Are you looking to take your drone flying skills to the next level? You've come to the right place. Here are 20 tricks and tips to improve.
Keyword(s): drone flying
Drone flying continues to enthrall and excite consumers. Whether they want to make videos of landscapes and small flights or streak across the sky doing stunts and small-scale daredevil tricks, drones have a market.
The problem with learning to improve your drone flying comes from the relative newness of drones. As regulations increase for flying drones, it is important to be a master at the controls.
Being able to fly well allows a user to get the most out of their drone. It also helps to protect their investment. Nobody wants to spend a lot of money customizing a drone only to smash it up in a single flight.
Fortunately, there are over 100 years of manned flight history to inform some tips for drone flight. Following some of the same principles, anyone can learn to pilot well.
Drone Flying Like an Ace
Pilots come from all kinds of end purposes and budgets. Some will be running high-end, pre-built rigs with a lot of upgrades. Others might go the DIY route and have something with a personal touch.
No matter the origin of the drone, learning to fly a drone gives the operator the power to achieve their goals and to keep their drone intact.
These tips can help, but operators should always make a point of knowing the latest flight regulations and do their best to stay within posted limits for drone flying zones.
1. Start Small
This doesn't mean the size of the drone. This is about the building blocks of skill. It is recommended that operators start with one technique and master that before moving on to the next.
Skill combinations can make for better drone flying, but getting to a point where skills can be combined requires intimate knowledge of the fundamentals. Modern pilots of manned aircraft often have hundreds of simulator hours before they even get into the cockpit. Those small steps of control and understanding the behavior of the craft contribute to final flight skills.
2. Point of Interest
Flying around a single point of interest provides several benefits. First, it gives an incentive to learn maneuvering to keep within view of the object. Second, without a point of reference, some maneuvers just get lost.
Drone flying with a point of interest provides valuable feedback to the operator. Something like a flagpole can also provide a sense of the competing winds at different altitudes which can help to train an operator to compensate for different flight conditions.
3. Throttle Control
A drone behaves differently at different speeds. Partially, this is related to the prevailing winds and resistance, but it also has to do with the reaction time of the operator.
An operator needs to know how different speeds impact maneuverability and must learn to practice and perform maneuvers at different flat speeds to better control a drone.
Drone flying done without a concept of the speed will also create more dangerous conditions when interacting with other objects. Just like an auto driver needs to understand stopping distance between other vehicles.
4. Understanding Attitude
Even though most quadcopters function without any specific 'front' once other equipment gets added drone attitude becomes a thing. While drone flying allows for precise control through a 3D space without the engines forcing a forward path, the equipment mounted on a drone will create drag and add mass.
Operators working with heavier or less aerodynamic mounted equipment need to understand what flying in any given direction will be like. Practicing different attitude maneuvers provides this knowledge.
Different flight controllers interact differently when it comes to equipment load and flight compensation. So knowing what flight controller change-ups will do may be important for an operator utilizing multiple drones for different tasks.
5. Pitch, Roll, and Yaw
One of the hardest components to understand for operators, pitch, roll, and yaw control the movement of an aircraft.
A pilot, coming from an understanding of driving a car, will not have a firm grasp of these concepts. Whereas a car only turns and accelerates, an aircraft exists in 3 dimensions.
Different paths to the same end become a benefit of these three control mechanisms. An operator may complete a turn by controlling only the roll and yaw without involving pitch at all.
An operator that learns the nuance of each of the three controls will have better options for compensating for environmental conditions and lode of the craft when drone flying. Studying these elements provides a necessary understanding of the basis for maneuverability.
6. Learn by Watching
Nothing wrong with some learning by watching. Not only does studying the actions of other operators provide insight into new techniques, but it reinforces basic principles.
One thing to keep in mind when watching others, they will be doing things in their own way. That way may be better now, after hours of practice, but another way may be just as effective after the same practice.
Learning by watching involves knowing what to pick up and modify, not just monkey see monkey do.
7. FPV Flying
Changing perspective changes the mindset needed to operate successfully. An operator that can fly from the ground will not be as effective flying looking through the lens.
Learn to fly via a monitor and camera. This provides not only the benefit of controlling a rig through tighter conditions where line-of-sight may be interrupted, but it provides the operator with a better view of points of interest.
Techniques practiced between outside and first-person view expand skills.
8. Start Light
This tip concerns the actual size of a rig. Smaller rigs and larger rigs will behave differently from external forces and internal thrust. A lighter drone can accelerate and decelerate faster than a larger rig which will require more engine power to accomplish the same maneuvers.
An operator will also benefit from making critical mistakes with a smaller drone. Drone flying doesn't need to be expensive, but it can be when limited experience breaks expensive gear. A smaller drone can take more falls without breaking (as much) because the lower mass reduces the overall impact.
9. Put in the Stick Time
Nothing stands in for practice. The more time spent going through the controls and practicing the better. Stick time doesn't reflect flight time, this is about knowing the controls. Simulators work well for increasing stick time but are not a total substitute.
10. Landing Targets
A popular technique for manned and unmanned flight alike, landing targets requires taking off from one location and landing on another. Rinse and repeat.
The targets, much like the point of interest before, provide concrete reference points to aid in skill increases. An operator charts how close they get to the center of each target and can increase speed and precision.
This also provides a strong reference for what skills changes are necessary when swapping to a new rig. going through the same motions with several different drones shows the differences in maneuverability.
11. Know Your Drone
Pushing a drone to the limits benefits an operator in knowing reactions and stresses. Alternatively, knowing the least amount of thrust that will keep a rig in the air provides a baseline.
An operator should know how to handle drone flying in the best and worst conditions. An operator can learn to compensate for a stalled rotor, a sudden shift in weight, or other issues.
Direct knowledge of the specs of parts and components, overall load displacement, and total battery life to flight time all provide necessary information for improving flying.
Hovering isn't just idling. Hovering in a specific spot at a specific altitude requires a lot of fine adjustments. This helps an operator learn to maintain a smooth and even flight under a variety of conditions.
Hovering also aids in videoing and other recreational drone flying activities.
After the basics and the control mechanisms are learned, maneuvering needs shapes.
Flying in a tight square repeatedly gives vital practice in making considered motions around an object. Square flight also helps to provide maximum space between a drone flying and other traffic.
Circles function much the same as squares but can be harder to perform. Circles can provide tighter control around objects, but also tend to be looser in terms of precision.
Practicing both of these shapes gives better relationship understanding for an operator. Controlling a drone flying and swapping between the two gives an operator better reactions. Much like a martial arts practice, combining two elements into a third benefits from the mastery of the previous two.
15. Random Facing
Here, an operator sets up the drone with an unknown facing. FPV turned off. Practicing random facing helps to regain control from errors.
These errors may be operator originated or may come from an impact with another object. The goal of random facing training is to regain control and understand what attitude a rig favors.
Different altitudes will have different air pressures which can affect flight. An operator will also want to be able to visually gauge an altitude of the drone flying in relation to buildings or trees.
With set flight ceilings and floors for drones being regulated, knowing if a drone falls within the parameters is essential for obeying regulations. However, the skill also needs to be practiced to understand landing times and overall flight planning.
17. Bank Turns
Banked turns represent one of the most difficult skills for an operator. Drone flying can be done level and smooth but doesn't have to be. When doing acrobatic maneuvers for fun or in drone racing, a bank turn may be needed.
Banked turns differ from a flat turn because the drone may if handled improperly, turn to far and roll over. A banked turn provides a much faster turn at speed but can lead to problems if done poorly.
18. Customize Controls
Operators should know their control stick as well. This may involve changing the placement of controls to fit their style. The controller is every bit as much a part of drone flying as the rig. An operator who forgets to know and take care of their control stick will not have the precision they need.
Changing up controls can also involve improving the chips, monitor, and range. The best choice for an operator works along the same lines as choosing a drone, start small and build up to what you need for your objectives.
19. Work Without a GPS
Keeping a drone in-sight helps to maintain control. Sometimes working around other drones in a popular area can get a bit difficult, that is when experienced operators work from their monitor and camera. Learning to work without these tracking devices when in a busy area aids in quick maneuvering and spatial awareness.
Nobody wants to get lost in the pack, but relying overly much on the tracking technology deters gaining the skill to keep other factors such as velocity and orientation when working with acrobatic maneuvers or competitive racing.
20. Avoid Birds
Finally, avoid flying a drone near or around birds. This isn't always easy, as many birds will openly attack drones. The amount of damage and problems coming from birds has prompted action and made national news.
The best way to avoid birds for an operator comes from flying without specific electronics and lights on the drone which seems to attract birds.
Operators flying in erratic patterns and with obviously mechanical motions seem to deter birds. Birds will attack something that seems like prey, they will avoid unknown objects that seem dangerous. Essentially, an operator needs to know when to hide and when to front to keep damage to a rig and to a bird at a minimum.
Don't approach or fly near birds whenever possible, and when it comes to the drone taking a hit, or the bird, err for the drone.
Stay Above the Rest!
Drone flying may seem like a hobby to some, but those with the insight can see the horizon. The future of drones carries a lot of weight. Every six months it seems new utilizations find their way to the mainstream.
Stay up on all of the news with drones at our blog. Get excited about the next thing to happen and make ready for another 100 years of flight.