Let’s face it; drones aren’t just cool; they’re plain fun to fly around. Seeing a quadcopter whiz through the sky above your head at 15-20 miles per hour never ceases to bring a small smile to the pilot’s face.
Now let’s learn the best drone flying tips for beginners in 2022.
Add to this a First Person View (FPV), which is available on many new models, and it can almost feel like you are up there yourself flying.
Over the past couple of years, drones have allowed the masses to own RC model aircraft, which was quite a niche hobby for many years.
While RC model aircraft and helicopters often required a great deal of practice, skill, and money, quadcopters are the opposite.
Today’s drones are relatively easy to fly and loaded with great technology like GPS, FPV, auto-return capabilities, high definition camera integration for both still photos and video, and auto flight and navigation.
Due to their internal gyroscopes and highly accurate GPS, drones are far easier to fly and control than traditional model aircraft.
Now, this does not mean they don’t require lots of practice and skill to fly – especially when performing more complicated maneuvers.
In fact, piloting a drone requires a great deal of skill, especially in places full of obstacles or when trying to shoot smooth video. The new sophisticated electronics in drones make getting them up in the air and doing a basic flying simple – but as with most things, the complexity is in the details, and drones are not different.
Beyond the mechanics of drone flying, drone pilots must also be aware of all the rules, where it’s ok to fly, when it’s safe to fly, be sure they don’t exceed any altitude restrictions, and of course, avoid making people mad.
The last one has become pretty important here lately as the news media has the general public on edge about drones and their privacy.
Just flying your drone over someone’s house could get your drone shot out of the air or have the police knocking on your front door.
Violating federal and local drone laws can result in a speedy trip to jail and often very steep fines.
Whew… it all seems a bit overwhelming, right? Well, fortunately, it’s not.
The sections below will break all of this down for you and give you all the information you need to know before you begin flying drones.
You must register before you fly
One of the most important things to know before you fly is that your drone must be registered.
The registration process is simple and costs $5.
Registration is only required per pilot and not for each of your drones. Here’s the rest:
- Failing to register your drone could result in prison time (up to 3 years) and penalties (up to $250,000). While we don’t think this steep of penalties will be enforced, they certainly could be.
- Registration applies to drones “weighing more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) and less than 55 pounds (approx. 25 kilograms).
- Registration requires your: name, e-mail address, home address, and model of your drone. After you register, you’ll be provided with a unique identification number. This number must be clearly be marked on your drones. As a pilot, you only have to register once, and the same ID can be used for multiple drones that you own.
- Registration is valid for three years, and you must be at least 13 years old.
For more details on the registration process and rules, see FAA’s Drone Registration Guide.
Your drone must be properly marked
As mentioned above, when you register your drone, you’ll receive a unique registration ID.
This registration ID must be clearly marked on your drone and visible.
You can read more about how to properly label your drone here.
The key takeaway from here is that the registration number must be visible from the outside (you can’t put it inside a battery compartment).
We also recommend ensuring the registration number is visible from the ground.
It will avoid you having to land the quadcopter if you get questioned by police, and in fact, may even prevent questioning all together.
Once you complete the registration process, a certificate of registration will be mailed to you.
This certificate contains your information, along with your unique registration ID.
You must have this certificate with you when you are flying your drones.
Where can I fly my drone?
Something you need to recognize as a drone owner and pilot, the general public is very skeptical of drones.
Unfortunately, the media has caused a great deal of unnecessary concern around drones in general.
Major news media would have the general public believe that every drone flying around is for the sole purpose of recording video inside homes and people and kids sunbathing.
The reality is that while there are a few jerks out there doing this, the majority of drone pilots are just out to have fun and enjoy flying their drones around, simple as that.
Answering the question of Where can I fly my drone?, really boils down to two answers: The legal answer and the common sense answer.
Where you can legally fly your drone?
Legally, you have to respect prohibited airspace. It includes airports, many government facilities (like the White House), military locations, and nuclear facilities.
Most of the national parks now prohibit drone use as well, without a special permit.
Many state and local governments also have certain restrictions on where drones can fly, so you’ll want to research these and be sure you follow them as well.
Private property is also a bit sketchy, especially for corporations.
While technically airspace isn’t included in private property concerns, many law enforcement officers and company security aren’t aware of this, so better to avoid it if you can.
As for where you can fly, great locations include:
- Local City/County Parks without restrictions
- Your own property or a friend’s property
- School athletic fields, when school is not in session
- State Parks without restrictions
Where to fly your drone – Use common sense
The most crucial part of deciding where you can fly your drone is to use your common sense.
You’ll want to avoid flying your drone above or close to people. Why? Well, most importantly, drones do crash, and you don’t want to risk anyone getting hurt.
Second, remember we said people are a little sensitive to drones flying around? You’ll want to be respectful of that. Not doing so can get you questioned by police.
Avoid locations with lots of obstacles, including trees, poles, and power lines.
A popular place to fly drones is along the ocean and beaches.
The scenery, especially if your drone is camera-equipped, is stunning. But, be smart.
We recommend flying in the early morning and late afternoon when there are only a few if any people around. Be extra sensitive around beaches, as people get a bit skeptical of drones flying around filming them and their kids in bathing suits.
One other major factor to consider when drone flying is the weather. Check out the weather forecast before you head-out.
Flying on windy days or days where it will be snowing or raining are not always good options. Depending on your quadcopter, wind conditions can make flying very risky.
One last thing, when you register your drone, you agree to comply with some rules, most of which we’ve gone over already.
But, one that’s fairly obvious is that you cannot operate a drone under the influence. Meaning, it’s illegal to fly a drone drunk. Getting caught could get you arrested and/or fined.
When deciding where to fly, choose locations that avoid people and are safe for both you and your drone.
If there are people nearby, walk over and talk to them. Explain what you are doing, and even let them take a look at your drone.
Communications and common sense can go a long way in allowing you to have a fun and enjoyable flight. Put your safety and the safety of others above all things.
How high can I fly new drone?
Current FAA rules prohibit drones above 400 feet in all areas.
Additionally, drones must be kept within the pilot’s physical sight, meaning you cannot use FPV goggles if the drone is out of the line of sight.
Additionally, if you fly within 5 miles of an airport, you must inform and get permission from the airport before flying, even outside of the actual airport property.
We also generally recommend keeping your flight altitude as low as possible if flying near an airport or helicopter pad (Hospitals are good examples).
Flying for commercial reasons?
Lastly, if you fly commercially or even if your buddy who owns a real estate business pays you to take some videos for him, you must get an FAA commercial exemption to operate.
Commercially is defined as taking money for your services.
Because of the large number of requests being submitted, the FAA is currently a little behind with approvals, but the approval rates have been surprisingly high for legitimate businesses.
How to fly quadcopter in Manual Mode / Acro Mode / Rate Mode
Flying in manual mode is a mind boggling experience, especially if it is your first time. Most people have already been too comfortable flying in some sort of self-leveling mode like angle mode.
Angle mode kicks in the accelerometer with the gyro to self-level the quadcopter if there is no stick input in the pitch, roll, and yaw.
The is easier on the pilot since the aircraft can automatically return to the neutral position if they let go of the sticks.Let’s start off by looking at what acro mode / manual mode / rate mode mean!
What do Acro mode/Manual Mode or Rate mode mean?
Simple. Imagine a car with automatic transmission.Imagine a car with manual transmission.The car with manual transmission gives you more control over your speed and what not.
In the same way , acro mode /manual mode or rate mode gives you more control over your drone and does so by giving you complete control over the angular velocity of the drone.
Flying in manual mode, acro mode, or rate mode does not return the aircraft in neutral position but instead holds the set position when stick input is not commanded.
This is useful in situations like doing rolls or flying upside down. Manual mode is something any pilot wants to master, for smooth flying, it’s the sensation of having limitless control over the aircraft. You put your skills to the test when in manual mode.
Alright, flying in manual mode is not easy. It will take time and practice. If you are tight on money for this hobby, I recommend practicing on a drone Simulator like LiftOff, or FPV FreeRider because you will be crashing a lot, trust me.
If you are like me who wants the realism of the environment, then prepare yourself with bulk loads of propellers and extra motors just in case. Spare arms for your frame will also be handy.
I would recommend flying manual mode in FPV first as this will make it easier to determine how much your drone is tilting compared to simply flying line of sight.
Once your quadcopter and FPV gear is set up you will want to identify the left stick on your transmitter. Some transmitters like the Phantom series has the throttle centered by springs under the stick module.
If it is in the center then you will have to make sure to hold it down to zero, or the quadcopter will start flying upwards thinking it should be at 50% throttle when you arm it. If you have something like a Taranis or Turnigy 9x, you will not have this problem.
Now, after all the little details and cautions, here comes the actual tutorial.
You want to make sure you can hover the quadcopter and fight any external forces like wind and prop wash with the pitch and roll stick before moving around too much.
Say for example, if you feel like the quadcopter is drifting to the left because of a small gust of wind, you will want to roll the quadcopter to the right just a tad bit, just so the forces balance out.
You will find yourself constantly making small stick maneuvers as external forces may come and go, this is totally normal.
However, if you see the quadcopter slowly tilting by itself when the wind blows, then you will need to crank up some P and I gain into the PIDs.
The quadcopter should only be drifting; never leaning.
Another note I like to give is if you feel like every small stick movement is still a lot, this is where you would want to add some RC expo.
Instead of having a linear output, it creates an exponential curve (a slope), so small movements will become even softer.
While flying, everything is going to be the same as angle mode except the fact that now when you let go, it remains in the same position.
This is of course unless you manually self-level it.
You now have 360 degrees range of motion, meaning the quadcopter can possibly flip over, unlike angle mode which has a set maximum tilt angle.
Say if you want to give the aircraft a forward pitch of 10 degrees, then what you want to do is push the pitch a little bit and then let off that stick.
If you don’t let go and continue to hold it, you will cause it to slowly to continue to pitch forward.
Now if you want it to be in a neutral position, then apply the same amount of force in the opposite direction.
Sounds simple, right? When you start applying yaw, things get a little more confusing.
Let’s go back to the 10 degrees pitch example. If you were to yaw 90 degrees left, the quadcopter will want to stay at that angle but its heading is now changed.
Relative to the original position, it is now in a 10 degrees right roll. To compensate that, you will want to roll 10 degrees left instead of pitching 10 degrees backwards.
Don’t get too mathematical about this when flying, focus on small movements and get to feel how the quadcopter behaves when starting out.
I cannot just write a “How to fly in Manual Mode” without talking about how to flip. Doing flips is very simple, it is all about timing and throttle management. Before anyone tries to perform a flip, you will want to turn up your rates for roll and pitch or else you be doing massive Ferris wheels in the sky.
Now to perform your first basic side flip, you want to have the quadcopter be about 10 meters off the ground. Punch the throttle for one second to get the momentum going, and then drop the throttle down to 10%, then immediately max out the roll sticks to one direction.
You must carefully observe when the quadcopter is upright again so you can let go of the roll sticks and apply some throttle again. If you noticed your time is off, and don’t know how to save it, flip it into angle mode and then apply throttle to prevent it crashing down.
The higher the rates you apply, the faster the quadcopter can flip “on the spot” without losing any height. I master the flips before I actually manage to fly decently, it is pretty easy to do once you get the time right. TIMING IS KEY!
*just a note, do not ever throttle down to 0% as the propellors will stop spinning, and that mean you will not be able to flip at all.
In conclusion , flying your drone in acro mode or manual mode is basically just a lot of dedicated practice.
Manual Mode & Self Leveling Mode
Manual mode is all about having complete control.
Self leveling quadcopters offer stability to new flyers.
Let’s start off with the quadcopter definitions; flying in self-leveling mode allows the quadcopter to return to parallel with the ground when no stick input is received.
This mode typically has a max angle at which the quadcopter can tilt, so it does not flip over. You usually will find this mode in store bought toys like the CX-10, Hubsan X4 and the Syma X5.
Manual mode is a little different, when you transmit signals to change its angle, it will continue to stay at that angle when no stick input is received unless you counter the angle with the same magnitude and opposite in direction it will then be in a hover. What this does is full control of the quadcopter.
This enables the flyer to perform flips and loops, unlike self-leveling mode which has a limit to how much it can tilt. Manual mode sounds pretty straight forward, but once you try to fly it for the first time, it’s a mind bender.
You will find this mode in more advance quadcopters like the Phantom series, CX-20 and QAV250.
For most beginners they will start with self-leveling which makes flying much simpler as the quadcopter can return to hover position. I only recommend this mode for indoor flying or someone who is starting this hobby.
Manual mode will cause lots of confusion especially when yaw is in the equation. You, however, will achieve smoother flight performance compared to auto level as the quadcopter will not jitter back into hover position.
Manual mode must take lots of practice if you have flown in auto level for a while. Your brain will need to adjust the way you maneuver it.
While drones are fun, they come with responsibility.
The rules are pretty straightforward and easy to follow, and having a good time out drone flying with upsetting people and the law boils down to respect and some common sense.
While drone control systems are advancing at an incredibly rapid pace, drones can still crash and can yet be unreliable.
As a result, safety should be your number one concern. You certainly don’t want yourself or anyone to get hurt while you’re flying.
Not to mention, that while some drones are very inexpensive, others can exceed $1,000. Having one of those hit a power line or pole and get damaged or totaled would be costly.
One last resource we’ll share with you is called Know Before You Fly.
It is an educational campaign that offers prospective users the guidance and information they require to fly responsibly and safely.
Till then, have fun, be safe, and be respectful!