So you read the top five things to do before flying your quadcopter and you are interested in a bit more detail of how to go about your first flight. Read further to find out what I consider some must do’s.
You have a safe location picked out and it’s not too windy and all batteries are charged and you were careful to turn on the Tx (transmitter) before powering on the quadcopter. I like to put my quad onto the box i carry it in or any flat surface if there’s a lot of grass or the surface isn’t naturally flat. Also, I always try to grab a pair of sunglasses when I go fly so I have something protecting my eyes. The propellers spin pretty quick, so protecting your eyes is just a good idea. Plus getting a bug to fly into your eye while your trying to see which way your quad is flying is also no fun…ask me how i know :).
Ok so now its go time! Your drone is turned on, if applicable you have calibrated the compass and the GPS signal is locked. Set a timer on your phone for however many minutes should get you to a safe landing voltage and get ready to fly. If your quad like my DJI Phantom requires a CSC (Combination Stick Command) command go ahead and perform it now. The rotors will all 4 start spinning at a slow speed. In other quads it may be that the rotors only start spinning when you apply throttle and then stop if you were to let go of the throttle stick again. In this case slowly raise the throttle stick and make sure all propellers are spinning freely. This is a good time to see if 2 are spinning counterclockwise or clockwise. On a quadcopter 2 propellers opposite one another spin CW and the other 2 CCW.
Slowly apply throttle until your quad is hovering a few feet off the ground. I’d say eye level or just above is perfect. Anytime you are flying you ideally want to be “3 mistakes high” which means you can make 3 mistakes and still correct and not crash. That means takeoff and landing are inherently riskier maneuvers since you are close to the ground and less than 3 mistakes high, something to keep in mind.
What I first do pretty much all the time from my RC Airplane days even though there I did it on the ground was check that the forward stick is really forward and backwards is really backwards. Same goes for side to side. This has saved my bacon once as I had a brain fart and placed the quad backwards (facing me instead of facing away) and this test had me realize something was wrong. Had I just gunned it forwards expecting it to fly away it would have flown right into my face.
As your quadcopter is hovering you can see if it needs trim (found on lower end models that don’t have fancy flight computers). Trim is used to keep the quadcopter flying in one spot on its own using only throttle if needed to keep it level. So the pitch and roll axis are what may need trimmed.
After all this just take a minute to enjoy how stable the quad sits there. Pretty amazing to have the 4 motors singing in unison as your new toy hovers almost perfectly. That alone right there in a helicopter is a challenge, be happy you have a quad.
Next I would slowly climb to an altitude where you can still see the quad clearly but it’s high enough off the ground that if you mess up the controls there is a little room for error and you have a chance to correct your correction and save the craft from crashing. Fly forwards away from you so you can get a feel for how it handles in straight forward flight. Change the input you are using on the forward control stick so you also notice the difference your input has on the attitude of the aircraft. Once it’s aways a bit or it begins to be so far away that you can’t tell which was is forward it’s time to slowly center the pitch control stick and start pulling back. As it gets closer slowly release your input so that it comes into a hover a comfortable distance away from you. Now try this for right and left. Focusing that the entire time the back of the quadcopter is facing you. This is important for your first flight.
Once you’ve done that and your comfortable feel free to use the yaw axis (right and left on the left control stick for mode 2 Tx’s) and do a complete 360 degree turn. Pretty cool huh :). Be careful with this as if you were to stop while it’s only 180 degrees turned some of your controls are now backwards. When the quad is facing you left is no longer to “your left” it’s the quadcopters left. Only thing that stays the same is throttle (altitude).
Next I would try flying diagonally to combine forward and sideways flight. Get a feel for how much you have to move the control stick to achieve the movement you want. Once that’s done and you have more time left on your timer, or the battery indicators on the quad still show more than 30% juice left in the battery pack, turn the quad around 180 degrees a comfortable distance away from you and practice controlling it when it is facing you. If this is too hard, don’t worry about it and go back to flying with the quad facing away from you. One tip I have is to pretend you are in the “cockpit” of whatever your flying. If you are in the pilot seat so to speak left is always left and right is always right.
When it’s time to land, and i usually land before the battery gets too depleted come back into the area where you took off, or find another suitable spot if you’ve walked around a bit and have the quad face away from you, and slowly lower the throttle control stick to provide a nice slow decent rate. As you get close to the ground concentrate on getting it to land where you want it to land. It will want to move around a bit as you get into the ground effect, which is basically bumpy/dirty air that gets blown around by the quad itself. Once it’s down and you have the feeling that it won’t try to slide sideways causing it to tip over lower the throttle all the way to shut off the motors. If it wants to slide around or your kinda bouncing off the ground, there’s nothing wrong with adding throttle getting it a bit higher and trying to land again. Better to try again then have it tip over and mess up the props or risking injuring yourself.
Pat yourself on the back! You’ve had your first flight of many.
Check out our Phantom 4 Unboxing!