Skip to content

Manual Flying

This topic explains the basics of flying a vehicle using an RC Transmitter in a manual or autopilot-assisted flight mode (for autonomous flight see: Missions).


Before you fly for the first time you should read our First Flight Guidelines.

Arm the Vehicle

Before you can fly the vehicle it must first be armed. This will power all motors and actuators; on a multicopter it will start propellers turning.

To arm the drone:

  • First disengage the safety switch.
  • Use the arm command for your vehicle - put the throttle stick in the bottom right corner.
    • Alternatively configure an arm/disarm switch.
    • You can also arm in QGroundControl (PX4 does not require a radio control for flying autonomously).


The vehicle will not arm until it is calibrated/configured and has a position lock. Vehicle Status Notifications (including on-vehicle LEDs, audio notifications and QGroundControl updates) can tell you when the vehicle is ready to fly (and help you work out the cause when it is not ready to fly).


The vehicle will (by default) automatically disarm (turn off motors) if you take too long to take off! This is a safety measure to ensure that vehicles return to a safe state when not in use.


A VTOL vehicle can only arm in multicopter mode (by default - arming in fixed-wing mode can be enabled using CBRK_VTOLARMING).


Multicopter Takeoff

Multicopter (and VTOL in multicopter mode) pilots can take off manually by enabling any manual mode, arming the vehicle and then raising the throttle stick until the motors produce enough thrust to leave the ground. In Position mode or Altitude mode the throttle stick has to be increased to above 62.5% to command a climb rate and make the vehicle leave the ground. Above this value all controllers are enabled and the vehicle goes to the throttle level required for hovering (MPC_THR_HOVER).

Throw Launch is also supported, in which the vehicle activates motors after it detects that it has reached the apex of a throw, and then operates according to its current mode.

Alternatively the takeoff can performed using the automatic Takeoff mode.


The vehicle may disarm if you take too long to take off after arming (tune the timeout using COM_DISARM_PRFLT).


The Failure Detector will automatically stop the engines if there is a problem on takeoff.

Fixed-wing Takeoff


Taking off manually (and landing) is not easy! We recommend using with the automatic modes instead, especially for inexperienced pilots.

Stabilized mode, Acro mode or Manual mode mode are recommended for manual takeoff. Position mode and Altitude mode can also be used, but it is important to accelerate the vehicle sufficiently before bringing them airborne — strong thrust if hand-launched, long runway phase for runway takeoff (this is required because the controller in these modes can prioritize airspeed over altitude tracking).

Manual takeoffs with hand-launched planes:

  • Ramp up the motor and throw the vehicle horizontally.
  • Do not pitch up too fast as this may stall the plane.
  • A good vehicle trim is crucial for safe hand-launch takeoffs, because if the vehicle doesn't fly level there is only a very short time for the pilot to react before the vehicle crashes!

Manual takeoffs with runway-launched planes:

  • Accelerate on the runway until the speed is sufficient for takeoff.
  • If the plane has a steerable wheel, use the yaw stick to keep it on course.
  • Once the speed is sufficient pull up the nose with the pitch stick.

Automatic takeoffs are possible in the Mission mode or Takeoff mode (FW). The pilot can take over manual control over the vehicle at any moment during the takeoff process or after it by changing into a manual flight mode.


Multicopter Landing

Multicopters can be landed in any manual mode. Make sure to keep the throttle stick pulled down after touching down until the motors have switched off.

Note that vehicles automatically disarm on landing by default:

  • Use COM_DISARM_LAND to set the time to auto-disarm after landing (or disable it altogether).
  • Manually disarm by putting the throttle stick in the bottom left corner.

There is also the option to let the vehicle land autonomously. For that engage the Land mode or Return mode.


If you see the vehicle "twitch" during landing (turn down the motors, and then immediately turn them back up) this is probably caused by a poor Land Detector Configuration (specifically, a poorly set MPC_THR_HOVER).

Fixed-wing Landing

Stabilized mode, Acro mode or Manual mode are recommended for landing (just as they are for takeoff). In these modes the pilot has full control over the motor thrust, which is required to perform a manual flaring maneuver when close to the ground (raising the vehicle nose without increasing throttle). You should perform the landing in headwind to reduce the groundspeed before touching down.

For auto landings you should use a Fixed-Wing Mission Landing. This landing is defined in a mission, and can be used in either Mission or Return modes.

The automatic Land mode mode is not recommended unless absolutely necessary, as it cannot account for underlying terrain.

Note that vehicles automatically disarm on landing by default:

  • Use COM_DISARM_LAND to set the time to auto-disarm after landing (or disable it altogether).
  • Manually disarm by putting the throttle stick in the bottom left corner.

Flight Controls/Commands

All flying, including takeoff and landing, is controlled using the 4 basic commands: roll, yaw, pitch and throttle.

RC Basic Commands

In order to control your aircraft you need to understand how the basic Roll, Pitch, Yaw and Throttle commands affect movement in 3D space. This differs depending on whether you're controlling a forward-flying aircraft like a plane, or a "hover aircraft" like a multicopter.

Hover Aircraft

Hover aircraft (Copter, VTOL in hover mode) respond to the movement commands as shown below:

Basic Movements Multicopter

  • Pitch => Forward/back.
  • Roll => Left/right.
  • Yaw => Left/right rotation around the centre of the frame.
  • Throttle => Changed altitude/speed.

Forward-flying Aircraft

Forward-flying aircraft (planes, VTOL in forward flight) respond to the movement commands as shown below:

Basic Movements Forward

  • Pitch => Up/down.
  • Roll => Left/right and a turn.
  • Yaw => Left/right tail rotation and turn.
  • Throttle => Changed forward speed.


The best turn for airplanes is called a coordinated turn, and is performed using roll and little yaw at the same time. This maneuver requires experience!

Assisted Flight

Even with an understanding of how the vehicle is controlled, flight in fully manual mode can be quite unforgiving. New users should configure their transmitter to use flight modes where the autopilot automatically compensates for erratic user input or environmental factors.

The following three modes are highly recommended for new users:

  • Stabilized - Vehicle hard to flip, and will level-out if the sticks are released (but not hold position)
  • Altitude - Climb and drop are controlled to have a maximum rate.
  • Position - When sticks are released the vehicle will stop (and hold position against wind drift)


You can also access automatic modes through the buttons on the bottom of the QGroundControl main flight screen.