July 7, 2017

Watch: Learn How to Fly a Drone in 7 Minutes

If you're ready to take to the skies with your first drone, you'll want to learn the basics first.

Drone technology is getting better and better every year, making it easier for beginners to take it out of the box and take to the skies. However, even the most basic drone has a bit of a learning curve. So, if you're ready to shoot some sweet aerial shots but don't really know how to get off the ground, this video from Darious Britt of D4Darious shows you the basics of drone operation, from rules and regulations you need to follow before you take off to flight exercises you can practice once you're in the air. Check it out below:

There's more to flying a drone than being able to pull off sweet moves. Great drone pilots aren't just those capable of doing advanced aerial maneuvers, they're those who are capable of doing them safely. Know the rules and regulations in your area. If you're in the U.S., the FAA may require you to register your drone, but it has actually relaxed its rules to allow hobbyists to fly without having to register.

In fact, the FAA is refunding registration fees of all hobbyists who have registered thus far, and have even taken their information out of its database. So, if you want your $5 back, just fill out this form.

But once you're all squared away legally (registered if you need to, know where no-fly zones are, know not to fly over people, national parks, etc.), you can start the fun stuff, like reading your drone's manual. Seriously, read that thing. It'll give you important information about how your drone works and operates, so when you get stuck or something goes wrong you'll know how to fix it.

Britt also suggests a few great exercises you should try with your drone, including take offs and landings, hovering, flying in a square, and flying in a circle. These are basic moves that will help you be able to handle more advanced maneuvers later on.

Now, grab your drone, go out to a big open space, and have at it. And don't get discouraged when you crash that thing, because you will. Just reset and try again.       

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A correction and a few notes...

The lower end of the weight scale was mentioned as .55 grams, which is less than 1/50th of an ounce. It's .55 pounds. But since - currently - hobby flyers don't need to register their drones it's not really an issue.

Hobby flying within two miles of a controlled airport requires FAA approval in advance, via the control tower. Flying in a zone from two miles to five miles requires notification of the control tower and airport operator, but approval is not required.

The Hover app mentioned includes a way to monitor the KP index, which is a measure of solar storm activity. A high index means the potential for radio remote control interference exists. The map feature of this app is powered by the next app.

The Airmap app lets you plan a flight to learn of potential restricted areas, and if the control towers of nearby airports can receive digital notifications, you can submit your notice to them electronically. Airmap doesn't provide KP index information, so for me that seems to be the only reason to use Hover.

The FAA's app, B4UFLY, has a silly name but is actually a very useful app. It lets you plan your flight and notify the airports in the area, and it also has a lot of information about the regulations and best practices, a list of US airports and national parks, as well as Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs). This app lets you know right on the very first page if you're in an area with restrictions or special requirements.

I figure each of the three apps has value, so I keep them all on my phone.

Headless mode - he suggested no using this, but it seems like a good idea to me when it's appropriate. Normally, the front of the drone is always the front of the drone, so if you're flying it back to yourself in "forward," everything is backwards, or 90 degrees out if you're flying "forward" but to your left or right. Headless mode reconfigures the brain so that the "front" of the drone is always the side that's facing away from you. That reduces the confusion factor.

There are the remote control modes to consider. The mode specifies which joystick does what. Most drones are set up for Mode 2. In this mode, the left joystick controls up and down - forward on the stick is up, back on the stick is down. Pushing the stick to the left spins (yaws) the drone to the left, and pushing it to the right yaws the drone to the right. With the right stick, pushing forwards moves the drone forwards, pulling back on it moves the drone backwards, pushing to the left slides (translates) the drone left, and pushing to the right translates it to the right.

July 14, 2017 at 5:37PM, Edited July 14, 5:43PM

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