Drone Flying Guide
In this guide, we are going to show you exactly how to fly your drone safely, and different techniques you can use to learn.
In the early days of having your new quadcopter, if you’re a first-time flyer, it’s normal to struggle a little, so don’t worry!
Whether you’re a first-time flyer or an experienced pro, our guide will help you to perfect your skills, and to ensure that you stay safe, and to ensure the safety of others around.
Drone technology is expanding at a rapid rate, as well as the complexity of the environment they are being used in. So naturally, the skills of the pilot must increase to work alongside that.
Our guide will take out any doubt, and should answer any questions you have about flying your drone. So before you take to the air, sit back, and enjoy!
To get started we’re going to take you through some of the keywords you may hear throughout this guide, just to ensure that you understand them before you go through and read.
- BVLoS (Beyond the Visual Line of Sight): This refers to drone flights that are being performed beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight. In most countries, this is not allowed or highly restricted without permission. The current UK rules state that drone operations must be carried out within normal visual line of sight – up to 400ft (122m) high and 500m in every direction.
- CAA/PfCO Training: This training course will gain you the skills, knowledge and experience you need to apply for your permission for commercial operations (PfCO). If you plan on using your drone for personal use/as a hobby a ‘drone license’ is not required. If it’s for-profit/or a business then you will need a ‘license’. Read more here.
- First Person View: Allows the pilot to see where they are flying through the drone’s camera.
- Propellers: These are what get the drone off the ground, and into the air. They spin in correlation to the pilot’s manual controls and depending on the intensity of the spin is what creates the intensity of the drone’s movement.
- Camera: Different drones come with different camera qualities depending on the primary use of the drone. Some drones come with bespoke camera builds, or allow the pilot to attach a camera to them.
- Remote Control: This is the hand-held controller that allows you to dictate the movement of your drone, as well as adjusting the settings.
Roll controls the left and right movement of your drone. Quite simply, if you move the right joystick to the right your drone will move to the right, and if you move your right joystick to the left your drone will move left.
It’s important that you perfect your rolls, so in the early days try and spend plenty of time getting them right. Accidents often happen if you fly your drone too far to the right or left, so take time to properly learn.
Pitch controls the forward and reverse movement of your UAV. So if you push your right joystick forward then the drone will move forwards, and if you push the right joystick back your drone will move backwards. Simple as that!
Similarly to roll, it’s important you give plenty of time to learn and perfect your pitch movement!
Yaw is incredibly useful for when you’re looking to adjust your drones position. When you move your left joystick to the left your drone will spin in a counterclockwise direction. When you move your left joystick to the right it will spin in a clockwise direction.
The throttle is quite simply what gets your drone off the ground. If you push your left joystick up your drone will ascend, and if you push the joystick down your drone will descend.
The throttle is the only control that remains engaged in the air, the moment you let go of the throttle the drone will lose power and begin to fall from the air. It’s important to learn how to give your drone just enough throttle to enable it to maintain its aerial position.
When you’re in the process of learning to fly your new drone, it’s important to actually have an understanding of what exactly you’re flying.
If something does go wrong, it’s important for you to be able to understand the parts of your quadcopter to diagnose what went wrong, and how to fix it.
We’re getting to take you through some of the key parts of the drone. Not all of the parts are need-to-know when you’re first starting out flying.
The tractor propeller are the props at the front of the drone. These props pull your drone through the air like a tractor.
Most drone propellers are made out of plastic, with the better quality made of carbon fiber.
The pusher props are situated at the back and quite simply push the quadcopter forward.
Most drones have a fixed landing gear, which will also be retractable to allow for a full 360-degree view in-flight. Fixed-wing drones don’t have landing gear as they land perfectly fine on their belly.
The battery varies depending on the drone. LiPo batteries offer the best combination of energy, power, and lifetime. It’s always recommended to carry a spare battery or two just in case.
Cameras come in a varying range of qualities and with a number of different features. DJI use the Zenmuse range of cameras, with their most recent release being the Zenmuse XT2.
At this point, it’s important that you teach yourself some different manoeuvres to enhance your learning experience.
1. The Lazy 8
Place the drone over the central cone with the rotors at eye level. Turn your drone just past 90 degrees and push off to the left or the right towards the six o’clock position. When your drone is in the area of either the left or right cone, add some rudder input to turn the drone 180 degrees and start heading back to the central cone.
This is a simple movement that will help you to gain a basic understanding of rudder movement. So it’s important you spend a little time on the lazy 8 to ensure you get the movement running smoothly.
2. Figure of 8
The Figure of 8 movement is very similar to the Lazy 8, but you will now use the rudder with a great deal more effect.
The easiest way to think of it is as two clockfaces with a cone in the middle. These clock faces are both the same size, on one side 3’oclock is adjacent to the central cone, and on the other side, 9 o’clock is adjacent to the other side.
So, start as you would with the lazy 8 movement. Just past the 90-degree point push off and head over to the 6’oclock position, once there add the rudder input and hold all that input all the way around the clock whilst pushing forwards at all time.
Once you reach the 3 o’clock point the drone will be facing you, however, don’t panic! Gently put in the opposite input on the rudder and start the movement on the other side. A good technique is to call out the numbers on the clock face as you go round, just to ensure you’ve got the movement as smooth as possible.
3. The Clock Face
The start point for the Clock Face is over the centre cone, this point will now be known as the 6 o’clock position.
Turn your drone through 90 degrees to either the left or the right. At this stage, you can either travel in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. It’s important to remember to try both directions.
Push the drone forward and place some rudder input, then head over to the 9 or 3 o’clock position. Turn the drone away from you as soon as you start, that way the 12 o’clock position will be 15 metres ahead of you. It’s important you watch your speed and heigh throughout, and ensure a smoother operation.
4. The Top Hat
The Top Hat manoeuvre to start with can be carried out in the tail-in orientation. Once you are happy that you’re hitting all the points of the Top Hat then try flying through the manoeuvre.
The start point is over to the left or to the right. Start with the rotors at eye level and position the drone on the flight line and move off towards the centre cone.
When you reach the 5-metre cone, stop, hold, and then rise 5-metres, again, stop, hold, and move off along the centre line, through the centre to the next 5-metre cone. Again, stop, hold, and then drop 5-metres over the 5-metre cone. Stop again and push on to the 10-metre cone. Once you reach the end, turn 180-degrees and start again reversing the process.
The trick is to watch your speed, slow and steady movements win the race. Stick to walking pace, and keep on the flight line.
5. 45-Degree Assent and Dissent
This is the manoeuvre that is normally used by helicopter pilots when launching from the airfield, but it also makes a great reveal shot when shooting video from a drone.
Again, this is a simple point A to point B flying movement. Use the centre cone as your start point (point A) and turn 90 degrees to either the left or the right, and push the drone forward and up to gain a 45-degree climb. Keep pushing up to around 30-metres (100 ft) and stop (point B).
Turn 180-degrees away from you and stop, then check your position and descend back down to point A. Push the right stick forward, and lower the drone with the left stick at the same time.
The trick with this movement is to keep your stick input linear. A tip is to use a pen/pencil: hold it out in front of you against the skyline at 45 degrees so you can see the line you need to fly, you’ll be surprised how steep it is!
6. The Safe Setup
Once you are more experienced and preparing for your Practical Flight Assessment as part of your PfCO training, you may like to adopt the Safe Setup Approach.
Under the Safe Setup, the take-off and landing point need to be marked out on the ground by a 10m square area marked off with 4 cones. A fifth cone could also be used to indicate North, this will also help as a reference if a Fly Away occurs. In most cases, the square becomes a diamond with one of the four cones being coloured differently to indicate it is the North cone.
This setup helps you to orientate yourself with the surroundings and gives you easy reference points.
Another good reason for this 10-metre box is in the event of a Return to Home being indicated. The drone will land inside this box, it’s an area that is easy to control.
A transmitter is a hand-held controller that allows you to pilot your drone and is what controls its flight pattern. When you make adjustments with the sticks, your drone will make adjustments according to the adjustments you make.
The Right Stick
The right stick controls the pitch and the roll. So this basically moves your drone left and right, and forwards and backwards.
The Left Stick
The left stick controls the yaw and throttle. So it rotates your drone either clockwise or anti-clockwise and adjusts the height in flight.
The Trim Button
The trim button allows you to balance some of the controls when they turn unbalanced.
When you leave the ground your drone may automatically tilt to fly in one direction, the trim feature allows you to balance that out.
It’s important before you set off flying that you ensure that both you and your UAV are safe.
Here at COPTRZ, we’ve put together a little checklist to check before each flight:
Weather and flight site safety checks:
It’s important to check up on weather conditions before you take to the skies. Wind speeds of less than 20mph are fine, but anything over that can cause a danger to your drone. The cloud base needs to be within the visual line of sight to ensure you can monitor your UAV in the air.
When working out a launch and flight-zone ensure there are no civilians in the area that could be harmed. It’s important to establish a landing zone, as well as emergency hover zones. Keep your eye out for buildings, towers, wires and low hanging objects as these can cause damage. Also when flying at dawn/dusk, make sure you check the civil twilight hours.
It’s important to check your aircraft before flight. Ensure your registration number is displayed correctly and is legible.
Ensure to check for abnormalities on your aircraft frame, and in the propellers, motors and undercarriage, as well as your gimbal and camera. Make sure the gimbal clamp and lens cap are removed, and clean the lens.
It’s important when taking off you listen for abnormal sounds and noises, you’ll want to find out about these at this stage rather than finding out with your drone falling through the air!
Do a quick pre-flight checkup before fully taking off, checking your pitch, roll and yaw all work correctly, and that all the propellers are in motion. On a quadcopter, if one of the propellers fails, the drone will fall from the sky.
Now you’ve got the safety regulations nailed down, we’re going to teach you how to get your drone into the sky.
For this, you need two things, one your drone, and two the throttle. If you gently push the left stick up slowly the propellers will start moving.
Maybe try this one or two times just to get yourself comfortable with the throttle power.
Once you’re happy with this, push the throttle up more than before and your drone will slowly start to lift off the ground.
If you notice the drone making any involuntary movements, use the trim button we mentioned before to balance them out.
We’d recommend you keep making little trips up into the air and back, just to make sure you’re totally comfortable with the controls!
Hovering your drone is possibly one of the hardest things to learn because it’s important you get just the right amount of throttle to allow it to hover.
It’s important to take as much time as possible to learn to hover, as it’s one of the most important tools in your locker when flying your drone.
To get your drone to hover, you will need to make a small adjustment to the right stick to keep the UAV hovering in place. You may also need to adjust the left stick to prevent your drone from turning.
Whilst in flight, keep making small adjustments to the left and right stick to ensure your drone remains hovering.
Keep repeating this process until you feel comfortable enough hovering your drone.
It’s important to choose the right area to fly your drone and to train yourself.
Here at COPTRZ, we’d recommend you find a big open expanse, such as a field or park to learn to fly.
You need to ensure the safety of yourself, but also the people around you which is why it’s important to practice with plenty of space around you.
As you continue to build and gain experience, flying in more confined spaces will become second nature. In the early days, however, space will be your best friend.
We’d also recommend flying in the morning to ensure that there are low levels of wind.
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COPTRZ ultimate Drone Flying Guide! In this guide, we are going to show you exactly how to fly your drone safely, and different techniques you can use to learn.