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How to Fly a Drone – The Ultimate Beginners Guide

How to Fly a Drone – The Ultimate Beginners Guide

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Despite first being sold for civilians in 2006, the personal use of drones was not popularized until 2013, following an announcement that Amazon would use drones for their delivery service. In two years, over a million drones had been sold commercially, and the speedy use of drones first theorized by Tesla had become true.

However, as portrayed in TV shows like Modern Family, drones can be pretty challenging to fly. Learning how to fly a drone before sale helps future drone users familiarize themselves with the technology, avoid accidents, and understand the legal ramifications of misusing their drone.

Choosing Your Drone

When it comes to choosing a new drone, there are many different types to consider, each with its own unique features and capabilities. Some of the key factors to consider when selecting a drone include:

  • Size and weight: Larger drones tend to be more stable and easier to control, but they may also be more difficult to transport and may require a larger area to fly. On the other hand, smaller drones can be more portable and easier to fly in confined spaces, but may be less stable and more difficult to control.
  • Battery life: The battery life of a drone can vary significantly, with some models able to fly for up to an hour or more on a single charge, while others may only last for a few minutes. Consider the length of time you want to be able to fly for, as well as the availability of replacement batteries, when selecting a drone.
  • Features: Drones can come with a wide range of features, such as HD cameras, GPS navigation, and obstacle avoidance sensors. Decide which features are most important to you and look for a drone that offers those features.
  • Price: Drones can range in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on the features and capabilities. Determine your budget and look for a drone that offers the features and capabilities you need within that price range.

Overall, it’s important to do your research and carefully consider your needs and preferences when choosing a drone.

Here is my recommendation if you looking for a solid choice for reliable, easy to use and a budget friendly drone:

DJI Mini SE
$277.62

The DJI Mini SE is a lightweight drone that can record HD video and capture 12-megapixel images.

It has a 3-axis gimbal for smooth video and it can fly for 30 minutes and has a 2.5-mile transmission range.

It's easy to carry and wind-resistant, making it a good choice for beginner pilots who want to create content. 

02/19/2024 05:53 am GMT

Before Taking Flight

Planning where and when to fly ensures that your drone will not crash on its maiden voyage. Only fly your drone during nice weather and avoid contact with snow, rain, and hail.

Temperatures below 32°F (0°C) and above 104°F (40°C) should be avoided, and your drone should be flown in winds that are less than 15mph. Also, avoid flying drones over or close to bodies of water like puddles, pools, and lakes.

While getting used to flying your drone, you should use an open area should be chosen with minimal obstacles.

Before buying a drone, those hoping to master their drone flying skills can use many simulators to practice the controls. Simulation sites like DJI Flight Simulator, DJI Go App Simulator, and Skyviper allow users to practice drone flight before purchasing a drone.

Laws Surrounding Drones

The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) began creating rules for drone flyers when first launched for commercial use in 2006. Failure to adhere to the laws surrounding drones can carry fines, probation, and, depending on the severity of the violation, jail time.

All drones weighing more than 0.55 (or 250 grams) in the United States must be registered for an FAA number.

The FAA number just has to be displayed on the drone’s exterior. The price is $5, and recreational drone fliers must pass a basic knowledge test. This process often takes less than an hour to complete, and the fee covers the registration of all drones owned for up to three years.

If a drone flier wants to use their unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for commercial purposes, a more rigorous exam must be taken to receive a Part 107 certification.

You must take the test in person, but it is offered at over 800 testing locations across America. As long as you are 16 years old or older and keep up with the biennial renewal, the drone can be used for any number of commercial purposes.

Remember that all  sUAS (small unmanned aircraft system) must be registered with the FAA!

Not all places allow drones, even with certification. National parks were designated no-fly zones in 2014, and drone flying in a national park carries stiff fines. Additionally, due to a drone crashing on the White House lawn in 2015, the area within a 15.5-mile radius of Washington D.C. is a no-fly zone, which includes Arlington, Alexandria, and Bethesda. 

Generally, no-fly rules ensure that privacy and that the jobs of business owners and emergency personnel are not obstructed.

This includes prohibiting drones from flying over natural disasters like wildfires, near stadiums for illegally filming sporting events, and private property. Additionally, some states protect personal privacy by prohibiting drones from capturing images or filming individuals engaging in private, personal, or familial activity without permission.

Finally, while drone insurance is not required to own a drone, insurance is recommended. Drone fliers are frequently liable for any damage caused by their drone, and most drone users do not have insurance.

Liability insurance, hull insurance (which protects against water damage), cyber insurance, and commercial property insurance are all available for drones at between $20 to $60 a month.

Simple Drone Rules To Remember

Don’t Fly Near Airports or Airfields

Some drones come equipped with airmaps within them. Otherwise, drone users can check the Hover app or use the air map website to ensure they are not in a restricted flight area.

Remember to Fly Under 400 Feet and to Keep Your Drone at Least 150 Feet Away from Buildings and People 

These distance requirements keep a drone flier from accidentally colliding with something. If a drone is flown higher than 400 feet, it could collide with low-flying aircraft like helicopters which cruise at 500 feet. 

Observe Your Drone at all Times

Drone fliers are liable for any damage caused by their drone, even if the collision was an accident. By keeping the drone in your eyesight, accidents can be avoided.

Never Fly Near Aircraft

Similar to other small flying objects like birds and balloons, drones are too small for an airline pilot to see and avoid. You can avoid potential disasters by keeping your drone under 400 feet and away from airfields or any manned aircraft.

Enjoy Responsibly

As a drone owner, you are liable for any damage or harm that comes to or from your drone. Using the previous rules and following all regulations set by the Federal Aviation Agency, drone users can enjoy their hobby safely.

The Anatomy of The Drone and The Controller

Before you fly a drone, it’s important to understand the different parts of the drone and how to use the controller (also known as the transmitter). Familiarizing yourself with these components will help you become one of the better drone pilots and ensure that you are using the drone safely and effectively.

The Drone

Most commercially-sold drones are multi-rotor drones. These drones have a square-shaped layout with a propeller at each corner. Each side has a propeller moving counterclockwise and a propeller moving clockwise. These drones have a transmitter antenna on their rear end, and some have a GPS within them. Many drones also have a video camera at the front. 

  1. Propellers: Most drones have four propellers, which provide lift and allow the drone to move through the air. The number and size of the propellers can vary depending on the size and design of the drone.
  2. Motors: Each propeller is connected to a motor, which provides the power to spin the propellers and move the drone. The number and type of motors used in a drone will depend on the size and capabilities of the drone.
  3. Frame: The frame is the structural support of the drone, holding all the other components in place. The frame can be made from a variety of materials, such as plastic, carbon fiber, or metal, and may be designed in a variety of shapes and sizes.
  4. Battery: The battery powers the motors and other electrical components of the drone. The size and capacity of the battery will depend on the size and power needs of the drone.
  5. Camera: Many drones are equipped with a camera, which allows the user to capture photos or video while flying the drone. The quality and capabilities of the camera can vary depending on the model. This is also the best way to figure out the drone’s orientation as the camera is always at the front.

The Controller

  1. Antenna: The antenna transmits the radio signals that are used to communicate with the drone.
  2. Display: Some controllers have a display screen that shows information about the drone’s status and flight conditions.
  3. Throttle: The throttle control is used to increase or decrease the power to the motors and change the altitude of the drone.
  4. Pitch: The pitch control is used to tilt the drone’s nose up or down and change its altitude.
  5. Roll: The roll control is used to rotate the drone around its axis and change its direction.
  6. Yaw: The yaw control is used to rotate the drone left or right and change its direction.
  7. RTH button: also known as the return-to-home button, is a feature found on most drone controllers that allows the user to initiate an automated return flight to the home point, which is typically the location where the drone took off.
Notes From My Personal Experience:

Did you know that some drone apps allow you to customize the settings on your drone’s controller? For example you can swap functions of each joystick.

It’s important to take some time to experiment with these presets and find the one that works best for you. This way, you can make sure that you are comfortable and confident when you are flying your drone. So, have fun and try out different presets to see which one feels the most natural and enjoyable to use.

The left joystick is mainly used for positioning, as it controls the yaw (rotation) and the throttle (altitude). The yaw refers to the clockwise or counterclockwise rotation, allowing the drone to turn from side to side without moving. When changing the yaw, the diagonal propellers rotating the same way are controlled.

The throttle refers to the power given to the propellers, resulting in faster or slower flying speeds. When adjusting the throttle, the propeller spin rate is affected. Moving the left joystick from left to right controls the yaw, and moving the left joystick up and down controls the throttle

The right joystick usually controls the roll and pitch, which is used to move the drone. The roll is the lateral movement of your drone, which is changed by adjusting the lateral propellers. To avoid obstacles, change the roll by moving the right joystick from left to right.

The pitch refers to the tilt of the drone, which allows for forwarding and backward movement, and adjusts the rotation of the back or front propellers. You would change the pitch by moving the joystick up and down to move the drone. 

Pre-flight Checks

Before starting any drone operations, it’s important to take a few steps to ensure that the drone is in good working condition and ready for flight. This pre flight checklist can help prevent accidents and ensure that your drone flies smoothly and safely.

Here are some steps to take before flying a drone:

  • Charge the battery: Make sure the battery is fully charged and ready for use. Flying with a low battery can be dangerous and may result in the drone losing power mid-flight.
  • Inspect the drone: Check the drone for any visible damage or issues, such as cracks, loose screws, or bent propellers. If you notice any problems, do not fly the drone until they have been repaired or resolved.
  • Check the controls: Test the controls to ensure that they are functioning properly. Make sure the throttle, pitch, roll, and yaw controls are responsive and move the drone in the intended direction.
  • Familiarize yourself with the manual: Read through the manual to familiarize yourself with the drone’s features and capabilities, as well as any safety precautions or guidelines.

By following these pre-flight checks, you can help ensure that your drone is ready for flight and that you are prepared to fly it safely and responsibly.

Flying a Drone

The hardest part is putting everything together, which is why practice improves. Start flying in an open area, get used to flying your drone by seeing how each basic maneuver is performed. Place the drone in front of you, facing away from you on a flat surface, and after making sure the throttle (left joystick) is all the way down, turn the transmitter on and connect it to the drone’s battery.

Taking Off and Landing

Many drones have a built-in auto take-off and landing feature. This allows the user to initiate take-off or landing with the press of a button, rather than manually controlling the throttle and pitch.

While this feature can be convenient and make it easier for beginners to get started with flying a drone, it’s important to understand how to take off and land manually as well.

Taking Off

To take off with a drone, you will typically use the throttle control to increase the power to the motors and lift the drone off the ground. You may also use the pitch control to tilt the nose of the drone up or down to help it gain altitude.

It’s important to start with small throttle inputs and gradually increase the power to avoid overloading the motors or causing the drone to lose control.

Landing

To land a drone, you will typically use the throttle and pitch controls to gradually descend and lower the drone to the ground. It’s important to use smooth, controlled inputs and avoid making sudden movements, as this can cause the drone to lose stability and crash. Some drones also have landing gear or legs that help protect the propellers and sensors during landing.

Basic Manoeuvring and Drone Flying

Once you practice the basics of takeoff and landing, try some maneuvers. Starting with small movements, get used to the controls by trying simple maneuvers like flying forward and backward, practicing evasive maneuvers, and landing.

Then, more intricate flight patterns can be practiced, like flying in a circle, flying in a square, and doing a figure eight. Learn these and you will be a pro in no time!

Hovering

Hovering involves maintaining a stable position in the air and requires careful use of the throttle and pitch controls to maintain the drone’s altitude. Luckily many modern drones have built-in sensors and software that help the drone hover at low altitudes automatically… phew!

Moving the drone forward and backward

To make the drone fly forward or backward, you will typically use the throttle control to increase or decrease the power to the motors and the pitch control to tilt the nose of the drone up or down. When you slowly push the stick forward, the drone moves forward and vice versa.

Turning left and right

To turn the drone left or right, you will typically use the yaw control to rotate the drone around its axis. You may also use the roll control to tilt the drone to one side or the other.

Climbing and descending

To change the altitude of the drone, you will use the throttle control to increase or decrease the power to the motors and the pitch control to tilt the nose of the drone up or down.

How to Fly a Drone – Tips

Are you ready to learn how to fly a drone like a pro? Whether you are a beginner or an experienced drone pilot, there are always new tips and tricks to learn that can help you get the most out of your flying experience.

Always keep the drone facing away from you

Similar to driving a car in Grand Theft Auto, your vehicle should be facing the same direction as you are. To ensure you do not complicate the controls, you should position the drone as if flying within it then you can safely move the drone forward.

Keep your eyes on your drone at all times.

Though glancing down to check the controls is natural, watching the drone move as you move is a better way to commit the controls to memory. Plus, the world is constantly changing, so if you are not paying attention to your drone, you may have the controls correct but miss the obstacles before you. So always keep your drone close.

Most drones come with object avoidance, meaning the sensors on the sides of the drone will adjust the propellers when flying towards something to avoid them. However, this is not a foolproof plan, and object avoidance only works so well.

Learning how to fly a drone correctly will save it from damage and you will be more comfortable with your evasive maneuvers when you realize your drone is heading towards something.

Keep the video mode in auto

Even if you are hoping to become a professional drone photographer, keeping the video in auto will help you focus on improving your flight abilities and video capturing capabilities. Additionally, you will save space by not filming your practice runs.

Practice, practice and practice

It is essential to practice often to commit the controls to memory. Muscle memory develops after two to four weeks of performing a task. Therefore, even though you may get the basics on the first few tries, continuing to practice them will help you fly like second nature.

Patience is key!

Learning to fly a drone can be a fun and rewarding hobby, but it’s important to remember that it takes time and practice to become proficient. One key aspect of learning to fly a drone is patience. It’s important to give yourself the time and space to practice and make mistakes, as this is how you will learn and improve.

Don’t get frustrated if you have a hard time at first – it’s completely normal. Just keep practicing and you will eventually get the hang of it. Additionally, it can be helpful to start with a small, lightweight drone that is easier to control, as this can help build your confidence and skills. So, be patient with yourself and keep practicing, and you will eventually master the art of flying a drone.

Commonly Asked Questions

Is it easy to learn how to fly a drone?

Learning to fly a drone takes time and practice, but with patience and dedication, anyone can do it. Start with a small, lightweight drone and gradually progress to larger and more complex models. Most importantly don’t be afraid to make mistakes!

Do you need a smartphone to fly a drone?

No, you do not need a smartphone to fly a drone but it depends on the drone you have. Some drones come with a dedicated controller that allows you to fly the drone without the need for a smartphone.

However, many modern drones can be controlled using a smartphone app, which can provide additional features and functionality such as a live video feed from the drone’s camera or advanced flight modes.

So, while it is not strictly necessary to have a smartphone to fly a drone, it can certainly be a useful tool and enhance your flying experience.

Conclusion

Congratulations, you now have a good understanding of how to fly a drone!

From choosing the right drone for your needs and performing pre-flight checks, to taking off, landing, and flying safely, you are now well-equipped to take to the skies and with practice become a professional drone pilot.

Remember to always follow local regulations and fly responsibly, and don’t be afraid to practice and improve your skills. Who knows, you may even be able to impress your friends with your drone piloting skills (just don’t fly it into their heads, that’s not cool).

So go ahead, spread your wings (or rather, propellers) and enjoy the skies!

Happy flying!

Holy Stone HS720G

$299.99

The words “wholesome beginner drone” sum up the HS720G nicely. Its 4K camera with a 2-axis gimbal allows for some excellent aerial footage.

If you want to have fun flying your drone, Holy Stones are acrobatic drones, so don’t be afraid to play around in the sky!

It can return home on its own via GPS if it detects a bad signal or low battery, but does not have crash sensors.

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/18/2024 06:56 pm GMT

DJI Mini SE

$277.62

The DJI Mini SE is a lightweight drone that can record HD video and capture 12-megapixel images.

It has a 3-axis gimbal for smooth video and it can fly for 30 minutes and has a 2.5-mile transmission range.

It's easy to carry and wind-resistant, making it a good choice for beginner pilots who want to create content. 

02/19/2024 05:53 am GMT
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