So, you are thinking of purchasing a drone or already have one and want to learn how to fly a drone. The good thing is most drones nowadays are pretty easy to operate, especially the more expensive ones as they come with advanced flight technology that will allow even beginners to learn how to fly a drone pretty quickly.
The drones that may pose some problems for beginners are racing drones or drones that do not come with flight stabilisation features such as a barometer, gyroscope, GPS modules etc.
However, even with a little practice, these drones can be mastered as well, however, this guide is solely for people wanting to learn how to fly GPS enabled drones.
Do You Need Permission To Fly A Drone?
In the UK, you will need to obtain a Flyer ID & Operator ID, the Flyer ID requires you to pass an online exam, which is free, and it lasts for 5 years.
The Operator ID is for registration purposes, it costs £9 per year and the ID must be visible on your drone.
These ID’s must be obtained whether you are flying for fun or commercial reasons, however, you believe that your drone operations will have you fly close to people, you may also be required to obtain a General Visual Line of Sight certificate.
In the USA, if you are just flying for fun, you will need to register your drone (if it weighs over 250 grams) and pass The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST). Your registration number must be visible on the drone and carry proof of the registration with you whenever you fly the drone.
For commercial purposes, you will need to pass the Part 107 examination, this is a two-hour exam that is taken in an FAA-approved testing centre and will require you to obtain a score of 70% or more to pass.
The Part 107 exam can be difficult to pass if you have no background in aviation, however, there are many study guides and courses that will help you increase the chances of passing the first time.
The Pilot Institute is one of the many companies that offer courses to help you prepare for the Part 107 exam. They have a huge success rate with over 99% of their students passing the first time and they have a money-back guarantee.
How Hard Is It To Fly A Drone?
As I said at the beginning of this article, it really depends on what type of drone you want to fly, drones from the likes of DJI, Autel Robotics, Hubsan, Holy Stone are pretty simple to operate thanks to their advanced features.
Some of these drones even come with autonomous flight modes and obstacle avoidance technology, so not only do they have added safety features, but you will not even have to manually control them.
However, it is still good practice to learn how to fly a drone by getting to know its controls and how they manoeuvre.
Drones for racing on the other are a lot harder to control but with practice and with the aid of flight simulators, even these can be mastered by absolute beginners.
What Are The Rules For Flying A Drone?
Rules may differ slightly from country to country, so do make sure to know what they are, however, the rules in the UK and USA are similar.
- You must register your drone.
- Pass an online exam for the Flyer ID (UK) or the TRUST certificate (USA)
- Pass the Part 107 exam for commercial operations (USA)
- The drone must be labelled with your registration details
- Keep the drone within your visual line of sight
- Do not fly close to uninvolved people
- Do not fly in residential areas
- Do fly near airports, airfields, sensitive & restricted areas
- Fly below 400ft
- Do not operate drones under the influence of alcohol/drugs
- Do not interfere with emergency response
- Respect people’s privacy
- Pre-Flight Checklist
- Read the drone manual thoroughly
- Check the drone is in good condition
- The drone has your registration details clearly visible
- The battery for the drone and controller are fully charged
- The battery is secured properly as are the propellers
- The drone is properly calibrated and connected to the controller
- Make sure the camera is functioning properly
- Choose a wide-open area to practice
- Make sure not to fly near people
- Keep an eye on the weather and make sure it is not too windy
- Drone Controls
How To Fly A Drone For Beginners
Do all the basic stuff, some people just want to fly straight off, without reading the manual or checking to see if they are allowed to fly in certain areas.
Get to know the drone and all its parts and familiarise yourself with the controls. The transmitter is the most important part of the drone if you do not understand the controls, the more likely it will be that you crash or even lose your drone.
Make sure the batteries are charged for both the drone and transmitter and the that the drone is assembled properly according to the manual.
Below is the controller for the DJI Mavic Mini 2, one of the most popular drones on the market.
Controllers like this one are very easy to use, you don’t even have to use the control stick to take-off and land, as there is a button for this purpose.
The left control stick is for throttle & yaw while the right stick controls the forward, backward, left/right movement.
There are buttons for capturing videos and images and controlling the gimbal.
For FPV and to access the drones’ other features, you will need to download the DJI Fly app. This is a very good app that is easy to navigate and use and makes it easier to fly the drone.
The app gives you access to the FPV feed, adjust the camera settings, gives you warnings about flying in restricted airspace and even alerts you if the wind levels are too high.
Not all drone apps will be as feature-rich as the DJI Fly app, but the basic feature will be there and the drone controllers all operate in a similar fashion.
The video below shows how to operate the DJ Mini 2, however, if you don’t have a DJI Mini 2, the principles will be the same for a similar type of GPS enabled drone.
How To Fly A FPV Racing Drone
Learning how to operate an FPV racing drone is much tougher as they don’t come with the hardware and software for automatic flight stabilisation and that is how the people who fly these drones like it.
The controls are much more sensitive, and the drones are way faster, if you want to learn how to fly racing drones, you should definitely find a large open area with no one close by maybe a few obstacles to practice manoeuvring around.
One of the best ways to get started if you are a complete beginner is to practice on a drone flight simulator.
Some good drone simulators can be found on the gaming website steam, however, most of them are paid but they are fun and help you understand the controls and give you a good insight into what it will be like in the real world.
There are also a ton of tutorials on YouTube and the one below is one of the most popular.