Owning a drone does not a pilot make.
—Alex Morritt, Impromptu Scribe
Okay, so you just bought a drone. What is next? You are looking forward to the weekend when you can really test it out. Or maybe you are excited about the great images and video you will get to capture with it. Perhaps you are already calculating the ways it will improve your business. While all of these are exciting concepts to think about, you should not forget the step that sits between purchasing a drone and using it: Learning how it works.
This stage is key to achieving success with a drone. And it does not have to be a difficult process. It just takes a little reading, a little fiddling, and a little practice. Before you know it, you will be gaining anything and everything you want from your new device. The following tips will help you get started on this journey:
1. Know How To Shut Down The Throttle Down
Crashes happen to even the best pilots so it is something that, as a drone pilot, you need to get used to. Sometimes the wind carries the drone out of range. Sometimes another drone gets a little to close. Whatever the reason, if you can crash safely, you can prevent a lot of potential damage from happening to a drone.
The first step that needs to be taken when a crash is occurring is shutting off the throttle. The throttle is what keeps the blades on a drone going. If the throttle is not shut down, they will continue to rotate as the drone gets further entangled with another drone, gets caught in a tree, or drops to the ground. If those blades continue to turn, they will get damaged, either by hitting the ground, the other drone, or tree branches. And then on top of that is the damage that can happen to the motor if the blades try to continue to turn but can not.
One great tip to ensure the safety of the propeller blades are propeller guards. These little extras that you can buy are well worth the cost and are fairly easy to install.
2. Practice With A Cheaper Version
Yes, the top-of-the-line drones are the top-of-the-line drones for a reason. They are faster, they can go further, they have more variability with settings, and they tend to just be better all around. However, when you first start flying a drone, you will not really be able to tell the difference between a drone that costs you $1000 and one that costs you $100. The most basic settings, which are the ones that you will be using the most, are pretty much the same across the board. However, your wallet will be able to tell the difference when you crash as $1000 drone and when you crash a $100 drone. And at the beginning, you will be crashing a lot. So, if you can, it is best to just start out with one of the cheaper models. Once you get the hang of flying that one, you can move up to a nicer model and you and your wallet will feel much more confident.
3. Follow A Checklist
Successfully flying a drone is kind of like successfully flying a plane—you need to be prepared. And the best way to make sure that you are prepared each and every time you take your drone out is to follow a pre-set checklist. Here are a few questions that you can ask yourself before you launch the drone:
- Is the takeoff and landing surface clear of any obstacles and is it level?
- Is the flight path free of airport zones, people, and animals?
- Are there too many WiFi signals in the area?
- Is the wind too strong or the weather conditions poor for flying?
- Are all of the camera settings configured?
- Does the drone have fresh and full batteries?
- Are the propellers and camera correctly attached?
- Do the propellers spin smoothly?
4. Know Where The Drone Zones Are
Certain activities are not allowed in certain places. Many cities have areas where skateboarding is banned. Some buildings do not allow pictures to be taken in them. All airplanes have regulations when it comes to cell phone use. The same goes for drones. There are just specific areas where it would be dangerous or a violation of privacy to fly a drone. Everywhere is different so it would be wise to do a little research about your city and their drone regulations.
Many cities have areas that are designated solely for the purpose of flying drones. They tend to be outside of the city so that obstacles like people, telephone poles and lines, and other structures will not be harmed—and the drones will go unharmed as well. Additionally, be careful when it comes to flying a drone in a residential area. Many regions already have laws that fine those who violate individuals’ privacy by flying a camera-armed drone. There are also strict laws when it comes to flying drones near stadiums, government buildings, and more.
5. Get Hovering Down
Mastering flying is definitely not easy, but once you get the hang of it, you need to conquer hovering. Just to warn you, it takes a lot more time to get hovering right than to get flying right. However, once you do get a handle on it, you can take much better videos and photographs, and you will just have a lot better control over the drone.
Hovering can be done on some drones with pitch control and other drones will enable this feature through system control settings. To start out, though, practice hovering between four and six feet in the air. If you hover too low, you are at risk of hitting the ground with the drone blades. If you hove too high, the many likely crashes could damage the drone. During the hovering mode, you need to keep a steady throttle, pitch, and roll so that the drone hovers in the same place. Try it out. It will take some time, but it will eventually feel very natural.
6. Turn Off The GPS
Turning off the GPS sounds counterintuitive. The GPS is an assistive device that allows people to know where they are going, whether they are walking, driving, or flying a drone. And do not get us wrong, we are not saying you should always fly your drone with your GPS off. But you should practice flying without it. Why? Because sometimes the GPS fails or malfunctions. Glitches happen and you do not want to totally lose control of your drone when they do. You should practice how to terminate the flight if the GPS does fail. This is a great way to ensure that your drone stays safe and that it does not harm anyone and anything else. For beginners, the manual mode will probably be too challenging without the GPS, but you can start by transitioning to the drone’s ‘attitude’ mode, allowing you to have a lot of control with the safety of a few of the restrictions.
Once you have mastered this, and a few of the other tips mentioned here, you will have significantly more confidence during your first few drone flights.