Noob Quadcopter Training: Thank You Community

I've been reading DIY Drones for a year now. So much information, experience, and stories. It is the stories that have kept me from diving into getting my own Y6 or Quad. The very idea that I could lose several thousand dollars in a split second terrifies me. And it should.

I don't want to be one of the many people who think they can go over to 3DR, buy a quad and just fly right away. I think the posts and YouTube videos document that this does not work. 

It is late February 2014 and the weather in the Washington, D.C. metro area will be warming up soon. To be ready I decided to splurge a purchase of a new 2014 X8 from 3DR with all the extras. That's right, I'm a noob and ordered my X8 with every damn option they offer. My thinking is that I can study the wiring, install, parts, and more from an already built machine. 

My original plan was to purchase a Tarot 820 frame and build it out myself. Many posts have given me the impression that if you go this route as your first UAV you will have a bad day. This will be my second drone after studying the X8.

So, I now have my 3DR X8 on order with a 2-4 week delivery time. Time to TRAIN TRAIN TRAIN.

After researching many of the toy quads available, I decided on the UDI U818A 2.4GHz Quadcopter with Camera that cost me $88 using Amazon Prime. 

My reasoning for purchasing this unit was for the controller which is very large and similar to the controller I will be using for the X8. There are trims, 6 buttons to deal with, and it fits nicely in my hands. The Quad itself is pretty big and not one of those micro toys.

No here are my kudos to those who have tried to convince noobs like me to get a toy quad to practice with. Many of us hear you guys and think "what could be so difficult in flying a quadcopter?" I thought that myself. In my simple mind I would watch YouTube videos and think what is the big deal? You throttle up, steer it around, and land it. 

So I take my new toy quad out, charge it and go to the living room. The controller connects up with the quad by moving the controls to the bottom corners just like the larger radios. I hear the beeps and now I am off to the races! 

CRASH.

My first 7 minutes of battery were filled with crash after crash after crash. The immediate thought was to cancel the 3DR order. There is no way I can fly a quad. I was defeated. A damn toy had beat me. 

After the kid in me had calmed down about having a new toy I remembered numerous posts about people with expensive quads crashing on their first flight. They didn't trim and tune. They also should have flown low until they had a steady hover. So, I went through the same processes by figuring out how to trim the quad and then remember those settings. Two clicks to the right and one upward. All this by hovering low about 2-3 feet.

Once I thought I had the settings correct I shut her down, and placed her on a make shift launch pad. I connected the battery which engaged all the lights. Turned on the radio moving the controls to the bottom corners until we were connected to the quad. Adjusted the trims to my predetermined settings on the radio display. Looked around to make sure I was clear ... slowly gave throttle until all rotors were engaged. I then slowly increased until I was at about 3-4 feet ... low and behold a steady hover. I then engaged the video camera on the radio. We were off!

Slowly gave more throttle, slow banks left and right, and then another crash. And another crash. Crash. Crash. Crash. Damn this thing is durable.

I have discovered a number of thing:

  1. Throttle is difficult and I need to learn to control that
  2. Lateral rotation may screw up your throttle settings and you need to be ready to make adjustments
  3. Need to relax. If it appears I am losing control I need to remain calm in order to regain that control. 
  4. If I lose sight of the front / back of the quad, I am sure to crash. No control reference.
  5. I am learning to know when I can regain control and when to cut power. 
  6. I have learned to RESPECT THE QUAD. 

I have crashed this copter into everything imaginable while flying in my house. Full speed into ceilings, walls, trees, concrete, dogs, ... it is VERY VERY DURABLE. 

I should thank all those who (through your posts) convinced me to go this route of buying a good 'toy' quad to train with. After just a few days and many flights I am doing MUCH better. 

I'm going to ask a lot of questions and I would ask that the community be patient with us new users. We don't know. We want to learn. Please allow us to be part of your 'circle of trust'. 

Thank you again everyone ... you have done well.

Views: 15997

Comment by Gary McCray on February 23, 2014 at 6:05pm

Hi Rockland,

Extremely good advice.

I recommend the same approach here in the Build your own Multicopter wiki page I wrote:

http://copter.ardupilot.com/wiki/build-your-own-multicopter/#Inexpe...

I have already included a picture of the Quad you used and a link to your excellent Blog article.

It is a lot more acceptable to bounce a $100.00 investment off the wall than a thousand dollar one (and a lot safer too.)

I think I will cover this better in the What is a multicopter page as well, it should be emphasized as early as possible.

Best Regards and thank you for a great article, 

Gary

Comment by Gary McCray on February 23, 2014 at 6:24pm

I actually think that the subject of your Blog justifies a wiki page of it's own.

I am happy to write it, probably edit it and add to it a bit and put it in the wiki if you approve.

I think the advice is too important to have buried elsewhere.

If you want to edit it you can also let me know and I will be happy to accommodate you.

It is possible that 3DR will object because it does not directly support their products.

But I hope not, because a $100.00 experience is a lot easier to swallow than and $800.00 disaster and you can learn enough with these durable little copters to make you much more capable and confident with the big ones.

Let me know if you approve and I will use your Blog as the primary basis for a wiki page.

Best Regards,

Gary

Comment by Quadzimodo on February 23, 2014 at 8:10pm
I agree, this would be extremely helpful to all those pondering where to start when getting into multirotors.

I look forward to reading about your experiences with the X8 when it arrives.
Comment by John Githens on February 24, 2014 at 6:00pm

Hi rocklandusa,  Your story is great for newbies to read, so I have placed a link to it here. And I have updated the handful of recommended "trainer" quadcopters listed near the bottom of this page. Thanks for sharing!

Comment by rocklandusa on February 24, 2014 at 6:07pm

Gary, sounds good. 

Comment by Gary McCray on February 24, 2014 at 10:18pm

Hi rockland,

I am making a page out of it now and I must say going through it again, I truly love your narrative.

I had similar experiences when I first started which was before these wonderful durable "toys" were available.

It is only by dint of overwhelming stubbornness that I persisted long enough to get past that initial crash barrier myself.

At least now when it crashes I can usually point to some cause other than my own unfortunate and incorrect movement of the controls.

I truly think this delightful "story" is going to save many people a wad of cash and overwhelming disappointment.

I will be adding on to it after your section but your story is pretty much told straight.

Best Regards,

Gary

Comment by Gary McCray on February 25, 2014 at 8:15pm

Hi Rockland I have published the new wiki page here.

http://copter.ardupilot.com/wiki/if-you-are-new-to-multicopters-sta...

It will probably be moved to a New DIYCopter wiki site when those are ready.

I have added headings and done a tiny bit of editing, I hope you like it.

I think it is one of the most important pages we have in the whole wiki, possibly the most important.

And it is both hilarious and extremely valuable.

If you want me to make any changes or add anything let me know.

Thank You,

Gary

Comment by whitehorse on February 24, 2015 at 8:21am

Thanks for this post.

I bought myself the IRIS quadcopter with Pixhawk controller et al. only battery left. I got scared when i started reading about LiPo explosions etc. D whole stuff has been sitting idle for months. Plus i live in Scotland which does not exactly have d best weather for learning to fly..

However, i WILL go through this your route, i should have done that right from day one actually... I cant afford to destroy my rather expensive IRIS quadcopter. Good thing i can also learn indoors to start with.

Thanks again for encouraging folks like me that almost gave up

Comment by BigBird on May 24, 2015 at 1:13am

Hello to all,

I'm that stereo typical NOOB for which that article/column is intended.  It seemed as good advice right down to the purchase of a UDI U818A 2.4GHz 4 CH 6 Axis Gyro.  However, even though I purchased a "toy", I still have some minimum expectations that have yet to be realized.

Most of my questions are about the batteries. When I purchased the unit, I purchased an additional three batteries along with it. They were the “identical” ShowJade® 3.7V 500mAh , I didn't see that there was a CRW® Upgrade 600mAh. Unfortunately, even though they look identical to the original, I now have three batteries that are insufficient to get the quad into the air. I've had to go thru a couple of recharges before I could be certain that it was the batteries, as I didn't know how the unit was suppose to act. I thought that I messed up the programming by trying out the trim buttons, but that just turned out to be the unit shutting down when it decided that it didn't have enough juice. At least that is my present view of the matter, I'm still trying to figure out how the unit is suppose to operate. An additional problem may be partly the result of living at a 6300' elevation. Only the original battery fits the unit appropriately, the others have expanded like a bubble pack and it is most difficult to put them into place. I haven't broken anything trying to do this, yet, but it is just a matter of time. So it seems to me that the best step is to try the 600mAh batteries. Does anyone have experience with those? Is there something better?  Any help will be appreciated.

Comment by BigBird on May 24, 2015 at 8:24pm

An answer to myself,

A little research can make a lot of difference.  Following my own advice, I went back to Amazon and started reading comments on the CRW® Upgrade 600mAh. The most important piece of information is that these battery packs are inferior knock-offs that are starting fires, really!  It appears to be an Amazon distributorship problem, so I'm now looking at hobby shops that carry top quality products.  The bubble effect has nothing to do with the elevation, and everything to do with charging and may be the reason that they can't hold a useful charge.  I'm not the only one to find that they won't get the quad off the floor.  In short, check out as much as you can and buy the best quality that you can get.  A few dollars may prevent a fire and there is no way of knowing what sort of misery a fire would involve.  It isn't worth the risk.  Read the comments on Amazon and you will see that it is a common problem.

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