5 Tips for Flying a DJI Drone in Sport Mode
With the enhanced speed and agility that it offers, flying in Sport Mode is an exhilarating ride, but with some risks. Being aware of these risks and the changes in the aircraft’s flight abilities are just some of the changes you’ll have to become accustomed to and comfortable with.
Flying in Sport Mode is the pinnacle of your flight skills when it comes to piloting a drone. All the skills you have worked to acquire and master since first picking up that controller will have led you to the thrill of flying in Sport Mode.
What is Sport Mode?
Sport Mode is one of the three Standard Flight Modes available on DJI drones. It is designed to allow the aircraft to operate at its maximum speed with increased maneuverability.
In this mode, preprogrammed setting changes will come into effect that will allow for faster motor operation (Increased speed) and the controller gain will be increased (Increased Agility). This allows for quicker, more stable communications with craft and controller.
Also important to note is that the Obstacle Avoidance Systems will be non-functional in Sport Mode.
Here are some useful tips to keep your drone safe and sound until you master the skill of flying in Sport Mode.
1. Become a master at the sticks before going to Sport Mode
Being knowledgeable about the aircraft you are flying is a must. It doesn’t matter what you are flying, whether a Mini 2 or a Phantom 4 or a Mavic 3, or any other model out there.
You need to be familiar with how your aircraft flies and reacts to controller changes. You need to know its stop rate and turn rates; these bits of knowledge will only be gained by flying and as you fly, these reactions you’ve learned will become second nature.
Over time, you will build up muscle memory in how you operate the control sticks. It’s like you the pilot having your own Sport Mode – you will gain better reaction time and coordination to your movements. But you have to work hard to gain this over time, you can’t just flip a switch!
So before you ever turn the switch to Sport Mode, make sure the flight controls and in-depth knowledge of how your drone handles are second nature to you.
You need to learn how your aircraft will react to things you may be doing on the ground with the controller or from outside influences such as radio interference or signal loss, or wind gusts.
This knowledge will help you in every aspect of drone flying whether you’re flying in P or A Mode, or in Sport mode.
These skills will be invaluable as you relearn your drone’s new flight capabilities and how to react to these increases in the crafts flight capabilities that you will find when flying in Sport Mode.
2. Watch the battery level – it drains much faster
The battery or the very heart of your drone system is of critical importance. The battery is what makes it possible for drone flight. After all, without that power, whatever drone you have is just a funky-looking paperweight, right?
In Sport Mode, your battery will deplete quicker than when flying in the other Standard Flight Modes.
The reason for this is the increase in speed. The motors when flying in sport mode will work harder to achieve that higher speed rate and as such will require more power used to attain these enhancements.
When flying with an older used battery, this may be more pronounced than if you’re flying with a newer battery with less use on it.
When flying in Sport mode, it is more important than in the other standard flight modes to keep an eye on the battery and its level, as it will be constantly changing. Performing certain types of maneuvers will also affect the rate of battery depletion.
Keeping an eye on the battery level will ensure you have that power when you need it and not have to miss the shot due to a battery change.
3. Set your Return To Home altitude to avoid potential obstacles
The Return to Home function is still operable when flying in Sport mode. This is another good reason for keeping an eye on your battery level and for making sure you have the settings set for the RTH and the environment you’re flying in.
It’s easy to set the RTH and leave it in that same setting for multiple flights. This is a risk you needn’t make.
Anytime you lift off, it is just good practice to review all of your drone settings prior to initiating the flight. In Sport Mode, this is doubly important, as the obstacle avoidance system will be inactive.
So, although the craft will return to home in the event of low or critical battery, it will not avoid obstacles on the return, so having set the height to a level that will keep it from any unsafe areas is important.
4. Fly in open places away from hazards
When using this flight mode, it is best to be in an area where there are wide open spaces and any hazards are easily identified and can be avoided by a wide berth.
Safety is always the most important factor when planning any drone flight. It just can’t be stressed enough, that SAFETY is always the predominant factor to any drone flight.
With Sport Mode providing faster speeds and enhanced reactions on the sticks, flying in this mode in the right environment will be a major determining factor in whether you can fly safely and happily.
As the Pilot in Command, the onus is on you. You decide if the area is appropriate, you decide if the flight can be conducted in a safe manner. You are responsible for the actions of not only yourself but your drone as well.
Now as the PIC, there are many things you can control, and some you can’t. You can’t control the weather unless you know something the rest of us don’t. All drone pilots are at the whimsical fancy of the weather, rains, wind, etc.
One of the things you can control is the environment you are flying in. You can choose to fly in a rural area or an urban one. One with no obstacles or one chucked full of them. The challenges you take on are your own and only you truly know your skillset and whether you are capable of the flight or not.
Note: As a commercial pilot, it may seem that the control of the flying environment may not be a choice anymore. This is one of those truths/non-truths.
Although it is true, as a commercial pilot you will be assigned an area to fly, this will not be a choice.
However, you can still control the flying environment by choosing the most appropriate take-off and landing site and positioning yourself for the best line of sight at that location.
You still decide if the flight can be performed safely or if there will need to be a change to make the flight possible.
5. Wear FPV goggles to better gauge distances
There are two styles of flight that can be employed when flying drones. One is line of sight and is the most common way of flying. The other is First Person View or FPV. FPV flight requires an additional piece of equipment – goggles.
Flying in Sport Mode with a set of FPV goggles is one of the best ways to experience this Standard Flight Mode. FPV provides the unique advantage of a cockpit view, as if you were sitting in the aircraft itself.
One of the reasons for this being the best way to fly in Sport mode is the fact that your reactions may be quicker to respond to obstacles that are right in the aircraft’s flight path.
If you’ve been flying drones for any amount of time, you most likely have already learned that for every gain in a system there is a drawback or downside. This is true for the difference between Line-of-Sight piloting and FPV piloting.
With FPV piloting, you gain a unique view from the aircraft. This view can be of great benefit when flying at higher speeds with the need to react more quickly to things within that flying environment.
However, it’s very limiting in the field of view that the pilot has. You will not have any side vision, and you will not have the full knowledge of the craft’s position in the air like the 360 view one has when flying by Line of Sight.
Also, you will need to employ the use of a visual observer.
As the rules are currently written, the goggles do not qualify for the requirement of Visual Line of Sight. Using a Visual observer will fulfill this requirement.
The other side of that pro is that when flying by Line of Sight, you may not be able to react to something in the crafts flightpath as quickly, due to misgauging the distance from it, because of the positioning of your view.
This has everything to do with how the human eyes interpret data. Our eyes like to play tricks on us, and one of the predominant tricks is the difficulty of judging distances of objects from a distant position on the ground.
So, here are the two sides to that coin: while what you gain from the goggle view may be limited, it will provide a better gauge of distance to objects in the goggle’s viewfinder. And then, whereas Line of Sight will provide better positional awareness, you may be more likely to judge the distance from the drone to an object incorrectly.
One of the most important takeaways here is that though the Flight Mode may change, there are important skills and knowledge that each can provide that will make you the best pilot you can be. Many of those skills carry over from one another.
Being comfortable with the way your aircraft flies and how it reacts is another important takeaway. Just as it’s never advisable to jump into a pool of unfed sharks, it’s never advisable taking an unfamiliar aircraft and thinking it’ll fly like some other platform you have flown. They all react differently and fly differently.
Flight time will be affected by how you fly in Sport Mode more than in any other, and keeping an eye on it will lead to a better experience than if you get caught up in an RTH low/critical battery situation. RTH will operate in Sport Mode without the obstacle avoidance system.
Control your flying environment. Be the Pilot in Command that you are. It’s on you, success and failure. So get out there and test your skills – you will only get better with the more time you put in on the sticks.
Fly Safe, Fly Always, Always Fly Safe!