Why is my drone lifting on one side? [SOLVED]

There are a variety of reasons why your drone may be lifting to one side. When I take my drone out and I notice some unusual flying characteristics I immediately take notice and go into problem-solving mode. Here are a variety of methods for fixing a drone that is lifting on one side and the calibrations and situational issues that may be causing it.

Your drone may be lifting on one side because of a miscalibration either in your remote control or with the components of the drone. You may also have issues with your propeller’s placement or condition. You may be trying to fly in strong winds which can cause your drone to lift on one side.

Luckily, this sort of malfunction can be solved relatively easily by going through all of the potential reasons systematically. It’s certainly frustrating when your drone is not performing exactly how you want it.

The first thing that you should check is the calibration of your remote control.

Is your remote control calibrated?

Remote controls are the only connection to the drone a pilot has while flying. A simple miscalibration can easily cause a drone to lift on one side.

The remote control for a drone relies on it being able to accurately detect the position of the joysticks.

Sometimes, the position of the joysticks is misrepresented by the software and a simple recalibration is all you need to solve the problem.

The first time you turn on the remote and connect to the drone, you may get a continuous beep that could indicate that the left or right joystick is out of alignment or is not detected in the middle of the joystick’s movement.

The best way to resolve this issue is to go to the joystick calibration section of the app and go through all the prompts and follow the on-screen instructions until the joysticks are calibrated.

A video that goes through the entire remote control calibration process for the DJI Phantom four and professional can be seen in the YouTube video below.

You can also adjust your EXP settings on your drone which determines how sensitive the movement of the drone is relative to the position of the joystick. It is best to move away from linear responsiveness.

Adjusting your exp settings we case-sensitive your sticks are to the movement of the joysticks. This can help you fine tune the movement which can result in a smoother movement or more aggressive movement when your drone is flying.

Access them: Main Controller Settings> Advanced Settings> EXP

In the settings, you will see three graphs with exponential curves. You can change the value below each graph to change the shape. You can also use your fingers to manually change the shape of the graph by moving the curve.

Try changing the setting to a lower value, such as 0.15, to see how to change the joystick response.

Are your propellers are spinning the correct directions

One of the easiest things to accidentally do is to place the wrong propeller in the motor causing you to ask why is my drone lifting on one side?

Propellers need to be in the correct motors as some of them move clockwise whilst others spin anticlockwise. Each of the propellers is used for propulsion and the spinning of the propeller needs to match the shape of the moulded propeller that is inserted into the motor.

It is easy to work out which way the motor should be spinning by looking at the leading edge of the propeller as it spins in the direction of the front edge of the propeller.

For most drones the drone propeller direction for each motor is as follows:

  • Front Left – Clockwise motor (CW)
  • Front Right – Counter Clockwise motor (CCW)
  • Back Left – Counter Clockwise motor (CCW)
  • Back Right – Clockwise motor (CW)
Why is my drone lifting on one side Drone propeller direction

All movements of the drone are controlled by rotating the propeller in various different ways. To control the movement, some propellers slow down and others accelerate. Sometimes this happens altogether (as in the case of climb or ascent), and sometimes they happen at different times on different sides of the aircraft (as in the case of moving forward and backward).

If you want to understand how a drone changes direction check out my other article where I go through everything you need to know about propellers, motors, and the way that the propellers spin to cause the drone to move through 3D space.

How does a drone change direction

Malfunctioning motor

Motors are the most important electrical component of the drone. The motors spin at an incredibly high rate – up to 5000 revolutions per minute – and any deviation in this speed causes the drone to drift and spin.

A malfunctioning motor can cause the propellers to spin faster or slower. Each one of these issues will result in a very unstable drone.

If you are building your own drone you are able to swap out the malfunctioning motor for another. For most drone flyers, their drone was manufactured without the capability of being able to swap out components.

The only option for people with DJI drones or other camera drones is to reach out to support in order to replace or fix the malfunctioning components.

Loose propeller

Propellers are an incredibly important part of the drone and, because you can easily remove them, sometimes they sit loosely in the motor housing.

If you regularly remove and replace your propellers the likelihood that the plastic moulding has become bent out of shape, cracked, or otherwise deformed increases. Personally, I do not remove my propellers while my drone is in transit has the drone is able to sit in the protective case with the propellers on.

Other drones are not designed to be stored or transported with the propellers in situ and this results in a higher chance of the propeller becoming damaged.

To check to see if your propeller is loose simply hold the motor with one hand and gently wiggle the propeller in the motor housing. There should be no more than a couple millimetres of movement in the middle of the propeller whilst the motor is stationary.

Any more movement and you should consider replacing your propellers as soon as possible.

If you want to know more about when you should change your drones propeller check out my other article – right go through nine symptoms that you should pay particular attention to.

When you should change your drone’s propeller

I’ve also covered this topic in detail in my YouTube video, below.

Third-party propellers

If you have third party propellers on your drone I would recommend swapping back to propellers that have been supplied with the drone.

Not all drone propellers are able to be swapped. The form factor of the propeller has to be perfectly matched to the revolutions per minute of the motor and the weight of the drone.

A propellers form factor including its pitch, propeller length, propeller width, material, flexibility, and other factors all play a role in creating a stable flight.

You may want to upgrade your drone. Drone propellers are one of the easiest to upgrade because they are easily replaceable parts. You may want to increase the number of blades your drone’s propeller has, or you may want to install larger blades to reduce the noise generated by your drone.

Large propellers are not good because they depend on the interaction between the amount of power the motor can generate and the amount of energy needed to rotate the large propeller. Choosing a propeller that is too large can overheat the motor.

Always stick to the size of the propeller your drone was manufactured to hold first.

Bent arm during heavy landing

Our drones are meant to be flown in a variety of conditions. As we get used to flying our drones in increasingly challenging circumstances we can end up having rough or hard landings.

Because drones are relatively light the materials that they are made from can be easy to bend or break.

The housing of the drone is usually plastic or plastic composite and is relatively easy to break because it is made as light as possible. It cannot provide the best impact protection.

Drone arms are particularly easy to break because they stick out from the body of the drone. This means that even the lightest touch on the extremities of the drone arm, during landing, can cause it to bend or warp.

This slight bend or orientation change of the propeller can cause a significant change to the stability. All of the propellers have been specifically designed to work as long as they are facing directly up. If they are not pointing vertically it can throw off the angular momentum and because one side of the drone to lift.

Miscalibration

It is unlikely that you will have to adjust your drone every time. The drone has internal memory that stores some of the best settings that are often set during the manufacturing process. However, on popular drone models such as the DJI Mavic series, the GO4 app will ask you to adjust certain aspects as needed.

When you first receive your drone, you may be asked or prompted to adjust certain aspects of your drone when setting up your first flight.

If any of these things are mis-calibrated it can cause your drone to lift on one side. This can include but is not limited to sensors such as:

  • The compass
  • The inertial measurement unit consisting of:
  • the thermometer
  • the gyroscope
  • a barometer
  • the accelerometer
  • Geomagnetic calibration

If you want to know more about how you can calibrate your drone check out my other article – why do I have to calibrate my drone and I go through everything you need to know about calibrating accelerometers through to inertial measurement units and more – click here to be taken to article.

If you have a mini drone the calibration is much different as it relies on trimming the drone rather than using software to calibrate internal electronic components.

Calibrating a mini drone

To trim the mini drone, you need to be flying the drone. Use the trim buttons on the mini drone controller to adjust the propellers and stabilize the drone.

Depending on the manufacturer, the drone has two sets of arrow or trim buttons and a trim that is used to prevent the drone from rotating clockwise or counterclockwise.

Basically, use these buttons or wheels to counteract the natural movement of the drone. For example, if the drone drifts to the left, you need to press and release the right side of the trim button until the drone no longer moves to the left.

Complete this process left, right, rotate, forward, reverse. It may take a few times to perfect this trimming, but it’s worth the hassle because easy control of the drone makes flying much more enjoyable.

Environmental conditions

The drone may be lifting on one side due to other areas outside of the electronic components or remote control. For example, the environmental conditions in which you are flying your drone can easily cause the drone to look as if it’s tilting to one side. I know that when I fly my DJI Mavic air in very strong winds I have been concerned about how much it is tilted into the wind.

Wind

Wind can cause a range of issues for drones. The drone is making many hundreds of calculations per second and, gusty wind seems to be the one thing that can easily throw a drone off its typical stable flight.

Anything above the Force Seven wind of about 17-20 m / s (38-45 mph) is too high to fly a drone.

As a rule of thumb for commercial drones such as the DJI Mavic series and the Phantom series, do not fly in winds that exceed two-thirds of the maximum flight speed of your model drone.

This rule of thumb exists because the drone needs to be able to fight the wind from different directions, not only fighting the wind, but also giving it a little buffer to follow the path it needs to fly.

Another way to look at this question beyond the numbers is to ask yourself if I feel safe while flying the drone. Sometimes you need to hover for a moment and not fly too far away whilst evaluating how safe you feel about sending your drone over a greater distance.

Landing spot

Is the landing spot that you are trying to take off from flat?

The landing spot can vary easily cause issues with tilting to one side. This, in combination with a windy flight location can cause it to look like your drone is tilting to the side. My drones very quickly stabilise out into a flat flight but, if your drone has to take off from a severely inclined landing or takeoff spot into strong winds you may find that it does not find the natural equilibrium.

Being closer to the ground means that any small issue instability can cause a greater chance of clipping the ground and connecting with other objects and obstructions in the area.

Geography

The geography of the land that you are flying over can significantly impact the stability of your flight. This is particularly true if you are flying near the ocean over cliffs where there are a significant chance of wind gusts and rapidly changing wind directions in your flight location.

Due to the geographic nature of cliffs, they can cause significant updrafts when wind blows from the ocean, hits the rocks and rises along the edge of the cliff.

Chances are, you cannot feel the updraft when standing on top of the cliff, so it might come as a surprise when you fly your drone over the cliff.

This is seen as a significant bump when looking at the drone from a first person perspective, and if you have a visual line of sight (which you should have most of the time), you will see the drone buffer vertically upwind.

If you regularly fly over rocks that are particularly prone to significant updrafts, you should consider purchasing a drone with a high vertical speed. It ultimately comes down to the power of the brushless motors and the weight of the drone.

If you want know more about flying your drone near cliffs check out my other article – click here for all of the insider tips and tricks.

What happens when you fly a drone over a cliff

Summary

In this article, we have gone over everything you need to check if your drone is lifting on one side. Checking the calibration, structural integrity, and propeller placement and type will solve most issues encountered with a drone that cannot reach a stable level flying position.

Alternatively, making sure that the drone is not trying to combat any particularly strong environmental conditions such as wind, geography, or slanted takeoff and landing spots will help you create a level flying position.

If you cannot fix it, I highly recommend getting in contact with the manufacturer who will be able to replace the drone or fix it at a fraction of the cost of a new drone. Any issues with stable flying should be taken seriously as it significantly increases the chance of accidents and midair collisions. Either with people, trees, or other overhanging items.

Always play it safe and if you are unsure about the integrity of your drone’s flight land immediately and troubleshoot using this guide. Remember to stay safe!

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!