There it is: your brand new AUV– now you just need to know how to fly a drone. It’s a quadcopter; almost alien in its design with near perfect symmetry, practically hovering already. Its begging to be flown. To soar over your backyard, hunting down perfect aerial photos like a UFO on the search for cows and conspiracy theorists to tractor beam… BUT WAIT DON’T DO IT!
Before you take to the skies, make sure you know what you’re doing. There are a ton of great resources online–FAQs, video tutorials, etc–and a number of professionals who can help train you up, (WARNING: Shameless sales pitch coming) and we’re partial to our own, live and in-person, drone pilot training classes. However you choose to train up, take it seriously, because it’s all too easy to crash a drone on your first couple of flights — we definitely see/hear it all the time.
If you’re not looking for a long study, we’ve compiled some of our top flight tips below. Consider adding them to your protocols for how to fly a drone.
How to Fly a Drone Safely
- Maintain Line of Sight & Keep Good Orientation It’s tempting to rely on the first person POV from the camera, but it’s really easy to get disoriented, especially as you spin and rotate. Keep your bird in eyesight until you’ve logged plenty of flight hours. After you’ve stopped to take a picture or finished a move, stop to ask yourself what’s your next move and how is the drone oriented (where is the front, where is the back).
- Check Calibration, Set its 12 O’clock to True North All the skills in the world won’t save your bird when its not calibrated correctly. Make sure checking and setting calibration is part of your “idiot check” before each take-off. Speaking of launch time…
- Choose a good launch point It sounds obvious (and it is), but if you pick a lousy launch point you’re asking for trouble. Make sure the ground is flat and free of obscurities. We’ve seen drones shoot diagonally into all sorts of objects (and people, yikes) because of poor placement.
- Practice Takeoff and Landing a few times Do a short drill: takeoff slowly to about 4 or 5 feet, pause, then descend. (Maybe you can add a 360 rotation just to spice it up and practice your orientation skills–go wild!) Do this this a three or four times, and get comfortable with how your drone feels. Take note that ascending and descending are at different velocites: ascent velocity is about 7 feet per second, descent velocity is about 5 five per second (depending on drone, we tend to train on DJI drones).This is also a great time to take note of how the wind seems to be affecting your drone. Landing and flying can be funky depending on how ye olde trade winds a’ blow. Once you’re in the air…
- Keep your hands on the remote control You wouldn’t let go of your steering wheel when driving, don’t let go of your drone’s controller. With that said, though, feel free to release the sticks if you get disoriented or if you feel like you’re out of control. Releasing the sticks will stop the drone from moving and rotating, and it will just hover. During this time, take a deep breath, breath out, and then get back to flying like you’re the reincarnation of the Red Baron.
How NOT to Fly a Drone
There are some things you just shouldn’t do. Here’s a quick breakdown of some practices to avoid as you learn how to fly a drone.
- Don’t fly over People or Animals Seriously, just don’t do it. You can do some damage with enough velocity, and it’s just not worth the risk. It just takes one accident to ruin it for all responsible drone users.
- Don’t Multitask Just focus on flying. Get rid of distractions and stay alert. It’s fun to fly with friends, but don’t start looking away or reach for that cold beer. Speaking of which…
- Don’t Drink and Fly Enough said.
- Don’t Attempt Maneuvers on a Low Battery We know. Low batteries are the worst. If we had one wish, it’d be for a longer lasting drone battery (we’re looking at you, Elon Musk). But, c’est la vie. We make do with what we have… with that said, when you’re running low, play it conservative and land. You’ll feel like a real turkey if you lose power and drop your bird into a tree.
Have Fun, but Fly Safe
Drone are awesome, but need to be treated with some respect. They’re small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), but UAS all the same. Take your time to get to know your drone, and learn how to fly it safely. Do some online learning, by taking a class or considering a certification. Or, at the least, dare I say it, read your instruction manual (I know it’s futile to suggest that, but, well, I had to all the same)! Don’t end up like these failed drone pilots: