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How to fly a drone

If you fly as a hobby, you do not need special training or certification before you blow up a drone. But that does not mean you should take your new quadcopter out of the box and fly it right away. Instead, learn how to use it safely and effectively to get the best pictures and videos without sacrificing the safety of you and others.

Learn the rules

Even if you do not need a class to fly drone for fun in the US, you still have to log in to the government. The FAA calculates $ 5 for a two-year hobby license. Licensing is on a per-person basis so you can pay once and fly as many drones as you own.

There are some basic rules of the heavens ̵

1; we have a separate article that covers them in detail. But the basics are simple: keep your drone at least five miles from an airport, keep it at or below 400 feet, avoid flying over crowds and keeping them in sight.

Learn Your Drone

You probably did some research before spending a few hundred dollars (or more) on a quadcopter. But if you're not sure what your drone can do, it's time to find out.

The latest top-end models are packed with useful security features, but you need to understand what they do and how they work to exploit them. Obstacle avoidance is a big deal – many drones have it, but it does not always work the same way. Is it always in your model? Will automatically navigate around obstacles, or will it simply freeze if it detects something blocking its path? Are the sensors only on the front or on several sides of the aircraft?

Obstacle avoidance sensors flank the lens of the DJI Mavic Air

You should also understand how the automatic return-to-home feature works. Just about every drone with GPS will fly to its starting point if the control signal is lost, or on demand. You can usually set a home flight altitude. This is particularly critical if you are flying low in an area with trees or other obstacles . You should ensure that the drone ascends to a safe height before returning automatically. [19659004] You should know the exact location of the return-to-home command, be it a physical button on the drone or an icon in the app that adjusts the settings. You should also see if your remote has a pause button to stop and stay in place with the press of a button.

The "H" and pause buttons can save your bacon know where they are

And although it's a last resort, you should also learn how to stop powering the drones in an emergency. I saw some models flying unexpectedly, and I would rather pick up the parts of a downed drone and recover a memory card than let the plane fly away and never be seen again.

One of the rules of the FAA For the leisure flight, put a sticker with your registration number on your drone. If you lose a drone in the wild, there is a chance someone might look up your registration data and get the plane back – though I would not hold my breath.

 Related Story See Drone Testing

In addition to the controls, keep in mind how long your drone can fly on full charge. In the app, there are usually battery life indicators on the screen that help you plan your flights. Most consumer models fly for 20 to 30 minutes with a fully charged battery.

 DJI Phantom 3 Standard: Map View

You should also note where your drone's control app displays telemetry data. In general, in addition to live broadcast from the camera, you get a real-time view of airspeed, altitude, orientation, and location on a world map. It is important to recognize and process this information while flying.

Learn to Fly

So you know how your drone works, how to enable its emergency security features, and how long it can fly on a single charge. Everything ready? Not yet.

The next step is actually learning to fly the thing. They can start in different ways. If you are careful, you should first work with the flight simulation software. DJI builds the feature into his app and allows you to use the drone to fly through a virtual world. But if you choose a different brand or need more discipline and structure, consider a training program.

There are some opportunities for training. You can try the True Drone Simulator for free or pay for a more sophisticated experience, complete with a special remote control for training with Zephyr's simulation software.

 NJ Drone Academy

A student shows his adapted DJI Inspire at the NJ Drone Academy

If you feel better in a classroom or plan to attend the FAA Part 107 test to fly a drone for commercial purposes, consider an online course. Drone Academy offers several packages, and if you're in New Jersey, you can attend a personal course at the NJ Drone Academy .

If you want to skip the simulator, I would recommend restricting early flights to areas without many people and to keep the drone near you and at a reasonable altitude. Start with manual controls – the left joystick will adjust the height and turn the drone, while the right joystick will be used to move forwards, backwards, left or right.

Once you have shut down the manual controls, you can use the automated flight modes that are included in many modern drones. You can take automated shots, including perfectly circular orbits and soffits, where the drone flies off an object and flies away to reveal its surroundings. Different planes will have different automated flight modes so you should spend some time checking each option.

What about the camera?

They probably are not just flying. Thanks to their integrated cameras, drones are very popular thanks to the integrated cameras. It can be experienced just as much about the camera as the drone itself. Modern drone cameras capture distortion-free images and videos, far removed from the fisheye look of earlier experiments.

 DJI Phantom 4: TapFly

Just like on the ground, the settings you use to capture still images and video are decidedly different. Drone cameras are built much like smartphones – most have fixed focal lengths with bright apertures, so they can get low-noise material in magic hours.

But you will not always fly in the dusk. To get the correct shutter angle for videos, you need to add a neutral density filter (ND) for flights in bright environments. Note that a shutter speed of 1/48 second is ideal for 24 fps video and a 1/60 second rate for 30 fps. It is necessary to reduce the amount of light entering the lens to maintain these speeds while maintaining the correct exposure. I recommend filters from PolarPro because they are of good quality and are available for many different drone cameras.

You do not have to worry about making ND's pictures, except you I'm interested in mixing the look of long exposure from the air. For most still images, we recommend that you freeze the motion by using a fast shutter speed to obtain a sharp exposure.

In addition to the camera settings, you should use the physical controls to adjust the exposure and tilt of the gimbal. Some newer drone models, including the zoom feature, have a lens angle adjustment lever and can reproduce the Dolly Zoom effect known from Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo .

Preflight Checklist

My last piece of advice is to follow a checklist before each flight. Here's the one I'm using:

 DJI Mavic Pro Platinum: Firmware Update Day Before Flight

    • Charging Flight and Remote Control Batteries
    • Finding Drone Firmware Updates
    • Confirm the contents of the memory card loaded to computer, format and test
    • check weather prediction for planned time and place
    • Check if the scheduled Location has no flight restrictions

Flight day

    • Check drone compass calibration at site
    • Check GPS lock, battery status, and memory card before take-off
    • Visually inspect aircraft and propeller; Watch out for plastic cracks or other potential issues
    • Make sure the phone is fully charged before starting
    • Check if the manual controls work immediately after they start

These are the basic steps I take should perform before each flight. You may want to customize the list. For example, if you use filters, make sure you have the right ones, or if you have a drone with interchangeable lens support, make sure you have the right lenses.

True championship will come with the times. So, remember to have fun and get great videos and pictures. But most importantly, stay safe when you fly your drone.

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