Became the owner of a drone, congratulations! You have taken the first step into an exciting new world. A limitless world with new perspectives and freedoms that come when you are not bound by gravity and can travel through the sky in any direction you choose. Drone flying can be a fun hobby, or perhaps a profession. While it can be a little intimidating at first, with a few simple guidelines, you can take to the skies and master your aerial platform in a safe and controlled way. In this guide, we will cover some of the important steps and aspects involved in flying a drone properly. Let’s fly!
1. How well do you know your drone?
Before you take to the air, take a few minutes to get to know your drone. Explore controls, settings, and learn key battery information. It would not be superfluous to also study the legislative part affecting the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles at the place of flight. Check out the latest tips and how-to videos.
Even if you have never piloted a drone before, you can become a master in a short amount of time with a little practice. To do this, the functionality of many models offers special modes for beginners or FPV simulators. The latter, to a greater extent, allow you to master piloting without endangering either your drone or other people. For example, DJI drones that are popular today offer both options at once: an FPV simulator (DJI Flight Simulator), which allows you to connect the remote control that comes with the drone to your smartphone or tablet, and a special mode for beginners (Novice mode), which limits the height and speed of the drone . These two key options give novice pilots a chance to build their confidence before jumping into full drone operation.
2. Drone control
Many drones on the market use the standard stick and button control scheme. Although the appearance of some remotes may vary in shape and size, the basic controls are the same. Two sticks / joysticks are responsible for the direct flight control of the drone, where each of which sets certain actions for it:
Left control stick
Moving the left stick up will cause the drone to take off vertically, while moving the left stick down will cause the drone to descend vertically. Moving the stick left and right rotates the drone around its axis left and right. We also draw your attention to the fact that the control sticks have a movement range, which in turn determines how fast / slow the drone will execute the command given by the sticks (for the left stick, this is: take off / descend / rotate around its axis). For example, the maximum / extreme from the center of the position of the sticks will set the maximum speed for the drone.
Right control stick
The right stick is responsible for the direction and movement of the drone. Moving the right stick up will make the drone move in a straight line forward, moving the stick down will make it move straight back, and moving the stick left and right will make the aircraft move in a straight line left and right, respectively.
In addition to the control sticks, the remote control will have several buttons that control the camera. These buttons allow you to take photos, start/stop video recording, tilt or pan the camera, and access the menu. Accordingly, before the flight it will be useful to study the purpose of each button.
In general, the principle of controlling a drone is a fairly intuitive and simple process. By the way, as a pilot, you immediately need to teach yourself to correctly determine which side of the drone is the front, in order to understand in which direction to move forward and which way back. In the early stages of training, for additional safety, fly the drone exclusively in GPS mode (in satellite positioning mode), which allows it to maintain a stable position even if you release the control sticks, and this will also be especially true in cases where communication with the drone is lost .
3. Where is the best place to practice piloting?
Once you’ve mastered the controls in the FPV simulator and are ready to take to the skies, the next important step is to study your surroundings before flying. When you arrive at a new place, always take a minute to explore the area around you. This is done in order to minimize unexpected situations during takeoff and flight. Pay attention to where buildings, trees, and power lines are located so you can fly your drone safely. Be sure to check where local airports and helipads are located; for safety reasons, avoid flying near them. Familiarize yourself with local rules and regulations of flights to fly safely.
Before each flight, pay attention to the terrain and weather conditions; wind, rain and temperature can significantly affect flight results/quality. For example, it would be right to postpone the flight if you understand that it will probably rain in the near future. Rainwater can not only affect the drone’s electronic equipment, but also obstruct visibility and signal transmission. Like rain, wind and temperature can also affect flight, including battery life. Always keep an eye on your drone’s battery level so that you have enough time to return and land. You can find out as much as possible about the features of drone operation in winter by clicking on this link.
4. Pre-flight checklist
Before taking off, the pilots of any aircraft always conduct a visual check of the elements of the aircraft for their integrity according to the pre-flight checklist. As a drone pilot, you are also advised to check the following before each flight:
- Check the physical condition of the drone. Look for signs of wear or damage on the fuselage, arms (the levers on which the motors are mounted), propellers. By the way, the propellers are the most fragile component of the drone. Operation of deformed propellers with any kind of damage is not allowed!
- Familiarize yourself with the flight rules and regulations of the place where you plan to fly.
- Make sure the batteries are fully charged and have enough power to fly.
- Before turning on the drone, do not forget to remove the camera gimbal transportation protection!
- Check the readiness status of all the main electronic components of the drone, as well as the pairing status of the controller with the aircraft. Please note that the software of most modern drones contains a special section that demonstrates the readiness of key electronics for operation (current flight mode, status of visualization sensors, compass, IMU, battery, etc.).
- Pay attention to weather conditions. For example, the speed of the wind, which is usually stronger at higher altitudes than at ground level. Use various mobile applications to inform, such as UAV Forecast (iOS/Android; Supports interface).
- Check if the area around your drone is clear for takeoff and landing.
- Check your camera settings. Being able to fully see what your drone’s camera sees will make flying safer.
- Make sure you have a memory card in your drone if you plan to shoot.
- Let everyone around the drone know that you are about to take off
- Be aware of your surroundings while flying
Once you’re comfortable with the controls and how a drone works, remember that only practice will improve your skill so you can safely have fun and be creative. A whole new world awaits you.
5. Takeoff and landing
The most important part of flying a drone is taking off and landing. Make sure you choose an open area that will allow you to safely fly your drone. Choose a site free of trees, power lines, and anything else that might obstruct your line of sight.
When taking off, follow the list of safety precautions below to make sure your drone is in optimal flight condition. Observe your surroundings and be sure to warn those present in the immediate vicinity that you are planning to take off.
Before turning on the drone, do not forget to remove the camera gimbal transportation protection! Turn on the power, paying attention to the current battery level, as well as the key settings of the aircraft (for example, it is important to check the settings of the auto return to home mode: the action of the aircraft on loss of communication / return altitude, which should be higher than the obstacles that the aircraft could potentially encounter during auto return) . After checking the drone settings, turn up the throttle just enough to raise it about half a meter off the ground. While the drone is holding position, continue to test its performance, both visually and through the software. In the event of a problem, you must be ready to land the aircraft quickly, which means that you also need to determine and work out ways to quickly and confidently land the drone in an emergency in advance. If the copter is working properly and the weather conditions are correct, proceed to climb the required altitude for the flight.
During the entire flight, check the battery level of your drone. Always allow yourself extra time to get the aircraft back to the landing site no matter what. It should be understood that unforeseen situations may arise during the flight, for example, if you took off in calm or in the direction of the wind, then the return to the take-off site is more likely to be against the wind, this fact will inevitably affect the battery discharge rate and ultimately you you can simply not reach the place of takeoff.
Based on our flight practice, we recommend starting the return to the take-off point already at 70-60% of the residual charge, this approach ensures a confident return, regardless of external factors and level flight speed. If you return to 50% of the residual charge while maintaining the optimal speed limit, most likely you will return to the take-off point with a residual charge of 3-4%. Well, when returning with a residual charge below 50%, you run the risk of returning to the take-off site with a zero charge at best (piloting experience decides). It is also worth recalling that, due to the very nature of lithium batteries, their discharge under optimal flight conditions from 100% to 50% proceeds much more slowly than from 50% to 0%. It’s worth considering!
When you are ready to land the drone, announce to everyone near the landing site that the drone is returning. Bring the copter to the landing pad, slowly decelerating. A slow and careful landing is paramount when it comes to safety. Land the drone and make sure the propellers have stopped spinning. Once the aircraft is on the ground and the motors have stopped, before moving the aircraft or removing the propellers, power off the aircraft by disconnecting the battery. Oh, and one more thing, immediately after landing, the drone motors will be hot, so for the first 2-3 minutes, do not rush to remove the propellers in order to avoid getting burned!
6. Helpful tips
- Before turning on the drone, do not forget to remove the camera gimbal transportation protection!
- Always keep spare batteries with you. So that your drone can fly for a long time.
- Keep a landing pad with you. This point may seem a little obvious, but in some situations it can be a decisive element. A collapsible landing pad, a piece of wood, or even a rolled-up carpet will help you take off in long grass, snow, or even dust.
- Study the cards! Look at satellite maps to find new places to fly. Whether you’re looking for wide open spaces or interesting landmarks to shoot, a little monitoring is all it takes to find great new spots.
- Have fun, but be respectful! Drones are great fun, but you need to keep a safe distance from people, cars, and houses.
- After the flight, do not rush to remove the propellers, as often the drone motors will be very hot and, accordingly, there is a risk of getting burned.
- Store your drone in a hard case or protective bag. Your drone is an investment, take care of it during transportation. The transport case will also allow you to always have batteries and chargers with you.
- Use your drone when you go on an adventure and exploration. Travel with it, go hiking with it, explore with it. With a drone, you can discover amazing new perspectives and angles. Have fun and be creative!
7. Safety Tips
- Check the drone regulations and laws in your area. If necessary, register your drone with your local aviation authority (you can learn more about this by clicking on this link)
- Fly with a clear line of sight (there should be no obstructions between the drone and the remote control during the entire flight)
- Do not try to exceed the max. flight range of your drone
- Monitor weather conditions (recommended mobile app: UAV Forecast)
- Fly with enough light
- If damaged propellers are found, immediately replace them with serviceable ones.
- Ask another person to be an observer. Extra eyes can be incredibly helpful.
- When piloting a drone, be respectful to others, remember that not everyone may benefit from the presence of a copter in the immediate vicinity
So, to summarize all of the above can be as follows. Order and discipline are the key to a safe and exciting flight without loss! Compliance with all of the above recommendations will allow the beginner to get the most out of the hobby and develop positively in it. As you get comfortable, flying will become more natural and your drone will inspire you to create creative projects, opening up new perspectives and endless possibilities.