The Basic Physics of Quadcopter Flight

1 minute read

It is important to understand the basics of what is involved in order to get a quadcopter into the air. And for the sake of conversation, the ‘quad’ part of quadcopter can be any number you wish to replace it with. I am not looking for a prescribed set of instructions, but a description of the basic understandings so your knowledge can allow you to build the copters you find in your mind.

Please understand. I am just scratching the surface. What I will tell you will get you started.

I will not be discussing batteries, speed controllers, props, frames or radios. I will be discussing, the ‘how’ of controlling a quadcopter. Or at least how it is controlled, not how to fly.

The coordinate system that allows all of us to speak intelligently about a copter in flight, is based on Euler Angles. There is a whole lot of reading and learning around Euler Angles, but basically… The Euler angles are three angles introduced by Leonhard Euler to describe the orientation of a rigid body.

These angles are known as : roll, pitch and roll.


the angle the copter is tilted side to side. Think… leaning left and right. Rolling causes the copter to move sideways.


the angle the copter is tilted front to back. Think… leaning forwards and backwords. Pitching causes the copter to move forward and backwords.


the angle of rotation the copter is experiencing while keeping the copter level to the ground. Think… sitting in a chair and spinning round and round without rolling or pitching.

The next post will describe in more detail, how to utilize roll, pitch and yaw at the same time in order to steer the copter.


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