8 Easy Steps to Fly Your Drone (Video)
RC Drone 101
Everybody and their grandmas want to fly a drone. Thankfully, they no longer cost an arm and a leg to purchase due to the numerous manufacturers and simplified technology that goes into making them. The problem, however, is spotting a good drone from the seemingly infinite ocean of models available.
4 Popular Types of RC Drones
First, we need to see what types of RC drones are out there. Generally, they can be split into four groups – single rotor, fixed-wing, hybrid, and multi-rotor.
Single rotor drones are efficient at generating thrust for better movement. Some models come with combustion engines that run on gasoline, though electric/battery-powered drones are much more popular. They’re also designed to carry bulky and heavy loads while in flight. If you need to transport large objects to neighboring cities, then a single rotor drone might be for you.
Fixed-wing drones are similar to airplanes in the way that they generate lift using their wings rather than thrust-generating rotors. The way these drones achieve altitude is by angling their wings. However, the wings cannot help with vertical lift-off. These can be quite fast in the air and can last for several hours of flight.
Fixed Wing Hybrid
A relatively new category of drones is fixed-wing hybrids. They use the basic flight principles of helicopters (rotors) and airplanes (wings). The rotors are generally used for liftoff, then the wings take over for horizontal movement and gaining altitude while in the air. These are more complex drones and can cost quite a bit. However, they’re definitely worth the investment if you need hours and hours of flight time to deliver large parcels.
Multi-rotor drones are by the more most popular drone type. They’re used by both hobbyist fliers and professionals. Multi-rotor drones are equipped with powerful cameras that take beautiful images and videos. If you want to up your Instagram page with wonderful aerial shots, multi-rotors are the way to go.
Three Typical Drone Users
Your purchase decision should be based on what you plan on doing with the drone. In general, there are three user types – hobbyist, professional, and racing.
The most important things to a hobbyist flier are flight time and maneuverability. Drones built for hobbyists are durable and can reach long ranges. Spare parts are also readily available in the event of crashes.
Certain drones are made specifically for photography and video recording, making the onboard camera the star of the show. Controlling these drones is a lot easier in order to capture images from all the right angles. They typically last for between 10 and 20 minutes in the air per charge.
Drones for racing are built purely for speed. Drone races require the use of FPV (first-person viewing) goggles that lets the pilot see from the lens of the camera. Racing drones usually come with every feature in the book.
RC Drones 101: Understanding the Basics
When shopping for an RC drone online, you need to take into account several important factors. And here they are.
The most important factor is your skill level in operating a drone. Nobody, not even your worst enemy, wants to see you crash your pilot on its maiden flight. If this is your first drone, we’d recommend investing in a cheaper model that you can use to hone your skills. Or you could hire a personal flight trainer to teach you how to fly.
This refers to how long the drone can stay in the air on a single battery charge. Several factors affect the drone’s flight time, such as the weight of the drone, the weight of its cargo, battery size, and maneuver patterns. The price tag of a drone is usually a good indicator of how long it can stay in the air – cheaper models range from 7 to 15 minutes, whereas high-end drones can last anywhere from 15 minutes to more than 10 hours.
GPS sensors are extra handy for those of you who aren’t experts and flying drones. You can program certain coordinates into the GPS sensor to tell the drone where to fly. A neat feature is “Return Home” which, at the push of a button, will command the drone to come back to your home’s coordinates (must be programmed beforehand).
Most drones come with onboard cameras that let you take pictures or record videos from the heavens. To see exactly what your drone sees from the sky, the camera should have FPV that connects to a set of goggles.
The controller, also referred to as the transmitter, is what you need to perform figure-eights in the air. Depending on the model, the controller can show real-time diagnostics (altitude, speed, remaining battery life) and even come with a monitor for viewing through the lens of the drone’s camera.
RC Drone Accessories
Depending on how you use the drone, you might want to consider purchasing a few of the following accessories along with your first RC drone.
The rotors, though extremely important, aren’t all that durable. Flying your drone into a tree can end in disaster when one of the rotors snaps off. Having guards around the rotors will not affect its flight pattern and will protect them when you inevitably crash the drone into a brick wall.
The worst part about flying drones is calling it quits when the battery runs out. With a portable charger, you can refill the battery pack without needing to head home.
Additional Battery Packs
Or better yet, you can have an extra battery charging up while another one powers your drone. Having multiple battery packs will help you extend your flight time so you can get more practice each day.
Whether you’re racing your drone or would like to see what your drone sees, you need a pair of FPV goggles. Not every drone is compatible with goggles so we recommend double-checking with the manufacturer before settling on a drone model.
One of the hardest things to do when controlling a drone is landing. Setting her down on a surface can be tough, especially if you need to land on concrete or another hard surface. Landing pads are made of a soft material to cushion the drone’s feet to prevent scratching.
Flying while the sun is out is the safest way to gain flight hours. However, the sun isn’t kind to smartphone screens and controller displays. An umbrella/sunshade can prevent glaring by blocking sunlight from reflecting off of your phone or controller.
Cushioned Backpacks or Cases
Whether you get an expensive $1,000-plus drone or a cheap $50 model for practice, you shouldn’t carry the drone to and fro out of risk of dropping it and damaging the rotors. Instead, consider investing in a safety case with cushioned linings. Some cases have Styrofoam cushioning with cutouts that perfectly match the size and shape of your drone and its accessories.
Numerous drone models can be controlled via your smartphone. But just like gaming on your phone, controlling a drone can be difficult without an attachable controller. These snap onto the back of your phone and come with buttons that make flying a heck of a lot easier.
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