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How to Fly a Drone – Droneista’s Guide to Quadcopters

Drone purchases have skyrocketed in the last couple of years and with good reason. Drone technology has become more advanced with the passing of time. Of course, with this ever-perfecting technology, users want to become proficient at using it. If you are still learning how to fly a drone, rest assured, with a bit of practice you’re bound to get the hang of it. Our complete and definitive guide to flying a drone will help guide you through the seemingly difficult process of learning how to fly a quadcopter.

So brace yourself as we will be helping you learn how to fly quadcopter drones without having to replace a propeller ever again. Here’s a list of the things you’ll have to learn in order to become a grandmaster at flying a drone:

  • Lift-off: Controlling the drone during take-off.
  • Hopping: Moving the drone in between points A, B, and C.
  • Hovering: This may seem easy but it’s not easy at all.
  • Angle flying: Maneuvering the drone so that it hops and hovers at different angles.
  • Backward flying: Controls inverted, chaos ensues.
  • Back turns: For advanced drone flyers.
  • Acrobatics: Only for advanced quadcopter flyers.
  • Landing: Easy at low speeds, incredibly difficult at high speeds.

Contents

Preparing for the First Flight.
Understanding the Quadcopter.
Terminology and Definitions.
Getting to Know the Remote.
Basic Preflight Checklist + Infographic.
Learning How to Fly a Drone.
Basic Flight Maneuvers – Lift-off, Hovering, Landing.
Intermediate Flight Maneuvers – Hopping, Angle Flying, Backward Flying.
Advanced Flight Maneuvers – Back Turns, Acrobatics.
Conclusion.

Preparing for the First Flight

Preparing for the first flight is equally if not more important than the flight itself. Despite the fact that it may seem intuitive at first, you need to go through a lot of theory to understand the basic concepts of drone flying, let alone operating the remote. If you want to learn more, read our article on how to become a drone pilot.

If you follow all of the steps below, soon enough your quadcopter will be gleefully hovering across the sky, and you will be in full control of that flight. Accidents often occur when people don’t go over the basic training when learning how to fly a quadcopter drone. To ensure that this doesn’t happen to you, prepare yourself thoroughly.

TOP TIP FOR DRONE FLYING

Avoid panic flying at all costs. If the drone starts acting up and you lose control, don’t try to avert disaster by maneuvering the drone while under stress. Your best bet in these situations is to land the drone immediately. To do this, simply throttle down the moment the quadcopter is above a safe landing spot.

how to fly a drone

Understanding the Quadcopter

Before proceeding with any practical test, a quadcopter flyer learning how to fly a drone must go over the mechanics involved. This means understanding the parts of a drone, the way the parts work together, as well as how the controls influence the drone from a mechanical point of view. A quadcopter is generally made up of the following components:

  • The basic frame. This can be either made of plastic, aluminum, carbon fiber, or any of the three combined.
  • The flight control board. Think of this as the motherboard of the quadcopter. This links all the other parts of the drone together.
  • The radio receiver/transmitter. This one speaks directly with your remote and conveys the information to the board.
  • The electronic speed controls. Four small devices (in quadcopters) that relay speed information to the motors.
  • The motors. The four small motors that spin the propellers and cause the drone to move.
  • The propellers. Probably no need to explain these.
  • The battery. Some drones feature basic AA size batteries. Other drones come with their own rechargeable lithium-based batteries.
  • The charger. This one’s only featured in the drones that come with their own rechargeable batteries.

Aside from all these basic technical devices, a drone may also feature a few optional parts. A camera is the most common additional feature, allowing the user to take pictures and/or record. While some cameras are better at taking clear, sharp images, others have stronger video shooting capabilities (720p or higher).

While a majority of drones come equipped with gyroscopes, it’s still not a standard feature. A gyroscope will significantly improve your flight capabilities, so you should look for one. Furthermore, a GPS is a very neat feature to look out for, generally giving the quadcopter a “return to home” option.  Needless to say, a return to home option is really great for when your drone gets out of range.

Terminology and Definitions

Another basic step in understanding how to fly a drone is to become acquainted with all of the terms involved. Therefore, to properly know how to fly a drone you must understand things like throttle, roll, yaw, or pitch:

  • Throttle. If you’ve ever had anything to do with any type of moving vehicles, you’ll know that throttle makes it go forward or backward. However, that’s just with some of them. Helicopters, quadcopters, or any sort of machine that flies by using propellers use the throttle to go up. Alternatively, lowering the throttle makes the vehicle go down, simple as that.
  • Roll. The roll of a quadcopter makes the vehicle rotate to the left or rotate to the right. This one is pretty straightforward, and it can be used very effectively while hovering.
  • Pitch. The pitch represents the component that makes the drone go forward or backward. Pitches work best when the throttle is stable, although advanced maneuvers require careful handling of both these settings.
  • Yaw. The yaw dictates the angle of inclination of the quadcopter. If you hold the yaw to the right, the drone will lean accordingly, likewise the other way around.
  • Aileron. This is the stick that controls the roll, and it’s one of the most important controls along with the rudder.
  • Rudder. The rudder is the stick that controls yaw. Yaw adjustment is necessary especially when executing turns and other intermediate and advanced flying maneuvers.

Getting to Know the Remote

If you’re just learning how to fly a drone and especially how to fly a quadcopter, the remote control might be your best friend in the world. That’s why you need to understand every single control button:

  • The sticks. All quadcopter remotes feature sticks. The left stick controls yaw and throttle while the right stick controls roll and pitch.
  • The trim buttons. Most remotes come with four trim buttons. These buttons generally control the sensitivity of each of the four attributes of the drone’s flight. The left horizontal one controls yaw, the right one controls roll. The left vertical one controls throttle while the right one manages pitch sensitivity.
  • Other buttons. Remotes generally come with several more buttons. Depending on the remote, these may control the power, screw-pitch, landing gear adjustments, gyroscope adjustments, GPS, or return to home function.

The thing to keep in mind though is that not every remote control for quadcopters is exactly the same. So you might want to check in with your new remote manual before proceeding to your drone’s test flight.

Basic Preflight Checklist + Infographic

As fun as it may be to describe every detail to you, we thought it more useful to give you a printable checklist of things to do before flying a drone. A paramount step in how to fly a drone, this checklist will make sure that you never forget the basic preflight safety precautions.

"how to fly a drone Preflight Checklist"Learning How to Fly a Drone

So we discussed everything there is to know before actually flying a drone. However, we would argue that these are basic steps for learning how to fly a drone and specifically for how to fly a quadcopter. Remember: there isn’t any flight maneuver more important than actually securing your safety!

That being said, we should move on to the handling of the drone. We’ve split flight maneuvers into basic, intermediate, and advanced drone flight maneuvers. Also, keep in mind that trying advanced flight maneuvers before mastering the basic and intermediate ones is a very bad idea. Even though it may seem boring to just fly your quadcopter at low altitude for the first weeks, the training is necessary if you truly want to master flying a drone.

Basic Flight Maneuvers – Lift-off, Hovering, Landing

Lift-off is, of course, the most basic move you need to master. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy. First off, make sure the throttle sensitivity is centered. This is generally the vertical button on the left side of your remote control. Secondly, you should start the drone. Check for any extra instructions pertaining to your particular remote or device. The drone should take a few seconds to calibrate itself, wait until its main LED light turns solid and stops flickering. Thirdly, you should test the throttle to get accustomed to it. Simply push the left stick gently until you feel at ease with how the propellers work relative to your actions.

Hovering. In order to safely hover, you need to have all of your sensitivity trimmers leveled out. This will make sure that the quadcopter will not move too much in one particular direction. Keep the drone steady in mid-air. Some drones will be perfectly calibrated and will hang in total balance with nothing but medium throttle. Others may have a slight yaw in a particular direction. Compensate with your controls so that the quadcopter doesn’t spiral out of control.

Landing. This one is practically a piece of cake. All you have to do is gently lower the throttle lever and let the drone descent. When the device gets close to about an inch off of the ground, release it completely. Never land at high speeds unless there is a risk of injury. It’s important to learn how to fly and be able to securely land a quadcopter before trying the most difficult tricks

Repeat all of the above steps several times before moving on to the following maneuvers. In learning how to fly a drone, you will need to employ all of these basic maneuvers many, many times. Therefore, mastering standard flight is key.

Intermediate Flight Maneuvers – Hopping, Angle Flying, Backward Flying

Hopping. Hopping is not really a maneuver as it is a strategy to make you learn how to fly a drone quicker. It incorporates the previous procedures multiple times. The first step in hopping a drone is to set two or three distinct places upon a flat surface. Mark them as A, B, and C. Secondly, using the steps above, move the drone from point A to point B. You need to take off from point A and land at point B. After this is done successfully, lift the drone from point B and move it back to point A. Do this several times before adding point C to the mix. Think of it as patrolling a perimeter.

Angle flying. This maneuver implies using yaw (controlled by the rudder stick) in order to steer. While the basic roll movement should be easy, this one’s a bit tricky, so when the drone is hovering, use the pitch stick to move it forward. While it’s moving forward, yaw it towards the right, and then back towards the left. Try to move it back to you. If you can’t do that, don’t be ashamed to land it and move it back manually. After all, these are your first steps in learning how to fly a quadcopter.

Backward flying. This move is considered by many to be an advanced maneuver. However, since it’s needed in order to secure basic flying, you should try it out with extreme caution. What you’ll need to do is place the drone with its front end turned towards you. Try to go through all of the above maneuvers with the drone facing you so that all the controls are now inverted.

Never try the advanced drone flight maneuvers before you’ve mastered the basic and the intermediary procedures. Doing acrobatics before actually learning to use the rudder and the aileron can have potentially disastrous results. You will never learn how to fly a drone and let alone a quadcopter off the bat.

Advanced Flight Maneuvers – Back Turns, Acrobatics

Back turns. To do a back turn, you really have to know how to handle a quadcopter. Basically, you will turn the drone as you would a car with a handbrake at 180 degrees. Only you’ll be doing this in midair. Firstly, accelerate the drone by using the throttle and pitch controls to get to 5 mph minimum. Use the aileron to bank your drone, then pull the elevator lever up. Then, apply yaw with the rudder in the direction that you want your drone to turn towards.

Acrobatics. After you get a feel of all the controls, you can throttle the drone to get to higher altitudes. There you have a larger area to move your drone and go wild. Remember to play with your drone responsibly and only attempt acrobatics (such as backflips, front flips, or side flips) once you truly know how to fly a quadcopter drone. Never put yourself or those around you at risk of physical injury just to demonstrate your skills – make sure you are actually good enough to safely pilot a drone under pressure.

Remember to never panic fly a drone. Land it ASAP if you feel others, you or the drone are in any danger.

how to fly a drone

Conclusion

If you’re making progress with your drone flying lessons let us know of your progress in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to share Droneista’s complete guide on how to fly a drone with all of your quadcopter-loving friends! And if there’s any other drone-related term you would love to find out about, give us a message! You can either ask us in the comments section or contact us directly through email. We may even include your suggestion right here.

All images were taken from depositphotos.com.

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2 Comments
  1. Reply
    Barry Dyble October 26, 2017 at 12:26 am

    Very thorough, as an older rookie, it has given me a great deal of confidence that i did not have before. Cant wait until i get my first drone. Thank you for a job well done. Any other información you would suggest would be greatly appreciated.

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