4. Know that your controller might fail (Do your part to make sure it doesn't!)
All drones require an interface for the operator to control them. This can either be performed via the conventional radio transmitter and receiver link, telemetry link, or a combination of both.
Most modern R/C transmitter and receiver sets have the ability to lock onto each other to avoid interference from other transmitting devices — like other R/C transmitters. Telemetry devices, which link the onboard flight controller with a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, can similarly be configured to only communicate with specific devices. These links have range limits specified by the manufacturer and should be observed when operating the drone.
However, if the communication link between the operator and aircraft is lost, perhaps because of distance, the control device’s battery running out, or some other interference, the only way for the drone to recover is if the onboard flight controller is robust enough to deal with the situation. In this scenario, there is virtually nothing you can do to regain control.
Many midrange and higher-quality drones come with flight controllers that have programmable failsafe settings for this type of failure. Learn what the active setting is, and use the appropriate one for your situation.
Three of the most common failsafe operations initiated by flight controllers that lose radio link communication are:
- Return to Launch
- Continue Flying if in a preprogrammed mission; if misson ends, Return to Launch
To prevent finding yourself in a situation like this, make sure that the device you are using to control your drone is fully charged before flight, and know the maximum control-link range. Don’t fly beyond it!
If you are using a telemetry link between your drone and a peripheral device, such as a tablet, keep your radio transmitter handy and powered on so you can take control should the telemetry link fail.