The advancements in quadcopter technology has significantly lowered the cost of buying a drone, so it is a more accessible hobby for you to get into. The art of piloting can be learned by you with a bit of time and patience. However, you will have some bumps on the road to learning how to fly a quadcopter. You may be struggling to learn some of the concepts, or you are experiencing fly always and crashes. In his article, we outline a process of learning how to fly a drone quadcopter.
Too often someone buys a quadcopter thinking they can easily pilot the drone only to end up crashing and smashing the drone to pieces. If you go to Youtube and search for quadcopter crashes, you can find plenty of examples of this scenario. You need to be a responsible drone pilot, and be as safe as you possibly can.
Modern quadcopters have intelligent flight computers that make use of technology advancements such as GPS mode, auto hover, and headless mode which make the drones easy to fly, but do not replace the need for piloting experience and practice.
The easy control modes give a false sense of security when you are flying. But the minute something goes wrong, such as a GPS outage, or a sensor lags, and that is when you have to rely on your own piloting skills to recover your quadcopter.
To learn to fly well takes practice and patience. Before you go rushing out to buy that amazing quadcopter with the awesome HD camera, you need to aware just how easy it is to crash a drone if you are not careful. So to start off with, use a smaller quadcopter to practice your piloting skills. Check out our article Best Quadcopter for Beginners to get yourself a trainer quadcopter. Once you master flying on a small quadcopter, you can move onto larger quadcopters and be confident you are not going to destroy your drone.
Keep the following point in mind: You will crash. When you learning to fly a quadcopter, you will ram the drone into walls, trees, and especially the ground numerous times.
Be sure to follow all of the setup instructions that come with your quadcopters, and do not skip any steps. You may think you don’t need to bother with sensor calibration. You are wrong. Take the time to properly setup and trim your quadcopter.
Transmitter – also known as the controller, or remote control: The hand held device that you use to control your quadcopter. Advanced drone controllers have the ability to receive data from the quadcopter, while simpler drone controllers only transmit instructions to the drone.
Propellers – or props: The four fans on your quadcopter that generate the lifting force to get your quadcopter off of the ground. Changing the speed of the propellers, individual or collectively, also produces the control force needed to maneuver your quadcopter. The four propellers are usually not the same. There is usually an A and B set, so keep this in mind if you need to replace one of the props.
For the controls definition, we are assuming that the left stick controls the yaw, and throttle while the right stick controls roll and pitch. In some controllers, it is possible to change the configuration of the flight controller according to what the pilot is most comfortable with.
Roll: The rolling motion of the quadcopter is what causes it to move to the left and right. By moving the right stick to the left or right, you will see your quadcopter move in that direction.
Pitch: The pitching motion of the quadcopter is what causes it to move forward and backwards. By moving the right stick forward or back, you will see your quadcopter move in that direction.
Yaw: The yaw motion results in changing the direction that your quadcopter is facing. The quadcopter does not move when this maneuver is being performed. It simply rotates.
Throttle: This is how you move your quadcopter up and down. If you move the throttle up or down, your quadcopter will change it altitude.
Trim: These buttons let you tweak the control inputs to your quadcopter to remove any drifting motion.
Your Pre-Flight Checklist
- Ensure that the transmitter batteries are charged
- Ensure that the quadcopter battery is fully charged
- Be sure to turn on the transmitter before turning on the quadcopter
- Check that each propeller is not damaged and securely attached
- Check that everything on the quadcopter is secured
- Ensure that the sensors are calibrated. Refer to your user manual for how to do this.
- Ensure you have enough space to take off and fly safely
- Always face the quadcopter while you fly.
- Take off slowly to a very low hover, and check all flight controls
Before you start flying your quadcopter, you need to adopt the proper attitude towards flying a drone. Always remember that your quadcopter has the potential to do harm to people and property. Taking the proper safety precautions will keep you and your quadcopter safe.
Here is how we recommend you learn how to fly your quadcopter. Do each step, and be sure you have mastered that step before moving forward.
1. The Basic Hover
The goal here is to take off, and hover your drone a few inches off of the ground and keep the drone in a box 3 ft square. Only use the throttle, elevator and ailerons to move the drone backward/forward, and left/right respectively. Adjust the throttle to maintain an altitude of a few inches. The drone will drift due the ground effect of its downwash. You will learn how your drone reacts, and the response of the drone to a given control input. When you can keep the drone to within a few inches of where it took off, you are ready for Step 2.
2. The Advanced Hover
Now you are ready to increase the hover altitude to about knee height. Keep the drone centered in the box by using the left and right commands. You will also need to increase/decrease the throttle to keep the drone centered on the spot.
3. Hovering Movement
In the previous steps, we kept the drone stationary. Now you want to practice moving into the corners of the box. Keep practicing this until it becomes second nature. You will get the right feel of how the drone responds, and an idea of how agile your quadcopter is.
4. Rotate and Move
So far you have kept the drone aligned with your directions. Now you will need to use the rudder stick to slightly rotate the drone to the left or right. Now repeat the exercise of moving the four corners of the box. You will now need to coordinate your left and right stick controls in order to make the drone go to the boxes. Now increase the drone orientation to about 30 degrees, and practice the same exercise again. Be sure to practice with the rotation to the left, or the right. This ensures you can fly the drone in any orientation.
5. Fly in larger space
Move to a larger area, such as a large room in the house, or even a large backyard area. Mark out a large rectangular area, by placing an object the corners, and proceed to fly the drone at about waist height. Now move the drone in a controlled manner along the rectangle. When you get to the corner, stop and hover the drone in place. Rotate the drone by 90 degrees to align the flight path with the next section of the rectangle, and proceed along that line. Do this both in the clockwise direction, then the anti-clockwise direction. Do not go too fast. The point of this exercise is to master the art of slow, steady, and controlled movements.
6. Figure Eights
In this lesson, you will feel like you are actually flying. When flying along the long rectangle side, cross over in the middle to the other side, to make a figure eight flying pattern. Practice this path again in the clockwise, and anti-clockwise direction. Once you can do this, you have learned to fly the drone in all possible orientations. As a bonus, when reaching the corner, try to make a bank turn so you are turning more smoothly.
7. Rotate and Hover
This lesson is challenging, and may even frustrate you. However, it is important that you master this technique. We are going back to a 3 ft box flying space. Hover the drone to about knee height, and rotate the drone so its head is facing you. Now try to move the drone to the four corners of the box. Be careful though. In this orientation, all directions are reversed.
8. Random Direction Hover
We are back in the 3 ft box, and you can start by once again hovering the drone to knee height. Use the rudder to randomly change the yaw orientation, then stop the rotation. Move the drone to the four corners, and fly in both clockwise and anti-clockwise directions.
How to Fly a Drone Quadcopter Summary
You now have experience flying your smaller drone, and it is now time to take it flying. Move into a large space, and practice your flying. Be sure to keep the drone in visual range so you can see which way the quadcopter is pointing. Fly larger patterns until you can correct for drift and movement errors easily.
Yes, modern quadcopters come equipped with GPS, self leveling systems, and return to home functions. However, all of these can fail, and if they do, you are left to rely on your own piloting skills to bring your drone safely home.
If you have gone through all of the above steps, then congratulations. You now know how to fly a drone quadcopter safely.