The number of people who have decided to learn how to fly a drone and are generally interested in this hobby is growing exponentially every year around the world. 2017 was no exception, and with the advent of the new year, the most frequently asked query in Internet search engines was the question: “How to control a quadrocopter?”. This once again confirms the fact that the most anticipated gift in the new year was a drone.
Before starting to cover the topic of safe piloting, it is worth noting that there are no people who were able to master drone control the first time. Everyone who first comes to this hobby starts with clumsy flying and beginner mistakes, and as a rule, they are all basically the same. But it is worth remembering that it is the beginners, relying on the experience of professionals, who ultimately bring something new, and it is each new generation that will always be better than those who stood at the origins of the development of this or that hobby.
This article is an initial quick guide aimed at beginners who want to learn how to fly a drone correctly and safely.
Where to begin?
Drone flying is a fun and relatively new and fast growing hobby that there is not much information about at the moment, especially for people who are just getting started with drones. As a result, the first flight is carried out at your own peril and risk, which is not safe for both the pilot and those around the launch site. It is worth remembering that a drone is a fairly powerful machine with rapidly rotating propellers, and with inept use, you can easily break its integrity, which threatens to completely destroy the device as a whole.
- To minimize all kinds of risks, first of all, you should adhere to the fundamental rules: avoid flying in close proximity to people and property, as well as not crossing the no-fly zones – “No Fly”.
- “No Fly” zones – territories over which it is forbidden to fly! The perimeter of these zones usually includes airports, military units, stadiums, etc.
What should be the first drone?
Your best bet is to start with a drone with four rotors/propellers, or simply a quadcopter that will be ready to fly out of the box (RTF – ready to fly). This suggests that after unpacking, the user will not have to assemble / retrofit the model. Turned on and flew.
Expensive or cheap?
It is better to start with quadrics up to $50. Firstly, such drones are conceived to be light in weight and small in size, which means they cannot cause significant harm to people or property. Secondly, losing a $500 drone due to lack of piloting skills will be much more unpleasant than $50. In addition, as practice shows, a beginner will not be able to use the full potential of a $500 drone. Remember, in this hobby, you need to start simple!
In most cases, the drone control panel has the main controls – left and right sticks / joysticks for controlling the drone and a number of additional buttons and AUX switches (2 / 3 positions), which are often used to switch between flight modes, turn on and off LEDs etc.
*Scheme of classical equipment.
How to control a quadcopter?
Purpose of the left and right sticks:
left stick – responsible for the takeoff and descent of the drone, as well as for rotation around its axis.
- Throttle Up – gas, increases the speed of the motors (when moving up, the drone takes off).
- Throttle Down – brake, reduces the speed of the motors (when moving down, the drone decreases).
- Yaw Left – when moving to the left, rotates the drone around its axis counterclockwise.
- Yaw Right – when moving to the right, rotates the drone around its own clockwise.
right stick – responsible for “Pitch” and “Bank” those. tilting the drone to the left and right side, as well as forward and backward (with the right stick, the pilot sets the flight direction).
- Roll Left – tilts the drone to its left side (in this case, the drone will move to the left side along the horizon).
- Roll Right — tilts the drone to the right side (in this case, the drone will move to the right side along the horizon).
- Pitch Down – when moving the stick up, tilts the drone forward (the drone will begin to move forward).
- pitch up – when moving the stick down, tilts the drone back (the drone will start to move back).
Drone flight modes
There are different flight modes depending on the flight controller installed in the drone (PC / Flight Controller): KK2 / Multiwii / Naze32 / ArduCopter and others). The most common modes are:
“Acro mode” (Rate mode/Manual mode) – in these modes, electronic assistants responsible for stabilizing the drone will be disabled. Speed indicators have reached maximum values. Piloting can only be carried out by advanced pilots. Beginners are advised to start learning how to fly in acro with FPV simulators.
Self-level mode (horizon mode) – in these modes, the electronics responsible for stabilizing the drone (gyroscope, accelerometer) are active, costs are limited (speed indicators). The modes are well suited for learning to fly.
Attitude Holding Mode – this flight mode is controlled by the on-board electronics responsible for drone stabilization, the altitude hold function is active, implemented by means of a pressure sensor (barometer). When flying in this mode, if the pilot releases the sticks / joysticks, the quad will not fall, as it could be when using the above modes, but will hover at the altitude occupied at the time of flight. The pilot will need to control the horizontal shift/drift of the copter, for example due to the presence of wind. The mode will be appreciated by beginners, but still, you should not use it when learning to fly, as the experience gained will not be complete.
GPS Attitude Holding Mode – works with the direct participation of the GPS module. This flight mode is controlled by the on-board electronics responsible for stabilizing the drone. Position hold function implemented via GPS is active. The drone locks onto a coordinate point and allows it to accurately hover without drift/shift, even if it is affected by external factors such as wind. It received its main recognition in aerial photography, as it frees the pilot from constant control over the height occupied by the drone, thereby allowing him to focus on obtaining high-quality photo / video material.
In practice, you will find many more flight modes. As mentioned above, this depends on the flight controller installed in the drone. But the algorithm of work as a whole will be similar for everyone.
Basic flight rules
Here we will talk about what rules should be followed before and during the first flight. Safety above all!
- Choose a good calm day for flights.
- The place to fly should be in the form of a large open area without buildings or power lines.
- Make sure that there are no people, animals, property in the place of launch and flight.
- Before flying, inspect the aircraft for any malfunctions/damage, improper/insecure propellers, prop guards, camera, etc.
- Try to minimize any distractions during your flight, such as putting your cell phone on silent, etc.
After ensuring safety, you can proceed to practical training flights. You need to start simple, and first work out the following:
- Practice taking off and hovering in the air at a height of up to two meters, followed by landing.
- Make short flights from point “A” to point “B” with subsequent landing.
- Achieve confident stable piloting in the first two steps.
Wind speed is the first thing you need to pay attention to before flying in open air. You should not fly if the wind speed is higher – 6 m / s. Already with such a wind, the drone in flight will not be stable and it will constantly need to be adjusted, which is especially difficult for a beginner. With wind speeds above 11 meters per second, the pilot runs the risk of crashing the drone.
In practice, “hovering (holding a position)” is much more difficult than it might seem at first glance. Especially when flying in First Person View (FPV) (not recommended in the early stages of piloting training). Having mastered the skill of hovering, the pilot will become better in control of the drone, and this will also allow him to shoot beautiful shots from a bird’s eye view in the future.
Throw off the gas
What will you do if there is a tree in the path of your drone at high speed? Someone will say: “I’ll just clothe him and that’s it.” But in practice, sometimes there is no time left for a flyby, and the wise decision in such a situation would be to simply reset the throttle to zero. In this way, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of maximum damage to both the drone / frame itself and its individual elements, such as motors, antennas, etc. It is also worth recalling that you should not neglect the use of rotor guards, which are often included in the kit, especially at the time of piloting training, even if they significantly reduce the flight characteristics of the copter.
FPV simulators allow you to minimize the costs associated with the destruction of the drone as a result of crashes, which is especially important at the initial stages of piloting training. It is with FPV simulators that it is recommended to begin acquaintance with drone control for beginners. We recommend our separate material that maximally reveals the topic of modern FPV simulators.
Unfortunately, collisions and falls (crashes) in our hobby are inevitable for both beginners and professionals. And the best thing you can do is learn to minimize such events. Remember that everything comes with experience, which you get only in the process of practice. The more flight hours, the more opportunities open up for you in controlling the drone.
We hope that in this short guide for beginners, we were able to convey the most complete idea of what you should pay attention to when learning to fly a drone at the initial stage. Of course, it is not possible to fit the entire course of study into one article, but if this is not enough for you, then we advise you to take special courses on teaching UAV piloting in specialized educational institutions closest to you, since such ones already exist.
A good example of drone piloting.