Home » Tutorials » Ultimate Beginners Guide to Flying Drones, Start Flying Today!

Ultimate Beginners Guide to Flying Drones, Start Flying Today!

beginners-guide-to-fly-a-drone
Editor’s note:

drone ground school

Looking for some serious help in becoming a better quadcopter pilot? We recommend Drone Pilot Ground School Check It Out! An at-home drone ground school training course for sUAS pilots looking to pass the FAA Aeronautical Knowledge test and to become certified drone pilots.

**Update – Get $50.00 OFF Drone Pilot Ground School when you sign up by clicking the link above!**

Notes On Drone Pilot Ground School

I personally know Alan over at UAVcoach.com and he is definitely a stand up guy and knows his stuff. He has put together an excellent course here so take advantage of it!

As restrictions have been changing every few months, and federal rules and regulations are becoming a highly unavoidable issue, an above average pilot school is recommended for those newly getting into the camera drone hobby. Learning how to navigate the drone itself is one thing, but the last thing you want is to not know the exact fly zones or other protocol in your area and incur a fine or other trouble. Drone Pilot Ground School is an excellent at-home training course for UAS pilots that want to pass the FAA Aeronautics Test, and become certified in your area.

This is a very solid and easy-to-understand approach to not just operating the drone, but understanding the weather elements that affect you while piloting, and the National Airspace System. Drone laws and regulations, operating rules, and the remote pilot certificate and waivers are the first components of this coursework: these are some of the issues that will be updated frequently and constantly changing.

An in-depth look at the ways in which weather affects all small aircraft and micrometeorology is also here in the content, so you as the pilot can fully understand issues regarding wind, and how the changing conditions can alter your flight. Another one of the most important subjects taught here is knowing FAA airspace classes: this is some of the real meat and potatoes and solid information that will keep you alert and up to national and local standards regarding where you operate.

Airport operations, radio communication procedures, as well as loading and performance are all looked at in-depth as you glean over Drone Pilot School material, which also goes over emergency operations preparedness. After this course, you will be able to deal with payload and gimbals, have vast knowledge of official regulations, and even touch on expert-level topics such as Physiology.

Following in this article is some information about learning to fly for those of you out there that are not needing professional certifications. It can be fun to just take the drone out to a park or open space, and enjoy the hobby of flying, and some don’t feel a need to bypass the beginner level. We’ll take a look at the best quadcopters to purchase for beginners, the basics of maneuvering around in the air, and the different flight modes you’ll encounter on your brand new drone.

Learn To Fly Drones

by Oscar Liang

There are probably more newbies out there anxiously looking for guidance, tips and actionable hints to help them enjoy this amazing hobby safely than ever before in history. That is due to the fact that last Christmas was the first year when one of top stocking stuffing choices was drones.

It makes sense after all, you have bought the new iPhone last year, the new iPad the year before, you ran out of ideas and your beloved spouse is a technophile. You can not go back to a scarf or socks and the media is blasting drones, drones, drones. Of course you will buy a multicopter. And that is a good choice as long as the on receiving it handles it in a safe and liable manner.  

So I feel that instead of mocking newbies (or “noobs” as some like to call them), we should help them as much as we can. After all we must also remember the first day we handled a transmitter and flew for the first time. We have not been confident at all and had to make mistakes in order to learn to fly drones. Anyone denying that is lying. Probably to himself also. Nobody is born with an inherent knowledge of flying copters.

I was extremely surprised by the mockery in the comments to the video of a poor newbie that we posted the other day who almost sent his Phantom 2 into the pond on the first day he flew it (the battery depleted). These more experienced RC “pros” laughed at him, called him names and clearly had no sympathy for him. I totally feel that this is wrong. If you have done RC flying for 10-15 years, chances are that the next generation will be much better at using this technology than you.

So instead of being boastful, I feel that we should help newbies to gain enough confidence and experience to fly safe enough to enjoy the hobby. After all it is in our interest also because that way they pause less risk to the hobby getting banned entirely and if they are happy drone pilots, they will inspire others to fly as well.

So here is a great initial guide from Oscar geared at newbies wanting to learn to fly drones, multicopters:

New to Quadcopters, Where to Begin?

This guide is intended to help quadcopter beginners get started and learn to fly quadcopters and other multirotors. Multicopter flying is fun and it’s a relatively new and emerging hobby. There isn’t much information for people when they start out, so very often they just pick up the radio controller and start to fly around without knowing anything. It’s important to know that quadcopters are pretty powerful machines with fast rotating propellers, you can easily break or damage what it crashes into. To minimize the risk it’s important that you follow the rules, and avoid flying over or near people and property, or any restricted area without permission.

Best First Quadcopter for Beginners

It’s always a good idea to get a cheap, robust “ready to fly” mini quad to start with. It’s also a good choice for presents and gifts for someone who wants to get into this hobby. They are usually under $50, so it’s easier to deal with if you crash, than having a $500 quad. Also they are a lot smaller and lighter, it causes a lot less damage to people or objects.

Although there are expensive and advanced flight controllers and copters that offer amazing GPS stability and assisted flying modes, you still need to be a good pilot to handle all sorts of situations. I don’t remember how many times I have seen someone posting a request online looking for a missing “fly-away” Phantom, or a picture of their wrecked costly quadcopter after maiden flight. I bet a high percentage of these incidents were due to inexperienced pilots. It might save you money to go straight to the quadcopter or setup you want, but learning on smaller, more crash-resistant nano quads benefit you in the long run.

Looking to protect your drone from a flyaway? Check out our recent post on uav tracking!

Radio Transmitter Control Explained

If you have ever played games with game console, the Radio Transmitter is very similar. Here is a diagram of the controller, showing what each control does to the quadcopter.

learn-to-fly-drones

You have two main sticks for the throttle and direction control, and you will have some optional switches as well (aka AUX switches), which are often used for switching between flying modes, turning on/off LEDs, etc.

Throttle
Makes the quad ascend (climb) or descend (come down).

Yaw
Rotates the quadcopter clockwise or counter-clockwise.

Roll
Tilts the quadcopter left or right.

Pitch
Tilts the quadcopter forward or backward.

These controls are also referred to aileron (roll), elevator (pitch) and rudder (yaw).

 

Quadcopter Flight Modes

There are many different flight modes (stabilization modes) for a quadcopters, depending on the kind of quadcopter or flight controller. The most common flight modes being rate mode (aka manual mode or acro mode in KK2 boards), Self-level mode (aka horizon mode in multiwii, Naze32), Attitude modeGPS hold (aka Loiter mode) and so on.

Each flight mode is designed for different flying purposes, and might use different sensors and electronics modules. For example for the self-level mode, it uses the Gyro sensor and accelerometer, and the copter will always try to balance itself when you are hovering. But manual mode only uses Gyro, and the copter doesn’t level itself. Once you tilt it, it just keeps going that direction until you manually correct the angle, thus the name “manual mode”. Self-level mode is good but it’s not perfect, you will still find the quadcopter drifting around. Also it tends to wobble and vibrate a bit because of the the fact that it’s constantly trying to balance itself. Therefore many FPV’ers including myself prefer to fly in rate mode, and the result is a lot more smoother, and it becomes fairly easy to control too once you get used to it.

However I still recommend new people to try self-level mode first, to build up experience and confidence. Manual mode can be very hard to control for someone just beginning to fly. Most cheap nano quads come with self-level mode, some even have the optional rate mode available.

How to Fly Quadcopters and Rules

Here we begin talking about how to actually fly the quadcopter. First, here are some safety rules.

  • Pick a nice day with no wind.
  • Go to a large open field with no obstacles such as buildings or power lines around.
  • Keep distractions at a minimum, and switch off your phone.
  • Make sure you don’t fly near people or properties.

Now it’s time to practice your skills. Taking off and climb a couple of meters, hovering, flying from point A to point B, and landing. Take it slowly.

Wind Speed

This is probably the first thing you need to find out before your flights, if you are flying outdoors. I personally would not fly if the wind is stronger than 15mph. It’s flyable, but the the quad will be a bit wobbly and the video footage will be a bit shaky.

Before I understand how important this is, I flew my 450 size tricopter in gusty wind (it must have been 25mph – 30mph) and it didn’t end too well. It was totally uncontrollable, eventually it was pushed away by the wind and crashed pretty badly. So you need to know the limits of wind speed your quadcopter can handle and don’t risk it flying in powerful wind.

Practice Hovering

Hovering is actually harder than it seems, especially when you are flying FPV through a monitor or FPV goggle. Mastering hovering does not only allow you to have better control over your aircraft, but also allows you to shoot better aerial videos and pictures.

Cut Throttle

When you are flying forward fast, and you are about to crash intro a tree, what would you do? If you can escape by turning left or right, a wise option would be turning off your throttle. By stopping throttle, you also stop the fast rotating propellers as well. This reduces the chance of breaking your props, motors and further damages to your quadcopter. Some nano quads come with prop guards which are also good features to consider.

jj600-quadcopter-feature
Unfortunately crashes are inevitable, even for the experts and pros. The best you can do is to learn how to minimize the breakage.

I hope this short article gave you some basic ideas about quadcopters, and how to fly one. There is indeed too much information to cover in just one article so do check out my other pages as well. Have fun and fly safely.

We recommend Drone Pilot Ground School Check It Out! An at-home drone ground school training course for sUAS pilots looking to pass the FAA Aeronautical Knowledge test and to become certified drone pilots.

Check out our new best drones for Christmas 2016 article.

Summary
Quadcopter Beginner's Guide | Learn to Fly Drones
Article Name
Quadcopter Beginner's Guide | Learn to Fly Drones
Description
This guide is intended to help quadcopter beginners get started and learn to fly drones and other multirotors.
Author

7 comments

  1. i need the contact information for uavcoach.

    thanks

  2. Brilliant article Oscar Liang! Good onya for encouraging support to noobs. Everyone’s gotta start from somewhere and the so-called experienced people need to be kind instead of be cocky to newbies.

  3. When you take off your drone resist the urge to immediately launch your drone straight up super fast. I know I did. Research has shown that doing that scares nearby animals much more than gradually moving up while moving horizontally. Swooping down and skyrocketing up are not good.
    orderofthehippogriff.wordpress.com has more information on drone-animal relationships.

  4. Thanks Oscar. this has really helped me get to grips with the different concepts around flying a quadcopter which I have found to be quite unintuitive (I think due to a lot of time playing computer games which work quite differently)

    One question I had though is if you think it is best to learn to fly FPV in a self leveling mode and then to progress to rate mode or if you think you should jump straight in?
    Also, do you think it is worth practising with a simul;ator and does it translate to real world flying?

    Thanks

  5. phil..
    I have learned loads about 3d flying with helis.using simulators. I use a great planes which uses a real radio wired to computer via sub.
    i have used it for drones..it offers fpv and ground view
    I personally fond sims a great learning and keeping fresh tool.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*