Flying drones has become an increasingly popular hobby over the past several years. Whether you're interested in using a drone for photography, videography, racing, or the sheer joy of flying, learning how to fly a drone can be daunting.
There are many professional models with high-dollar price tags and complex transmitters on the market, but a beginner's best bet is to choose from one of the many inexpensive quadcopter-style drone models that are available now. These more basic drones will make it easier to learn how to fly a drone, and using one will reduce stress. They are much cheaper to replace or repair after crashes, damage, or ordinary wear and tear.
This article will take you through everything a beginner will need to know to learn how to fly a drone. Anyone who wants to get into the hobby of flying drones will benefit from mastering these beginner skills.
Before You Fly
There are several things to know and grasp before you start practicing flying your drone. If you are a beginner learning how to fly a drone, you should pick out an affordable quadcopter model and get to know that specific drone's controls and features. Then, choose an appropriate area for practicing, make time to practice your flying skills, and be patient through the process. Few people learn how to fly a drone well in one session.
Pick Out a Drone
Beginners should look for a quadcopter-style drone model, as these are the easiest to learn how to control. Quadcopters generally have just the most basic controls needed for a drone. Beginners should strive to master the quadcopter controls before moving on to different modes and models in order to avoid future accidents with more expensive models. These more basic quadcopters are less expensive than many alternatives, and the most practical choice for the process of learning how to fly a drone.
Get to Know Your Drone
While many basic control functions will be identical from drone to drone, your specific model will have some unique settings and capabilities that you will want to take the time to learn and understand. One important factor you will want to have memorized is your drone's battery life. This will influence whether you will need extra batteries on for your practice sessions.
Another factor you will want to look into is your drone's camera functions. If your model has a camera, you'll want to know how to use it and control it. If you can use it while flying, it will be helpful and fun to see what your drone's view is while in flight. Getting to know your drone mostly means getting comfortable with your transmitter and gaining a feel for the physical dimensions and moves of the quadcopter itself.
Choose a Practice Area
Another very important decision you must make before flying is where you will be practicing your skills. Whether you will fly outdoors or indoors makes a big difference. First, it can be tough to find an indoor space that is suitable for flying, especially while learning how to fly a drone. This will need to be a large room with a high ceiling. If this type of space is available to you, this may be the perfect place to learn how to fly. Flying indoors also eliminates issues with inclement weather, of course.
For many people, flying outside is the only viable option. Before flying outside, you will want to research any applicable laws, rules, and ordinances in your area that may affect where and how you can fly. You will want to choose an outdoor space that is not highly populated or frequented, and an area with limited tree coverage will reduce the risk of losing your drone in a crash.
Make Time to Practice
One of the most important things you will need to do before you get into flying is making the time to practice. Learning how to fly a drone is a brand new skill. In order to master this skill, you will need to have patience and take adequate time to do so. With patience and diligent practice, you will be able to skillfully fly your quadcopter.
How a Drone Works
Before you start trying to work with your transmitter, it is helpful to understand the basic anatomy of this controller device and how it works. While each drone transmitter may have different grips and auxiliary buttons, almost every transmitter will rely on a left stick and right stick for its major drone control functions. Moving the left and right stick up, down, left and right will result in the quadcopter moving different ways.
The control sticks and their different functions have technical names that will be helpful to learn. Mastering these basic functions and terms will allow you to get comfortable with the basic setup, and more easily learn how to fly other, more complex drones later on.
When you move the left stick to the left or right, you are using the yaw function. The yaw rotates the drone in a specific direction. For example, moving the yaw to the right or left will rotate the drone clockwise or counterclockwise. Being able to control the quadcopter's positioning is a critical skill to master in maneuvering your drone.
The throttle is typically engaged by moving the left stick up and down. Employing the throttle will change the altitude at which the quadcopter is hovering. For example, using throttle by moving the left stick up will cause the drone to hover higher into the air. The throttle function will not make the drone move anywhere along the X-axis. It is helpful to remember that the left-side stick will not move the drone along the x-axis at all. Instead, they only change the positioning of the drone and the height at which it hovers.
You engage the roll function when you move the right-side stick to the left or right. For example, moving the right stick to the right will cause the drone to move to the right. The roll function will not affect the altitude at drone hovers, but only its movement along the X-axis.
Manipulating the pitch allows your drone to move forward and backward. For example, moving the right stick up will cause the drone to be propelled forward and moving the right stick down will cause the drone to move backward. Like the roll function, the pitch function does not change the drone's hovering altitude.
How to Fly a Drone (for Beginners)
In a few steps, we will describe how to fly a drone step by step. Before you jump into flying your drone, though, remember that it is important to read your specific drone's instruction manual and charge the batteries fully. In addition, make sure that the area you intend to fly is suitable for flying, that your drone is ready to fly, and that you are in compliance with any applicable rules or regulations.
1. Pushing the Throttle Down
Before you turn on your transmitter, push your throttle (left stick) all the way down. Then turn the transmitter on. Once you have completed those first two steps, you can connect your drone to its battery source. It is important to follow this sequence and go through it in order before every flying session.
2. Takeoff and Landing
Once the drone is on, move the left stick upward, using the throttle, to take off. Moving the throttle upward will cause the drone to rise in altitude. You will take off and land by moving the left stick up and down. One way to practice safe, accurate landing is by trying to land in the exact same spot the quadcopter took off from numerous times.
3. Take Off and Hovering
Next, you will want to have the drone take off and hover in one location. To do so, you will move the throttle upward and try to keep the quadcopter in place a few feet above its takeoff point. Wind or other factors may cause the drone to sway backward or forward, left or right. Use the right stick's roll and pitch functions to compensate for these factors and keep your drone hovering in place.
Once you become comfortable with taking off using the throttle and hovering in place, you should practice rotating the drone by manipulating the yaw. Using the yaw left or right will rotate the drone counterclockwise or clockwise, respectively. You will need to be able to rotate your drone in order to move it in the direction you want to go. Every drone has a front point or head. The front or head is the point of reference for all rotation; that is, it's the point from which the drone will move left, right, forward, or backward whenever you use the pitch and roll functions.
5. Get Comfortable with the Controls
Once you have mastered rotating your drone, you will be able to put the drone in the position to move in every direction. One the drone is rotating above its takeoff point, you can use the roll and pitch functions to move it right, left, backward and forward. Practice moving the drone in different directions along this X-axis. Once you are comfortable with these movements, incorporate the throttle and combine the numerous different movements. It can be helpful to picture imaginary paths you are aiming for the drone to move through.
More Helpful Tips for Learning How to Fly a Drone
Bring a Friend
If possible, it is helpful to have an extra set of eyes on your drone while flying. Not only is this hobby more fun with friends, it is easier and safer to practice too. Having another pair of eyes on the drone throughout flight can help spot issues with your controls. In addition, having another person there will reduce the chances of losing your drone.
Form a Mental Image
Getting comfortable with your drone's controls can be challenging. It can be helpful to picture yourself in the position of the drone as if you are controlling the drone from its cockpit. Doing so can make the movements feel more natural and intuitive.
Bring a Landing Pad
If you intend to fly outside, it can be especially helpful to bring your own landing pad with you. Your landing pad can be anything from a strip of carpet or piece of wood to a store-bought landing pad. Having one on hand can make taking off and landing safer and easier because taking off or landing in grass, snow, mud or dirt can be difficult and unsafe for your drone. Using a landing pad eliminates contact with materials that can compromise your device. A landing pad is also helpful for practicing accurate landings.
Know Your Transmission Range
Attempting to fly your drone outside of its set transmission range can result in accidents or a lost quadcopter. Be sure to note the maximum transmission distance for your drone model. Some beginner models may have maximum control distances as short as 30 meters. Developing a good sense for how far away your drone is from its controller will help you avoid flying out of range.
Bring Spare Batteries
Most quadcopter models have removable batteries that can be recharged for multiple uses. One set of fully charged batteries, however, can last as brief an interval as ten minutes, and battery life is sometimes even shorter in less expensive drones. To avoid having to cut flight practice short, purchase extra batteries and get in the habit of bringing a few extra sets to your practice area.
Be Weary of Weather
If, like most flyers, you'll practice flying outside, it is important to be aware of the weather conditions you will face. Be sure to look up the forecast for any day you plan to fly. It is not advisable to practice flying in rainy, snowy or very windy weather. Pick a bright and clear day for the easiest and safest flying conditions.
Today, virtually everyone can get into the hobby of drone flying. With so many inexpensive beginner models on the market, now is the perfect time to pick up the hobby. Learning how to fly a drone can lend itself to a number of different activities, and the ability to control one is a useful skill to have. While diving into the world of drone flying can be daunting, anyone can become adept at it with preparation, practice, and patience. If you have goals such as racing drones, expanding your photography and videography portfolio, or just picking up a popular new hobby, our advice should have you flying in no time.