How to Fly Quadcopter in Manual Mode / Acro Mode / Rate Mode:
Flying in manual mode is a mind boggling experience, especially if it is your first time. Most people have already been too comfortable flying in some sort of self-leveling mode like angle mode. Angle mode kicks in the accelerometer with the gyro to self-level the quadcopter if there is no stick input in the pitch, roll, and yaw. The is easier on the pilot since the aircraft can automatically return to the neutral position if they let go of the sticks.Let's start off by looking at what acro mode / manual mode / rate mode mean!
What does Acro mode/Manual Mode or Rate mode mean ?
Simple. Imagine a car with automatic transmission.Imagine a car with manual transmission.The car with manual transmission gives you more control over your speed and what not. In the same way , acro mode /manual mode or rate mode gives you more control over your drone and does so by giving you complete control over the angular velocity of the drone.
Flying in manual mode, acro mode, or rate mode does not return the aircraft in neutral position but instead holds the set position when stick input is not given.
This is useful in situations like doing rolls or flying upside down. Manual mode is something every pilot wants to master for smooth flying . It's the sensation of having limitless control over the aircraft. You put your skills to the test when in manual mode.
Flying in manual mode is not easy. It will take time and practice. If you are tight on money for this hobby, It is recommended to practise on a drone Simulator like LiftOff or FPV FreeRider.Why? because you will crash a lot, trust me. If you want the realism of the environment, then prepare yourself with bulk loads of propellers and extra motors just in case. Spare arms for your frame will also be handy.
It is recommended to fly manual mode in FPV first as this will make it easier to determine how much your drone is tilting compared to simply flying line of sight. Once your quadcopter and FPV gear is set up you will want to identify the left stick on your transmitter. Some transmitters like the Phantom series has the throttle centered by springs under the stick module. If it is in the center, then you will have to make sure to hold it down to zero, or the quadcopter will start flying upwards thinking it should be at 50% throttle when you arm it. If you have something like a Taranis or Turnigy 9x, you will not have this problem.
Now, after all the little details and cautions, here comes the actual tutorial
You want to make sure that you can hover the quadcopter and fight any external forces like wind . Prop wash with the pitch and roll stick before moving around too much. Say, for example, if you feel the quadcopter is drifting to the left because of a small gust of wind, you will want to roll the quadcopter to the right just a tad bit, just so the forces balance out.
You will find yourself constantly making small stick maneuvers as external forces may come and go, this is totally normal. However, if you see the quadcopter slowly tilting by itself when the wind blows, then you will need to crank up some P and I gain into the PIDs. The quadcopter should only be drifting; never leaning .
Another note I like to give is this : If you feel every small stick movement is still a lot, this is where you would want to add some RC expo. Instead of having a linear output, it creates an exponential curve (a slope), so small movements will become even softer.
While flying, everything is going to be the same as angle mode except the fact that now when you let go, it remains in the same position. This is unless you manually self-level it. You now have 360 degrees range of motion, meaning the quadcopter can possibly flip over, unlike angle mode which has a set maximum tilt angle.
Say ,if you want to give the aircraft a forward pitch of 10 degrees, then what you want to do is push the pitch a little bit and then let off that stick. If you don't let go and continue to hold it, you will cause it to slowly to continue to pitch forward. Now if you want it to be in a neutral position, then apply the same amount of force in the opposite direction. Sounds simple, right? When you start applying yaw, things get a little more confusing.
Let's go back to the 10 degrees pitch example. If you were to yaw 90 degrees left, the quadcopter will want to stay at that angle but its heading is now changed. Relative to the original position, it is now in a 10 degrees right roll. To compensate that, you will want to roll 10 degrees left instead of pitching 10 degrees backward. Don't get too mathematical about this when flying, focus on small movements and get to feel how the quadcopter behaves when starting out.
I cannot just write a "How to fly in Manual Mode" article without dropping tips on how to flip. Doing flips is very simple, it is all about timing and throttle management. Before trying to perform a flip, you will want to turn up your rates for roll and pitch , or else you be doing massive Ferris wheels in the sky.
Now to perform your first basic side flip : Have the quadcopter about 10 meters off the ground. Punch the throttle for one second to get the momentum going, and then drop the throttle down to 10%, then immediately max out the roll sticks to one direction.
You must carefully observe when the quadcopter is upright again so you can let go of the roll sticks and apply some throttle again. If you noticed your time is off, and don't know how to save it, flip it into angle mode and then apply throttle to prevent it from crashing down.
Take home notes:
The higher the rates you apply, the faster the quadcopter can flip "on the spot" without losing any height. I master the flips before I actually manage to fly decently, it is pretty easy to do once you get the time right. TIMING IS KEY!
*just a note, do not ever throttle down to 0% as the propellors will stop spinning, and that mean you will not be able to flip at all.
In conclusion , flying your drone in acro mode or manual mode is basically just a lot of dedicated practice.