DJI emergency propeller stop | Everything you need to know

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Flying a drone has an inherent risk. Manufacturers are trying to make drone flying as simple as possible for the most inexperienced pilots. DJI has introduced emergency propeller stop into its safety features for many of its drones.

The DJI emergency propeller stop is a feature that utilises a combination stick command (CSC) to start or stop the motors during flight. It is found in the advanced safety settings area of the app and can be set to ’emergency only’ to stop accidental emergency propeller stop commands.

Executing the combination stick command to initiate the DJI emergency propeller stop will cause the aircraft to crash.

There are examples of pilots regaining aircraft control by starting up the motors. Still, it would help if you flew at a relatively high altitude and could execute the start-up command quickly.

Many people will not be able to regain control of the drone quick enough.

Where is the emergency propeller stop setting?

To access the emergency propeller stop function, you can find the settings under the safety tab.

Here is how you access it:

  1. Press the three dots to view safety, control, and transmission information.
  2. Click on safety
  3. Click on advanced safety settings (here, you can change the behaviour of what happens when the signal is lost, when the propellers can be stopped, and the AirSence Switch on some drones)
  4. Select from the following
    1. emergency only – the motors can only be stopped mid-flight in an emergency such as a collision, motor stalling, aircraft rolling, out-of-control and ascending or descending very quickly. It stops the combination stick command from working.
    1. Anytime – The motors can be stopped mid-flight using the combination stick command. Stopping the motors in midflight will almost certainly cause the aircraft to crash.

How to disable emergency propeller stop

Disabling the emergency propeller stop is as simple as selecting “emergency only” in the advanced safety settings.

Selecting emergency only in the advanced safety settings will mean that the drone will only stop the propellers if the drone is in a collision or is rolling out of control after a motor stall, or is ascending or descending very quickly.

The drone can stop the motors on its own to stop further damage to people and property if the safety features of the drone dictate that it is safer to do so.

How to use the DJI emergency propeller stop

Using the DJI emergency propeller stop feature is very simple and all it takes is learning how to send a command to the drone using only the joysticks.

Typically, with our drones, we utilise buttons and shortcuts on the app running on our smartphone or smart device to tell the drone what to do.

The drone can also take commands based on how the joysticks are held.

Using a combination stick command (CSC) you can start and stop the motors. Push both the sticks to the bottom inner or outer corners to start. The motors during mid-flight. Once the motors have started spinning or stopped, release both sticks simultaneously.

DJI emergency propeller stop

Restarting the drone

Restarting the drone is as simple as re-enacting the combination stick command shown above.

Here is an example of when a drone has been recovered successfully using these commands during mid-flight:

From Chris Rollins on Youtube

The issue is that the manual starting of the drone motors requires a lot of altitude to complete successfully. Also, it takes a moment for the command to kick in, and you must hold the combination stick command until the drone starts up. This experience can be nerve-racking if you are trying to recover a drone quickly.

What happens when you use an emergency propeller stop?

When you use the DJI emergency propeller stop, it will cause the drone to fall out of the sky.

The drone will automatically switch off the motors if it detects a collision with another object or is considered out of control by the software. Out-of-control typically means that it is ascending or descending very quickly or is rolling in the air. It will also stop the motors if a motor has stalled.

When you use the emergency propeller stop feature of the drone, your drone is at the mercy of the effects of gravity.

It is typical that a high-level fall from your drone can cause a variety of fatal breaks and damage to your drone’s arms, frame, motors, and body.

So, when should you use the emergency stop feature of your drone to minimise the risk?

When should you use the emergency propeller stop?

There will be a few situations where having your drone fall out of the sky is a better alternative to what will happen if it doesn’t.

Drones are typically very light, and many people have gotten away with a relatively low level of damage after their drone has fallen midflight.

Drones are getting better and better at surviving drops from various heights, and there are a few things that you can do before you utilise the emergency propeller stop manually.

If these don’t work:

There are a variety of different things you can do before utilising the emergency propeller stop. This includes taking your hands off the controller joysticks and using the pause button on your remote control.

Of course, the emergency stop feature will automatically kick in if it is a genuine emergency. However, if you are considering using the manual emergency stop feature, consider doing this first.

Take your hands off the controller joysticks

When I went to go and pick up my first ever drone from the seller he gave me a simple rundown on how to use it including what to do if I get worried.

Many of the DJI drones come with auto-hover and automatic altitude hold. They will hold their location and altitude as long as you leave the joysticks alone.

There have been several instances where I have been concerned about flying my drone, and leaving the controller joysticks alone has saved me from overreacting.

Once you feel uncomfortable with your drone, you should first take your hands off the controls immediately.

Use the pause button first

Many drone remote controllers come with a pause button.

The pause button will also stop the drone dead in its tracks should you be using an automatic flight feature or quick shot mode.

I have hit this button a few times. Once my drone was heading toward a tree in a direction it did not have sensors; the pause button saved my drone from colliding with the branches.

If you cannot stop the drone from moving using these two options, you should immediately invoke the emergency propeller stop for these reasons.

Immediate harm to people or property

If there is immediate harm to people or property, I would consider using the emergency propeller stop to cause the drone to fall out of the sky.

Even though drones will only really cause damage to the soft fleshy parts of the human body – the eyes are very vulnerable, and you could cause blindness with a spinning propeller.

You can read more about the dangerous effects of drone blades in my other article – click here for the full blade safety article.

Are drone blades dangerous?

Utilise the emergency propeller stop if your drone cannot be controlled and heading toward people.

It is better that your drone crash lands than cause potentially irreversible damage to a person’s sight or cuts to the soft parts of the body.

When the drone has lost control

Drones can fly away for various reasons, including incorrect GPS location and flying out of the line of sight.

It may also fly away from your location due to a compass or GPS error in rare cases.

Flyaways are incredibly uncommon, but it is very scary and nerve-racking when they happen.

I would utilise a DJI emergency propeller stop if I noticed that I was unable to control my drone and that it was heading in a direction that I did not command it to. In this case, it is almost certainly better to have the drone crash land from a low height rather than be lost completely.

Summary

In this article, we have been through everything you need to know about the DJI emergency propeller stop and how to utilise it best.

It is most beneficial for most users to turn off the emergency propeller stop unless it is an emergency. The combination stick command options can be accidentally fired if you are not paying close attention, which could cause a mid-air stalling of your drone propellers resulting in a crash.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton is a writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. His drone footage has been featured on TV and he has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. He has been a drone pilot for many years and has flown many types of drones. His favourite is still the DJI Mavic Air for the portability and functionality packed into a small and portable drone!