How to Fly a Quadcopter/Drone (Basic Tutorial)
How to Fly an RC Quadcopter
Remote controlled drones have become all the rage in recent years, but they’re anything but children’s toys. Even a standard consumer-grade quadcopter is a sophisticated—and expensive— piece of technology that comes with a bit of a learning curve. Before you take to the skies, make sure you’ve familiarized yourself with the drone’s basic mechanics. After that, it will be a matter of getting comfortable behind the controls and learning to perform simple maneuvers that will help improve your skill, reaction time, and spacial awareness.
Taking Your Drone out for the First Time
Find a safe, open place to practice.The best place to practice is a spacious field. Survey your area for public parks, sports fields, and outdoor recreational areas until you come across a suitable takeoff point. Grass is also a major plus for first time flyers, since it will cushion crash landings in the event that something goes wrong.
- Stay away from concrete until you’re confident in your piloting skills. All it takes is one fall to tear up your drone beyond repair.
- Wherever you end up, make sure it’s somewhere outside. Whizzing a drone around in an enclosed space is a recipe for accidents.
Watch out for potential obstacles.Avoid flying your drone near power lines, flocks of birds, unleashed dogs, vehicles, and other people. Getting too close to any one of these obstacles could leave you with a downed aircraft.
- Other people may consider it rude if you fly your drone in their personal space.
- The wind can become a real hazard when it picks up. Until you've gained enough experience to counteract the effects of a strong gust, it's a good idea to schedule your flights on calm days.
Put new batteries in the transmitter.Most standard transmitters (the remote control unit you’ll be using to provide input to the drone) require 3-6 AA batteries, though some accept a single large battery pack instead. Fit the batteries into the small compartment in the back of the device, then replace the battery cover and make sure it snaps into place securely.
- With brand new batteries, you should be able to get 3-5 hours of use out your transmitter.
- You’ll know it’s time to replace the batteries when the controls begin to respond inconsistently.
Insert the drone battery.The power pack for the quadcopter itself will be quite a bit larger. Typically, this battery will slide into a slot on the body of the drone. Other varieties, like long-lasting Lithium Polymer batteries, rest on top of the drone and are connected by a series of cables.
- Make sure the battery is fully charged before taking your drone for a spin.
- You should also get in the habit of giving the battery some juice after each and every use. Keep in mind that the average battery life for most drones is only 10-15 minutes—you don’t want your drone crashing on you mid-flight!
Turn on the transmitter.Flip the power switch on the remote control and look for the power indicator to light up. When it does, you’ll be ready to go.
- If your transmitter features a retractable antenna, make sure it’s fully extended to give you the range you need.
- The power switch may be located on the faceplate, top, or back of your transmitter device, depending on the model.
Learning the Controls
Set the drone to your preferred flight mode.Drones typically have two primary control systems: manual and auto-level (also sometimes called "Stabilize"). You can alternate between different flight settings at any time by going to the "Advanced Settings" screen in your quadcopter's user hub.
- On the manual setting your drone will remain at the same angle after you apply roll, even if you release the thumbstick. Auto-level commands it to correct itself after each adjustment so that it returns to a neutral orientation.
- While you've got the Advanced Settings menu open, you can also explore other flight settings, such as Loiter, which allows the drone to follow a fixed course automatically, Altitude Hold, which keeps the drone at a constant elevation, and Auto-Return, which signals the drone to head back to its takeoff point should your happen to lead it outside the range of the transmitter.
Push the left thumbstick forward and backward to control the throttle."Throttle” simply describes how fast the propellers are spinning, which determines things like speed and lift. As you move the thumbstick forward, the drone will climb higher and higher. Releasing it will keep it at a fixed altitude, and pulling back will cause it to descend.
- You’ll use the throttle to gain height during the takeoff, as well as ease the drone down when it’s time to land.
- All thumbstick controls are sensitive, which means the more you move them, the more exaggerated the response will be.
- On some models, returning the left thumbstick to its resting position and removing your thumb will cut off the propellers. If you’re not careful, this could cause your drone to drop right out of the air.
Change the pitch with the right thumbstick.“Pitch” is what’s responsible for actually getting the quadcopter moving. When you push the right stick forward, the drone will also lean forward, and the force of the propellers will push it along. Pulling back has the opposite effect, putting the drone in reverse.
- A slight backward pitch will throw on the brakes when you’re cruising along at a high speed.
Roll the drone by using the right thumbstick.“Roll” is just what it sounds like—any lateral movement will tilt the drone in the same direction, allowing it to veer smoothly to one side. For the most part, roll is the input you’ll use to steer the copter.
- Rolling too hard may cause the drone to lose a little bit of elevation.
Move the left thumbstick side-to-side to adjust the yaw.“Yaw” is fancy aviation term that basically refers to which way the drone is pointing. While pushing the left stick forward or backward will raise and lower the quadcopter, tilting it to either side will cause the front end to rotate in that direction. If you were to hold it down, the drone would spin in circles, giving you a 360 degree perspective.
- Yaw is most useful while hovering. You can use it to scope out the landscape or track a moving object without altering the drone’s position.
- Knowing how and when to adjust the yaw can be tricky, as there’s a tendency for it to compete with roll, which also changes direction. A lot of it will come down to your preferred flying style and what feels most comfortable for you.
Performing Basic Maneuvers
Keep your drone within your line of sight at all times.When you’re first learning to pilot your drone, rule number one is don’t take your eyes off of it. Make it a point not to fly beyond your immediate vicinity, and don’t allow the drone to wander behind the treeline, blind hills and corners, or anywhere else that blocks it from view. If you lose track of it, there’s no telling where it might end up.
- If you venture out with a friend, have them stand a fair distance away. They’ll be able to help you spot the drone as it gets further from the takeoff position.
- Some quadcopters come with built-in cameras that allow you to guide them once they leave your line of sight. Others make it possible to attach a separate camera or smartphone. Either way, you shouldn’t rely on these systems until you’ve mastered the basic flying techniques using your own two eyes.
Open up the throttle for a smooth takeoff.Getting your drone in the air is the easiest part. Just rock forward on the throttle gradually until it leaves the ground. Remember, the more pressure you apply, the higher it will go.
- Set the drone on a flat, stable surface, and check to see that you have plenty of overhead clearance before rocketing it upward.
- Don’t go higher than around eye level or lower for your first few flights. You’ll receive an up-close look at the drone’s movements and be better able to visualize your flight path.
Learn to hover using both thumb sticks.Once you’re airborne, relax the throttle and make small adjustments with the right thumbstick to hold the drone in place. Keeping the right stick centered will prevent the drone from advancing, retreating, or circling around. Maintain your hang time for as long as you can. Be sure to give it a shot from different positions and orientations, as well.
- Achieving a motionless drone isn’t as simple as it looks. The right thumbstick needs to be in motion constantly to minimize and correct drift.
- After you start to get the hang of hovering, try adjusting the yaw in midair. This is a simple way to practice controlling both thumb-sticks at the same time.
Fly in a straight line in all directions.Create forward pitch by shifting the right thumbstick forward. When you’re ready to slow down, pull the thumbstick back toward the neutral position. Pulling it towards you will make the drone backtrack the way it came, and leaning it left or right will cause it to strafe, or move side-to-side without turning.
- Use the left thumbstick to maintain your altitude while maneuvering.
- You can increase or decrease your speed by making minor adjustments to the thumbstick.
Practice gentle turns.To alter your course, use the right stick to send the drone into an arc. This will require you to manipulate the throttle, pitch, and roll simultaneously. Spend some time looping the drone in different directions, being careful not to run it into a tree or bank it into the ground accidentally.
- Be careful not to move the left thumbstick up or down too much when rolling, or you’ll throw off your cruising altitude.
- Steering is one of the trickiest parts of drone piloting, so be prepared to spend many hours trying to get the copter to go where you want it.
Lower the drone slowly for a gentle landing.Press down on the throttle lightly and let the drone descend in a controlled manner. Bring it within a few inches of the ground, then set it down nice and easy. Once it touches down safely, release the throttle. Congratulations on a successful first flight!
- A soft patch of grass or loose dirt will be much more forgiving than harder paved surfaces.
- Remember to switch off the transmitter when you’re done flying to prevent any unfortunate mishaps.
QuestionWhat's needed to fly the drone upside down?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf you can fly it upside down, it will advertise it on the package, though a 6-axis should do it.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I build a plane?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThere are many kits online that build a Super light Aircraft. They range from ,000 USD to about ,000 USD. Although this seems very expensive and time consuming, this is actually cheaper than buying a new aircraft, which is the same model that you could build!Thanks!
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- Don’t be discouraged if you’re having trouble getting used to the controls. Becoming proficient with a quadcopter just takes lots of practice.
- As you get better, you can play around with different control schemes to test out complex flight patterns, navigate your environment effortlessly, and use a camera to take snaps from breathtaking vantage points.
- An attachable neck strap can make it more comfortable to fly your drone for long periods of time.
- Inspect your quadcopter for loose propellers, damaged landing gear, and other potential issues after every flight.
- Research the recreational aviation laws in your area to get a better idea of what you can and can’t do with your drone.
- Don’t take your drone out if it’s raining or snowing, during thunderstorms, or anytime it’s too dark to provide adequate visibility.
- Avoid charging your drone’s battery any longer than necessary. Overcharging can eventually cause the cells to drain faster.
- Moisture can be a death sentence for electronics, so be sure to keep your drone a safe distance away from water.
Video: HOW TO FLY A QUADCOPTER/DRONE FOR BEGINNERS
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