Hi everyone, as a recent beginner to the world of quadcopters and flying FPV i can say its been a tough learning curve and a lot of the time while waiting on good weather or batteries to charge i have been burning up the wifi researching all i can about the hobby. And in doing so ive come from knowing nothing to knowing slightly more than nothing. This hobby is a minefield of terminology and jargon that when first stepped into can seem quite daunting.
So ive piled together some beginner tips and things ive noticed in my first few months of flying for people looking to start out and hopefully save you some of the leg work.
Pick a drone suitable for the type of flying you want to do. If you want to fly indoors - keep it small and durable (tiny whoop), if you want to sail through the air with backflips and barrel rolls then a racing drone is more up your street. If you want stunning aerial pictures and videos then a smoother larger comercial drone is more your thing.
Drone choice is paramount to the limitations and restrictions of how you will be able to fly. I chose and FPV racing drone to fly with and love that it can be used to catch stunning aerial shots as well. Just so you know what my experience with drones has been.
Once you know what you want to fly, next you need to find out how you wish to fly and learn how to fly it that way. If line of sight takes your fancy then practice small with a cheap hobby shop model to get the hang of taking off and landing as well as some simple manouvers. If FPV is what you are after then you will need appropriate equipment in which to do this (fpv capable drone and a screen/goggles to view the video). There are loads and loads of different types and models so starting out - cheaper is not a bad thing as it will stop you running out of fund early and become disheartened at the costs. Auction sites, social media stores and local hobby shops could save you money that can be better spent elsewhere in the future as long as the equipment is in good working order and to the spec you wish.
Next: LIPO batteries
Learn and research all about them as they are the heart of your quad.
These are usually in 2,3,4 or 5 cells (abbreviated to 2s,3s,4s,5s) and Simply put- dont charge them past 4.2volts per cell and never deplete the batteries more than 3volts per cell (i personally stop flying at 3.2 volts per cell to not damage the battery) … remember the bigger the battery the longer flight you will get but at the cost of weight. Heavier drones will not be as agile but the biggest way to increase flight time is to CHANGE THE WAY YOU FLY. When you first get out you might want to explode to the stratosphere and break the sound barrier with the drone but all this will do is empty the battery and reduce your practice sessions to bare minutes. When i first started flying i could string out a 8-10 minute flight on a 4s 1500mah battery just frome cruising around doing some lazy turns and practicing landing gently.
Another thing is factor in the price of a decent lipo charger … ones that come with quads are not very good. £40 -£80 is a good price range for an adequate smart lipo charger. Also (and i only just figured this out after 5 months) to CALCULATE CHARGE CURRENT - take the mah of your battery and divide it by 1000 … ie 750mah should be charged at 0.7amps, 1500 mah should be charged at 1.5amps and 2000mah should be charged at 2amps etc etc. This gives you a 1C charge current. To get 2C - you double the value etc etc. I never charge at more than 1C.
Now once you have picked which drone you wish to fly and have sorted out the battery, you should find out these 2 things: 1- its specs, write a list of things you might need for later. Antenna connector type is a good one (is is sma, rp-sma etc) and which type of polorisation it is (right hand or left hand polorised), camera thread size and diameter is a good one if you are looking to swap the lens to a wider field of view (FOV) … there are plenty of comprehensive guides out there on how to find out which is which so i wont put them on this post but it is really nice to know what individual parts you have on your drone. 2- find where to get spare parts, props and batteries. Spare parts WILL be required. From crashing (which honestly will happen at some point) or fatigue. Props get stressed and should be replaced when signs show (discolouration at the point where the prop meets the hub or nicks, cuts and scrapes along the blade from dust/colisions). Batteries dont last forever but if you take care of them then they should last a while but the more you have the less stress you out on individual batteries making them last longer. And drone parts can break so knowing where to get a spare arm or top plate quickly can save time and get you back up in the air quickly.
Next id advise practicing with a small drone (tiny whoop) indoors before heading out. I didnt and paid the price by not expecting the drone to take off as much as it did and completely made a meal out of my first flight. So start small and build up. Even if you are flying line of sight (LOS) practice, practice, practice until you get the hang of how quads handle.
After this and once you have everything you need, time for the first flight. I highly recommend picking an open, grassy unihabited area with plenty of space and no obstacles to hit. Make sure you keep going to this spot so you can become familiar with your controller functions and drones capabilities in a controlled enviroment. Ideally you want there to be no wind as this can play havoc with the learning curve when practicing. When you hit the arm switch and the props start spinning You will be probably be feeling excited and nervous but dont worry - Confidence is key and the best thing i can advise is start SLOW. A little tip i figured out and this might seem a bit odd but if you adjust your camera angle on the drone, try and get it quite flat (as close to horizontal as possible) this will enable you to move slowly while being able to see ahead. It will discourage you from trying to fly fast at first and as your skill increases you can tilt the camera of the drone up to compensate. The more you pitch the camera (say 30 degrees) the faster you will have to fly in order to keep where you are going in the centre of your screen. If flying LOS then this isnt much of an issue.
Now when flying drones there are a few flight modes. Angle (on betaflight) is a self level mode in where you press the stick in order to move and when you release the stick the drone will automatically self level itself. This is ideal for your first few flights in order to see how far you can safely go before visual signal starts to disappear. This is a good thing to know as you dont want to get further out than your video signal can reach so its nice to know exactly how far you can go before this drops out. Take it slow and learn how the quad handles especially when you throttle off (no throttle) as drone all FALL differently depending on where the weight is in the frame.
Do not think you will be able to do what you see on freestyle drone videos right away as you will probably end up breaking something. That is not to say dont try but for the first few flights - just take it SLOW.
After this, its time to learn acro, if you set up your controller correctly (plenty of guides so wont post here) then you will know how to activate acro mode (or rate mode as its sometimes called). This does NOT self level the drone and feels completely different to fly than angle mode. When you move the stick the drone will pitch/roll until you let go of the stick and when you do it will stay at the last angle you had it at until you correct it yourself. This sounds confusing and believe me it is. Videos on the subject are numerous and can spell it out but really you just have to flick the switch and go for it (try it from high up first to avoid hitting the gound). Just make sure you know which switch you have to swap back to angle mode if you start to loose orientation.
Once you have got the hang of flying in an open space, try adding some variety to the flights. You dont need to start punching it and zooming along at breakneck speeds to liven up a flight. Simply add some obstacles. A lone tree, pole or lamp post can do wonders for teaching control and gives a good reference point to play with. When you know the size of something in your mind you have to remember that as a drone you are a lot smaller and can move in all 3 dimensions. Use a lone obstacle to practice baisic manouvers before adding more complex dives, turns and flips. Before long you will have a favourite spot and know it like the back of your hand. When you get to this stage you will feel more comfortable doing more risky things. Flying faster or higher and inevitably crashing and having to do the all important repairs so you can scratch the FPV itch once again.
Now on the basis of repairs, parts are not that expensive. So home repairs (glue, tape etc) are not the best solution. The parts on drones can be put under a lot of stress and replacing one arm is better than repairing the arm temporarily and then when the repair fails you will end up having to replace a lot more.
Also, Soldering is not rocket science. You can pick up a simple solder iron cheaply and learn how to do it effectively from videos online so do not think you need to be an expert electrician to fix or replace parts on a drone. Just factor in that once you have the equipment to repair a drone you shouldnt need to get it again.
So there you have it, hope this helps all you new starters in getting confidence that what you are about to dive into (pun intended) is addictive and extremely fun. There is a never ending library of skill and experience to draw from the forums here and the people are all extremely helpful. From repairs or equipment buying advice everyone is in it for the same hobby and we all know what its like to be fustrated and stuck without a means to get up in the air.
Hope you like this and feel free to comment. If i think of anything else i will add it in and to all you veterns - try to think back to when you frist started flying and feel free to add in the things you wish you knew back then to make life easier for those looking to join in on the fun.
Happy flying people
#Crash, Repair, Rinse, Repeat