry-level drones, is the headless mode. 

This has proven to be a handy tool for novice drone users looking for a more seamless flying experience. But what exactly does headless mode mean? How does it differ from normal flying mode? 

In this post, we will explain in detail what headless mode on a drone entails.

What is Headless Mode on a Drone?

Technically speaking, headless mode is a feature that enables you to align the movements of your drone with the movements of the controller. It is essentially a built-in ability for the drone to remember its initial orientation during takeoff. 

This way, the pilot can fly the quadcopter depending on his/her direction rather than the flight path orientation. 

Mavic mini flying in norway

How Drones Work

Unlike a bike or car where you can easily determine the forward-facing direction, a drone is designed with similar-looking propellers (two at the front and two at the back). This makes it hard to differentiate the front from the back when the drone is flying. 

However, some manufacturers employ creative ways to help pilots understand where the front of the drone is. For instance, some models feature colored LEDs on the front side of the drone. 

The problem is this method becomes ineffective when you have to fly the drone over long-range or when the sun is too bright. You will have a hard time seeing the lights from afar. 

When you launch your drone into the air in normal flight mode and turn it to face you, moving the controller stick to the right will move the drone to the left and vice versa. This is because the movements of the drone are relative to the direction it’s facing (opposite of where you’re facing).

So, your “left”: is actually the “right” of the drone. This reversal of controls can be very confusing, even for some experienced pilots; more so when the quad is a long distance from you and you are not using FPV

Luckily, headless mode comes in handy to fix this challenge for drone users!

Understanding Headless Mode

With headless mode, moving the control stick LEFT will also move the drone LEFT, regardless of its orientation. In this case, it is your point of view that takes precedence and not the drone’s; pretty convenient! 

drone HEADLESS MODE

What headless mode does is save you the trouble of having to pay too much attention to the quad’s orientation and instead use it to shoot better images and videos. If you are a newbie pilot, you’ll find it easier to control the drone and experience fewer flying errors.

How to Activate Headless Mode

Activating headless mode on a drone makes navigation almost effortless.  If you have to use conventional flight mode, place the drone on the ground in such a way that its orientation is aligned with where you are facing. 

This will make it easy for you to fly the drone, but things may get a little bit complicated when the drone goes too far away. 

Depending on the drone model you’re using, activating the headless mode can be as simple as pressing a button. Typically, you should be able to spot a button labeled “Headless Mode” on the quad-copter. 

If you don’t, you might want to refer to the user manual where you’ll find all kinds of information. This is because some vendors use alternative phrases such as "head-free" or "care-free" mode to refer to headless mode. 

What are the Advantages of Headless Mode?

guy controlling drone

There are several benefits using the headless mode. Primarily, it is a feature meant for rookie pilots who are still learning to fly a drone and may struggle with standard settings. It generally makes it simpler to fly your quad.

Headless mode allows you to focus your attention on enjoying the experience without having to worry about the orientation of the drone when changing the direction. The fewer mistakes you make when flying your drone, the more confident you become as a flyer. 

Headless mode also reduces the chances of crashing into aerial obstacles as there is no guesswork involved during flying. This should save you a lot of unnecessary costs down the line arising from part repairs and replacements. 

The feature is most useful when it comes to keeping the drone from flying out of sight. If it strays too far away from you, all you need is to pull the control stick towards you and the quadcopter will come back home, regardless of its orientation. 

If you are piloting the drone in tight spaces, the headless mode allows for more straightforward navigation and ensures you don’t keep running the device into a wall. It’s very easy to lose focus and send the drone the wrong way when you’re flying in conventional mode. 

Finally, headless mode comes in handy when you want to fly long-range drones, especially if you don’t have FPV goggles or a monitor. You won’t have a problem piloting the quad when it runs out of your visual line of sight.

What are the Disadvantages of Headless Mode?

The problem with flying on headless mode all the time is that you might get too dependent on it that transitioning to normal mode becomes a challenge. This will eventually make you a poor drone pilot. 

Another notable disadvantage is that the technology powering headless mode can be affected by electromagnetic interference. This means if you fly your drone too close to metallic towers or pylons, the feature might fail to work effectively’ which will, in turn, compel you to switch back to normal flight mode.

DJI MAVIC MINI

Conclusion

So, if you’ve been ignoring that “headless mode” button on your quadcopter just because you didn’t know what it does, now you know what you are missing out on. Overall, headless mode is a useful flight feature that allows both beginner and experienced drone users to have a more comfortable flying session.

FAQ

Should I Fly in Headless Mode?

For a newbie, flying a drone in normal mode can be a daunting task. The same is true for kids and even adults who simply want to pilot the quadcopter for fun. As such, going for a headless mode-enabled drone might seem like the best decision as it limits the chances of crashing and damaging the machine. 

It is, however, advisable that you use it for preliminary flying as you work your way towards more advanced flying skills. It is also a useful feature for more experienced pilots to use when flying a drone beyond the visual line of sight.

Is Headless Mode Cheating? 

Automation is taking over everything around us. From self-driving cars to garage opener apps, people are finding easier ways of doing things. This is no different from choosing to fly your drone in headless mode.

Some people might consider it as cheating; to them, it takes away from or undermines the art of drone flying. However, others feel that it is a nice way to build your confidence as a drone pilot when you are still learning how to fly. 

Ultimately, whether or not "Headless Mode" is cheating will boil down to which side of the divide you fall under.

Can Headless Mode Work with FPV?

FPV or First-Person View allows you to fly the quad from the perspective of the drone camera. This means you don’t need headless mode since the drone is facing the direction you're seeing in the video footage. Moving the controller stick right will move the drone right and vice versa. 

This is why most manufacturers choose to disable Headless Mode when you fly the drone via FPV.


About the Author: Ruan Nelio

When I'm not geeking out over the newest drones, I'm busy flying my DJI Mavic 2 Pro all over Oslo. The coolest part about this job is I get to keep some of the drones I review, which happens to be how I got my Mavic 2!

Author Avatar

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.