Top tips for flying your first proper drone
Flying your first proper drone is a daunting experience for many. Especially if you’ve spent £1000+ on something like the DJI Mavic, Phantom 4, etc.
Some people will advise practicing using smaller, cheaper drone (£20-£50+) or buying a simulator which has a drone section.
Why we don’t think practicing with a smaller, cheaper drone is useful.
So, a smaller drone maybe cheaper but you can almost guarantee it will be harder to fly than a proper drone. They often don’t have GPS/GLONASS receivers which is the technolgy that will allow your drone to hover in a stable condition when flown outdoors. This is a must have for a beginner and not having this feature can easily result in a “fly-away”.
The other problem with smaller, cheaper drones is their size and weight. They are great for indoors but they aren’t great outdoors unless there is no breeze what-so-ever! Flying an indoor drone takes skill and practice, not something you’re going to have as a beginner.
After all is said and done, the small drone is useful for practicing orientation AFTER you’ve got the hang of flying a proper drone outdoors in a safe environment.
Why we don’t think practicing with simulators is useful.
Simulators are a great safe way to practice flying fixed wing aircraft and we’d strongly recommend doing that but drones are different, much different.
A decent proper drone like a DJI Spark, DJI Mavic, DJI Phantom, etc all have GPS technology, accelerometers, gyroscopes, barometers, compasses, etc.
These are the components that allow you to hover in a stable condition. You could literally take off, let go of the remote and watch it hover in one place until the battery runs low, at which point it will land. It couldn’t be easier, simpler or safer.
The problem comes when the operator tries to fly in an unsafe environment and has no experience or skill, which comes with time.
Our top tips for making your first flight a safe flight.
1. Update to the latest firmware (this is important as it irons out any known bugs/issues).
2. Calbrate the IMU (gyroscope, accelerometer, barometer). Do this on a completely level surface. If you calibrate on an unlevel surface they aircraft will think it’s level when it’s at an angle and this will effect it’s flight characteristics. New calibration methods now eliminate this but better to be safe than sorry.
3. Fully charge your batteries as close to your flight time as possible. Don’t fly on partially charged battery, even if you’ve flown in the morning and want to fly again in the afternoon. The battery could report a higher capacity than it has in real life.
4. Always turn on the remote control on before the aircraft and turn the aircraft off before the remote control. If your aircraft latches on to another signal, other than your remote, it can create a control signal, which is bad!
5. NEVER power on your aircraft with propellers attached indoors, or somewhere that could be dangerous if they accidentally powered up. The only time you need propellers fitted is before you launch your drone.
6. Make sure your first half a dozen flights are in a safe environment. Find a big space (a field), stand in the middle, find a suitable take-off point and take it slowly). Avoid flying near trees, fences, people, animals, buildings or vehicles. If there is nothing to crash into, you won’t crash into anything. If you decide to take your first flight in your front room (it’s happened) or in your back garded, expect to crash.
7. ALWAYS face your aircraft away from you on take-off and landing. If you are pointing in any other direction, your control inputs will not be correct. Ie, if your aircraft is facing you, left will be right, right will be left, forwards will be backwards, etc, etc. You do not want your brain to have to compute this while making a landing or taking off. One wrong move and you could end up in trouble.
8. Practice flying with one stick at a time. After take-off, take it upto about 10 meters, let it hover, get a feel for the stability when you let go of the sticks. Move left slowly, move right slowly, forwards, backwards, up, down. All one stick at a time.
9. Don’t fly too high or too far away, keep it in line of sight so that you can easily tell which way the aircraft is pointing. You’ll find this easier to return to your take-off position if you know which direction to fly.
10. Read the manual. Watch online videos. Join a Facebook group and ask questions. Read the manual again. Have fun and read the CAA Drone Code if you are in the UK.