Pitot Tubes: Why They’re Important and Maintenance Tips
Despite being one of the smallest components found on the senseFly eBee X, the pitot tube is also one of the most important. Not only used to indicate the drone status through its color code, the eBee X’s pitot tube is also used to collect vital flight information. In fact, the pitot tube is a vital component on every fixed-wing—from the lightweight eBee X to a jumbo jet.
To achieve successful flights, a fixed-wing drone must generate lift on its wings. This lift is proportionate to the speed of the air passing on its wings. To avoid stalls and regulate the thrust needed to maintain a constant altitude and speed required for mapping missions, the eBee X autopilot relies on the drone’s airspeed.
However, the air is not a static element; it is constantly moving and accelerating in all directions. This underlines the importance of a properly functioning pitot tube, which measures that airspeed and direction (aka the wind) for the autopilot to apply the correct thrust and ailerons movement.
Pitot tube care and maintenance
The pitot measures airspeed thanks to small air gaps at the top of the tube. The measurement is done by comparing static and dynamic pressure. To ensure successful flights and avoid hardware-related malfunctions, always try to observe the following:
Avoid flying in the rain, snow, high humidity and icy environments
While the drone is on the ground, orient the drone in the opposite direction of the wind
Avoid directly placing the drone on dusty surfaces
Select a landing area that is free of dust and debris (grassy surfaces instead of gravel)
Clean the drone before placing it back in its protective case
How to detect a pitot tube malfunction
Before each flight, it’s recommended that you make sure the pitot tube is free and clear of dirt, debris or other small obstructions. You can also perform an airspeed check by gently blowing into the pitot tube (consult the eBee X user manual for full details).
The following signs may indicate a pitot tube malfunction:
The speed of the drone appears much higher than usual
The drone loses significant altitude during its flight lines (up to 10 m / 33 ft)
The speed of the drone looks appears slower than usual
The drone cannot hold its trajectory during turns
The drone appears unstable
The motor is making more noise than usual (constant full thrust)
The battery is draining quicker than usual
Landings are harder and less precise than usual
Should you encounter any of the above, it is strongly recommended that you replace your pitot tube as soon as possible.
How to acquire and replace a pitot tube
Whether you’re in the office or in the field, a trained technician or not, the eBee X’s pitot tube was designed for easy replacement. For a complete walkthrough, please view the short tutorial video above. You can also find it on my.sensefly.com and senseFly Academy.
The pitot tube is a vital component to any fixed-wing drone. By adhering to this guide, and having a few spare pitot tubes on hand, you will greatly aid in the maintenance and the successful operation of your eBee X.