Let us tilt. Let us align. Let Us Drone. DJI gives us a great deal of flight telemetry for our drones in order to make for a safer, more informative flying experience. One tool we have on the DJI GO 4 app that provides us with important information is called the attitude indicator. The attitude indicator displays information on where the drone is, which direction the drone is tilted, how much power you are using, and more!
This post will walk you through the process of locating the attitude indicator and what the icons on the indicator mean. Additionally, I'll provide you with examples of when using the attitude indicator would come in handy.
What is an attitude indicator?
To the newbie, a name like “attitude indicator” probably sounds pretty foreign. Let's go ahead and break this down so it's easy to understand.
What does the word attitude mean when referring to your drone's flight? In aviation, attitude is the orientation of the aircraft in space, measured by the values of these three angles: pitch (around the lateral axis), roll (around the longitudinal axis), and yaw (around the vertical axis).
I took a few minutes to create the above diagram in order to hopefully clear up any confusion that you may be having about orientation of the drone lingo.
So the attitude indicator on the DJI GO 4 app is simply telling us what the drone's orientation is in space at any given time. I'll discuss in detail later in this post about how to decipher the markings and colors on the indicator.
Related post: DJI Drone IMU Calibration: When and How You Should Do It – DJI does not make this information clear in their user manuals, but they have suggested in multiple forum posts and tutorial videos to calibrate the IMU if the app prompts you to and/or if you notice any erratic behavior with your drone.
Is it an attitude indicator or a radar?
If you have spent any amount of time researching this topic, you have likely seen the words “attitude indicator” and “radar” used interchangeably. There seems to be some confusion as to what it is called, so I want to clear up the confusion before we go any further.
Attitude indicator is the correct name, as this is what DJI refers to it as. It has mistakenly been referred to as a radar because it loosely resembles one and even partially acts like one by letting you know where the drone is in relation to where you are.
The use of these two terms being used interchangeably wouldn't be such a big deal if DJI didn't go and name something else a “Radar Chart” on their app.
In the DJI GO 4 app we have the option to display a radar chart under settings>visual navigation settings. It looks like this:
The radar chart refers to the colored lines that display on the top of your screen when you are approaching an object. This has nothing to do with the attitude indicator. Go ahead and toggle the radar chart on/off and watch the colored lines disappear.
Alright, have I cleared up any confusion you had about the difference between the attitude indicator and the radar chart? It is with humility and a slight amount of embarrassment that I confess to you that I got these two mixed up not too long ago and may have steered some people wrong in an earlier blog post 😬. I have since edited that post and apologize if I was the source of your confusion. Here's one last image to illustrate the difference between the attitude indicator and the radar chart.
Check out my recommended gear!
How to locate it on the DJI GO 4 app
Now that we know what the purpose of the attitude indicator is and the difference between it and the radar chart, let's talk about how to pull it up on the app.
There is no setting to enable/disable the attitude indicator, to display it on the screen you simply need to tap on the tiny attitude indicator icon which is on the top-right corner of the map.
Why use the attitude indicator
You may be wondering why you would use the attitude indicator instead of the map. The number one reason to use the attitude indicator is to ensure that your drone is indeed pointing your direction when flying home if you happen to lose sight of it. I can't tell you how many times I've momentarily lost sight of my drone and referred to the attitude indicator to quickly point the nose of the drone in my direction to bring it back towards me.
Here are a few more reasons why you may want to use the attitude indicator:
- To give you a reference of which direction North is.
- To know which direction the nose of the drone is pointed relative to where you are.
- To see which angle the drone is tilted in (this helps if it's windy as you can see how the wind is impacting the attitude of your drone).
- To see what percentage of the drones total power you are currently using (available in Sport mode).
- The red arrow should line up on the white “H” when the drone is directly overhead. If the drone is overhead and the red arrow is elsewhere, this would be an indication that the compass needs to be calibrated.
Related Post: Mavic Pro Compass Problems Due to Interference – This subject gets brought up so frequently because of how important it is to take-off and fly without compass errors, but how often do you really need to calibrate it? Let's dive into what the compass does, common errors, and when you should calibrate.
Anatomy of the attitude indicator
There are quite a few different markings on the attitude indicator. As you read through the different meanings, use this picture once more as a reference.
Blue horizon line
The blue line that cuts the attitude indicator in half is the horizon line. The line will move when the drone is either pitching or rolling. When the drone is hovering in place with no wind, the blue line should be level. So why is this line necessary? I mean, do you really need a line to tell you that you are rolling to the right?
There are a couple of reasons why this horizon line is helpful. First, you can see how much wind the drone is having to fight. There may just be a slight breeze down at ground level, but wind conditions can be wildly different 300-400ft up in the air. If you live near the ocean, you probably know how much more wind there is over the water at times. Remember that the drone doesn't have the same paradise conditions that you have as you're flying comfortably from the beach in a lawn chair.
If you see the blue line tilting aggressively in one direction, use caution and consider changing altitudes if possible.
Secondly, a drone that lists one way or another when there is no wind could indicate that an IMU calibration is in order. Having the blue line really helps you determine whether the drone is stable or not.
Here is a quick video I made that shows what the blue line will do when you pitch forward or back.
And here's a video showing what the blue line does when you roll to the right or left.
“H” in the center of the circle
The white “H” in the center of the attitude indicator is where you are currently standing with the RC. As mentioned above, I'd say that the number one reason for using the attitude indicator is to be able to quickly line up the nose of the drone with your current location so you can ensure that a direct flight back is executed. Line up the red arrow with the “H” and let her fly!
Lastly, as confirmation that the drone is indeed flying toward you, it would be smart to glance down and make sure that distance between the drone and yourself is decreasing. The distance reading is conveniently right next to the attitude indicator.
Here is a quick video I made showing you the corresponding movement of the red arrow in the attitude indicator when the drone yaws to the left or right.
Green cone in front of red arrow
The green cone in front of you shows the orientation of the camera lens. It should alway be pointing straight out in front of the red arrow.
White triangle at the top of the circle
For some reason, the white triangle at the top of the attitude indicator seems to be the most confusing marking on this thing.
The white triangle (arc indicator) is simply letting you know where the nose of the drone is pointing relative to which direction you are standing with the RC.
If the drone is right in front of you and it's also facing the same way as you, then the red arrow and white triangle will be pointed at each other. There are two movements that will change the direction that the red arrow points:
- The drone yawing to the right or left will change the red arrow's direction.
- Changing the way the RC is pointed will change the direction of the red arrow.
When I first heard someone say that the white triangle was the RC, I was confused because I thought that meant I could line up the red arrow with it and fly towards my location. That may be where most of the confusion stems. The white triangle depicts the direction of the drone's nose relative to which way you are facing with the RC in hand, and the white “H” is the actual location of the RC.
Once again, I made a video that hopefully clears up any confusion that you may have regarding the purpose of the white triangle.
“N” on the outer circle
The “N” is perhaps the most intuitive part of the attitude indicator. Treat yourself to a gummy bear if you guessed that it stands for North.
I find it pretty handy to always know which direction North is, as I often get discombobulated.
It's important to note that the “N” is showing you which way North is according to which direction you are facing with the RC in your hand, not which way the drone is facing.
Related Post: In-Depth Guide for DJI’s P-Mode, S-Mode, and ATTI Mode – Every drone user should have a working knowledge of each of these three flight modes, and be able to adapt accordingly when one of the flight modes is selected. In this post, we will take an in-depth look at P-mode, S-mode, and ATTI mode, and learn about how to be a pro at each.
Power output meter
Lastly, something that will only be displayed if you are in Sport mode is the power output meter. This meter lets you know what percentage of the total available power you are using at any given time. You may also notice that there is a colored ring that climbs up the left side of the attitude indicator as the power is increased. Reminds me of a tachometer that you may see on a motorcycle or car, and is essentially telling you the same thing a tach would.
You can see how much more power the drone has to use as it flies into a headwind in this video below.
That sums up the anatomy of the attitude indicator. If you have any questions about the markings on the indicator or how to use it, leave a comment in the section below!
When I first started flying DJI drones I noticed the attitude indicator but didn't fully understand its purpose. I would use the map view 99% of the time and occasionally toggle the attitude indicator when I wanted to line up the red arrow with my location. Now that I have a good working knowledge of the attitude indicator I find myself using this useful tool quite a bit more often. What about you? How often do you use the attitude indicator compared to the map view? Have you discovered any other helpful uses for the indicator that weren't mentioned above? Let us hear about it below!