Beginners Guide to Flying a Drone

Although the temptation to rush out and start flying your new drone immediately may be irresistible, if you do this the chances are it will hit the ground within minutes.  Here are a few tips to help you avoid that maiden flight catastrophe and keep your drone intact.

1) Read the manual

It sounds simple, but we never do it!  Drones come in all shapes and sizes and their controls vary too, so even if you are used to flying other drones, the chances are your new models will be different.   Take special note of how to activate the drones "Return to Home" feature, this is effectively your panic button which will bring the drone back to where it took off should anything go wrong.

You also need to know the drones start up procedure.  You may need to turn the drone on before the controller, or vice versa, and you may need to leave it alone for a while to calibrate the electronics and GPS.

2) Choose suitable weather conditions

Don't fly your new drone on a windy day.  Even a slight wind can soon carry it out of range of the controller and onto private property or into trees.

3) Find a safe place to fly

Once you are confident you have a handle on the controls, know how to switch it on, and have fully charged both the controller and the drone, you should now take your drone to a large open space free of obstacles and people (i.e. not your back garden!  Flying in a small area with limited experience of the drone's controls means you are probably going to crash).  A flat, open area away from people, vehicles and trees is ideal, with a soft grassy surface to cushion your drone in the event of rookie pilot errors and crashes.  Check out Where to Fly Your Drone for more advice.

4) Practice the controls

Launch your drone to a good height, approx 100ft, and practice basic flight manoeuvres like left, right, circles and figure of eights. Make your movements gentle and slow, and avoid the temptation to overcorrect if your drone is heading off the wrong way.  You need to gain experience flying the drone so that it almost becomes subconscious, if you have to think about which direction you are going in or what to do next then it may be too late and you will already have crashed.

5) Do not fly the drone over your head or behind you

It is disorientating and you are likely to crash, not to mention the safety hazard if there is someone behind you.

6) Do not fly into the sun

You won't be able to see  and will lose sight of your drone, and it will probably crash.

7) In case of emergency ...

Hit the "Return to Home" control, which you memorised before you launched the drone ... you did that right?

What To Do If You Crash Your Drone

Sadly, even despite following this advice, drone crashes are almost inevitable, and in the event of damage thankfully most of the popular models now have replacement parts available. 

Following a crash you should disconnect and inspect the battery, and if there is any sign of damage then discard it as a damaged one can explode. 

Broken propellers are easily replaced, but if you have snapped a more substantial part such as the landing gear or propeller guards, you can try gluing it back together.  If the edges are clean and fit together perfectly, then super glue or Araldite should work, however if several pieces have smashed and there are gaps in the plastic then you could try Bondic, All Purpose-Instant Fix Plastic Welder .  It is a liquid plastic that dries clear once it is cured with a UV LED light, which is included in the price when you buy the starter kit.  You need to build it up in layers, curing each one as you go, and it works best if the surface you are applying it to are roughened beforehand.