Just got a drone? Read this before flying!

drone Christmas Read before flying

First of all, Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone from the DroneDJ team. So you’ve just gotten a drone for Christmas, and you aren’t sure about the next steps to get it in the air safely. Look no further, as we take you through the important steps you MUST follow before piloting your new high-tech flying machine.

Un-packing the drone

At this point, you are likely very excited that you’ve just unwrapped a drone. Before you get carried away and fly the drone, you must first take it out of the box. Many drones will come with batteries in the box, so once the box is opened, find the charger and the batteries and start charging them. Don’t forget the controller. It’s good to do this first as they usually take a fair bit of time to charge fully.

It is also a good idea to lay everything the drone has come with on a flat surface, to know exactly what you got. This is a useful step as spare parts are often included, meaning you can quickly replace a propeller rather than having to buy more in the future. This is also good to see if anything is missing from the packaging.

Learning the rules

Now that your batteries are charging and you’ve taken everything out, it’s the perfect time to learn the rules for your new flying machine. It is important to know the weight of your drone. In most countries, drones that weigh under 250 grams are exempt from some of the rules. Below are the basic rules you should know when flying a drone, especially if you are doing so outdoors. Please note the below rules differ slightly from country to country, so please check your country’s rules.

  • You must only fly one drone at a time
  • You must always fly your drone within visual line-of-sight — this means:
    • flying only during the day
    • avoid flying in cloud, fog, or heavy rain
    • you can see your drone with your own eyes at all times — not by using binoculars or watching a video screen
    • not flying behind trees, buildings, or anything else that stops you from seeing your drone at all times.
  • You must not fly higher than 120 m (400 ft) above ground level — that’s about the height of a 35-story building or the length of a football field
  • You must not fly closer than 30 m (98 ft) to people — other than those helping to fly or navigate your drone
  • You must not fly over or above people at any time or height
  • You must not fly in a way that creates a hazard to another person, aircraft, or property
  • You must not fly near emergency situations
  • You must not fly in prohibited or restricted airspace

Below is a list of links that will take you to the aviation authority of each country:

Setting up the drone

Now you should understand the rules and have enough charge in your battery for a flight. If you have a drone that requires an app to work, download that now and create an account in the app if required. Once complete, power on the controller first and then the drone. This ensures the drone connects to the controller right away.

Connect your phone to the controller or the drone and load the app. Your drone will likely have a software update to do. This can take a bit of time and will chew through the battery. The batteries themselves might also have to be updated, which is also done through the app. If you aren’t sure what to do, don’t worry. The app will notify you when something has to be updated and stops you from taking off before you do so.

This next part is optional. If you want the best settings for your drone straight away, I highly recommend you check out a YouTube video on the specific drone you have. This will allow you to get some tips and understand the settings of the drone before taking off.

Your first flight

The first flight is an important time for any pilot. This is where you will get a feel for the drone. I recommend taking your drone to a large field without any obstacles that could cause the drone to crash. Once you’re at an open area you’re allowed to fly at, power on the controller, then the drone, and take it slow. If your drone has an app, it will walk you through the basic flight operations. If you don’t, the drone will come with flight instructions.

This flight isn’t about getting epic footage. It’s more to get a feel for the controls. I always recommend moving the sticks in small amounts to see how the drone reacts to it. This allows you to know how sensitive the drone is and begin to understand how a drone works. If your drone came with multiple batteries, I would recommend continuing to fly with them until you feel comfortable to start flying a little further.

After the flight

You’ve had your first flight, and you feel pretty great about it. Congrats, you’ve completed the first step to becoming a pro pilot. As soon as your back home, get those batteries on charge, as well as the controller. You’ll probably want to get back right out and flying again. When the batteries are charging, it’s a great time to do some research online to learn more about your drone and the thing people have done to improve it.

Enjoy the rest of your flying and remember to have fun with it. Find the best spots to fly in your city and find other people in the hobby. If you have any questions, please leave them below or send them to me on Twitter @joshspires_. Enjoy the rest of your Christmas day!

Photo: Josh Spires

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