What is drone ATTI mode? [the ultimate guide]

If you have a DJI drone you have probably seen that there is a mode called ATTI mode. This exists alongside four other modes which are beginner, GPS mode, Opti mode and sport mode. It’s important that you understand what ATTI mode is because it can save you from issues such as flyaways and can be used by professionals to give a much smoother video. This is not a beginner mode as it will require you to have a good level of control and precision while flying the drone.We are gonna go over everything you need to know about atti mode and answer the question: what is drone atti mode?

What is drone atti mode - the controller

What does ATTI mode stand for?

ATTI stands for attitude mode. In this mode the GPS sensors are disabled as are the global navigation satellite systems (which will mean the drone will drift with the wind) and object avoidance sensors. The aircraft uses an on-board barometer to maintain altitude and to keep it level. This mode is used for capturing smoother footage, flying indoors, or preventing flyaways in the event of GPS signal failure or compass errors.

When does ATTI get triggered?

There are three ways that Atti mode could be triggered:

1. Manually

You can turn on anti-mode manually using the GO4 app or some drone models have a physical switch on the remote control to switch between position, atti and sports mode. You can select the mode which is best for you depending on the type of mission you are flying and what your intended outcome is for the flight.

2. GPS signal is lost

ATTI mode can be triggered automatically if the GPS signal is lost on your DJI drone and if the vision system cannot function. This is true if the drone is in a capture mode such as tripod mode. If this happens the flight speed will increase and the aircraft will not be able to hover in place. So use tripod mode carefully only if you have got a great GPS signal.

3. Forward and downward vision system is affected by a surface

If your drone has forward and downwards vision system they can easily become affected by the surface that they are flying over. The ultrasonic sensors may not be able to accurately measure distances when operating above sound absorbing materials and the camera may not function properly in some environments. A regular mode to be flying in is positioning, or p-mode, which is used if you are taking shots or video as the drone stays steady and prioritises stability for excellent images. If the GPS or the vision systems are not available the aircraft will switch from position mode to atti mode.

If you are operating the aircraft over these types of surfaces proceed with great caution:

  • flying over monochrome surfaces (pure black, pure white, pure green, pure red)
  • flying over highly reflective surfaces such as metal roofs
  • flying at high speeds of over 22 mph at 2 m in height or over 11 mph at only 1 m of height
  • flying over water or transparent surfaces
  • flying over moving surfaces or objects
  • flying in an area where the lighting changes frequently or drastically
  • flying over extremely dark or extremely bright surfaces
  • flying over services that can absorb sayings for example thick carpet or dense grass
  • flying over surfaces without clear patterns or texturing
  • flying over services with repeating patterns or textures such as tiles and brickwork
  • flying over inclined surfaces that will deflect sound waves away from the aircraft.

Another way that you can ensure that atti-mode is not turned on without you realising is to make sure that your senses are always clean and free of dust.

You need to be really careful of the drone turning itself into atti-mode as this is when most incidents happen. Imagine that you are flying around and you are relying on the GPS and other sensors to keep you at a stable height and geolocation and without warning the drone start drifting with the wind. You will need to be able to identify quickly that the drone is no longer able to fix its position using GPS and you will have to do manually stabilise the drone against any environmental wind drift as well as pilot the drone home manually.

If you are flying your expensive DJI drone and you are a beginner this can be incredibly scary and is a big contributor to drone incidents resulting in drones becoming broken beyond repair. Here are some of the best ways that you can stop Atti mode being triggered automatically.

How to stop atti-mode being triggered automatically

There is no doubt that atti mode can be very scary if you are new to flying drones. Drone technology has come on so much that we often rely on advanced stabilisation systems (such as GPS) to keep our drones safe without thinking about it. There are a few things that you can do to make sure that your drone will never fly away from you and that you are prepared for any incidences of automatically triggered atti mode. Here are the two top ways of stopping atti-mode being triggered.

Always fly in a strong GPS location

The first thing is to make sure that you are always flying in a location that has a strong GPS signal. On the GO4 app there is a little satellite signal indicator. This tells you how many satellites are providing information to the drone to keep it stable. The drone will not enter GPS mode until it reaches eight GPS satellite signals. I would not take off if I only had eight GPS satellite signals. That means that if you lose one of the signals your drone could quickly go into atti–mode. I do not take off unless I have at least 12 to 14 strong satellite signals. This gives me enough of a buffer if a number of the satellite signals are lost and gives me a piece of mind while flying.

You should also avoid flying near these types of areas:

  • areas with high signal interference – this is common when travelling in cities with skyscrapers and places where you are flying amongst tall trees or mountain ranges around you.
  • Flying inside – if you are flying indoors the concrete and steel case is can block the satellite signals.
  • Flying underground – we’ve all been there with our drone when we really want to explore the inside of a cave or up the face of a mountain or overhang. These are perfect places for GPS signal to become weak and get lost.
  • Solar storms – allow this happens very rarely, the last event happened in 1859, a solar storm have the potential to knock out and effect any orbiting satellites which the GPS system relies on.

The common connector between all of the above issues is lack of being able to see the sky. Before you fly plan your flight area and look up into the sky if you can see a lot of it then the GPS signal will likely be strong. If, on the other hand, the sky is obscured by trees, buildings, earth, or any other absorbent material then you risk losing GPS signal and the drone may automatically switch into atti mode.

Check out my other article how to fly drone – click here. In this article I go through everything you need to know about flying a drone like a pro.

Clean sensors

The second way to stop the drone automatically going into atti mode is to clean the sensors regularly. You should clean the sensors by using a small microfibre cloth and only use very light rubbing action to dislodge any dirt or grime. If you find that you need a little bit of help with a solvent use a small amount of isopropyl alcohol to remove any dirt or grime that have been left by fingerprints.

Although all of this can seem like atti mode is something that you should stay well away from you can actually use it to your advantage for a number of reasons. Be warned however that this is not a beginner flight mode and you will need practice in flying in this mode. We’ll cover that in a later section. These are some of the reasons why you may want to consider using atti mode while flying your drone.

The benefits of ATTI mode

What is drone atti mode?

The benefits of atti mode are that you have greater control over many aspects of the drone flight. By practising in atti mode you will learn how to fly the drone and compensate for things like drifting in the wind. By developing this skill you can safely navigate your drone at all times even if it automatically goes into atti mode.

Faster speeds

Using atti mode allows you to fly at faster speeds. It turns off any speed restrictions that you may have in other flying modes such as positioning mode or tripod mode. If you are serious about flying fast you may want to also consider sports mode on your DJI drone. The sports mode will also turn off any sensors and allow you full freedom and maximum acceleration and turning speeds.

Use atti mode with caution and always turn back to a more suitable mode as soon as you have reached your destination or you no longer want to travel at faster speeds.

Smoother footage

Turning on atti mode reduces the drones stability mechanisms. This is normally seen as jerkiness or jumping in the footage because the GPS technology is trying his best to auto stabilise the drones horizontal position at all times. The lack of the auto breaking features means that the drones will come to a slow and smooth stop continuing to move even though you have let go of the controller.

This is something that you will need to compensate for and if you are used to flying in positioning mode it will be something that you will have to get used to.

The lack of breaking means that it results in a smoother capture of drone footage which means that many professional drone photographers and filmmakers will fly in atti mode often to get the perfect cinematic feeling for their shot.

Useful for flying indoors

Flying indoors is a fun experience but comes with a load of risks. Not only do you have to do navigate in tight areas there are many overhanging obstacles as well. Professionals will have to use atti mode regularly if they are doing things like real estate advertising or flying indoors to capture a unique perspective of the scene. Flying indoors will mean that you don’t have any GPS location and the lack of horizontal stabilisation can make your drone drift even in the presence of light drafts such as from an open window or air-conditioning.

Although a DJI drone does have a load of other sensing equipment and hardware on board it can be very challenging if the drone is drifting to the side and your drone does not have side sensors.

Prevents flyaways or compass errors

One of the best reasons for learning to fly in atti mode is to stop flyaways. Flyaways are a common occurrence if the GPS location or signal changes rapidly and unpredictably throughout a flight. The return to home option will be completely broken and you will rely on a line of sight piloting method to get your drone home.

Compass errors can also occur if you are flying near reinforced concrete or any other surface that is metallic or magnetised. Even if you get close to power lines they put out a small magnetic field that could easily disrupt the flight of your drone.

Learning to pilot your drone properly and manually without GPS or Geo positioning software is the ultimate failsafe for when things go wrong. Practising in atti mode will be the difference in a confident pilot compared to someone who always relies on the geolocation and auto hovering components of a drone.

Let’s take a look at how you should practice flying in atti mode.

How to fly in ATTI mode

You should spend some time learning how to fly in atti mode as you will have the confidence to return your drone safely to its takeoff spot in any situation. Here are the simple steps that you should take to make sure that flying in atti mode is as comfortable as possible:

  • practice at high altitudes – while keeping a visual line of sight go up to a high altitude where you can still see the drone and turn on atti mode. Getting your drone up very high means that you are less likely to crash into any obstructions and it means that you are in a better position to regain GPS connection as soon as you turn on positioning mode.
  • Practice flying toward yourself – one of the hardest things to do, in a drone that does not have headless mode (where the drone always moves in the direction of the joysticks regardless of the direction it is pointing), is to fly toward yourself. The controls are reversed in this situation and so be good practice for you so you can return home without any issue.
  • Use the video feed – using the video feed and getting used to understanding where you are in relation to the drones video feed will help you fly back using atti mode. The first thing I do when I am unsure of where I am is a focus on the first person view of the drone and see if I can pick out any recognisable landmarks or identifiable features in the surroundings.
  • Practice on a drone you don’t mind losing – one of the biggest issues with flying a drone in tricky situations is that you may eventually end up crashing the drone. You can pick up a second-hand Mavic mini or another DJI drone that is cheaper to practice your flying. That way if things go wrong you won’t be damaging your pride and joy.

Flying in atti mode should be something that is on your to-do list. Once a month I recommend that you try it to see if you can overcome any of the flight quirks such as drift.

Conclusion

As a drone pilot you should be confident flying in atti mode. Atti mode is something that can be scary if you are not used to it. There is a chance that your drone will go into atti mode automatically if it loses GPS signal or the visual positioning system is confused by reflective or absorbent surfaces.

It’s not all scary however. You can use atti mode if you are a professional photographer to get smoother shots as the drone will not try has hard to maintain its position when you let go of the joysticks. It will also follow through to create a natural deceleration when you let go of the joysticks. All of this means that you are more likely to get the shots of your dreams. Atti mode can also allow you to fly indoors with greater stability as it doesn’t rely on GPS signals to maintain its stability. As long as there is not a huge draft coming from any of the doorways, windows, or air-conditioning devices you may not have two correct very much for the drift.

Given that atti mode is another tool in your drone arsenal to become an expert drone flyer you will need to get comfortable with it.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton is a writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. He has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. Andy started droneflyingpro.com to share his love and the research of all things drone! He has been a drone pilot for many years and has flown many types of drone. His favorite is still the DJI Mavic Air for the portability and functionality packed into a small and portable drone!