Everything you need to know about flying a drone - Part 3

25th October 2017
Lanna Cooper

In the earlier parts of this article, we discussed the flying basics of flying a drone, getting airborne, the controls, hovering, changing orientation and changing direction.

Find part 1 and part 2 here.

Flying patterns: The square
Once you know how to roll, pitch and yaw your drone, you can now learn a few basic flying patterns.

These are great for getting some great videos with your drone, or simply for having fun while becoming more familiar with your lovely quadcopter.

Before practicing the square, remember that you should always practice with slow, small control movements - never yank the sticks too hard, as this will cause your drone to change direction abruptly.

The square is basically an alternation of pitches and rolls - remember this as you do it, and you won’t get lost halfway through.

The first thing you need to do is to get your drone off the ground and keep it hovering. This should be pretty easy by now, if you’ve given it enough practice.

Now make sure your drone is facing away from you. To do so, yaw it accordingly by moving the left stick in the proper direction.

Slowly push the right stick forward and move your drone a few feet ahead. Then return the right stick to its initial position, and keep the drone hovering in place.

Now slowly move the right stick to the right, so that your drone will roll a few feet to the right. Remember to adjust the throttle so that your drone doesn’t lose too much altitude.

Now return the right stick to its initial position, and hover the drone.

Slowly move the right stick backwards, so that your drone will pitch towards you. Simultaneously, adjust the throttle using the left stick. Bring your drone a few feet back and return the right stick to its initial position.

All you have to do now is roll the drone to its starting position. To do so, simply push the right stick to the left, until your drone reaches the initial position. Move the right stick back, and keep the drone hovering. Again, remember to keep adjusting the left stick as necessary.

If you’ve done everything right, you’ve just completed your first square - congratulations!

Flying patterns 2: The circle
The second flight patterns will move your drone in a circle while facing you.

Of course, there are some more advanced circular patterns in which the drone will change its orientation while circling, but those are pretty advanced.

The first thing you’ll need to do is get airborne and start hovering.

Once you’re in a stable position, decide whether you want to start circling to the right or to the left.

If you want to start circling to the right, slowly move the right stick in a north-east position - diagonally up and to the right. You’ll notice your drone beginning to circle to the right, by rolling to the right and pitching forwards simultaneously.

Once your drone has moved a couple of feet, you’ll want to start turning the right stick down towards the right. This will roll the quadcopter further to the right.

Finally, start turning the right stick towards the south-east, and then towards the initial position, until the quadcopter is right at the starting point. All the while, keep on adjusting the left stick to give your drone enough power to keep a stable altitude.

You can now practice circling to the left, by repeating the above procedures in the opposite direction.

Practice circling in both directions, until you’re comfortable doing it. Remember - slow and easy does it.

Flying at an angle
Before deciding you’re ready to fly a quadcopter continuously, you need to make sure you can do the basic direction and patterns we’ve just covered.

If, at any time, you’re unable to hover, roll, and pitch while maintaining altitude, then you’re not ready for continuous flight yet. You might want to give the basics a bit more practice.

Another thing you need to know is the range of your remote controller. You don’t want to allow your drone to leave that range, as it will just keep on flying in the last set direction, and you’ll just lose your copter.

It’s also important not to go more than 400ft in altitude. Manned aircrafts typically fly at 500ft or more, and you don’t want to interfere with them.

A basic rule of thumb is that you should always stay within direct line of sight of your drone. This way, you can avoid any crashes, and be in complete control of where your drone is headed.

Now that you know the basics, you’re ready to experiment with different frontal angles.

The first thing you need to do is get off the ground. Keep your done hovering at about five to ten feet above the ground, and slowly yaw it to an angle.

Now, you should know that all the directions we’ve discussed above are applicable to a drone that’s facing opposite you (you’re completely behind it). While yawing the drone, you’ll want to adjust them to control the drone as though you were behind it at all times.

This is where you’ll need most practice, as controlling a quadcopter while it’s facing at different angles takes a lot of mental gymnastics, especially in the earlier stages.

However, you’ll slowly begin to adjust to it. As a general guideline, know that a drone facing you will have the roll and pitch controls completely switched - yanking the right stick to the right with roll it to your left, and vice versa. Of course, the throttle and yaw stay the same.

After you’ve got your drone to hover, yaw it to a slight angle, and then slowly pitch it forwards and backwards a couple of times, just to get adjusted to the main controls. Remember to always adjust the throttle, to keep a safe altitude.

Once you’ve practiced pitching at an angle, it’s time to get started on the rolling. With the drone hovering at an angle, roll it a couple of times, and return it to the initial position. Repeat until you’re comfortable.

Practice square and circle flight patterns, and always return to the starting position.

Finally, adjust the angle a bit more, and practice the above routine again. Keep adjusting the angles until the drone is now facing you - make sure you don’t bump right into it.

You should now be ready for your first continuous flight.

Continous flight
Flying your drone continuously is your first serious goal as a drone enthusiast - if you can do it, you’ll be able to capture great videos, track different objects, and even take part in drone racing.

Before flying your drone continuously, make sure you know its range. Also, stay away from other people and objects, as you’re likely to crush into stuff, if you’re not completely familiarised with the controls.

It’s important to master flying at certain angles, since continuous drone flight means changes of direction, in order to stay within the remote control range.

If you’re still not comfortable with adjusting your drone’s direction at different angles, you might want to practice that a bit more before attempting your first continuous flight.

Once you think you’re ready, the first step is to get the drone off the ground, and keep it hovering at the desired altitude.

In the early stages, it’s best not to go too high - somewhere around 10ft should be enough. You don’t want to crash your drone from too high up.

Slowly push the right control stick forward, and then to the right or left. Your drone will move in that direction.

Adjust the yaw at will - this is especially important if you want to capture videos in different directions - and remember to keep your drone at a steady altitude by constantly controlling the left stick.

Once you’re comfortable flying your drone around, you can start changing its altitude. To fly it higher, simply push the left control stick further up, and lower it to bring the drone down.

Remember not to go more than 400ft up, if your drone allows that range - that’s where manned aircrafts fly, and you don’t want any unwanted collisions.

Once you’ve experimented with flying your drone in different directions, you’re pretty much ready for free practice. Always pay attention to your battery, and make sure you don’t go out of the recommended range.

If you’re looking for a good drone to start practicing as soon as possible, here are some of the few we own:
The Holy Stone HS170 Predator is a great drone to begin training on. It’s one of the most affordable models on the market, and the specs aren’t that bad, either – the range is about 45m, and the flying time is about seven minutes.

For the slightly more advanced, you can get the DBPOWER MJX X400W FPV Drone. It’s a headless model, just like the previous one, which means you don’t have to worry about all the angle adjusting we’ve discussed above, and it’s got a nice range of about 100m. The flying time is also a bit longer, peaking in at about nine minutes.

You could also go for a professional model such as the DJI Phantom 3 Professional Quadcopter. This beauty not only has a headless system and other stability features, it’s also got a powerful 4D video camera, more than 20 minutes of flying time, and generous range of up to 5km, in open outdoors. This is really a great model - and it also comes equipped with a learning guide for beginners.

Drone racing
If you want to test your drone flying skills even further, you can try drone racing - the flying machines may be small, but the thrill sure isn’t.

The first thing you’ll need is a racing drone. While typical drones usually reach a top speed of about 35mph, racing drones can go as fast as 50 - getting a specialised drone is essential in being competitive on the racing court (well, more like park - or desert).

You’ll then need a solid camera. Unlike typical drone flight, you won’t be in the direct line of sight of your drone at all times, so you’ll need to practice control your drone through the camera.

The FPV (First Person View) camera is extremely important, as it will need to be able to tilt up while your drone is flying forward.

Once you’ve got everything ready, you’ll need plenty of practice - flying at different speed, getting through, under, and over different types of obstacles, and getting accustomed to some of the more advanced flying techniques like nose dives and flips.

If you can’t afford air gates, you can use trees, lamp posts, and even park benches as practice obstacles. While doing so, make sure you keep everybody safe - it’s not a good idea to start your race practice on a Sunday afternoon, obviously.

Racing drones are typically a bit more expensive than usual quadcopters, but they’re well worth the money, if you’re into this sport.

The Eachine Racer 250 FPV Quadcopter Drone is a great choice for amateur drone racers. It’s got a decent flying time of about 12 minutes, the camera is fully adjustable, and it’s even got a nice HD night time function, to enjoy some great night-time flying.

The Babrit Dtrainer 2.4Ghz 4CH RC Quadcopter is a more affordable high speed drone, suitable for getting used to the mechanics of drone racing. It’s got a nice range of about 150m, and a flying time of about eight minutes, which should be plenty for some serious practice.

Drone flying is a great hobby to take up - not only is it great fun in itself, it’s also a good way to take some great photos, record videos, and explore places around you like you’ve never done before.

With this ultimate guide on how to fly a drone, you can now learn the basic pretty much all by yourself. Follow the instructions above and you should be flying your drone in no time.

While practicing drone flying can be lots of fun, remember that safety is very important - whether we’re talking about your safety, the physical integrity of those around you, or the safety of your drone.

Taking the necessary safety measures means enjoying your drone more, cheaper, and happier.

If you want to get a decent drone to start learning, go for one of the models we’ve recommended - they’re pretty popular on Amazon, and they’ve been tried by many satisfied customers.

Drone racing enthusiasts are in for a bit more practice - but they might just have a bit more fun, too.

Racing drones might not be suitable for complete beginners, though, as they’re not as stable as traditional models.

With the growing drone community, you can find drone enthusiasts around you easier than ever - get in touch with your local UVA group, take part in races, join events, compare and trade models - there’s plenty of great fun to be had if you’re into drone flying.

Source: Jen Reviews

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