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9 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR DRONE PILOT SKILLS

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I am glad to publish the following guest post by Michael Karp on “9 ways to improve your drone pilot skills”.
Piloting a drone is one of the funnest things ever.
There’s nothing quite like controlling a flying piece of technology and having it respond at will.

And with the amount of societal applications available, drones have more meaning in our everyday lives than any consumer remote control vehicle before them.

But for many aspiring pilots, getting their flying skills up to par is a continuous challenge. They struggle with landing, avoiding obstacles, flying safely, and a mountain of other hurdles.

So in this article, I’m going to show you nine ways you can improve your drone pilot skills.

You will learn which type of drone to start off with, how quickly you should advance, an exercise to improve your landing precision, and much more.

Let’s get to it!

1) Take A Training Course

This is one of the fastest ways to get up to speed.

If you want to advance your skills in the shortest time possible, have a pilot (or multiple pilots) teach you the skills they spent months or years learning.

You will absorb a lot of great information from their personal experiences, and it will drastically reduce your learning curve. You can often become a more than proficient pilot within one weekend of instruction.

There are many courses available teaching all sorts of skills and techniques, both in-person and online (if there isn’t one offered near you). Check out this list of over 60 drone training courses to find one that’s right for you.

2) Practice With A Smaller Drone First

The school of thought here goes both ways.

Some say that starting with a small drone is harder, because they’re more difficult to control than higher-end drones. Others say that if you can adequately control a small drone, you’ll have no problem controlling a bigger one.

I’m on the latter side, but for a different reason. I think pilots should start with smaller drones because they’re less expensive. You risk a much smaller investment when you get in the air. We’re talking $10’s rather than $100’s or $1,000’s.

Once you’ve gone through a couple lower-end drones and are able to minimize your crashes, you will know that you can safely move on to a more expensive model.

3) Watch Instructional Videos

Sometimes, it can be tough to learn a skill like drone flying by reading an article. With a video, you can get the instruction and see it in action.
4) Take Baby Steps
On your initial flights, it’s tempting to fly straight up 50 feet and start whirl-winding around your local airspace.

Try to avoid this temptation.

Instead, as with any coordinated endeavor, start with building your fundamentals first.

Take baby steps as you progress.

Start by taking off, flying straight up, hovering in place, and landing back down. Move the sticks slowly and steadily until you get a feel for how sensitive they are.

Then practice your yaw (rotation), roll (horizontal movement), and both at the same time to fly in a circle. Continue progressing like this as you get comfortable with each stage of drone flight.

5) Use Landing Targets
Landing targets help you improve your landing precision. This is an extremely important skill for drone pilots, because you sometimes have only a tiny area to safely land your drone.

You want to be confident you can make it into that area.

First, find an open space that is clear of people, animals, and other objects. Then place markers on the ground that vary in distance from each other.

Start from one marker. Take off and fly to another marker. Then land as close to that marker as possible. Then do the same to another marker.

Continue doing this until you can land on each marker almost flawlessly.

When you do find yourself in a sticky landing situation, this is the exercise that will give you the confidence to execute it fearlessly.

6) Practice Flying Around A Point Of Interest
You maneuver the drone in a circle around a center of focus.

This skill is great for professional camera drone pilots, because clients will often want a panned shot of their property, construction site, or other area of focus.

This also teaches you how to balance yaw and roll to create an even flight path.

7) Fly Using FPV

FPV stands for First Person View. When you fly using FPV, you get a live feed of what your drone is seeing to a screen in front of you.

This helps many professional pilots get the shots they desire, but it can also help a pilot build their skills.

When using FPV, continually switch from looking at the screen and at the drone itself.

Try to get a feel for how certain types of movements affect the camera’s angle.

Practice flying fast, slow, and while turning different directions. Then use the camera’s view to get a closeup look at what’s happening in the air.

Try taking shots with FPV. Then see if you can get the same shots without it.

8) Buy Drones That Match Your Skill Level

Some pilots buy drones that are way above their skill level.

Your pilot skills don’t just encompass how well you can maneuver a drone, but also how well you know its parts, how to use its features, and how to take advantage of its capabilities.

Technologically advanced drones can be confusing for pilots who are unfamiliar with them. When you’re looking at drones to buy, buy ones that match your skill level.

You will be happier with your purchase, and you will feel a lot more confident upgrading to higher-end models.

9) Practice As Often As Possible

If you really want to improve your pilot skills, you should practice as often as possible.

Start a flight log to track your flights, and set up different days and times each week that are dedicated to building your skills.

If you can carve out a few hours a week to get in the air, you will be able to build your skills in no time.
Over to You

There is no “best” way to become a better drone pilot. Everyone learns differently and at different speeds.

Find the methods that work best for you, find more information at the blog Blog - Kynix Semiconductor Hong Kong Limited. and get yourself out there as often as possible.

How have you been learning to fly a drone? Share your methods in the comments below.
 
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Nice write up and some very good tips. I could only add:

#10) Fly safe, avoid the temptation to do stupid things that put you, the aircraft, and others in harms way.

I whole hardily agree that a smaller, less expensive drone (any type of RC aircraft) is better to learn on that the expensive ones. I have crashed my 686 into more trees while learning to fly. It still flys, but if I had totaled it, I would only be out $50. If I totaled my Typhoon H it would be $1000.
 
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Nice write up and some very good tips. I could only add:

#10) Fly safe, avoid the temptation to do stupid things that put you, the aircraft, and others in harms way.

I whole hardily agree that a smaller, less expensive drone (any type of RC aircraft) is better to learn on that the expensive ones. I have crashed my 686 into more trees while learning to fly. It still flys, but if I had totaled it, I would only be out $50. If I totaled my Typhoon H it would be $1000.
Good point!
 
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good tips - I would add to these develop a pre/post-flight checklist and use it.
Practice in a safe flying area using all of your camera functions, and simulate what you would do in a fly-away situation.

Those of us who have done sport/private pilot flying practice these types of things every time we fly with a CFI.
 
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The 9 tips above are totally on point and useful. Unfortunately I bought my drones before I got a hold of these. But it worked out fine just the same. I considered all the popular drones on the market and visited my local hobby shop to see some in person. To make a long story short, I wanted the Typhoon H. It looked solid, love the 6 rotors and it seemed a solid platform for great flying, duration and photography. But, I didn't want to risk it with my first flights. So, I bought at the same time a Hubsan X4 and started practicing with it. Of course I crashed it immediately LOL. but it provided a good learning curve.

A very experienced flyer met with me at a local high school field on a Sunday when nobody was around, and he gave me some good pointers with the Typhoon. Been practicing in small steps ever since. Recently linked up with a drone flying club and am meeting Sunday mornings in this great little park in Fontana, CA that is in a tiny hole of the middle of a huge no fly zone. They are racers and I recently bought my first racing drone. Still have to assemble it.
 
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Good article and nice tips. Thanks for sharing
 

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Common sense = Successful flight
 
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Phaedrus

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7A) When flying FPV under hobby Community Based Organizations rules you will need a visual observer and keep the drone within the VO visual line of sight. When not flying FPV you are also required to keep the drone within your visual line of sight.
 
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Eagle's Eye Video

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I am going to dispute (1)... while in theory an excellent resource, there are NO training courses geared toward or focusing on Yuneec products at all. Every course is geared toward DJI equipment, and anyone even remotely familiar with both platforms, can tell you that there are significant differences in specific procedures.

And while all courses state that you can bring your own hardware, none of the instructors is going to have significant experience with the Yuneec platform. You might as well be flying by yourself, because you'll have to figure out the idiosyncrasies of the various aspects of operation... your "trainers" will most likely have less experience with Yuneec than you.
 
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PatR

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They will also likely be less experienced in manually guiding the aircraft after having grown used to tapping the screen to go hither and yon. I’ve encountered DJI flyers that lacked the ability to take off or land without using the auto features.
 
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NorWiscPilot

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7A) When flying FOV under hobby Community Based Organizations rules you will need a visual observer and keep the drone within the VO visual line of sight. When not flying FPV you are also required to keep the drone within your visual line of sight.
Not attempting to argue, @Phaedrus...

The article stated FPV, but does not state “goggles”, but rather makes reference to fly, alternately looking at the drone versus looking at the controller to see what the camera sees. It is likely what we all do every time we fly.

The author seems to be making the suggestion merely to practice seeing what the camera sees as a means to “get the shot” and then try to get the shot by sighting only the drone.

True, if we are attempting to fly only by the controller, we should be employing a visual observer. But for these exercises, it does not seem to imply to remove complete observance of the aircraft itself.

Just an opinion in hopes of clarifying the intended pointer.

Jeff
 

Phaedrus

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I understood the intent of what the author was saying, I was merely clarifying what the actual rules for FPV hobby flying are. There is considerable discussion about where the line is when using a tablet, etc. to fly "FPV". Some argue that FPV should be defined as using goggles such that they prevent the pilot from being able to glance up and see the aircraft.

For those interested in a refresher, here is what AMA says about FPV:

Untitled Page

Here is the complete AMA Safety Guide for those that choose to comply with Part 101.41 using the AMA as their CBO of choice:

https://www.modelaircraft.org/sites/default/files/100.pdf

And this applies ONLY to sUAS pilots in the USA.
 

PatR

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The FAA employs use of an unaided human eye to define line of sight. People using only the camera view to fly the aircraft, be that via goggles, transmitter view screen, tablet, or other form of monitor, are flying FPV, using the camera as their primary means of visualizing flight path and surroundings. If we can’t see the aircraft or don’t personally look at the aircraft while it’s being flown it’s essentially being flown FPV.
 

Phaedrus

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What he said ^^^^^^^

The AMA and FAA have had discussions about how to parse that out when using a tablet, etc. versus goggles. Goggles it is clear. But when using a transmitter display or tablet it starts to get fuzzy. Are you FPV when looking at the display and not when looking at the drone? Are frequent glances either up or down enough to change the determination? 51/49 split in attention? Where's the line?
 

NorWiscPilot

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What he said ^^^^^^^

The AMA and FAA have had discussions about how to parse that out when using a tablet, etc. versus goggles. Goggles it is clear. But when using a transmitter display or tablet it starts to get fuzzy. Are you FPV when looking at the display and not when looking at the drone? Are frequent glances either up or down enough to change the determination? 51/49 split in attention? Where's the line?
I am of the opinion that if one is “relying” on the screen to determine attitude and flight of the aircraft, it is synonymous with flying by instruments (IFR). Otherwise, glancing at the screen every once in awhile is necessary to maintain systems awareness, just like flying VFR (visual flight rules).

Am I correctly describing the use of the controller screen?

Jeff
 
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Phaedrus

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I'd agree with that. Like I said, there is a lot of discussion about at what point you cross the line between the two. Big gray line there.
 

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