Quicker, faster, more responsive. All of those terms could be used to describe DJI’s Sport Mode or S-mode. S-Mode or Sport Mode is found on all DJI drones. It is one of the three Standard Flight Modes available. When the craft is put into S-Mode or Sport mode, the aircraft’s flight abilities change dramatically through a set of preprogrammed flight control settings.
In Sport Mode, the drone will be more responsive on the sticks. Even small stick control movements will produce a larger effect in flight directional changes than in the other Standard Flight Modes. The drone will also be faster and is the only way for any DJI drone to achieve maximum speed. Depending on the model, the speed may increase by 30%.
If you’re ready to try out Sport Mode on your DJI drone, you need to understand what you’re in for. You don’t want to risk crashing or damaging your drone after all. So here’s what you need to know.
DJI flight modes
Before we can really get into Sport Mode, we should take a brief look at the other Standard Flight Modes. DJI drones have three Standard Flight Modes: P-Mode or Positioning Mode, A-Mode or Altitude Mode, and S-Mode or Sport Mode.
P-Mode, also known as Positioning Mode, is the default mode of your aircraft and the one you will likely spend the most time using. P-mode is an important flight mode as in this mode all of the drone’s obstacle avoidance and GPS systems will be fully operational. It is the only mode where the full complement of features within the aircraft and the app will be available.
A-Mode or Attitude mode (Atti for short) is a flight mode where the GPS and obstacle avoidance sensors are disabled. The drone will maintain a set altitude by use of its internal Barometer but not a location lock due to the GPS unit being disabled. In this mode drifting with the wind is possible.
Being familiar with your DJI Drone’s systems flight modes will help you in the field, by knowing which flight mode may be best for the situation you find yourself flying in. Even switching between the modes may be needed to achieve the planned flight. All the Standard Flight Modes have their uses, and you can change from one mode to the other while in flight by toggling between them.
You could easily use Sport mode to get to a camera position and then switch to P-mode for the stability and position lock to get the shot. Then switch back into Sport mode to return. Knowing the in and outs of your drone will allow you to use it to its fullest abilities, much like the third Standard Flight Mode, S-mode, or Sport Mode.
Sport Mode or S-Mode on a DJI drone
S-Mode is designed for the drone to operate at its maximum speed with increased maneuverability. In this mode, preprogrammed setting changes will allow for faster motor operation (increased speed) and the controller gain will be increased (Increased Agility) to permit quicker more stable communications between craft and controller. Obstacle Avoidance Systems will be non-functional in this mode.
When flying in Sport mode, the very first change you’ll notice will be the aircraft’s speed. On average among the various DJI drone systems, Sport mode will increase the drone’s speed by 30%. That is a big increase, and as such will affect many of the flight aspects of the craft. From ascent to descent, to the length of a stop from full speed.
Using Sport mode will lead to quicker battery depletion as well, due to the motors working without the normal speed limiters applied and operating at higher rotations.
Beyond the speed, you will also notice quicker reactions to commands and the aircraft’s agility. Sport mode has much more going on than simply removing the drone’s speed limiters. It also has an effect on the way the craft communicates.
When in Sport mode, the controller gain is increased or boosted. This allows for a better and quicker connection between the aircraft and the controller.
This is a needed increase due to the craft now moving at increased speeds and the need for it to react more quickly to commands while in flight. Another preprogrammed change is in the controller settings, such as increases to the yaw and trim rates.
When operating in Sport mode, due to the increased rates in the controls and speeds, all obstacle avoidance on the craft is disabled. The reasoning for this is simple. These systems just cannot react in time with those increased controls and speed.
This makes flying in this mode very tricky and can oftentimes lead to a crash when flown in the wrong environment. Obstacle avoidance is an excellent, if not always perfect, safety net. It’s always best to know the environment and the hazards whenever flying without the Obstacle Avoidance system to assist you.
How to fly in Sport Mode
As with anything, there is a time and a place. Much of that is true for Sport mode. Sport mode will give you a whole new experience to flying your DJI drone, this is true. You will simply be shocked at how fast and quick the craft is in Sport mode.
You will also underestimate stop distances and the craft’s reaction to your stick commands, by turning too quickly, usually right into something. This is a flight mode that can get you puckering and smiling at the same moment. So, here are some helpful tips to keep that smile, and relax that pucker.
1. Keep an eye on the battery
When flying in Sport mode it is more important than in the other flight modes to keep an eye on the battery and its level, as it will be constantly changing.
As you fly in this mode and perform maneuvers, the battery will deplete quicker than in the other flight modes. And unlike the other flight modes, your flying style may decrease that battery even quicker still. For example, if you like to go up high and down low and up again, this is a high-energy activity for a quadcopter and will use more energy than if flying an even-level flight.
The Return to Home function is still active in Sport mode, so even if you miss the battery getting low you will still have that safety function. So, in the event of a critical battery level, the drone will initiate RTH if active.
2. Choose your environment carefully
When using this flight mode, it is best to be in an area where there are wide open spaces and any hazards are easily identified and able to be avoided. It’s been said before and I’ll always take another swipe at a dead horse of course, of course. Safety is always the most important factor when planning any drone flight.
When using Sport mode, you will need to be very experienced in how that aircraft is going to operate and respond to your controls prior to putting yourself into an environment of high possible error.
How do you achieve that experience? Practice, practice, practice – and you get there by choosing the safest environment you as the pilot can to learn and gain that experience in.
3. Try using FPV goggles
Flying in Sport mode with a set of FPV goggles is one of the best ways to experience this mode. Being in the front seat so to speak, or cockpit view allows for easier and quicker reactions on the controls than Visual Line of Sight flying permits.
Due to the increased speed of the craft while flying in Sport mode, flying by just Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) can be more difficult than with goggles, as you may miss something in front of the craft while trying to maintain VLOS.
By employing goggles, your view is always towards the area in front of the craft. At the increased speeds, this view may be the best way to avoid an obstacle as one’s depth of field can be inaccurate when viewing from a distance such as with VLOS.
Before you go
As a drone pilot, you will be learning constantly. The drone industry is always changing and the ability to adapt to those changes will be part of your piloting experience. Sport mode is no different.
When you first picked up that controller and flew for the first time, you were nervous and anxious and there were many unknowns. As you gained more confidence, you ventured forth and tried new and more risky things.
Sport mode is just like that first time you lifted off – it will be exciting, it will be enjoyable, it will be risky, it will be completely different than anything you’ve done before.
As a drone pilot, you have evolved and changed as you learned new skills and accomplished more daring flights. Following a similar course when flying in Sport mode will get you to the point where it is less risky of a flight mode for you to fly in. And as you become more comfortable with flying in Sport mode, your skills will again evolve and improve as you gain more experience.
Fly Safe, Fly Always, Always Fly Safe!
Cover photo by Erik Mclean