We all have great ambitions when we buy our first drones. We can visualize the perfect flight with our new quadcopter gliding effortlessly through the sky. We consider all the great shots we can take from this new vantage point. But, it is far to easy to get ahead of ourselves. You may have the means to get airborne, but you also need plenty of skill and drone pilot training to do so in style.
It can take hours of study and careful drone pilot training to get to grips with these machines. They are intricate pieces of technology that demand respect. Therefore, you need to master some of the basics of flight before you start showing off.
Ideally, you need to understand the following before you set off on any grand adventure.
- The basic specifications and jargon associated with your machine
- The fundamental controls for flight
- Safety considerations and checklists that are essential before any flight
- Some of the most important flight patterns
Getting To Know Your Drone And Controller
The first thing that you need to do is get to know the quadcopter and the controller.
The more that you understand the machinery and its capabilities, the easier it is to control. This means that you need to start off with a little theory and study with your drone pilot training. The two sticks have different functions. It is important that you get a feel for how they work, as well as the sensitivity of the controls.
Eventually, you will have to use them simultaneously for controlled, steady flight. So, you really do need to make sure you take small steps and understand each separate element. With time, you can develop some form of muscle memory – a little like using a video game controller on a favorite game.
- Roll- Push the right stick on the transmitter in either direction. Pushing the stick creates a rolling motion that directs the drone in the chosen direction.
- Pitch- Press on the right stick in a forward or backward motion to tilt the drone in the required direction. This then allows for movement in that chosen direction
- Yaw- Push on the left stick, either way, to rotate the drone in the required direction. This is important when altering a flight path while up in the air.
- Throttle- Press the left stick either forward or backward to increase or decrease the height of the drone. This is one of the first elements to master because it is essential for take-off.
From there you can develop your understanding of the controls and other elements of the craft and its transmitter.
The manual for your drone, as well as some online training guides, will talk about the trim. These are the buttons on the transmitter that allow with smaller adjustments to the roll, pitch, throttle, and yaw. It is also important to know that some refer to the left stick as the rudder and the right stick as the aileron or elevator.
There are also some common abbreviations, such as ESC for Electric Speed Controls and FPV for the first-person view. Study the glossaries and manuals of your equipment for a better idea of the technical jargon. Putting this all into practice.
Once you have mastered the language and the theory element of the flight controls, it is time to use the controls. This doesn’t mean that you can launch your new drone up to great heights and hope for the best. Again, it is all about those small steps.
Progress may seem slow here, but you need to celebrate every small victory. Every little element of progression in your flight training is a sign of your increased control and understanding of the machine. It also means that you aren’t so over-enthusiastic or over-confident to risk crashing the drone. Crashes can dent a pilots confidence as much as the frame of their drone.
There are four drone techniques to work on:
- Steady flight
There is no way to progress to complex maneuvers without mastering the basics of drone pilot training. These motions need to become second nature when operating a drone. Not only are they the basis for longer flight patterns, and essential for aerial photography, they can also help bring users out of danger. If there is a problem in the air or a malfunction with the drone, you need to be able to land safely. If the drone heads off course and you lose your bearings, you need to be able to level the craft and bring it into a steady flight path.
Taking off isn’t as easy as it first appears. You need to get used to the sensitivity of the controls and the actions of the propeller. There are two stages to lift off. First, you need to push on the throttle a little to set the propellers in motion. Then you can increase the pressure a little to bring it off the ground. Take time to play around with the movements and different heights. You will soon get a sense of how hard you have to push to achieve the height you want.
Once you are comfortable with the upward motion of take-off, and can smoothly bring the drone up to the required height, practice hovering. This requires some small adjustments with both the left and right stick depending on conditions. The first attempt probably won’t get too well. But, if you keep at it you will learn to keep the drone under control. Increase your personal goals with changes in the time spent hovering and the altitude.
What goes up must eventually come down, and your drone should do so with the same grace and ease as intake off. Not only does this protect the craft from damage, it shows that you know what you are doing. A good technique is to mark out two targets on the ground in your test area. The closer you get to the bulls-eye the better. Keep at it until you have a clean run of landings between both sites. Again, you can increase the difficulty as you progress.
From there, you need to ensure that you can keep the drone in a steady flight. After all, you want to be able to roam the skies with this machine and won’t get far by hovering. Practice traveling forwards and backward in a straight line for a specific distance. Do the same with the left and right controls. Build upon your times and heights in small increments. Try to successfully take-off, hover a foot above the ground and land. Once you can do this repeatedly, increase the altitude to eye level and work your way up. Celebrate each achievement, however small it may appear.
Developing Pre-flight Safety Checklists
One of the reasons for this slow and steady approach is that it is safer for all concerned. The last thing that you want is to place your friends and family at risk by showing off. You also want to set a good example to younger wannabe pilots in the household. This is where it helps to create some pre-flight safety checklists for your drone pilot training and beyond. Make sure that you follow these procedures to the letter every time to avoid incidents. They may seem a little long-winded, but that is for good reason.
The first step is to find a safe place to learn to fly.
Indoor flight is not recommended with these drones and other high-end quadcopters. You are sure to spend more time preventing crashes and saving possessions than learning anything about the flight. A secure outdoor space is the best option. Outdoor space means open ground, no power lines and no property to crash into. If it is your own land, there can be no complaints about your actions. Make sure everyone in the vicinity knows the basics on handling propellers and FAA rules.
Then you can run through a check on the site and weather conditions.
Make sure the weather conditions are perfect for a test flight. The first consideration here is the weather. Where possible, you need a calm, dry day. Rain can interfere with the electronics and cause safety concerns. Low cloud can cause visibility issues if you try and fly too high. Winds may push the UAV off course, especially with inexperienced pilots that struggle with steady flight. Visibility also means a good amount of daylight. Sunset flights are great for experienced videographers, but not first time pilots. If the weather is fine, check the conditions on the chosen site. Are there any people are animals that may be at risk? Clear the areas, establish your landing points and make sure everyone is in position.
Once the area is secure, inspect the drone.
Some people may do this before they set off for their flight. But, pre-flight checks are important because something may have occurred in transit. Make sure that there is no damage to the frame, motor or propellers that might cause problems in flight. Make sure to connect everything securely before take-off to prevent detachment in the air.
It is also important to make sure the registration number is on display, just in case there are any problems. Run through similar checks with the transmitter to make sure all the controls are operational and there is no damage. Check the battery levels and GPS status before calibrating the compass. Finally – if applicable – check the FPV screen.
Run Small Test Flights To Gain Confidence Handling The Drone
It helps to have a quick test of the controls in a small flight test before engaging in your plan. Checking that you are sure that the drone will hover and land correctly when the time comes. The last thing you want is to assume that the connections are sound, and then end up crashing the drone from high altitude. Test the flight controls and sensitivity on all motions. Also, listen to the noise of the drone in case there is some mechanical fault within.
With the basics set, you can then start to get a little more adventurous.
Once all of this drone pilot training is in place, and that muscle memory begins to sink in, you can then work on improving your skills and setting new targets with your flight. By this point, steady flight and precision landings should be easy enough. But, there is more to a skilled, smooth flight than a simple straight line.
You should also learn the following maneuvers:
- flying in a square
- flying in a circle
- flying at high altitudes
- figure 8s
- bank turns
Each maneuver above requires the steady, controlled flight exhibited above, but with a few extra tricks. Some are fairly straightforward in regard to the movement of the drone. For example, the square simply means flying forward, to the left, back and to the right.
The difficulty comes in keeping that equal distance on each side with a steady line. Otherwise, it is more of an oblong or trapezoid flight. Figure 8’s require careful, smooth control while keeping the drone facing the same way. Bank turns are a consistent circular turn with delicate changes in throttle and pitch.
As with the simple maneuvers before, you can increase the difficulty each time and mark your achievements. You can tighten the figure 8 shape, speed up the square and go as high as the FAA max height limit, and your eyesight, allow for.
By this point, you are no longer an amateur pilot in training.
Successful completion of these tricky figure 8 motions and high altitude flights are the pinnacle for novice flight. Those that master these maneuvers have the dexterity and skill to handle any flight path ahead of them. But, new pilots can’t get cocky at this point.
It is always helpful to run through the basic drone pilot training to stop yourself from getting rusty. You also cannot forget all the safety precautions. Use these pilot training tips wisely as you continue to master your new drone. As you build on your skills and learn new ones, you can really make the most of your new drone.