A Beginner’s Guide to Drones

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Are you looking to buy your first drone? Or have you just bought one and need advice on how to get started? In this guide, we cover everything you need to know about drones as a beginner. From where to buy the best drones to tips on setting up your device, we’ll walk you through the drone need-to-knows.

How to choose the best drone

Although it’s still early days in the drone revolution, there’s already a wide range of drones available on the market. Having ample choice is great, but researching which drone is best for you can be time-consuming.

The most important thing is to decide what you want to use your drone for. Do you want to shoot high-speed action movies? Do you want your drone to cover long distances? Or would you simply like to use it to take incredible birds-eye view images?

The drone you choose will depend on its purpose. To give you some guidance, we’ve selected the most popular drones on the market and categorised them by their features. From this, you’ll better understand what each drone does and the kind of person that uses one.

Best drones for professionals looking for strength & power

Professionals need a drone that will stand up to strong winds. Otherwise, you risk footage quality deteriorating as your device gets battered by the elements.

DJI Phantoms

DJI’s Phantom range is the go-to product for professionals. The drones have set the standard for quality, performance and usability.

Yuneec Typhoon H

Yuneec’s Typhoon H model produces silky smooth footage and is robust enough to withstand gusts of wind. It can even lose a propeller and stay in the air, although you probably wouldn’t want to test this out!

That said, don’t choose the Typhoon H if you need a portable drone. It’s heavy, has a huge case and takes a long time to set up. Save this one for car journeys.

Best drone for portability & convenience

People often like to take their drone on holiday – the aerial footage offers a nice way to remember a trip away. But, no one wants the hassle of having to lug around a bulky machine, especially, if you have to comply with stingy luggage weight restrictions.

DJI Mavic Pro

The DJI Mavic Pro is compact and small enough to carry in a backpack. Best of all, the lightweight design doesn’t compromise on quality. In fact, the Mavic produces footage that’s just as sharp as the Phantom 4.

The Mavic Pro comes with autonomous navigation and has a long-distance remote control range. Also, you have the option of using your phone or the remote to control the drone. In sports mode, the Mavic Pro can reach speeds of 40mph.

On the downside, the Mavic Pro’s small size doesn’t put it in the best stead to endure adverse weather conditions. In high winds, the drone won’t fall from the sky, but it will run out of battery fast.

GoPro Karma

The GoPro Karma is another portable drone worth checking out. Like the Mavic Pro, it’s lightweight and folds up for transportation.

One thing it features that the Mavic Pro doesn’t is a detachable gimbal, which you can detach and use to shoot handheld videos.

Choosing the drone that’s right for you

A drone from any of these top-end providers will produce crisp, high-quality footage and fly for 20 minutes or more. But, depending on your individual needs, certain models will work better for you.

For most people, lightweight drones, such as the Mavic Pro, are a good choice. The Mavic Pro has all the features of a high-end camera drone in an affordable package. However, if you’re a professional intending to use your drone frequently and/or for commercial purposes, you’re better off going for one that’s more durable.

Preparing your drone

Once you’ve read the user manual, charge your drone’s battery. It’s important to ensure your drone is fully charged to avoid your flight getting unexpectedly cut short. That said, don’t worry about your drone falling out of the sky; a decent drone is smart enough to guide itself back to earth when it senses its battery warning.

Where’s best to fly a drone?

When your batteries are full, find a suitable place to take your first flight. Choose a location that meets the following criteria:

  • An open area away from crowds, high-rise buildings, power lines and open water
  • Doesn’t suffer from electronic interference, such as that caused by pylons, radio transmission towers and Wifi.
  • Isn’t too close to an airport or military base (flying near to these will get you in trouble with the authorities)

Once you’ve chosen your spot, you must insert an SD card into the drone’s camera. The SD card is where the drone stores all the cool footage it captures. As an FYI, most drones take the same SD card as Go Pro cameras.

Before you set your drone down, ensure that the flight mode is set to ‘P’, which turns on the GPS positioning system. The GPS will keep the device in position when you aren’t directly controlling it and help the drone counter high winds.

How to turn on a drone

To turn on your drone, follow these steps:

  1. Insert the battery into your drone.
  2. Push and hold the power button on the remote control.

Check the lights on the drone and remote control flash green to show they are connected.

Now it’s time to mount your phone on the controller open up the app. You’ll need to connect your phone to the controller via wifi or a USB cable. Check to make sure there are no errors found or updates pending – it should say ‘good to fly’.

Calibrating a drone’s compass

Next, comes the most critical step: you have to calibrate the compass of the drone. You do this by picking it up horizontally and rotating 360 degrees. Then repeat holding the compass face down. You must re-calibrate each time you change location.

Never start a flight without checking the message on your controller or app reads ‘GPS Safe Lock to Fly’ (or similar). It means the drone knows exactly where it is in relation to all the GPS satellites it needs. If you fly without this confirmation, there is a high chance the ‘return to home’ function won’t work properly.

How to fly a drone

Now, you’re finally ready to fly! When putting your drone in position face it away from you, this is how the orientation in the controls is set up, so when you press forward, it’ll go forwards rather than back.

The remote control

On your controller, you have two sticks. The left stick controls altitude and rotation while the right controls movement (forwards, backwards, left and right).

For your first flight, don’t try to do too much. Keep your movements to a minimum; you never need to push the sticks all the way to the sides.

Taking off

Check one last time that the drone is safe to fly, and then slowly move the left stick up. The motors will spin faster, and the drone will lift off the ground. Release the stick when the drone is about 10 feet off the ground. Once you’ve let go, the drone should sit in the air.

Next, move the right stick right, left, forward and back. The device should respond, and with that, you’re flying your latest gadget!

Things to be aware of when flying

When flying, try not to let the excitement affect your judgment. You always need to keep an eye out for obstacles like trees and buildings.

Also, look up at your drone from time to time rather than relying on the live preview that displays on the app. It will let you know if the drone has travelled further than you realised.

It’s time to go from drone novice to pro

Once you’ve chosen your favourite drone and set it up for flying, the hard work is out the way. All that’s left to do is get as much flying experience as you can. The more you fly, the easier you’ll find it to precisely navigate the drone and get it to capture the images you want.

Keen to find out more about the best drones on sale? Then check out our article on the ‘Top 10 Drones to Buy in 2017