If this is your first one, it helps to know the drone’s capabilities and to practice drone flying techniques before you go out yonder. The drone instructions that came with your purchase may cover these, but often, in not enough detail. The following covers the basics that you can practice in your backyard to help you learn to fly a drone before venturing out to grander skies and pastures.
Learn to fly a drone: Stepping stones
If you want to learn how to fly drones to get terrific aerial shots or to monitor sites, there are a few stepping stones — starting with where to learn, what to learn, i.e., the basic maneuvers and capabilities, and how to go about it (easy, practice).
Where to learn to fly drones? Your garden or backyard is one of the best places to start and where you can learn basic to even more advanced drone flying techniques. Here, you can easily retrieve your drone while practicing and mastering the technique of flying a drone (without too much embarrassment). And, as long as you keep within your boundaries you are not likely to impose on others. (You should check the local policies and regulations about flying drones, however).
The list of Drone flying tips and drone maneuvres
In the following, I cover another stepping stone: what to know and why in terms of drone techniques and capabilities. It includes knowing the basic drone flying capabilities and somewhat more advanced techniques. You’ll find moves to practice that are important as a foundation for learning the controls and capturing stand-out drone shots.
Getting to know the controls to fly your drone
Get to know your gear and how to the controls are configured. In this article you’ll find the following typical controller setup mentioned:
☛ Left lever up/down for elevation change
☛ Left lever left/right for rotation left or right (counter-clockwise or clockwise)
☛ Right lever up/down to fly drone forward or backward
☛ Right lever left/right to tilt and fly drone left or right
7 basic drone flying techniques / capabilities
Seven basic moves in flying a drone:
- Short hops
- Roll moves
- Pitch moves
- Yaw moves
- Auto-leveling or not
more advanced drone flying techniques
Here are five somewhat advanced to up your drone skills:
- Beating the wind
- Flying a drone near you to take selfies
- Tracking a subject
- Orbit shots
- Flying upward shots
These will get you on your way and help you learn to fly drones like a pro so you to get to grand places and capture those amazing drone shots.
Basic drone flying techniques Explained
Below are the seven basic drone flying capabilities to learn. It’s a good idea to begin small. For starters, turn on the motor and slightly push the left lever to elevate the drone a couple of inches and hold it there (pushing the stick gently will avoid sudden and unexpected elevation changes). Yay. Now onto the others.
Drone Hover to get Steady Video shots
A basic drone flying technique is the drone hover. It can be a challenge at first. Mastering to hover the drone is important to steady the camera unit for those best drone shots from overhead.
It’s not a straight out easy thing to do when the drone is positioned above the ground and the downdraft from the rotors reflects back and unsteadies it.
To practice drone hovering, raise your drone about 5 feet off the ground (gently pushing the left lever forward) and then try holding the drone still – left and right controls sticks need to be in neutral (centered). It may take practice, so alternate it with short hops (described next), so you don’t wear out your motivation or yourself.
Short hops in the Beginner Drone flying Techniques
Short hops is a beginner drone technique and the best place for this is in the backyard.
Start by letting your drone take off a little and fly a short way to a landing pitch, such as a bench or a patch in the grass. Practicing this involves mastering the core drone controls for maneuvering the drone left and right and up and down. A top tip here is to get to know your gear. This means getting to know the controller and its sticks and buttons.
Elevate the drone by moving the left lever up and then gently push the right stick up to fly the drone forward.
Like an aircraft the drone rotates on three dimensions.
Drone roll moves
The roll is where the drone rotates around its longitudinal axis, where you can wiggle the drone by tilting it left and then right. Using the plane example above, the left wing or the right wing tilts down or up along this axis. Tip: In most cases, it’s better to use a device rather than an app on your phone to control your drone.
To get the hand of this, gently push the right stick either to the left or to the right and you’ll be tilting the drone down on the left or on the right side.
The drone roll and the next two mentions, pitch, and yaw, are the principal axes of the drone involved in its maneuvers. The roll axis of movement:
- Longitudinal axis (Roll)
An easy way to think of tilting the drone along this axis is to picture leaning your head towards your left shoulder and then your right.
Drone Pitch moves
Pitch is where the drone revolves around the horizontal axis, tilting the drone up or down when in flight.
This is used in adjusting the ascent and descent of the UAV (another term used for drone). Move the right lever up or down to tilt the drone up at the front or at the back, respectively. Using the plane example above, the nose or the tail tilts up or down along this axis. The greater the pitch (or angle of tilt), the faster the drone will move.
- Horizontal axis (Pitch) – aka lateral axis
Picture the drone moving in regards to the pitch as the same as moving your head up and down, as in nodding your head to say ‘yes’.
Drone yaw moves
Yaw is when the drone rotates around the vertical axis, the top to bottom axis, the one perpendicular to the line of the copters. This is where you twist the drone slightly to the right or the left direction while elevated or in flight. Using the plane example above, the plane rotates counter-clockwise or clockwise or, said another way, the nose turns to the left or to the right along this axis.
For this, you move the left stick left or right.
Think of the yaw as when the drone twists around this axis:
- Vertical axis (Yaw) – aka normal axis (top to bottom)
Another way to think about this: picture your head moving left to right when gesturing ‘no’.
Video explanation of pitch, roll, and yaw
Still confused? The following video visually explains pitch, roll, and yaw in relation to a airplane, but is applicable to flying a drone.
Some quadcopter drones will auto-level after you’ve made the above maneuvers. As I said above, it’s a good idea to know your gear. Check out your quadcopter instruction manual and the how to fly a quadcopter section to see if it has this feature.
You might want to turn it off if you want more control and precision over flying your drone. But having it turned on helps as it is a difficult thing, keeping a drone level and on course.
How to Crash – basic drone 101 thing to know
Mastering how to fly a drone without damaging it requires you to know how to crash it, right! This is one of the basics of how to fly a drone for beginners. Crashing your drone will happen. The best you can do is to learn how to quickly recognize that this is going to happen and then cut the throttle off immediately.
Learning this will minimize the damage to the copter blades (which will still spin for a while).
Crashing a drone…
More advanced drone flying techniques
The following include a few that will be useful out in the open.
Flying drones in windy conditions
With drone flying you’ll encounter wind or gusts that you’ll never beat. So what to do with a drone in windy or gusty conditions? The answer is to counter the gusts and fly in the direction from where the wind or gusts are striking from. This means flying into the wind that’s carrying the drone – going in the same direction as the wind is blowing from.
So, if the wind is blowing from the south, then fly the drone in that direction. In the worst-case scenario, it might be best to land your drone. So be prepared to land your drone rather than let it drift off or crash.
Taking a selfie with drones for beginners
How do I learn to fly a drone near me? Why learn to fly drone near me? Getting a selfie is one reason to fly a drone this close. Otherwise, you might just want it hanging around you like a personal camera crew ready to take shots of what you come across.
To keep it close, it helps if your drone has a feature to lock into the GPS signal of your smart phone. To take selfies you need it close.
The tricky part is that in facing the camera towards you will have the reverse of what you are used to. Its left and right and its forward and backward are opposed to yours and will feel unnatural when trying to control your drone. It’s a sure way to stretch yourself and get practice with flying a drone and its controls.
Tracking a subject
You can maneuver the drone to capture something that’s moving, e.g. a train or animals, by flying the drone parallel to and in pace with the subject.
This maneuver involves flying the drone sideward with the camera pointing toward the moving subject for your video capture.
You will need to use the controls to keep track of your subject as you carry out this maneuver.
Check to see if your drone has a special feature for this, e.g. ActiveTrack of DJI drones, as it will make this much easier and enjoyable (you’ll need to activate the Flight Pause button first).
use drone to orbit For Cool Drone Shots
You can use the drone controls to maneuver for drone shots of a subject, called an orbit.
With this, the drone revolves around the subject with the drone gradually gaining elevation. To make the drone rotate, first push the right control stick to move the drone to the right and then push the left control stick to the left to rotate the drone around your subject. (This is based on the configuration of a DJI controller).
Drones that have a feature to take this type of shot, include the Mavic Air with its QuickShot feature.
fly drone upward Footage
You might need fast elevation to avoid collision with a cliff or something similar. But flying upward away from a subject can give you interesting footage to use as transitions in your video compilations.
With the camera pointing downward, push the left control stick to make the drone fly upward. In using the controls, try to keep your subject in the center of the frame.
Final thoughts on how to fly drones for beginners
If you are new at this and wanting to know how to fly a drone, the above are techniques to master. Start with small steps to practice in your garden or backyard so that when you’re outdoors you’re confident enough not to lose or damage your drone. Maintaining your drone in top condition and not losing it are important components of enjoyment in owning a drone.
Note: Not all UAVs are black and white in how you control them, so it’s best to get to know your gear via its manual or company website. I’ve based the above on a standard DJI set up.
DJI Mavic Pro User manual