A man confused about headless node on quadcopter.

What Is a Quadcopter Headless Mode?

A quadcopter is an awesome alternative to your regular one or two rotor helicopter.

They offer far more stability, speed, power, and lift vastly increasing your potential for fun and exploration.

Many drones are based on the 4-rotor quadcopter design for this reason.

Headless mode means that your quadcopter will always follow controls from your perspective regardless of which way the drone is facing.

Quadcopter generally have far more to offer the consumer, a good example of this is the opportunity to fly using something called headless mode.

This isn’t always possible with one or two-rotor helicopters because there isn’t always enough stability or maneuverability to make it feasible.

It is understandable if you haven’t heard of headless mode, or perhaps you have, but you don’t fully understand what it is or how it works – not many people do.

What Is Headless Mode?

First, it’s important to explain what headless mode is. Headless mode is a very interesting feature that changes how the quadcopter orientates itself.

Typically, your quadcopter has a “front” etc so when you push forward on the controls the quadcopter flies forward. It’s forward, regardless of which way it’s facing. Or more importantly in this situation, which way you are facing.

With headless mode, your quadcopter is orientated to the controller, meaning if you hold the controller in front of you correctly, it has orientated itself to you.

This means that when you press forward on the controls, the quadcopter will move away from you in a straight line. When you press back, it will return to you. 

Having the ability to fly your quadcopter in headless mode can make flying far easier, especially if you are having to maneuver yourself occasionally.

Many people find that flying with headless mode is far more intuitive, and they pick it up quickly. Great for beginners, experienced pilots might take a little longer to adjust but the benefits are just as profound.

A person with a drone controller
Drone Controller

The Headless Mode function:

The headless mode function might sound like a very obvious idea.

Why wouldn’t you want to have the direction of the controls so intuitively tied to the direction you are facing?

The main reason most helicopters don’t do this is that it’s very hard to do so without having four rotors. 

The reason being that you don’t have enough directional power to make such immediate changes. Again, headless mode tries to make flight intuitive and very reactive.

Normally, when you want to turn your quadcopter to the right, you would need to make a full quarter and then you can begin going forward.

The new forward, facing towards your right. With headless mode, you can simply turn yourself to face the right and push forward. 

Flying your quadcopter is never going to be effortless, navigating still requires attention and planning. That being said, headless mode makes it pretty damn close to effortless. It’s far more relaxing for your average pilot.

Infographic showing different modes of drone controller
Different Modes of a controller

What Are Some Common Problems Faced By Quadcopters While Using Headless Mode?

Flying your quadcopter in headless mode has some very clear benefits. It’s easier, for mode intuitive, the learning curve from beginner to a competent pilot is much gentler and very rewarding. But, headless mode isn’t without fault. 

How easy it is to fly in headless mode is a little oxymoronic?

Some people find it easy, some people find it near impossible. It should in theory be easy but the steps taken to make it so easy to fly end up giving some people a real headache trying to wrap their head around it. The issue is most common with absolute beginners and children.

The reason being that they are trying to master how the controller interacts with the quadcopter itself.

Learning which directional button, or push on a joystick, correlates to which movements by the copter takes a bit of getting used to. 

In headless mode, you shake everything up. Which button or joystick press correlates to which direction changes constantly, every time you move the controller 5 degrees one way or the other the directional controllers are now entirely different. 

Standing still is one solution to this, but that’s a little dull, don’t you think?

Another issue with headless mode is that experienced pilots may, bare with me, lose their heads completely.

You are so used to having to orientate manually that you end up flying off in the wrong direction because you have forced the copter to orientate and it’s done so itself.

Meaning if you try to make a quarter turn, you might make a half-turn, etc. If you aren’t careful you might send your quadcopter flying off in the wrong direction potentially losing it, damaging it or injuring someone.

The longer you have spent piloting regular quadcopters the harder this adjustment will be to make.

Someone flying the copter for the first time might take to it far more quickly than someone who’s been flying them for a decade.

How Do I Turn On Headless Mode?

Turning on headless mode is easy enough! Most quadcopters that are headless mode have a button on the controller that very clearly states headless mode.

This will make the adjustment to headless mode from regular flight orientation.

If you are unsure how to activate headless mode, or whether or not your quadcopter has the mode at all, I would encourage you to read the instruction/owners manual before you try to use headless mode. 

It’s normally pretty simple to use, we will cover how it normally works in the next section just in case.

Some headless mode quadcopters require everything to be turned off and landed on the ground (of course) before you make the switch.

I would recommend doing that regardless simply so you aren’t adjusting to the new orientation mid-flight. It’s just not worth it to save yourself a minute or two to reset. Trust me.

How to Use the Headless Mode?

Once you have enabled headless mode, it’s time to get started. Again, I would recommend enabling headless mode while the quadcopter is on the ground or in your hands, that way you can test yourself with some small and safe movements that are far less consequential.

Once you do have everything up and running, it’s nice to try and find your new limitations.

Learning to try to be more aware of how you are standing, specifically and how you are holding the controller, is very important.

In the beginning, try standing still and moving the copter around directly in front of you. This is the best way to master the basics.

Then, try to fly the copter all the way around you, again without moving, and bring it back to its starting point in front of you.

Once you’ve mastered this, try and fly the quadcopter in circles around yourself, while also turning in circles, this is a good way to get used to the micro-adjustments you’ll need to make as you move around independently from the copter.

Here is the cool video from Altair Aerial explaining the headless mode

Credit: ALTAIR AERIAL

Best Headless Mode Quadcopter?

The best is very subjective since if you’re reading this it’s a safe bet you don’t own a headless mode copter I would recommend the K5 Mini Nano Drone. It’s a reasonably priced quadcopter that is easy to use.

Most importantly, this quadcopter has headless mode combined with altitude hold. This makes it just about as perfect for a beginner as possible.

Since this is your first headless mode drone, that’s about as good as you can get. This quadcopter is small, portable, reliable, and about as well rounded as you could hope for on a budget.

If you are looking for a top of the line device, this isn’t it. But it’s a good launching off point.

If you want the very best, I would probably go with the Altair Aerial 818 Hornet. These can be found far more easily on Amazon or in hobby stores, it is a tremendous quadcopter that has a huge array of extra features.

This copter is far more expensive, but it’s also not a gimmicky copter for beginners. I would only recommend buying a copter of this quality if you are already a competent pilot.

Altair Aerial 818 drone in yellow and black color.
Altair Aerial 818 Hornet

Should I Buy A Headless Mode Quadcopter?

Whether or not a quadcopter with headless mode is right for you is a matter of personal preference.

If you think it sounds cool, then go for it. If you have already spent a fair amount of time piloting regular quadcopters I would suggest you don’t make the change. 

You are probably going to find it very frustrating at first, you might not ever like the change. It’s risky but if you are determined to learn to fly in headless mode, more power to you.

It can be a lot of fun, and you may find yourself being able to pull off far more exciting and complex maneuvers far more easily. 

Whatever you decide, good luck with your new quadcopter and happy flying!

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What Is Quadcopter Headless Mode?
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What Is Quadcopter Headless Mode?
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This articles tries to explain the headless mode of a Quadcopter.
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Remoteflyer
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1 thought on “What Is a Quadcopter Headless Mode?”

  1. The longer a battery has run out, the slower and farther the drone will move. Also, the longer a drone has been flying, the more energy it has to carry and the higher the energy consumption of the battery will be. If the battery runs out completely, then the drone will stop and wait for another charge. This will make the drone less effective and potentially dangerous if there are multiple drones flying at once.

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