By LOZ BLAIN DECEMBER 20, 2015
You've got your first quadcopter, you've read the broken-English manual and assembled it, you've got your head around the transmitter and you're ready to give this thing a crack. Here are some basic exercises to try on your first few flights that will hopefully help you make it to your second few flights with just as many props, frames, pets and limbs as you started with.
First things first:
Where to learn to fly your quadcopter
If you're flying anything heavier than, say, 200 g (7 oz), you're going to have to do it outside. Look for somewhere:
- wide open
- free from power lines, cell phone towers or transformers (electromagnetic interference can screw with your transmission signal and cause random flyaways)
- free from trees if possible
- free from pedestrian traffic
Don't fly in high winds. In fact, for your first flight you'll want as little wind as possible, particularly if your drone is fairly light or not equipped with GPS stabilization.
You might need more space than you think. Even a small drone can easily get away from you and end up 50 meters away in just about any direction if you panic and hit the wrong controls!
If you're flying a small, light drone like the Hubsan X4, Blade Nano or Syma X5, you're probably safer starting off inside in a clear room where you won't have to compensate for wind. Mini, micro and nano class drones tend to get blown around a bit outside.
In both cases, stay away from people, and be aware that quadcopters tend to upset pets.
Before you take to the air, a few quick checks can save you a lot of heartache and spare parts.
- check that the quadcopter and transmitter both have charged batteries
- check quadcopter battery is securely locked in place and connected
- check that there's nothing loose or broken on the quadcopter
- check propellers are securely fitted
- check that leading edges of the props aren't hacked up with crash damage (your quad might still fly with damaged props, but at high speed this is a common cause of vibration that can cause heat damage to your motors and play havoc with onboard gyroscopes and sensors. Best to get a bunch of spare props and throw out anything that's not in good condition. Mind you, almost nobody follows this advice, so do with it what you will.)
- visual/tactile check for loose screws
- turn on the quadcopter
- back up a few steps, with the quad's back lights facing directly towards you
- turn on the transmitter and "bind" it with your drone if necessary
- one last check of your surroundings to make sure there are no people or pets about
All good? Let's fly!
The Golden Rule
IF YOU CRASH, THROTTLE OFF IMMEDIATELY!
This is an important reflex to develop. You're gonna crash this thing. It might get tangled in tree leaves or long grass. It might end up upside down on pavement or stones. Heck, if you're out of control it might end up flying right into your face. Whatever happens, you don't want those props spinning.
At a minimum you'll scuff up the propellers, affecting their aerodynamics and your ability to fly smoothly. If a prop is stuck and the throttle is left on, you can burn out your motors. And of course, if it's flying right at your face the last thing you want is a high-speed haircut. Cut the throttle immediately.
The pointers and insights appearing in this beginner tutorial may seem obvious to experienced members, but could save a novice flyer a lot of grief in damaged hardware and unintended personal and/or property damage.
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