Several years ago, my uncle bought my brother and I remote control helicopters for Christmas. No joke, it was literally one of the best gifts I have ever received. At that point, I had never flown any kind of UAV, and I’d be lying if I said my mind wasn’t blown. I brought the helicopter back to my apartment in Boston and flew it around indoors, learning how to land it on the ceiling fan and hover it as close to the ground as possible.
Fast-forward to fall 2014, where my wife and I bought a DJI Phantom quadcopter for our cousin. We all opened the box together, and it became clear that this wasn’t a turn-on-and-play kind of toy. We read through the instructions and learned about the software. We attached the propeller blades, charged and inserted the battery, and then calibrated the quadcopter. And, after about 45 minutes, we went outside to practice.
Below is the guide I wished I would have had when I learned to fly a quadcopter. I’m not even close to being a drone pilot expert, but I’ve learned a lot along the way and hope you’ll benefit from my below notes.
Your Drone and Its Components
Before you start flying a UAV, you should spend time learning how they work. You know, on the inside and stuff. This will help you establish a strong foundation in unmanned aerial systems. If you one day choose to apply for the job in the UAV industry, this kind of fundamental understanding is important.
The easiest way to learn about motors, propellers, UAV software, wireless transmission, and the like is to build your own drone. But if you want to skip that part and head straight into the field, we strongly encourage you to read as much as you can about the system you’ll be piloting.
The DJI Phantom quadcopter, as an example, employs the Naza-M autopilot system, enabling drone pilots to perform smooth, sweeping motions in a controlled manner
Some UAVs are similar while others are incredibly different. Before you start flying, read about what you’re getting yourself into!
Setting Up Your Drone
Even if you don’t build your own drone, you’ll likely end up having to put what you buy together in some capacity. Sure, attaching the propellers might be easy, but wiring the battery the right way and charging it for the appropriate amount of time requires a bit of reading. It’s like putting together IKEA furniture, but a little more involved.
In fact, you’ll likely need to install software and calibrate your UAV before your first flight. Again, the more you learn about your particular drone, the easier it’ll be to pick this stuff up. I wasn’t prepared the first time I saw it all.
UAV Pilot Training Challenges
You’ve got a lot of practice ahead of you.
Below are a number of UAV pilot training challenges.
Use this checklist to gain more confidence and a keen aerial perspective.
- Take off to an altitude of 3 feet and land in the same position.
- Take off to an altitude of 3 feet and spin the UAV around 180 degrees.
- Take off to an altitude of 3 feet and move the UAV forward, backward, to the left and to the right.
- Try all of the above, but at an altitude of 25 feet.
- Take off to an altitude of 3 feet and maneuver the UAV around your body, both clockwise and counterclockwise.
- …more to come!