Becoming an expert drone pilot is a skill that you acquire with lots of practice and the right knowledge. There are numerous autonomous drones today that do not require such advanced skills; nonetheless, some drone enthusiasts simply love the flying part or they consider becoming a commercial drone pilot as a desirable career path. No matter what your objectives are, there are several exercises, techniques, and skills you need to consider if you want to learn how to expertly pilot a drone.
Organize Your Priorities
If you want to learn how to expertly pilot a drone as a hobby, you will be tempted to focus on photo shooting or video recording skills when flying it. If you’ve just acquired a drone, you should forget about these and focus only on your flying skills at first. Once you can perfectly control your drone, you can start looking into photography or videography tips.
Forget the Camera Feed
When flying your drone, you will be tempted to look at the camera feed, so you can enjoy the view. Unfortunately, if you want to advance your flying skills, you need to have continuous visual contact with your drone. This will help you have a better understanding of how to control the drone and how it responds.
You should spend most of your time learning how to fly in perfect circuits. You can start by flying the drone in a circle around you, then advance to flying it around other fixed objects. This will fine-tune your coordination skills, along with deepening your understanding of the controller as you will have to use both sticks at the same time.
Learn How to Land
This should be one of the main skills you acquire, although it might not seem as important. If you fly your drone in an open environment, you should mark a spot and exercise landing exactly on the market area.
This will get you prepared for the unexpected, such as if you need an emergency landing, if your drone malfunctions, or if you are in a crowded spot. Losing control over your drone while landing may result in damages to your equipment, yourself, or others if you have an audience. Try to take off, fly a full circuit around the landing spot, then land your device.
You should also be prepared to land your drone in trickier positions, such as when the drone is facing you. Unlike the instinctive control of the directions when the device has the same orientation as you do, this will further test your abilities. In this case, for instance, pushing the left stick will make the drone move to your right. This is an advanced skill you should acquire in case of an under-pressure landing.
You should also use a drone landing pad to prevent mishaps from flying debris and dirt that the propellers might kick up as your drone approaches the ground.
Fly Towards Yourself
Many drones are now equipped with the headless mode, which means that the controls adjust according to your position. However, an expert pilot should also be able to fly a drone without this function. In other words, you should be able to fly your drone even when the controls are reversed.
Exercise flying towards yourself while keeping a “zig-zag” pattern. This will come in handy when you return the drone to yourself. Also, as it can be confusing for most pilots, it may come in handy to keep an eye on the GPS to make sure the drone is flying towards you.
Practice During Different Weather Conditions
If you want to become an expert drone pilot, do not avoid adverse weather conditions. Make sure you fly during high wind or even rain if your drone is built to withstand them. This is because, in some cases, a shower of rain or a quick bursting wind will appear out of nowhere. Practicing flying during adverse weather will prepare you for the unexpected, but make sure you understand what your drone can handle by checking its instruction manual to find out the manufacturer’s recommendations.
There are several aspects you should seek to learn:
- Flying your drone in windy weather will help you manage the device; otherwise, you may damage it if you lose control. It also shows you how long the battery lasts in the wind.
- Dry, sunny conditions help you fine-tune maneuvers, precision, and accuracy.
- Lower light conditions, such as dawn or dusk, will help you get more comfortable with the device, but make sure you do not fly it at nighttime as it is generally not allowed.
Exercises to Master
If you want to polish your drone flying skills, you should be able to master at least these exercises before you move on to more complex control options. Here are some ideas in a progressive order, so you can advance to more difficult tasks as you learn how to expertly pilot your drone:
- Master your drone’s controls and how they impact the device (pitch, roll, throttle, and yaw).
- Know all the parts of your drone and what their functions are.
- Know all the drone-related rules and regulations in your area, along with safety precautions.
- Learn how to take off your drone and make it hover in mid-air
- Take off and reach 3 feet above the ground, then land the drone gently.
- Take off and reach 3 feet above the ground, do a 180-degree spin and land the gadget.
- Fly your drone in a square pattern.
- Fly your drone in a circular pattern.
- Fly your drone continuously and make a return trip.
- Do all of these at a higher altitude (i.e., 25 feet above the ground).
- Pick a target on the ground, circle the target and land on it.
- Successfully fly in an “eight” pattern at different heights.
Others Tips on How to Expertly Pilot a Drone
If you ask commercial drone pilots about their routines, you will notice that they are extremely meticulous with their pre-flight routines. Any expert pilot spends considerable time maintaining their equipment, staying alert, and making many checklists before flying.
If you cut corners on safety procedures or you are not up to date with the latest situational safety or weather procedures, you are highly likely to damage your drone, yourself, or others. There are also other skills you should focus on developing if you want to become an expert:
- Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques. Flying drones can be extremely stressful, so you need to remain calm and clear-minded, especially when you are watched by an audience or your equipment malfunctions.
- Know rules and regulations and do not cut corners in terms of safety.
- An expert drone pilot always takes enough time to inspect the weather conditions and flight hazards and test the drone before flying it. If you are in a rush, you are more likely to make mistakes.
- Being passionate about what you do is extremely important. An expert constantly nurtures their interest in drones, remains up to date with the latest technology and seeks help whenever they need it.
- Always be self-aware, so you know your abilities and your weaknesses. An expert drone pilot knows when to fly or not to fly and is always aware of their personal limits.
Safety Precautions to Keep in Mind
A flying drone can be extremely dangerous to you or anyone around you if you lose control. If you don’t have much experience, there are a few considerations you should know. Ideally, you must practice flying your drone in a large, open field. You should not attempt to fly your drone inside your home or other confined spaces because you may lose control, crashing it into household objects that may break or hurt you.
When the drone is flying and its propellers are moving, it becomes very dangerous. You should never touch the drone when propellers are on. Additionally, when you clean or inspect your drone, firstly remove the battery. There is a chance the drone may turn on by accident, injuring you.
When flying the drone outdoors and you are inexperienced, you can place the drone inside a see-through cage for your protection. If you do not have access to one, you can tie the drone down while flying, so you limit the chances of sending the drone out of your line of sight. Make sure you keep a safe distance so the drone won’t fly towards you and injure you in case you lose control. If you have the budget, you can even check out tethered drones, which are designed to be flown with a physical connection to the ground.
If you are about to crash into something and you cannot avoid it, you must turn the throttle to zero. Throttle refers to adjusting the altitude (height) of your drone. You can usually control it by pushing the left stick forward (to increase the drone’s height) or backward toward you if you want to decrease the altitude. In case of crashes, this will decrease the height of the drone, hopefully avoiding the obstacle or backlashing.
In short, becoming an expert drone pilot is down to practice and technique. You need to be ready to explore all the maneuvers your drone can handle, along with knowing how your drone reacts in different environments. You can keep fine-tuning your flying skills by regularly pushing your limits and experimenting with more difficult commands, flying patterns, or even adverse weather.