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In this guide, you’ll learn how to fly a drone.
Everyone goes through different struggles when piloting a drone for the first time. Multirotor flying definitely has a learning curve.
So if you’re having trouble flying your drone, you’re just getting started, or you’re looking to hone your skills — don’t worry.
You’re in the right place.
For a quick look at our top recommended exercises, check out our YouTube video here:
No matter your drone model, the rest of this guide will help you prepare for your first flight, stay safe, get airborne, and learn some basic and advanced drone flying techniques.
Our goal is to give you a guide that will take out all of the guesswork – from going through a pre-flight checklist, learning the controls, controlling your drone’s flight pattern, and even some advanced techniques.
Note: If you haven’t bought a drone yet, check out our review of the best remote control drones. And if you’re looking to get your FAA license, here is a discount code for Drone Pilot Ground School, our industry-leading Part 107 test prep and training course.
We know that not all aspiring commercial pilots or hobbyists are on the same level.
To help you work on specific skills, we’ve put together an interactive table of contents. Click each link to be transported to different sections.
(Or, you can scroll down and start from the beginning.)
When you first start out, push the sticks very gently so the drone performs slight movements. As you get more comfortable, you can make sharper movements.
(Note: For simplicity’s sake, this article assumes that the left stick controls yaw and throttle, and the right stick controls roll and pitch. Some transmitters allow the pilot to switch these controls based on what’s most comfortable.)
There are four main drone controls:
Let’s go through each of them.
Roll moves your drone left or right. It’s done by pushing the right stick on your controller to the left or to the right.
It’s called “roll” because it literally rolls the drone.
For example, as you push the right stick to the left, the drone will angle diagonally downwards to the left.
When you push the stick to the left, the propellers will be pushing air to the right, forcing the drone to fly to the left.
If you push the stick to the right, the propellers will be pushing air to the left, forcing the drone to fly to the right.
Pitch is done by pushing the right stick on your controller forwards or backward. This will tilt the drone, resulting in forwards or backward movement.
When the right stick is pushed forward, the back of the drone will pitch up causing the air to push the drone forward.
If the right stick is pulled backward, the front of the drone will pitch up causing the air to push the drone backward.
Yaw (Left Stick)
Yaw was a little bit confusing for me in the beginning. Essentially, it rotates the drone clockwise or counterclockwise.
This is done by pushing the left stick to the left or to the right.
Check out the video below for an example.
(Watch from 1:59 to 2:44 and pay attention to how he adjusts the sticks.)
Yaw is typically used at the same time as throttle during continuous flight. This allows the pilot to make circles and patterns. It also allows videographers and photographers to follow objects that might be changing directions.
Throttle gives the propellers on your drone enough power to get airborne. When flying, you will have the throttle engaged constantly.
To engage the throttle, push the left stick forward. To disengage, pull it backwards.
Make sure not to disengage completely until you’re a couple of inches away from the ground. Otherwise, you might damage the drone, and your training will be cut short.
When the drone is facing you (instead of facing away from you) the controls are all switched.
This makes intuitive sense…
So pay attention to that as you start changing directions. Always be thinking in terms of how the drone will move, rather than how it is oriented towards you.
Here’s a checklist you can use before each flight:
Before we get started, let’s cover a few important safety protocols and recommendations. it is important to note that drones are not toys and can be dangerous. Let’s lay out some initial safety precautions to ensure a safe flight:
Choosing a safe and legal flight location is also crucial for a safe operation. Here are some tips on finding the perfect spot:
(Watch from 1:15 to 1:40)
Congrats! You know how to get your drone airborne.
Now, let’s learn how to hover in mid-air.
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To fly a drone left, right, forwards, and backwards, you will need to hold the throttle at a steady rate to keep it airborne. You will then use the right stick to maneuver the drone in the direction you want it to go.
Now, it’s time to combine these skills and start flying in patterns. This will help you get a feel for simultaneously engaging the controls.
Related: Want to take your knowledge to the next level? Check out our premium online UAV training course for new pilots.
Need extra help? Watch the video below!
You’ve just flown in a square! Keep doing this until you get comfortable with it, and then move on to our next pattern – flying in a circle.
To fly a drone in a circle, you will use pitch, roll, and throttle at the same time.
This will take some getting used to, because the drone will be facing different angles in relation to how you’re facing, so you will need to pay close attention to how each movement of the sticks will affect the drone’s flight.
Congrats! Now you know how to fly a drone with continuous movement.
Keep practicing until you can direct your drone at will. Then, move on to the next section, where we’ll discuss different milestones for you to shoot for.
They will help you gauge where you’re at and what you should be going for next.
Check out this video for an example of #7:
(Watch from 2:45 to 3:26)
If you’re still struggling to get the hang of it, Korey Smith from My First Drone put together a useful bank turns video.
So, where should you go from here?
You can practice flying your drone with one of our own UAV Coach instructors; they’ll meet up in person to teach you how to manage your sUAS flight operations and provide hands-on, drone flight training.
If you haven’t bought a drone yet, our drone buying guide will set you off in the right direction. You might also want to try out a drone flight simulator.
If you live in the U.S. and want to make money as a professional drone pilot, check out our drone certification guide here to learn more about getting certified. We also have a Drone Pilot Ground School training course to help you prepare for your written exam.
Also, feel free to subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up-to-date with the latest UAV news, training, and information. Additionally, we’d love to see your drone footage, tag us on Instagram for a chance to be featured on our page!
Blue skies and safe flying out there!