- Essential Tips -
For New Pilots
Flying drones is hard enough. Don't make it harder by making mistakes that can be easily avoided with a bit of thought and planning. If you're just flying for fun, or planning on starting your own drone business, read these tips to save you tears, money and time later down the line.
- Beware of -
Australian birds are some of the most aggressive in the world, and they like to show it off whenever they can.
PAY ATTENTION TO THEM!
Seagulls, magpies, crows and even Wedge-tailed eagles; we've had run-ins with all of these and more. If you think your big, shiny drone will scare them away, you may be in for a surprise. Even the slightest touch of a rotor is enough to bring your drone (and your dreams) crashing to the ground with alarming rapidity.
- Know the -
Always know the rules and restrictions in your area.
If you live in Australia, download the CASA app "Can I Fly There" if you haven't already. It'll tell you things like airport locations, maximum altitudes and generally help keep you out of trouble by accidentally flying into restricted airspace. Did we mention it's totally free?
- Look -
It can be tempting to fly just by looking at your drone controller's screen. It's got your altitude, distance from home, bearing and a heap of other cool stuff to. This is all handy stuff, and to take good video, you need to look at your screen constantly to see what your camera is seeing. But...
Try not to rely on your controller screen too heavily. It's easy to get disoriented, so keep visually checking your drone to make sure you know its position relative to you. Your drone screen also won't show you the eagle hovering just above it, the rapidly approaching helicopter, the child wandering underneath it, or the powerline that you're slowly drifting towards.
- Read the -
These days a lot of things no longer come with paper manuals. But who can be bothered visiting the manufacturer's site, finding the manual and then reading it in its entirety?
Those who like to get the most from their drone, for a start. Also, those who don't enjoy crashing because they were accidentally in attitude mode, instead of GPS mode. If you own a drone and don't know what that last sentence meant, READ YOUR MANUAL. - Tip courtesy of Chris Honey
- Don't Fly Near -
Flying over the top of people without their consent isn't just dangerous, it's also rude and annoying. As is flying over the neighbours back yard, the local footy match, or any other event. Unless you've been asked to fly by the property owners or event organisers, keep your drone a safe and unobtrusive distance away. Flying over people is not worth the risk, and you make every other drone pilot look bad too.
Like it or not, when you buy a drone, you instantly become a part of the drone community. Your actions affect everyone, not just yourself.
- Reset -
If you're filming from a moving boat, car, motorbike, train or any other moving platform (blimp?), update your return to home point to your current location.
Your drone will always log the point it was turned on at as it's home point. This means that if you lose contact with the drone, instead of coming back to your current location, it'll return to where it took off from and you'll have to go back to fish it out of the water/tree/rock/roof where it started.
- Avoid -
Most drones have a plethora of sensors that tell it where it is relative to the sea (barometer), magnetic poles (compass), Earth (GPS), the ground/obstacles (visual, laser, ultrasonic etc) and itself (IMU). The combined effect of these sensors is to keep the drone hovering at the exact same place until you tell it otherwise. These are all excellent at keeping the drone where you want it, until they're not.
We've seen the latest and greatest drones lose their tiny electronic minds and decide that they'd rather listen to a demonic inner voice than your controller, and there's not a thing you can do to persuade them otherwise. This is why you should never fly a drone near people; if it malfunctions and you lose control, you'll get to see firsthand the effect of a drone rotor on the human face.
You can minimise the risk of these malfunctions by turning on and launching your drone well away from any metallic objects or powerlines. Concrete is also a no-no as it's normally filled with steel reinforcement, which can affect your drone's compass and GPS.
- Learn -
You wouldn't spend a whole heap of money on a brand new Mercedes-Benz E-Class without learning the basics like how to use the heated seats, Bluetooth radio and dynamic suspension. You'd just buy a Toyota Camry instead, and squirrel the $100k saving into your nuclear submarine fund. So why would you buy a drone to take photos, and not learn the basics of photography?
Almost every drone is equipped with a camera, so unless you're racing drones, you're probably planning on taking some photos and video during your flights. This can be an exciting and rewarding pastime, as there are always new things to see from above. But the world doesn't need another drone photo with a slanted horizon, soft focus and a blown out sky. That's why you should learn the basics if you want to get the most from your drone.
Check out this great article to learn some of the basics. It's not about drone photography specifically, but the fundamental principles are exactly the same as regular cameras.
- Start -
If you've never flown a drone before, you may believe that the difference between flying a $10,000 DJI M210 and a $50 no-name drone is like night and day. Up to a point, you're dead right. But...
You may be surprised to learn that the fundamental controls are exactly the same. Sure, your Phantom 4 Pro might have more buttons and knobs, but these are normally for extras like the camera and flight modes. At their core, almost all drones have the same 4 basic controls (yaw, pitch, roll and elevation). Learning to master these and commit them to muscle memory is the first step to flying well.
Whenever we talk to a customer who's interested in a multi-thousand dollar drone, we'll always recommend buying a cheap little drone (a Syma X5C for instance) to practise on first. These small drones are much harder to fly than their more expensive equivalents, so mastering one will make your Mavic Pro seem like child's play. Who knows, it may save you a hefty repair bill later on.
- You'll Probably -
It's a sad fact of life, but a fact nonetheless. Humans are used to thinking about position mostly in two dimensions. We can walk around forwards, backwards, left and right, but without technology, we normally don't ascend or descend rapidly. Our brains and eyes simply aren't used to it.
This often results in drones temporarily overwhelming our senses, and in that 0.5 seconds, your drone has wound up in a tree/wall/gutter.
Don't feel bad though, it happens to almost everyone, and we can guarantee that you'll learn something very valuable along the way. -Tip courtesy of Brad Rowe
- Avoid -
You've just bought a fancy new Mavic Pro Platinum (contact us for a quote :). You bought it because it had the latest obstacle avoidance and all of the technological trimmings to keep you safe in the air. You just pulled off a textbook descending shot of your new house/car/nuclear submarine and were reversing back to have another go. Then...
Your somehow managed to fly it directly into your new house/car/nuclear submarine. How could this happen? This drone has more sensors than your new submarine. What gives?
Fun Fact: Mavic Pros don't have rear or side facing obstacle avoidance. It only works when flying forward, up, or down. The advice here is threefold: 1. Know your drone 2. If you want to rely on obstacle avoidance, fly only in the direction that it works in. 3. Don't rely on obstacle avoidance to make up for your mistakes. It's not infallible.