Drones are taking the world by storm and of course, you’d want to get your hands on one of these modern marvels.
The excitement of owning your first drone will have you eager to fly the new unit right out of the box.
However, this can lead you to crash the drone or unknowingly break the law.
But have no fear as you can easily avoid common amateur drone pilot mistakes if you know what to watch out for.
Most of these mistakes are the sort of common-sense stuff but they can be easily missed if you have no idea of what to do or the laws.
In this article, we will discuss the common amateur drone pilot mistakes and help you learn how to avoid making them so stick around.
Drone flying tips
Before checking out our tips, you can read this how to fly a drone post.
Moving on, here are the best tips on how to fly a drone.
1. Start small
There’s no feeling that comes quite close to owning your first drone.
All while you may be excited to dive head-first into the drone market to purchase your first drone, you need to be careful.
If you’re new to the drone world then it is recommended that you start small.
Your first drone should be a small inexpensive unit that can help you get the hang of things.
Also, look for something with less power and work your way up as you get better.
Nothing can ever be perfect but they say practice makes perfect.
In this instance, practice can help make sure you are familiar with your drone and know how to handle it in various situations.
Investing in a powerful and expensive drone as your first unit can be disastrous especially if you know nothing when it comes to flying a drone.
There’s no doubt that you’ll crash a few times and in some cases, the crash may damage the drone beyond repairs which will see your money going down the drain.
Read this article for the best quadcopters for beginners.
2. Fly legally
You may need to register your drone with the FAA before you fly.
If your unit weighs 0.55 pounds or more, you need to register the unit with the FAA.
If you are going to be selling your drone photos or videos then it doesn’t matter the size or type of drone you fly, you must register the drone with the FAA.
You can do so under the Part 107 commercial drone category.
For more on registering your drone, check out our answer to the most asked question which is do i need to register my drone?
The second thing you’ll need to do is to apply for a drone license before you fly.
Up until recently, hobby pilots weren’t required to acquire a drone license.
However, that has changed and the FAA has rolled out a new test for all hobby pilots.
The Recreational UAS Safety Test(TRUST) is designed to educate you on the best flight practices so that you can operate your drone in the safest way possible in the national airspace.
You must pass this test before you try to fly your drone!
The test is free and can be taken online.
If you are going to be compensated for your flight then you must operate under a different set of rules and obtain a commercial drone license.
You’ll be required to take the Part 107 test to obtain your commercial drone pilot license.
The test isn’t too hard but it may take some time to learn all the rules.
You won’t find drones coming with this set of instructions that tells you what you are and aren’t allowed to do.
While it may not be a big problem in other countries around the world, in the United States all drone operators must abide by the laws and follow the regulations set out by the FAA.
Here’s a short version of a few basic drone flight guidelines in the United States:
- Fly at or below 40 feet from the ground.
- Always keep your drone in your line of sight. If you cannot see the unit, bring it in.
- Do not fly in and around airports.
- Stay away from airplanes since they have the right of way in the air.
- Do not fly over people.
- Do not fly over or close to sporting events or stadiums.
- Do not fly near emergency situations like fires or vehicular accidents, etc.
- Do not fly under the influence.
- Do not fly in controlled airspace. Use the B4UFly app.
- Your drone needs a Remote ID broadcast transmitter.
The controlled airspace situation states that you cannot fly within 5 miles of an airport.
That is unless you receive authorization from the local air traffic controller for where and when you will be flying.
The FAA also has a list of no drone zones that give you areas where you’re not permitted to fly so that you keep safe and legal.
The bottom line is that you just cannot take your drone out from the box and fly wherever you want.
The rules set out by the FAA are fairly easy to comply with so you’ll have no problem abiding by the rules.
3. Have a good attitude
While it’s important to follow all the rules set out by the FAA, certain attitudes may lead to risks when flying your drone.
The FAA mentions these in their materials and if you are studying for your part 107 certification exam then you should pay special attention to this section.
According to the FAA, these are the attitudes you should avoid when flying your drone:
Anti-authority – those who are anti-authority tend to believe the rules do not apply to them.
Impulsivity – this applies to people who impulsively take action before thinking through the results.
Machoism- where people take unnecessary risks.
Resignment – this happens when people believe they have no control over a situation.
What the FAA is saying is that you are the pilot, you are in control and you’ll need to conduct yourself in a safe and thoughtful manner.
It doesn’t mean that you have to log your complete flight plan before taking off, it simply means that you’ll have to follow the rules and a personal set of guidelines when you’re flying.
That can be anything from deciding to fly within a certain area, avoid trees over in one corner and power lines or people.
4. Be patient and check weather conditions
Yes, you’d want to put your drone in the air as soon as possible but do not throw caution to the wind.
if the conditions aren’t right, do not attempt to fly your unit.
Wind and air temperatures greatly affect your flight.
The wind is one factor that is quite unpredictable.
Take note of the direction of the wind and speeds before you take off.
This way you can make sure you’ve got enough battery to return home.
Air temperature, on the other hand, can also cause issues.
Air pressure is drastically different at different air temperatures and the drone’s battery can last longer on a cooler day than on a hot one.
This is because the denser air makes it easy for the propeller to create the lift needed to fly.
in the end, just be patient and wait until the conditions are perfect before flying your drone.
If not, you run the risk of crashing or high winds whisking your drone away.
5. Stay in range
Most drones will state their operating range which is the straight line distance between the controller and the drone.
It is recommended that you stay within the listed range or be prepared to go chasing your drone if you don’t.
In the United States, the FCCstates that all radio frequency electronics must accept interference.
As much as the FAA would like for no machine in the sky to not experience interference, it happens.
So be prepared because it actually happens a lot especially if your drone is equipped with an FPV camera and live streams videos to your phone or the controller.
You should also try to avoid flying in places that have a high natural magnetic interference because it can mess with the GPS.
If you fly close to large structures, power lines or radio towers, your drone will not be able to maintain a stable flight and you may lose control of the drone which can lead to crashes, etc.
6. Flying too close to the ground
The most common mistake beginner pilots make is the fly too close to the ground.
While keeping it low may sound like a safe thing to do especially if it’s your first time flying a drone, you can create one of the least stable flying situations possible for a drone.
As the propellers spin, they move air downwards with enough force so that the drone can lift off from the ground.
When you’re flying close to the ground that air bounces back up to the drone.
Either of two things happens when you hover too low.
First, the drone is given an extra boost and that extra high-pressure air is what keeps the drone aloft.
Keep in mind that at this point you won’t have enough throttle to sustain flight.
Second, the propeller wash is extremely unstable and drones hovering low can suddenly whip into a spin or completely flip upside down.
This is because the drone is producing enough airflow to lift itself into the air and when the air bounces off the ground back to your drone at a weird angle, crazy things happen.
Most drones should be safe once you are a few feet off the ground but try to go about 7 or 8 feet in the air then hover and see how things like wind are affecting your drone, etc.
7. Fly Alone
If you are a new pilot stay away from the local drone park until you’ve mastered the art of flying a drone.
You do not need the added confusion and commotion from pets, kids, other drone pilots or whatever else when learning to fly your drone.
This is because the FAA holds you solely responsible for everything that you’re drone does during its flight until it is safely back on the ground.
What this means is that you need to give your drone your full undivided attention.
Another thing to not do is to hand over the controls while your drone is in the air.
This increases the risk of something being mistakenly pushed or press which may lead to chaos.
Land the unit before handing over the controls if you need to do so or do not take off if you know that something will pop up that is going to require your attention before you land.
8. Update the software before leaving your home
This one is pretty straightforward but oftentimes people forget to check for updates before leaving the house.
if you don’t then you will be using up your battery power mobile data and time to do when you’re in the field.
This can cause frustration so to avoid this grief, check for updates and update the software before leaving the house.
If you are using an app like DJI Fly App, check for updates as well.
9. Watch battery levels
The excitement of flying your drone may tempt you to fly the unit with less than a full charge.
However, some people do but there is no doubt that you will have a whole lot more fun and be safer if your batteries are fully charged.
Fully charged batteries will last longer and minimize the risk of the drone running out of battery power in the air.
Drones do not slowly drift to the ground when the battery dies, they just stop and drop.
The same goes for the remote controller since you do not want to lose control of the drone during flight so ensure that the batteries are fully charged or you’re using new batteries.
Remember that it is your legal responsibility to ensure that your drone flies in the safest manner possible until you land.
Making sure that your batteries are fully charged is one of the easiest ways to avoid running into drone problems.
10. Don’t rely too much on AI
One of the reasons, you should start with a low-cost toy drone is because they don’t offer a ton of autonomous flight modes.
There’s no doubt that autonomy can make flying your drone o much easier but what happens if it fails mid-air?
You probably won’t know what to do because you didn’t learn how to fly your drone properly and what to do in certain situations.
For this reason, do not depend too much on AI in the beginning since it teaches you nothing and if it fails and you don’t know to manually control the drone, your drone will crash.
So keep practicing so in the event the AI on your unit fails, you can safely bring your drone back to you and land safely.
We’ve just touched on a few basics but these are the most important drone tips and tricks to follow when flying your drone.
These will help you to fly your unit safely and ensure you stay within the perimeters of the law.
Failure to comply with the regulations set out by the FAA can result in some steep fines so be careful.
Remember, it can take weeks or months to master the art of drone flying so be patient.
Once you’ve got it all down and follow the rules, you can enjoy some amazing time in the air.