Flying quadcopters, also known as drones, has been getting a lot of hype these days. As you will see, flying a drone isn’t that hard at all. We gathered all the useful information on how to fly a RC quadcopter, so you can prepare to become a professional drone master. We hope this information will help you with the basics before doing an actual flight.
We prepared a step-by-step guide that will help you with your pre-flight and post-flight experience. You will also learn how to implement the proper procedure of flying a drone, together with the do’s and don’ts of flying a drone.
Let’s Do the Drone Pre-Flight Checklist
The pre-flight checklist will prepare you to avoid the unfortunate ‘drone flyaway’ and never see your drone again because of lost control. If you will follow this checklist, you’ll be able to fly your drone like an airbus taking a long haul flight. Within the law, of course!
- Make sure that your drone is 100% charged.
Please ensure that you already fully charged the battery of your quadcopter and its transmitter to achieve optimal control range. Don’t mix the weak battery with the old batteries. Regularly check and replace the AA batteries if they are almost drained. Don’t attempt to fly your quadcopter if your batteries are not 100% charged, to avoid losing of control.
If your drone depends on a smartphone, make sure that it is also fully charged.
- Finding the sweet spot: Look for a large open field
Never attempt to practice hovering your drone in your garden just because it is convenient. Drones fly sensitively, they can fly too high and too fast. Losing control is imminent when you are an inexperienced quadcopter flyer. There are power lines, trees, people and other obstacles, which could get you in trouble if hit by your drone. You might lose your drone several blocks away from your home, as well. Typically, an inexperienced flyer will panic and make things worse. That is why, experienced or not, you should fly your drone in an open field, where there’s a big chance that you will be able to retrieve it when things don’t work as expected. Also, make sure to take a partner that can help you retrieve your gadget.
- Houston we have a windy problem
It’s a big NO for you to try flying your quad in a windy environment. Most of the drones will be blown around. The smaller drones can be rapidly carried away by the strong wind, even if the drone uses its full power.
It is wise to be patient and wait for the wind to calm down. You can also try flying your drone in a large covered area such as a big empty warehouse.
- Check for damages
Check your drone for any damages every time you fly it. Aside from pre-flight damage checking, it is also wise for you to check the drone’s condition after each crash. Inspect thoroughly so you can spot the damages. Always make sure that wires are all connected and the batteries are secured. Check the rotor blades for any type of damage.
If you see any cracks on the rotor blades, replace them immediately with new, good ones. Make sure to install the propellers correctly, not upside down, so that they push the air downward. Also check that they are placed on the correct motors.
Although each set comes with two clockwise and two counterclockwise blades when you buy the drone, make sure to also purchase some separately. This way you make sure you don’t “remain grounded” when least expected.
- Always have a plan B for an emergency response.
If you are not ready for unexpected circumstances, you might experience brain freeze and panic. This can be avoided if you have another plan for when things go wrong.
First, you will need to practice how to control your drone. By doing this, you can control the drone even though you can’t see the direction it is heading. Ideally, to prevent any accidents from happening, it is recommended you never lose the sight of your drone. Besides, if it goes too far, the radio transmitter won’t work and you risk losing and damaging your drone. However, in the worst case scenario, you should turn off the transmitter, case in which the quadcopter loses its power and falls to the ground. The downing of the drone will cause damages, but it is better than losing your drone and never see it again.
If the drone is too far for you to see the direction it’s heading, you will need to turn the drone by pressing the left stick. If your drone moves to the right, keep pressing the left stick to the right until it’s heading in the direction towards you. If it turns left, continue pressing left until it reaches your location. It is an easy technique to remember for you to be able to effectively control a quadcopter.
If you will encounter an emergency, the best way to respond is to reduce the throttle of the quadcopter. Reducing the drone’s throttle will let it descend slowly. It is better for the quadcopter to land safely on the ground.
- Mark your drone to make it unique
You might consider marking your drone with a sticker having your phone number. By doing this, if your drone flies away, the person that will find it will be able to call you for its return. You can also easily identify your drone when it will be mixed with other similar drone models.
It would not hurt if you mentioned in the sticker “You will get a reward when returned.”
- Drone calibration including GPS and other components
Most drones have a feature that allows you to calibrate and adjust the compass. To do this, you will need to place your drone on a flat ground then follow the instructions in the manual. But since it’s a more complex action, you could use the video below to help better understand how this works.
If your drone supports GPS or has a feature called “return-to-home” function, don’t forget to set this up. It might help you get your drone back safely. The feature will instruct your drone to return back to the given coordinates once the drone loses connection to your transmitter. The drone will automatically land or hover on the given coordinates.
Once you get used to this pre-flight checklist, you will be able to get this done in a very little time. They are all worth doing to help prepare your drone fly safely without losing or damaging it.
The Usual Basic Control
Generally, quadcopters are already paired with a remote control and it is ready to fly. Read the manual before turning on the remote control or the drone. The manual will be able to provide proper instructions on whether to turn on your remote control first or the drone. If you don’t follow the instructions, it will not work.
- Controller’s mode
Usually, the drone controller is in ‘mode 2’ which means your throttle control is on the left-hand stick. If your controller is in ‘mode 1’ this means that your throttle control is on the right-hand stick. You can always change the mode of the controller by manually adjusting it by yourself.
We will use the DJI Phantom 2 controller for our example. Please note that the process of starting the drone’s propellers are different from other models. We strongly advise you to read your manual first, for a smooth operation. With DJI controller, you will need to pull the left and right sticks down towards each other to start the drone’s propellers.
- Proper positioning
Before starting your drone, it’s better to stand behind a bit, rather than position yourself in the front or the side, to keep things simple.
- Force applied to the controller stick
Please note that when you press the controller’s stick, you should be aware of the force applied when pressing the sticks. Flying the drone always on its full speed is not wise, it could make your drone crash.
- Throttle control: Gaining altitude and descending of the drone
The left stick holds the control for the drone’s elevation. Pushing the stick upwards will make the drone fly higher and its rotors will spin faster. Pressing it downwards will slow the rotors causing the drone to descend.
Other quad models completely stop in the mid-air when the stick is at the bottom. This is obviously a bad idea when the quadcopter is at a high altitude. Carefully adjust the throttle controller, okay? This could avoid getting your drone damaged or lost.
The DJI Phantom 2 has a feature on its controller stick to return back to the center, so the drone’s motor won’t stop while it is in flight. You will need to press the sticks down and hold for a bit, so the drone’s motors will slowly reduce their power, then stop.
5. The Yaw, Pitch and Roll – Left and right sticks – left and right movement
The left-hand stick is called “Yaw.” This will serve as the rotation control of the quad. Once the drone flies, pushing the left-hand stick will make the drone turn counter clockwise. Pushing the Yaw to the right will make it turn clockwise.
The “Pitch” is the right-hand stick. The pitch will make the drone move forward when you press it forward, away from you. By pushing it backward, the quad will fly backwards, towards you.
The “Roll” is when you press the right-hand stick right or left, causing the drone to move right or left. The drone’s controller is the same as the remote of an RC controlled car – the Roll is a reserved control.
How to control a drone with GPS and hovering capabilities.
Hovering drones are considered to be cheaper than the usual drone models. These drones are hard to fly because you will need to manually harmonize its throttle to sustain its altitude. The hovering feature of such drone is called “attitude” flying – yes, it is not altitude.
Let us first clear things out: drones don’t need GPS coordinates to hover. Other drones use barometer or other type of sensors to be able to hover. A GPS powered drone can automatically fly against a windy environment. You won’t need to manually adjust the controls of the remote, making the drone fly safely.
Drone Flight Simulator
Other drone models have a transmitter that has a trainer port. You can hook it up on your PC or laptop to try the drone flight simulator. A software component will be prompted to install once the cable is hooked up. You can test the drone flight simulator on your PC using the drone’s real controller. This will help you feel and master the controls before doing the actual flight.
The drone simulator software will also let you practice complex maneuver handling of the quadcopter. The maneuver training will include flying in circle, taking turns, and bank turn. These maneuvers are hard to do in an actual situation, even if your drone is GPS-powered.
There is also software that offers quad flying simulation such as RealFlight. The package includes a drone controller and the installer of the software. This will help you prepare yourself before purchasing a drone. This could also help you minimize the damage done through actual test flight.
We hope that you enjoyed reading this guide and that it helped you with your drone flying endeavors. Please, let us know your quad flying experience or other suggestions by commenting below.