Flying Drones: A Beginner’s Guide

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So, you’ve dreamed about flying drones. You finally saved up your money and got your hands on one.

Once you’ve bought your drone, you’re reading to start flying, right?

Not so fast!

What if you’ve never flown a drone before?

Apart from reading the instruction manual, there’s more to flying drones than you think. There are some rules and regulations you should abide by.

To help you with all the need to know about flying drones, we’re going to take you through step by step on all the essentials so you can conduct a safe and successful flight.

1. Register Your Drone


If you intend to start flying drones in the U.S., you need to register your drone first before flying. To do this, you’ll need to go to the Federal Aviation Administration authority (FAA) website and register.

Do note that you’ll need to supply your email address, physical address, and mailing address, your drone’s make and model, credit or debit card.

But, there are some guidelines for registering. First of all, you must be at least 13 years old or older. If you’re younger, then an adult must register your drone on your behalf.

Similarly, you will have to pay $5 for the registration, which lasts for three years. After that, you will have to pay $5 again. Finally, once registered, you will need to label your drone before you fly it.

For more information on drone registration, check out our article right here.

2. Become Acquainted With Your Drone

Before you fly your drone, you must know how your drone operates. Depending on your drone model, you will need to learn about its safety features, controls, where its sensors are, battery life, and how to care for it. You will find a lot of this information in your drone’s instruction manual and via online tutorials and drone academies.

Most importantly, though, you should learn where the return to home command is. By pressing this button, it will allow your drone to fly back to its take-off point, even if there’s no signal or your drone has gotten lost. Similarly, you should be confident about where the pause button is located and the power button.

3. Learn The Rules

Depending on your country, you will want to become familiar with drone flying rules and regulations. Do note that the rules can change, depending on the reason you’re flying drones. However, the general rules are the following:

  • Do not fly above 400 ft. Fly at that height or below
  • Fly your drone within range of your eyesight
  • Do not fly above groups, people, sporting events, or stadiums
  • Do not fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Do not fly near any aircraft, airports, or in a restricted airspace
  • Do not fly near emergencies such as fires or a crime scene

To become acquainted with more rules, you can visit the FAA website or check out our article right here.

4. Practice Using The Controls Of The Drone

Not all drones are the same; however, some of the popular ones on the market, like the Mavic, Phantom, and the Spark have similar controls. If you have one of these, here are some basic control settings:

L joystick up = Drone flies up
L joystick down = Drone flies towards the ground
L joystick left = Drone rotates left
L joystick right = Drone rotates right

R joystick up = Drone moves forward
R joystick down = Drone moves backward
R joystick left = Drone moves left
R joystick right = Drone moves right

Drones are pretty easy to operate, but they do take a bit of practice first. Similarly, when practicing and flying, it’s important to have the GPS mode on as this will help you keep control of your drone.

5. Use A Drone Simulator App

If you’re nervous about flying drones, you can download and install a drone simulator app on your mobile device, and this will help you become familiar with your drone. You can fly your drone virtually from anywhere while sitting at home!

Using a simulator can enhance your confidence and allow you to quickly become familiar with the controls on your drone remote. The more you practice, the more you build your muscle memory and become comfortable flying your drone.

6. Install The Latest Firmware

As a drone owner, you will need to regularly install the latest firmware. Firmware is basically software for your drone. The manufacturer will often have regular updates and improvements to its software that they recommend you to install before your next flight. Firmware updates can help to correct previously undiscovered software errors and bugs or add greater functionality or security to your drone. 

7. Create A Pre-flight Checklist

Before you fly your drone, you should always make a pre-flight checklist. By simply creating a checklist, it allows you to follow the rules, minimize your chances of risk and allows you to have a safe and fun flying experience. When you feel like you’re ready to take your drone out to fly, run through the following checklist:

  1. Assess your drone’s shape. Is it in good condition? Has there been any wear and tear?
  2. Review the rules and regulations according to your destination.
  3. Make sure your drone’s battery is fully charged or has enough power to fly.
  4. Ensure your drone’s controller and connector are in sync so that they work together.
  5. Check the weather conditions in advance of the area you wish to fly.
  6. Review your drone’s camera settings.
  7. Make sure the lens is clean and you can see clearly.
  8. If you want to document your flight, check to make sure your drone has its memory card installed.
  9. Inform people in the area you want to fly your drone and seek their permission.
  10. Review this checklist while flying your drone.

8. Choose An Appropriate Location

You will also want to fly your drone in a suitable area. The best locations to fly a drone have an open space, little trees, no power lines, and few buildings. Before you start flying, we recommend checking out your surroundings for five minutes.

In this observation period, consider the terrain, weather conditions, the people around, and your estimated battery life. It’s very important that you look at the weather. If it’s raining or windy, you could be at serious risk of damaging your drone because the wind and rain can interfere with the electronic equipment and/or the signals.

9. Ensure A Great Take-off And Landing

When you fly your drone, you will want to make sure it can take off and land without any problems. To ensure you have a good takeoff, make sure the area around you is open. Before you take off, review your checklist, so you feel prepared and know your drone is ready to fly.

Then begin to power up your drone and check the battery levels and drone settings. Once confirmed, begin to raise your drone a couple of feet above the ground.

Make sure in this phase you continue checking its settings and keep it hovering above the ground. If you notice anything unusual, you can then quickly land it. If all is ok, then you can raise your drone and begin to fly it.

When it comes to landing, you will want to declare you’re landing the drone and inform anyone nearby that you’re landing it in a specific area. As the drone descends towards the landing area, slowly decrease the speed and bring it down. Having a drone landing pad can also help to cut down on your drone’s propellers kicking up debris or dirt from the ground that could damage the drone.

Once it has landed on the ground, you should check its propellers to make sure they have stopped moving. Once they’ve stopped, turn your drone off and its battery supply. Then remove the propellers.

10. Look To Others For Guidance

Drones have been around for some time now, and there are lots of people using them in their personal and professional lives. Thus, resources are abundant online which will teach you tips and tricks about drone flying. In particular, YouTube is fantastic if you’re looking for some advice on flying.

But, the best way is to meet people and see them flying for yourself. Connect with drone flyers in your area via Facebook Groups or forums, and they can help share their experience and give you hands-on lessons on how to fly your drone. Most of the time, this community is warm, welcoming, and ready to help you out. Who knows, you could even make new friends fly your drone with?

11. Additional Flying Tips

Well, we wouldn’t write an article on flying drones without sharing all of our knowledge, would we? Now, in addition to what we’ve mentioned above, it’s also important you do the following:

  • Keep spare batteries for your drone on you at all times.
  • Carry your drone in a hard case or a bag. Drones are expensive, and you should treat your drone as an investment. Similarly, by having a case, you’re able to carry your drone’s battery and charger with you.
  • Look at maps in your spare time. If you look at satellite maps, this will help you gain an idea in advance of what locations might be suitable to fly your drone.
  • Carry a landing pad with you. When you’re flying your drone, you can never fully guarantee what the terrain will be like or if bad weather occurs. Having a folding landing pad will allow you to land your drone safely and reduce the risk of it becoming damaged.

12. Additional Safety Tips

When you’re flying drones, safety has to remain in the front of your mind. Therefore it’s essential you fly within your line of sight, in daylight, and in safe weather conditions.

Furthermore, it’s often good to have a spotter who can help coordinate your flight and your drone positioning. And if you find any damaged parts, i.e., the propellers, then you’ll want to replace them immediately.

Final Thoughts

Flying a drone can be daunting; after all, they’re expensive, and you don’t want to damage or lose your investment. When flying, you also have to consider others’ safety and fly according to FAA regulations.

Similarly, to fly, you have to register your drone and pay a $5 fee for three years. Before you fly, it’s important that you become acquainted with your drone, the rules, and know the optimum areas to fly in.

And most importantly, have fun!

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Jeremiah Burnett

What started as a gift for my two sons turned into a major hobby for me! After playing with my sons' quadcopter one winter afternoon, I quickly became obsessed with all things drone. I enjoy precision flying, creating stunning and smooth aerial videos, and taking beautiful photos of my hometown.

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