What Transmitter Mode Should You Use?
Radio Control Transmitter: The device that gives you control over your multirotor or fixed wing model. Before you pick it up and start flying, you need to decide what transmitter mode you are going to utilize. Which transmitter mode is the best? Well that question depends on you. There are no right or wrong answers here, just information to help you make the decision.
A Little Overwhelmed?
On your transmitter, you will have all these fancy switches, knobs, and two sticks. It can be a little overwhelming at first, trying to figure out what it all does. Take a deep breath, and know that the only thing they will do, is what you tell them to do. But take a look at those two sticks, the main controls. Those are your gimbals, and when we talk about transmitter modes, we are just talking about those. Now when it comes to flight controls, there are some basic definitions that we need to cover really quick.
- Throttle (Thrust): This is the amount of thrust your aircraft will generate, thus how fast your model will go. Thrust always is in line with where the propellers are facing.
- Ailerons (Roll): Ailerons control the roll of the aircraft from side to side. To get a bit more grasp on this, think about your favorite fighter jet executing a barrel roll.
- Elevator (Pitch): The elevator control determines the pitch of the aircraft, for example, is the aircrafts nose pointing up towards the sky, or down towards the ground.
- Rudder (Yaw): Rudder controls the ability of an aircraft to turn flat to a different heading. Think about how a compass spins as you turn in a circle.
Throttle, ailerons, elevator, and rudder are all control names for fixed wing aircraft, and thus are the classical names for these controls. Thrust, roll, pitch, and yaw are all control names for multirotor aircraft.
How to Change Your Transmitter Mode
Most radio transmitters will come already setup for a certain mode, and often times when purchasing a transmitter, you will have the option to dictate either a mode 1 or a mode 2 transmitter. Also, most transmitters can be changed to any of the modes, and will require you to open them up and make some adjustments to the gimbals if you are putting the throttle control on to the opposite gimbal. Then most times, it’s just changing a setting in the operating system of the transmitter. Please see your documentation for your particular transmitter for directions on how to do this, and also make sure that you are not voiding your warranty by opening up your transmitter to change modes. Most manufacturers will still cover a warranty after a mode change, after all, it is how you interact with their product.
Transmitter Modes Explained
Our predecessors created transmitter modes so we can map our controls to better suit the pilot. Depending on how you came into FPV, you might already be biased toward a certain mode, for example, if you practiced on a toy grade multirotor first, like I did, you may already be used to the transmitter mode it came with. It can also depend on what mode others are flying around where you live. Often, people follow others so that they can share in the experience as a group. Keep in mind, it’s all about what makes the most sense for you. If one mode is more intuitive to you than another, go with it!
Of all the modes, I would say that “Mode 1” is the second most common control setup that people use. This mode is more prevalent in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand (Noticing a trend here? They all drive on the opposite side of the road). That’s not to say that people don’t fly this mode elsewhere. Mode 1 makes a lot of sense for people who are hand launching fixed wing aircraft. This is due to the pitch being on the left hand gimbal, allowing the 90% of us who are right handed to set the throttle, and throw the aircraft, and still have immediate control to get altitude for the model. However, this splits up the two primary controls, being roll and pitch, on to two separate sticks.
Of the modes, “Mode 2” is by far the most common, especially in the United States. Mode 2 lends itself to being most like full scale aviation, in which your throttle is in the left hand, while your pitch and roll are on the right hand. This also lends itself very well to the way video games controls work, for instance in a first person style game. It makes it easier for pilots who come from a video game background to transition in to flight. Mode 2 also puts the two most dominant controls on the right hand, where 90% of us like them.
On the flip side, this does make it a little more difficult if you are hand launching fixed wing aircraft. You should see me scramble for that right handed gimbal after I toss my wing in the air! I would try throwing with my left hand, but I think he’s really just there for decoration.
Flying on “Mode 3” is exactly the opposite as Mode 2. As you can see, both gimbals are simply reversed, putting pitch and roll on the left hand, and putting throttle and yaw on the right hand. In this setup, it makes it a little easier for the fixed wing pilots to hand launch with their right hand and have immediate hands on for elevation control. There are also pilots out there that feel that throttle control for multirotors is more important to have on their dominant hand, as it suits their flying style better. This still keeps primary controls together on the left gimbal, giving you that full scale feeling, just reversed.
Out of all the modes, “Mode 4” is probably the least used. Like mode 3 and mode 2 being opposite, the same applies for mode 4 being the opposite of mode 1. Mode 4 puts the throttle and roll on the left gimbal, and pitch and yaw on the right. Mode 4 is good for those pilots who are used to having throttle on the left hand side, but want to separate their primary controls to different sticks. Truth be told, I feel like this is most similar to first person controls in video games. I might even give this transmitter mode a try in the simulators.
What is the Best Transmitter Mode?
I truly don’t have any legitimate answer for that question. Some will tell you to fly what your friends fly. Others will give you their opinions on works best, and have many reasons to back up their statements. Here’s what I do have to say: Fly whatever makes you comfortable. There’s no harm in experimenting with all the different modes to sort out which one feel better. I do however suggest you do that experimentation in a simulator first though…. Might be a little less expensive! Generally, flying one mode vs. the other probably will not make you a better pilot. Putting in the stick time to practice, and building that muscle memory, now that’s going to improve your skills. Happy flying!