So you want to fly a drone? Maybe you’ve seen some cool drone footage online, or a friend got one and made it look so easy. Flying an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) definitely looks fun and exciting, but is it actually difficult to pilot these increasingly popular gadgets through the sky?
The short answer: yes, drones can be quite challenging to fly, especially for beginners. But the right preparation and practice can set you on the path towards drone mastery. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know to get started flying drones, from choosing the right model to mastering the controls.
Understanding Drones and How They Work
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of flying, let’s step back for a second and make sure we all know what a drone actually is.
A drone, also known as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), is an aircraft with no pilot onboard. Drones are controlled remotely by a pilot on the ground using a radio transmitter. The transmitter communicates with receivers on the drone that send signals to the motor and rudder, controlling speed and direction.<div class=”table-responsive”>
|Multirotor||Known as quadcopters, hexacopters etc. based on number of rotors. Best for beginners.|
|Fixed Wing||Resemble small airplanes. Require space for takeoff/landing.|
|Single Rotor||Helicopter style. More difficult to fly.|
While military Predator drones cost millions of dollars, consumer drones come in every price range from $50 to $1500+. The most popular consumer drones have 4, 6 or 8 rotors that allow them to take off and land vertically without a runway. These are known as quadcopters, hexacopters and octocopters.
Advanced drones may have additional features like obstacle avoidance sensors, follow-me tracking, and camera gimbals for stabilizing video footage. But at its core, operating any drone comes down to manipulating the controls in a way that keeps the aircraft stable and flying where you want it to.
Why Flying Drones is So Difficult for Beginners
Now that you know the basics of how drones work, let’s look at some of the key factors that make them challenging to fly:
Lack of Experience
Drones utilize an entirely different control scheme than planes, helicopters, cars or any other machine most people have experience with. Instead of steering wheels, yokes and pedals, you control a drone using sticks that alter speed, altitude, rotation and direction. This unfamiliar interface presents a steep learning curve if you’ve never flown anything before.
Developing the hand-eye coordination and reflexes necessary to keep a drone under control is not something that comes naturally. It requires getting experience through simulations and practice flights.
Complexity of Controls
Speaking of controls, operating a drone is not as simple as just pushing the joystick forward to go forward. Here are some of the basic maneuvers you need to master:
- Throttle – Increase/decrease elevation
- Yaw – Rotate left/right
- Pitch – Tilt forward/backward
- Roll – Tilt left/right
And that’s just in stable mode where the drone’s computer handles some stabilization and orientation for you! In acro mode you have direct control over all these axes simultaneously with zero computer assist.
The multitude of control inputs is complex and requires practice to build muscle memory. And that’s before even getting into executing more advanced maneuvers.
Fragility of the Device
Drones are intricate devices containing delicate electronics and sensors that don’t respond well to impacts. Propellers can easily get bent or broken in minor crashes. And there’s always the risk of “fly-aways” where drones speed off uncontrolled and never return.
The fragility of drones means beginners face an increased risk of damaging their investment as they learn. This adds to the challenge since costs add up quickly replacing broken propellers and other parts. Protecting your drone through the inevitable early mishaps takes patience.
Need for Situational Awareness
Unlike remote control cars that can bounce off walls and keep going, you need a constant 3D spatial awareness when flying drones to avoid hazards. Drones don’t have “bumpers” – one wrong turn into a tree can destroy them.
Staying attentive to conditions around you at all times – such as wind, weather, potential obstacles and manned aircraft – takes a great deal of focus beyond just the controls. Developing this “sense” for piloting takes practice.
Tips to Make Flying Easier for Drone Beginners
While flying drones presents challenges, the following tips will help you overcome the steep learning curve as you develop your piloting skills:
Take a Training Course or Use Simulator Software
Virtual simulators like RealFlight or DRL are excellent low-pressure ways to start familiarizing yourself with drone controls before ever taking off. Many virtual trainers connect to the exact same physical transmitters used on real drones.
Another option is signing up for lessons at a flight school or drone training academy to learn from experienced instructors. They will provide all the gear and walk you through fundamentals in a safe environment.
Start With a Basic Entry-Level Drone
Resist the urge to buy the biggest, most advanced drone right off the bat. As a beginner, starting with a simpler, more rugged model under $100 is wise to minimize replacement costs as you learn.
Look for drones with beginner-friendly features:
- Headless mode – Controls stay consistent regardless of drone orientation
- Altitude hold – Drone maintains altitude without input
- 1-key takeoff/landing – Automates these basic functions
Practice Flying In An Open Area
Find a large open field or park to start practicing in where there are no people, buildings, or other hazards around. This safe environment will allow you to focus purely on the controls while minimizing risk.
Only graduate to more complex areas after mastering take-offs, landings and hovering in place in open areas. Avoid indoor flying until you become an expert pilot.
Learn the Controls Thoroughly Before Flying
The transmitter is your control interface with the drone. Don’t just randomly push sticks without understanding what each one does. Review control guides and configuration settings in-depth before that first flight.
Start by simply lifting off gently, hovering in place and landing again repeatedly to get a feel for the basics. Nail these fundamentals before attempting any forward flight.
Moving On to More Advanced Drone Flying
Once you’ve logged several hours of stick time and are comfortable hovering, turning and controlling your drone, you can move on to more difficult maneuvers and environments:
Execute Complex Flight Patterns
Part of the fun of drones is moving beyond 2D flight and exploring 3D capabilities. With practice you can learn to execute rolls, loops, split-S turns, flips and other aerobatic moves. These add to the thrill but require fast reflexes and precision.
Maneuver Around Obstacles
A key drone skill is navigating through areas with barriers like trees, structures or confined spaces. This tests your ability to control position and speed in tight spaces. Mastering obstacle courses builds trust in your piloting.
Utilize Advanced Camera Tools
Many drones now feature integrated cameras that can be stabilized and controlled for getting aerial footage. Learning to manipulate gimbals, follow dynamic subjects and frame shots transforms drones into creative production tools.
Final Thoughts: Patience Is Key with Drone Flying
Mastering the world of drones takes time but delivers huge rewards. Don’t get discouraged if those first flights are shaky – even experienced pilots damage drones as they push limits. The key is getting back up, reviewing what went wrong, and steadily improving through ongoing practice.
With the right mindset of learning from mistakes, you’ll look back one day from thousands of feet in the air and be amazed at how far your piloting skills have progressed. And remember, always fly safely by keeping your eyes to the sky! The thrill of soaring awaits.
Now get out there and start logging flight hours! Your inner drone pilot is ready to take off.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is flying a drone difficult?
A: Yes, especially for beginners with no practical background in flying anything remote-controlled.
Q: Do I need experience to fly a drone?
A: No, but it is recommended to take a course or use flight simulation software before flying a drone.
Q: What makes flying a drone difficult?
A: Factors that make flying a drone difficult include lack of experience, complexity of controls, fragility of the device, and the need for situational awareness.
Q: How can I make flying a drone easier?
A: Start with a basic drone, practice in an open area, learn the controls, and practice hovering.
Q: What are some advanced drone flying techniques?
A: Advanced techniques include flying in different patterns, maneuvering around obstacles, and using advanced camera features.
Q: Can I fly a drone around obstacles?
A: Yes, but it takes practice and situational awareness to avoid collisions.
Q: What should I do if my drone crashes?
A: Inspect the drone for damage and make repairs as needed. Learn from the mistake and keep practicing.
Q: Do I need a license to fly a drone?
A: It depends on the country and intended use of the drone. Check local regulations for more information.
Q: Can I fly a drone indoors?
A: Yes, but it is recommended to start with an open area before attempting indoor flights.
Q: Is it worth learning to fly a drone?
A: Yes, flying a drone can be a fun and rewarding hobby or a useful tool for photography and videography.