Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned drone pilot, you ought to understand that drones crash often. There are many reasons a drone could crash and how to repair the drone. We are going to discuss in this article.
It’s essential to have some basic skills on how to repair your drone. I know not everyone is handy when it comes to fixing electronics. But some damages are easier to fix.
Today, I will show you how to fix your drone and get back in the air within a few hours. But for major damages, you may still need to visit a repair shop.
Table of contents
- Parts of a Drone:
- What Is the Basic Drone Maintenance?
- Why Do Drones Crash?
- Drone Repair:
- Always Try to Seek Professional Help:
Parts of a Drone:
Before we discuss how to repair a drone, let’s review some of the main drone parts and their roles.
This is one of the most crucial parts of a drone. Quadcopters, which are the most common types of drones, have four motors, one for each propeller. Two of these propellers rotate clockwise, and the other two rotate anti-clockwise. They do this to provide stability.
These are the blade-shaped devices that rotate at high speeds to generate a lift and keep the drone in the air. And just like with the motors, they rotate in different directions.
This is a GPS receiver that communicates with GLONASS and GPS satellites in space. Drones use this positioning system to locate where they are on earth and maintain a stable flight. GPS also plays a significant role in finding a lost drone or planning a flight path with waypoints like in mapping tasks.
Think of this as the brain of a drone. It collects information from the GPS module, sensors, and other drone components and relays them to the ESC (Electronic Speed Controller), which controls the motor’s speeds. A good example is when a drone accelerates or hovers in string wind.
ESC (Electronic Speed Controller):
This is the device that control’s the motor’s speed based on the commands from the drone’s flight controller.
These are the drone’s source of power. They are also known as intelligent batteries since they prevent overcharging. The controller or app can show the battery levels, giving you a chance to fly the drone back home. But if the battery gets depleted when the drone is in flight, it may force a landing or even crash.
These are the devices that help the drone communicate back and forth with the controller. Drones can either communicate through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or OcuSync in DJI drones.
Not all drones will feature a gimbal, but it’s the device that stabilizes the camera when the drone in flight. Drones aren’t always still when flying. They may shake, turn, or tilt, and these movements could be transferred to the footage. The gimbal prevents that.
What Is the Basic Drone Maintenance?
Prevention is better than the cure or repair in this case. So, before we discuss some basic repairs, let’s review some maintenance routines you should always carry out before flying your drone.
Before flying, you need to check if every part of the drone functions as it’s supposed to. Check for swollen batteries, cracks, loose fittings, or dirt.
Inspect the propellers and make sure they’re working. Generally, you should replace propellers after at least 200 flights. But if your drone’s propellers show signs of chips cracks after a few flights, it would be best to replace them.
You should also consider installing propeller guards if your drone doesn’t have some. Remember, if a drone crashes into a tree or a building, the propellers are always the first to get damaged. Sometimes they’re the only part that gets damaged.
After the flight, check the wires and make sure none of them have come loose. Slight damage in the wiring could cause your drone to crash.
In case your drone has accumulated dirt on the lenses, hull, or sensors, you need to clean it. To prevent the dirt from accumulating too much dirt, you can consider a landing pad.
You can use a microfiber cloth to clean the hull. But for the sensors, especially the removable sensors, you can use sensor swabs or compressed air.
Just like your phone, laptop, or any other electronic device, drones need a firmware update. While the rotors and props are the hardware, the firmware makes sure all the hardware works as it’s supposed to, and it facilitates communication and automation.
Some drones will prompt you to update the firmware, while others may not. These updates help fix bugs, introduce new features, or introduce new limitations based on local regulations.
Why Do Drones Crash?
Besides maintaining a drone, a drone pilot must understand some instances where a drone may crash and avoid them.
There are two main reasons a drone may crash – a pilot’s error or mechanical failure. You can avoid some mechanical failures with regular maintenance, but some may be a manufacturing issue, and only the manufacturer can help fix them.
With proper skills and training, you can also avoid various pilot errors. With that in mind, below are some reasons a drone may crash.
Flying too far:
Some drone manufacturers promise a drone operating range of 10 miles or even further. But it’s not always advisable to push the drone to the limit.
You could lose the connection to your drone or even crash into an aircraft. It would be best if you always fly within the line of sight or within the limit stipulated in your region.
In the USA, the FAA requires drone pilots to fly within the line of sight and an altitude of 400 feet.
If you fly too close to power lines or cell towers, the magnetic field around these setups could interfere with your drone, causing it to fly away and crash.
Most drones aren’t designed to fly indoors, especially those relying on GPS. They may have trouble repositioning themselves, causing them to crash.
For instance, by default, the return-to-home function makes the drone fly to a higher altitude. When the drone is indoors, it may crash into the ceiling or other objects when this function is activated. And you also risk injuring other occupants in the house.
Flying in adverse weather conditions can also cause the drone to crash. For instance, strong winds drain the drone batteries faster, interfering with other functions of the drone. Rain or snow can also damage both external and internal parts of the drone.
Below are some common problems that you probably can accomplish yourself. Sometimes the manufacturer may provide guidelines on how to go about it.
Remember, always switch off your drone and remove the battery when repairing your drone. You can plug it in to troubleshoot and identify the damaged part. But after that, make sure it’s off as you work on it.
Make sure you are competent and be aware that if you cause more damage to the drone, you could void your warranty, free repairs, or other offers that your drone manufacturer offers.
As mentioned earlier, propellers rotate to generate a lift. As mentioned earlier, if you notice chips, cracks, or the propellers are slightly bent, you should replace the propellers. A slight chip or bend could alter the overall functioning of the drone.
Place the drone on a flat surface and observe how the propellers rotate. If some appear to be skewed, then they are bent. You can easily straight a slight bend. But if it’s too pronounced, you can replace the propellers.
Removing the propellers isn’t that complicated either. Some have a simple friction push-o mechanism, while others have screws.
A small Philips screwdriver or any other basic screwdriver will remove and replace the propellers.
Another problem with propellers is where they all rotate, but the drone is not taking off. In that case, you may have installed the propellers the wrong way.
I did mention that for drones to fly, some propellers rotate clockwise, and the others rotate anti-clockwise. And they will always have matching patterns. So check the propellers and make sure they’re installed on the appropriate motor.
If you fire up your drone and realize one of the propellers is not rotating, that means that one motor is not working. Just like with the propellers, the motors need to be replaced once in a while.
They may also get damaged, and the wires could wear out sooner than you’d expect due to crash or oxidation.
There are several videos on how to replace a motor. So make sure you watch lots of them and research before attempting to replace the motor. Below is a step-by-step quick process on how you can check if the motor is damaged.
- Start by removing the battery, camera, landing gears, or any accessories the drone has.
- Open up the drone by removing the screws. All you need is screwdrivers of different sizes.
- Once you can access the internal parts, check whether the wires themselves are damaged. If you can’t see any damage, then the motor may be damaged. In some cases, the ESC may also be damaged.
- To test if it’s the controller or motor that’s damaged, you need to reattach the battery. You also need a voltmeter to check the voltage.
- Switch on the drone and test the propellers. If the voltmeter shows some voltage coming from the controller towards the motor’s wires, then the controller is okay. But if you don’t get a reading from the controller, then it may be damaged too.
- If the wires are detached from the controller, you can solder them with a soldering gun.
Replacing the motor may vary with the drone model or type, so follow the manufacturer’s instructions and consult with a technician.
Drone Producing Strange Noises:
If the screws on the propellers are damaged or bent, the drone may produce a weird noise when the propellers are rotating. Check for any bending by placing the drone on a flat surface.
Once you identify the set of propellers causing the problem, try to balance them. If the noise is coming from the motor, you’ll need to open the motor compartment, and you may also need to replace the motors.
No Connection Between the Controller and the Drone:
If you’re trying to carry out a set of commands from the remote controller to the drone with no response, there are two issues that you may be dealing with.
First, the controller’s batteries may be dead. And in that case, all you need to do is charge them. This is also an issue of not checking the pre-flight checklist, which highlights that you should ensure all devices are fully charged. If the batteries are damaged, get new batteries.
Secondly, you may have missed a step when setting up the drone and controller connection. The setup process varies with the drones, but manufacturers provide detailed steps on how to do it. Repeat the process and try again.
You can also try placing the drone on a flat surface. This is because some drones need to be in a specific position for them to respond to the controller. If all of these steps fail, then the internal components of the drone may be damaged.
If your drone can’t maintain a stable flight, is unstable when hovering, or even can’t maintain an altitude, that could be a calibration issue.
Drones use gyroscopes and accelerometers to maintain stability. But if these two components are not appropriately calibrated, you will have trouble flying your drone.
One way drone manufacturers help pilots stabilize drones is through the TRIM buttons. They’re pretty easy to use. If your drone is drifting too much to the right, you can use these buttons to stabilize it.
The same case applies if it’s drifting to the left. But trimming won’t help much if you’ve not calibrated. Below is a simple way to calibrate your drone.
- Switch on the drone and the controller.
- Place the drone on a level surface.
- Push the left joystick (throttle) downwards, upwards, and then down again.
- Then, push the right joystick downwards towards the right.
- And that’s it. Your drone is calibrated.
Poor GPS Connection:
Drones equipped with intelligent flight modes such as waypoint flying or follow-me modes rely on GPS. If your drone can’t accomplish these tasks anymore, it means it didn’t connect to enough satellites.
Besides accomplishing intelligent flight modes, some drones will not even take off if there’s a poor GPS connection.
For GPS to work, it has to connect to at least 3 satellites. Some of the reasons it connects to few satellites are unfavorable weather, cloud cover, or a damaged GPS module. The best thing you can do is waiting for when there’s favorable weather to fly your drone.
If the drone’s batteries get depleted faster than usual, the drone crashes when in flight due to battery power, or the drone isn’t charging, you could be dealing with short circuits. You can fix this by wrapping the battery with insulation tape.
Always Try to Seek Professional Help:
Let’s face it – not everyone is comfortable dissecting a drone and trying to fix the internal or external parts. Luckily, there are several drone technicians offering drone repair services.
Major drone brands like DJI or Parrot do offer repairs either as part of their warranty or at some cost.
DJI offers repair services through their repairs page. Once you crash your drone, retrieve it, head over to the repair page, fill in the nature of the crash, search for the nearest repair center and ship the drone.
The whole process may take a few days to a couple of weeks to get your drone back. DJI also offers a care package, where they offer to fix or repair your drone. Of course, terms and conditions apply.
If you’re unsure about your manufacturer, you need to check if you’re eligible for repairs and how it works. And how trying to fix the drone affects the warranty.
Due to the issues faced when dealing with the support teams from manufacturers, it’s always advisable to purchase a drone from a reputable brand.
And there you have it. You don’t have to rush to a repair service every time the propellers get bent, or the motors stop working.
These are some basic drone repairs that you can do yourself. If you’re experienced in dealing with electronics, you can even fix the internal components.
But for major damages, local repair service or shipping the drone back to the manufacturer are your best options. If you choose to go the DIY way, be aware of the manufacturer’s policies regarding warranties and repairs.
Don’t forget to carry out regular maintenance of your drone, fly safe, and follow the regulations in your region.
Happy Flying Folks.