This Infographic Guide will show you How to Fly a Drone:
So you want some good drone pilot training to help you learn how to fly a quadcopter or drone? I bet you want to learn how to master both the basic and more advanced piloting skills, in as little time as possible. If so, then you’ve come to the right guide. I’ll lead you through the shortest and most quick path from drone novice to drone master.
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The Big 3 Skills:
Of all the difficult skills needed to fly a drone, the Big 3 are: learning how to keep it hovering in a single position (especially with wind affecting it), learning how to move it between points, and learning how to pilot it with it facing different orientations. This training is going to tackle these 3 big hurdles head-on, so the rest of your drone pilot training will be relatively easy.
Legendary Green Bay Packers’ coach, Vince Lombardi, once said, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” We are going to apply this to your drone pilot training.
You’ll go from near zero control over your drone all the way to having it fly exactly where you desire while simultaneously having its camera point exactly where you desire, AND while simultaneously walking around while piloting. All of this without using GPS-correction as a crutch. This is the basic recipe for cool drone selfies if you haven’t figured that out yet. And you’ll get there sooner than you’d think.
What is the quickest path to mastering your drone? By simply practicing and progressing through the following basic exercises, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an expert pilot.
You’ll just need to mindfully practice and train your brain to: hover your drone in a single position, take off and land between multiple positions, and do the previous steps with the drone facing different directions. Drone pilot training is that simple.
Once these movements come smoothly and easily to you, the rest of the drone flying skills will be easy to pick up.
It’s best to do your drone pilot training with a cheap drone without GPS, like the Syma X5C. Check out my full guide on the Syma X5C to see why I recommend it as the best training drone. Normally with GPS, a drone automatically maintains its position and height using GPS satellites and its built-in altimeter. A drone without GPS must be held in position manually with your controller and your eyes.
Training like this is like learning how to ride a motorcycle without Anti-Lock brakes. It’s good to fall back on these foundational skills in case your GPS fails (or maybe a solar flare takes out the GPS satellites while you’re trying to take the perfect drone selfie). As a bonus, it’s cheap insurance for when you make an early mistake, as the mistake will not be as costly. If you don’t want to invest $30 in a cheap drone or spend the extra time mastering it, then I must warn you: learning to fly a smart GPS drone will be much easier and less fun to learn.
If you don’t want to invest $30 in a cheap drone or spend the extra time mastering it, then I must warn you: learning to fly a smart GPS drone will be much easier and less fun to learn.
Start in a wide open area without obstacles, wind, nor other people or animals. (ie. backyard, driveway, empty parking-lot, nearby park without wind). Please DO NOT try it in your apartment/home before you become an expert, as you WILL crash it into something (I’m speaking from experience).
If you’re using a GPS drone that automatically hovers in a set position, then switch to a non-GPS mode. On the DJI Phantom, this involves switching the stick on the left shoulder of the controller from the P-mode (GPS-enabled) to the A-Mode (no GPS, but it will still hold a steady altitude). This will let you master your drone for situations where you might lose your GPS signal such as on cloudy days, under big structures such as bridges or tunnels, flying indoors, or after a nuclear war where the GPS satellites have been destroyed.
This is still easier than flying a non-GPS drone, as your drone will automatically stay at its current altitude on its own, though it still might drift around like a non-GPS drone. For GPS drones from other companies, read your manual or simply Google how to turn off GPS, as each drone will have a different procedure.
If your drone has an FPV screen option, then go through all the steps as with the dumb drone, but disconnect the screen and rely on manually controlling it with your eyes. Once you have mastered it without a screen, then go back through the steps a second time using only the screen. The second time around should be much quicker.
Controller: There are so many different drones and drone controller models that it’s best if you just read the instructions that come with your drone to figure out how your remote controller works or search YouTube instructional videos for further help.
Lastly, remember to make slow gradual movements on the throttle and controls, as any quick uncalibrated movement of a stick could lead to disaster. Once you’ve mastered these basic piloting skills, you’ll be well on your way to piloting the drone wherever you want it to go, while simultaneously keeping its camera focused on whatever target you choose, and while simultaneously moving around yourself. Good luck and keep practicing.
Basic Drone Pilot Training Steps:
1. First, you will master hovering in place. Put the drone on the ground in an open space with its front facing directly away from you (12 o’clock position), activate the throttle to hover the drone around 3 feet above the ground, and then try to keep it hovering there. Once you are able to keep it hovering in that exact position, proceed to the next step.
2. Next, you will learn how to take off and land from different spots. Put the drone on the ground and then once more hover around 3 feet above the ground. Then move the drone over a different spot around 10 feet away using only the forward/backward/sideways movement controls, so it is still facing the original 12 o’clock direction. Then carefully land the drone on this new spot and practice taking off, hovering 3 feet, moving between the two spots, and then carefully landing until you can do it smoothly and easily.
Next, add a third spot and move between the three spots until it’s smooth and easy.
3. The next step is mastering hovering while the drone is facing different orientations. Turn it on and hover it 3 feet above the ground. Next, while maintaining its hovering position, turn it left so it’s facing the 10 o’clock direction. This might feel more difficult than the last step, but keep trying until you’re able to hover it facing the 10 o’clock position while not moving around.
Repeat it with the 2 o’clock position, then 9 o’clock, then 3 o’clock, and then finally 6 o’clock (facing you). This might take multiple battery charges to master. Once you’ve mastered hovering while facing different directions, move on to the next step.
4. This step will feel familiar. You’ll be taking off to 3 feet above the ground and moving between three different positions again, but this time while facing different orientations. Start while facing 12 o’clock to refresh your skills. Once you feel you can move smoothly and easily, then try moving between the three positions while facing the 10 o’clock position, the 2 o’clock position, then 9 o’clock, 3 o’clock, and then finally facing the 6 o’clock position (facing you).
Once you feel you can move the drone smoothly and easily while facing different directions, congratulations, you’ve mastered the hardest part of piloting a drone.
Advanced Training Steps:
Practice, practice, practice! Just practice piloting the drone the way you want to pilot it and you will get gradually get better. The hard part of drone pilot training is over. Now just go out have fun, and your piloting skillset will naturally grow and expand.
If you have a more advanced drone like a DJI Phantom, now would be a good time to start exploring the more advanced software features like AutoTrack, Waypoints, Circling a point, Return-To-Home, etc. Refer to the manual of your specific drone to see what advanced features you can experiment with.
Congratulations, you now know how to fly a drone like an expert, with or without GPS or FPV support. And if you’re interested in upgrading to an advanced GPS drone after you finish drone pilot training with a cheap drone, then be sure to check out my guide on best photography drones. After that, check out my infographic guide to Drone Photography.
If there is any part of basic training that is unclear to you, be sure to check out this helpful quadcopter basic training YouTube video by Korey Smith from his flying guide at MyFirstDrone.com: