Flight Modes

This article provides an overview and links to the available flight modes for Copter.


Copter has 25 flight built-in flight modes, 10 of which are regularly used. There are modes to support different levels/types of flight stabilization, a sophisticated autopilot, a follow-me system etc.

Flight modes are controlled through the radio (via a transmitter switch), via mission commands, or using commands from a ground station (GCS) or companion computer.

The table below shows for each flight mode whether it provides altitude or position control, and whether it requires valid position information from a sensor (typically a GPS) in order to arm or switch into this mode.

ModeAlt CtrlPos CtrlPos SensorSummary
Acro--Holds attitude, no self-level
Airmode--/+Actually not a mode, but a feature,see below
Alt Holds+Holds altitude and self-levels the roll & pitch
AutoAAYExecutes pre-defined mission
AutoTunesAYAutomated pitch and bank procedure to improve control loops
BrakeAAYBrings copter to an immediate stop
CirclesAYAutomatically circles a point in front of the vehicle
Drift-+YLike stabilize, but coordinates yaw with roll like a plane
FlipAARises and completes an automated flip
FlowHoldsAPosition control using Optical Flow
FollowsAYFollows another vehicle
GuidedAAYNavigates to single points commanded by GCS
Heli_AutorotateAAYUsed for emergencies in traditional helicopters. Helicopter only. Currently SITL only.
LandAs(Y)Reduces altitude to ground level, attempts to go straight down
LoiterssYHolds altitude and position, uses GPS for movements
PosHolds+YLike loiter, but manual roll and pitch when sticks not centered
RTLAAYReturns above takeoff location, may also include landing
Simple/Super SimpleYAn add-on to flight modes to use pilot's view instead of yaw orientation
SmartRTLAAYRTL, but traces path to get home
SportssAlt-hold, but holds pitch & roll when sticks centered
Stabilize-+Self-levels the roll and pitch axis
SysID-+Special diagnostic/modeling mode
ThrowAAYHolds position after a throwing takeoff
Turtle--Allows reversing and spinning up adjacent pairs of motors in order to flip a crashed, inverted vehicle back upright
ZigZagAAYUseful for crop spraying
-Manual control
+Manual control with limits & self-level
sPilot controls climb rate
AAutomatic control

GPS Dependency

Flight modes that use positioning data require valid position identification prior to takeoff. When using GPS, to verify if your autopilot has acquired GPS lock, connect to a ground station or consult your autopilot’s hardware overview page to see the LED indication for GPS lock.

Below is a summary of position identification dependency for Copter flight modes. Most often this position information is obtained via a GPS, but other position sensors, such as 3D cameras or beacons, may be used and would need to provide a valid location, for those modes requiring it, prior to arming.

Requires valid position prior to takeoff:

Do not require position information:

Full list of flight modes