I was all ready to fly my drone the other day, I unpacked everything, got the batteries on there, plugged up everything up and pushed my throttle up, only to realize one of my blades was not working. If you’ve been in this situation (or you’re in it right now) you are new to drones or you are on your way to becoming a pro, we can all agree, it’s not good news when you’re trying to get your drone up in the air, and one or more of your propellers are not spinning. Not only is it frustrating, but it can be dangerous, since you’re drone can come crashing down if one or more propellers stop spinning mid-air.
I’ve put together 9 reasons you’re propellers are not spinning, but before we get into them I want to point out a couple things.
- KISS- Keep it simple when it comes to figuring out what’s wrong with your drone and why your propellers are not spinning. These steps are in order, starting from the more simple fixes to the more complex and costly. If you are not sure what’s wrong, don’t immediately try to take your drone apart. First try the most simple solutions.
- Do your homework- Some of these steps are extremely easy and some can be quite difficult. After you find out the issue, make sure to do your homework on that particular issue, so you can know how to fix it, not make it worse.
BATTERY NOT CHARGED
I told you “KISS”. This may be an obvious one, but there are many reasons one can easily overlook this simple step. You could’ve tried to charge your batteries with a bad charger, a bad wall outlet or you just simply forgot to charge them, but it happens (it’s happened to me). You might think be 100% sure you plugged them in, but for whatever reason, they didn’t charge. This is why it’s always a good idea to check your battery voltage before flying. So, If you’re blades are not spinning, before you do anything else, CHECK THE BATTERIES FIRST! If your batteries have a little bit of charge, they might light up your drone, but not have enough juice to cause your propellers to even start spinning. Simple problem, simple fix. Just plug them in, juice them up and get back to the skies.
So, you checked your batteries, realized they’re dead, charged them and your propellers still don’t spin, what now? It is possible that your battery is dying, not for the day, but for good. Batteries have a lifetime and can only be used a limited number of times before they die for good. If you have multiple batteries (which you should) you can try another battery and if your propellers fire right up, you know you need to get another battery, not another drone. Now, if you bought your batteries at the same time and used them regularly about the same number of times, it is possible that they might start to go out at the same time. It is a good idea to document your battery use on a log to keep track of use. If you gave your batteries a full charge and they are not performing, time to get new ones. Be sure to get the right batteries for your drone, not all batteries are created equal so check out my blog on batteries as you look for new ones.
A little bit of a change in gears. It is possible your transmitter (remote) is not paired or became unpaired with your drone. Whether you just bought your drone or for some reason your transmitter became unpaired from your drone, you will need to make sure they are connected before taking to the skies. Make sure to reference your manufacturer’s manual for instructions on how to pair your drone to your remote, because pushing buttons at random will not work (I’ve tried).
If your propeller is not spinning properly, it’s possible that it is broken. Just last week I was flying my tiny whoop and one of my propellers was either not spinning or at times spinning after a few taps on the propeller (not recommended, especially on a larger drone). This was causing my drone to vibrate in-flight and a couple of times to come crashing down or lose control. When I was wrapping up I realized part of my propeller had a crack which didn’t seem like much, but spinning at a high RPM could definitely affect flight. If this is the case, you might need to get a new propeller. For the most part, propellers are very inexpensive and easy to get. You simply remove a few screws remove the propeller and replace it with the new one. Make sure you get the right ones or they will not fit or work. Also be safe and make sure the batteries are off.
This happens when your motor or propellers suck up debri and get tangled up. This is common in tiny whoops, especially if you fly inside the house and have a carpet, dog hair, or just haven’t swept the floor recently, but really, even if you fly outside in the grass, this can happen with grass blades and plants. Luckily, this is easy to determine and can also be easy to fix. Check out my blog on what to do if hair gets stuck in your drone, but here’s a sneak peak, so, here’s what you do:
- Check between the propellers and the motor
- Use a small hook or tweezers to untangle hair or debri out
- DO NOT YANK, If there is thick hair or other debri that is tangled, pull gently and again do not yank, because you could damage components in the motor
- If needed, use a small pair of scissors to cut the hair or debri before pulling it out
- If there is too much hair or debri to gently pull out, you might have to take the propellers off (refer to manufacturer’s manual)
If you crash your drone a lot or happen to crash it at high speeds, it is possible that one or more of your motors became disconnected. If this is the case, your propeller will not spin at all. Some drones make it very easy to connect the motors right back, but others will require for you to take the drone completely apart. On top of that, depending on whether you put your drone together or you got it from a manufacturer, be aware that this could void your warranty. If you think you can work on it yourself and are ok with your warranty being voided, proceed. If your drone makes it easy to access the connections from the on-board computer to the motors, check that the connections are not loose. If the connection is loose, take it completely off and then make sure there is not debri or dust inside the connectors, plug them back up and test it out. If it worked, take to the skies!
If the previous steps did not work and your propeller is still not spinning or not spinning properly, it could mean one of your motors has been damaged and might need to be replaced. A broken motor is usually the result of a pretty bad crash. If this is the case, don’t freak out, this can be fixed relatively easily. Here’s a few reasons and symptoms of motors gone bad.
- Bent shaft -
- Broken motor mounts
- Bad bearings
- Water damage
- Irregular vibration (especially noticed through camera feed or recording)
- Propeller will have a slow start and/or has to be spun to start
- Loss of power
- Loss of control
If you have flown a drone for five years or five minutes, what I’m about to say will not shock you… you will crash your drone. Gasp! Yes, you will crash a lot, and you might even get stuck in a tree or something. If this is the case your wires might not only become loose, but there is potential for them to become ripped. This can happen externally and be visible or it can happen internally in the wire and you might not realize it. If you have reason to believe your wires are ripped internally here’s a quick way to find out. If you’ve had a childhood and or have ever played with any kind of video game you might have ripped a chord or two. One of the ways you know a cable has been ripped is that obviously it stopped working, but you can also run your fingers throughout the length of the cable and feel for any part that feels empty or hollow. If you realize that you have a broken wire, bingo, you’re one step closer to getting back in the air. Just get a replacement wire, plug it back in and make sure you tie it properly, since lose wires are more likely to get caught in something and rip easily.
BAD ON-BOARD COMPUTER
Because of the nature of the use of drones (you know, them being up hundreds of feet up in the air and all), they are designed to be very tough and to be able to take quite a beating when they come crashing down. One of the things that I’m really impressed with when it comes to drone engineers, is that they somehow were able to get an incredibly complex computer on-board a very small flying machine. Not only that, but this on-board computer that allows the drone to be able to perform incredible maneuvers is VERY, VERY TOUGH. I don’t think people realize what an amazing piece of tech they have in their hands when flying a drone. Imagine if I told you to take your phone or laptop and drop it from one hundred feet up in the air, and yet that it what we do with when we crash a drone.
Ok my nerdy rant and awe of drones is over, but I do want to point out that although the on-board computers on a drone are incredibly tough, they are not indestructible. They can be broken pretty much beyond repair. I say that, because it can be incredibly difficult to repair a broken on-board computer. In many cases, it is best to just get another one. So here’s a few things that can destroy your on-board computer and keep your propellers from spinning.
1. Water damage - It is no secret that water and electronics don’t get along, so make sure to keep water away. If you want to be extra safe, you can actually make your on-board computer water resistant. There are quite a few products that will help you protect your drone against water damage and they might worth looking into. That being said, they will NOT make your drone waterproof! So don’t take it for a swim. Here’s a few common sense steps to keep your drone from getting water damage.
- Don’t fly over water- Just don’t do it, unless you can afford to lose your drone, then go for it.
- Don’t fly in the rain - I’ve been tempted to think “ it’s just a little, light rain”, but don’t risk it to get the biscuit, all it takes is just one drop to touch the right component to fry your whole on-board computer. So, just don’t.
2.Wrong batteries- If you are looking for better battery performance, you might be tempted to just get a bigger battery. Make sure to do your research, because getting the wrong battery for your drone can cause your motors to overheat and even damage your on-board computer which would definitely keep your propellers from spinning. Make sure to get the appropriate batteries for your drone. Check out my blog on batteries if you have questions about what batteries you can use. 3. Crash - Well, this is an obvious one, if you crash too hard, not only can you break the frame, propellers and motors, but also your on-board computer. Crashes are inevitable, but try to not destroy your drone too often.
BEFORE YOU WORK ON YOUR DRONE
Do your homework -Do research on repairing your drone before you start pulling things apart, make sure to know what you’re doing. If you don’t know what you’re doing, try to find a repair shop, it’ll probably be cheaper than messing stuff up and still having to pay to get it repaired. ALWAYS make sure the batteries are OFF! - If you decide to take your drone apart to fix your propellers, make sure to always take the batteries off. Drone propellers spin at thousands of revolutions per minute. Tiny whoop drones can cause small cuts and as long as it’s not your face, they’ll hurt, but no big deal. Five inch quads and other large drones can cause some pretty serious damage. So, please NEVER work on your drone with the batteries on.
If you are having issues with your propellers not spinning properly, I hope this blog was helpful to you. There are so many reasons for different parts of your drone not operating properly and sometimes you can feel lost and frustrated trying to figure out what is causing the issue. Don’t forget to have fun, even when trying to fix your drone. You are learning more which will help you get quicker at figuring out and fixing issues which will in turn help you get to flying faster. So have fun, stay safe and hit the skies!