If you’ve been looking for a drone to buy, you probably keep seeing the term “Altitude Hold Mode” being thrown around as an “awesome feature” or a “must have!”
But most manufacturers, when selling their drone to you, tell you that their drone has altitude hold, but not what altitude mode does.
That’s exactly what I’m here to explain. So let’s get right into it!
Altitude Hold Mode Explained
Altitude hold mode is one of those concepts that is difficult to understand at first. People like to use all sorts of complex terms and mumbo jumbo to make it seem more complicated when it really is.
I’m going to try to make this as simple as possible.
Altitude hold mode is a feature that centers your throttle stick and hovers your quadcopter when you let go completely.
That’s it! It’s really that simple! Well… sorta.
You’re probably wondering, “but if it just hovers, then how do I control it?”.
Here’s the thing…
Altitude hold quadcopters don’t function like traditional quadcopters.
In a traditional quadcopter, you’d need to bring the throttle stick from 0 (all the way down) up until it begins to hover, and then maintain it’s positioning by giving it tiny little adjustments, either up or down, as the quadcopter begins to rise and fall.
Altitude hold mode quadcopters already do this work for you.
The throttle stick snaps to the center. Then, any input up on the throttle above the center point will make the quadcopter climb, and any input down will cause it to descend.
What Are Some Good Drones That Have Altitude Hold?
Like most features in drones and technology, the popular ones keep getting improved and added to new models constantly.
Which altitude hold drone is right for you?
There really is an altitude hold drone of any price and purpose. Ranging from extremely small and cheap nano drones such as the Cheerson CX-10D to some of the most expensive photography drones such as the DJI Phantom 4.
It really depends on what you plan on doing with altitude hold mode and how you think it will be useful for you. Professional photographers or anybody who uses drones for a commercial use will need a drone that not only has altitude hold mode, but also a high-quality camera. The DJI Phantom drones aren’t necessarily the only option (not anymore, at least) for a top of the line prosumer camera drone, but they are definitely a good starting point to begin your search.
If you’re looking for a cheap quadcopter with altitude hold to race around your yard, a cheaper toy-grade drone such as the CX-10D or the Syma X5Uw will be more suitable. Again, it really depends on what you look to do with this drone.
Check out our list of altitude hold quadcopters under $100 if you’re looking for something a little less serious.
Altitude Hold Mode is NOT Auto-Pilot Mode
Now that we know what altitude hold mode is, I’d like to clear up a somewhat common misconception.
Some people seem to think that if your quadcopter has altitude mode, that it can simply “fly itself” on auto-pilot. This Isn’t the case.
Just because altitude hold mode maintains your throttle positioning and altitude (as the name suggests), it doesn’t control your quadcopter’s directional inputs.
This means, your quadcopter can still get pushed around left to right, or front and back, depending on external factors like motor strength or the wind. If a gust of wind comes and pushes your quadcopter while flying in altitude hold mode, it will likely get pushed along with it. You will need to manually fight the wind on the directional stick yourself. That is unless your quadcopter has GPS…
GPS vs Altitude Hold Mode
Another common misconception about Altitude Hold Mode is that it is often compared to GPS lock in a high-end drone such as the DJI Phantom.
Altitude hold is quite different from GPS mode.
First of all, most cheap drones won’t have GPS mode. If they advertise it as GPS mode, be sure that it’s not just Altitude Hold mode renamed for advertising purposes.
The difference between altitude hold and GPS mode is that GPS mode will hold the drone’s EXACT position, not only altitude-wise but also direction-wise.
You know how we spoke about the altitude hold quadcopters getting pushed around in wind? Well, technically, a drone with GPS lock enabled shouldn’t. Now, that’s not to say that sometimes they still don’t get pushed from a heavy gust of wind, but generally, it will maintain its position in GPS mode no matter what. Altitude hold simply holds the. Well, you guessed it… Altitude!
Who is Altitude Hold Good For?
Altitude hold is a neat feature with quite a few uses.
You can definitely get creative with it, but I’ve found it’s mainly for beginners, who are overwhelmed with all of a quadcopter’s controls. Having altitude hold mode means you don’t need to worry about constantly managing your throttle, and for a beginner, that can be helpful. I suggest you don’t get too used to altitude hold mode, however, even as a beginner. Learning how to fly with or without it will be extremely helpful for you in the long run, and going too long without it can make altitude hold a crutch.
The other common use for altitude hold mode is recording video.
This is why many camera quadcopters have altitude hold, it’s much easier to record a perfectly stable shot. The better altitude hold mode works, the more stable the video footage (generally).
If the altitude hold mode works well, you can also take nice and smooth panoramic video footage even without a gimbal, which is a neat feature.
What is Altitude Hold Mode?: Conclusion
I hope this was helpful in not only learning what altitude hold is but also its uses and why it’s been gaining so much popularity over the past year or so. Enjoy your new-found knowledge and hopefully, your new altitude hold mode quadcopter if you plan on picking one up in the near future! 🙂