When we first learn how to fly a drone, we are overwhelmed by information. And when we wrap our hands around that controller for the first time, adrenalin is added to the mix.
Over time, we begin developing the required eye-hand coordination and start conditioning our muscle memory. Our nerves calm down while our pleasure and enjoyment start to climb.
While the journey to master your drone in flight seems to take forever, some techniques can speed up the process.
As with most things that we have mastered in our lives, it really helps develop good habits. Flying a drone is no different. This is why many drone experts recommend practicing simple drills and maneuvers.
Let’s review and discuss some drone flying techniques and drills that are perfect for beginners.
Methods of control
The key to starting out is to exert actions that you can control. You can add more actions as your skill level increases, and you can control them.
As you first lift-off, only your life stick should be used. Gradually engage the drone’s motors to start spinning its propellers by gently pushing the left control stick forward.
When you continue pushing the left control stick slowly forward, you’ll develop a feel for your drone’s sensitivity – which is an important first step. Your drone will then lift off and start to gain altitude.
Lift the drone to about 3 feet and hover there. After you have stabilized your unit there, slowly lower your drone until it gently lands on the ground.
As a beginner, each of your drone outings should begin by repeating this lift-off drill three or four times until you are reasonably comfortable with the technique.
A controlled straight is when you fly your drone in a straight line. You start your control straight from the 3-foot hover position after completing a successful lift-off – as described above.
You will gently push your right control stick forward (watch out for any changes in altitude or pitch). Move your drone forward along a controlled path until you are ready to turn.
The control left stick is used to execute turns. Slowly apply pressure to that left control stick in either the left or right direction to begin your turn. A push to the left causes your drone to yaw left, while a push to the right creates a yaw right.
Continue performing these controlled straight patterns until you have completed a square. From this point, you can make your square larger, or you make another square flying in the opposite direction.
The overall goal is to make a perfect square every time. When you can do this on a fairly consistent basis, then you are getting the hang of it.
Circles and Figure 8s
When you’ve gotten to the point of cranking out nice squares, then you can try taking things up a notch. Learning to fly in circles and figure 8s are the perfect challenge for that.
Circles and figure 8s are a bit different from squares in terms of flying methods. For these, you’ll have to maintain light pressure on the left stick as you continue pushing forward on the right stick.
You must realize that the left stick does not require constant pressure; only slight yaw is needed every couple of seconds. The left control stick determines your circle’s size or radius, while the right control stick dictates how quickly you fly in the desired pattern.
You’ll notice that there are considerably more factors at work in flying circles and figure 8s than with squares. But keep practicing these patterns – you’ll eventually master them like you did the controlled straights.
Another important aspect of flying your drone is altitude control. Variations in height change the game considerably, so you’ll need to become mindful of your drone’s position relative to the ground.
Like the other techniques we have discussed up to now, controlling altitude requires some practice to master. The good news is that you can easily add this to your existing drills.
Whenever doing your squares, you can start slowly increasing your altitude after you turn each corner. As you start a new controlled straight, push the left stick forward to gain altitude.
Don’t release the altitude throttle when reaching the next corner. Instead, try using the left control stick to yaw into that corner. This way, you can gain height in a controlled manner.
Continuing doing squares like this until you reach a target altitude. After this, continue doing your squares, but decrease your altitude instead – until you reach your starting height again.
Like all skills, practice makes perfect. The more time you spend on these drills, the more skilled you’ll become at flying your new drone. You must keep doing them over and over.
We cannot overstress the importance of control. Always fly in a controlled manner. If you do this from the start, you will make a habit of maintaining control of your drone – and you will become an awesome drone pilot.
Another point to make here is that we recommend flying at low altitudes (3-10 feet) when starting. This will minimize the damage of crashes and other mishaps (and you will have them). Secondly, it’s easier to maintain a line of vision with your unit.
There will be times when you’ll get bored with some of these drills. That is both a good thing and a bad thing.
Good in the sense that it means you’re getting more skilled, bad in the sense that you might be tempted to do something risky. Know the difference between actions that only put you and your drone at risk, as opposed to actions that put others and the property of others at risk.
One of those risks might cost you a few hundred bucks, while the other risk might mean getting sued and losing several thousand bucks. So keep things in perspective.
When you’re bored, it’s time to mix up your routine a little. You can always find some drone buddies to fly around with – drone enthusiasts are great at teaching one another new techniques.