I’m Calin Stan, a professional photographer and drone user, the owner of TheDrone.ro company. I’m using my drones for artistic and commercial work and from the beginning of 2017 I’m also a proud National Geographic photographer here in Romania. I saw lots of friends playing with drones, fellow photographers and enthusiast and also tons of “drone fails” videos on Youtube that resulted in awful (and unsafe) crashes. So, I want to share with you my experience with drones, by writing about how you can safely fly your drone if you follow (at least) these 15 steps. I’ve learned some “the hard way”, but eventually everything turned out fine. But, you better be prepared. Better safe than sorry, you know… ! 😉
Any photographer wants a drone today. But the main fear of those who buy one is to not crash / ruin or destroy it from the first flight. There are many practical tips in the user manual, but sometimes the moment’s enthusiasm or inattention makes us overlook even the most important ones. Safe flight is vital not only for the drones but especially for those around you, for the people on the ground. Here is a set of basic tips to make sure we enjoy our drone for a long time. Many of the tips below I have learned the hard way, hitting some unforeseen situations in flight. But, everything is good when it ends well, and before you hit the same situation, you better learn from be prepared.
15 basic tips for a safe flight with your drone
So here are 15 basic tips for a safe flight with your drone. Now I am talking about DJI Phantom 4 (and 3), but these tips also apply to DJI Mavic PRO, the new Spark or other drones from other brands.
15 to be lucky!
1. Before you fly with the drone for the first time, spend a couple of hours in the DJI simulator (yes, at least 2 hours!). It’s important to get used to the controls and, especially, to the drone direction (how it changes depending on the drone’s position in the air, when you send it to the right and it flies to the left just because it’s turned towards you etc.).
2. It can be obvious, but … read the user manual twice (I have downloaded it from the DJI site and printed it, because I can focus better on “print” than on the screen) …
3. At first do not fly over 30-40m high and get used to the controls. Let go of the camera, don’t think about it or the pictures, even if it’s hard, I know. The most important thing right now is to learn to control your drone.
4. Test the return to home function, by long pressing the “H” button (Home) on the remote control. See how it works (I find that out the hard way… when I lost the signal with the drone a couple of times and I almost had a heart attack…).
5. Do not forget to set the Return To Home Altitude option to over 100m (I have it at 150m) in the DJI application, to be sure that in the case of a return to home automation there are minimal chances of a drone to hit a tree, building , etc. In addition, I recommend that you set the Max. Distance and Maximum Altitude, especially at the beginning, in order not to be driven by the wave and fly the drone too far, where you can no longer see / control it (300m horizontally and 150m vertically would be a good starting value).
6. Take good care of cables and branches. None of the drone sensors detect cables, columns, trees or branches (I think this is the most important tip). Especially at the first flights it would be a good idea to be accompanied by a friend who will watch the drone visually when you are too focused on the smartphone screen or the remote control. Two pairs of eyes are always better than one…
7. When you take off, use the automatic take off function and then let the drone hover fly at 1m at for about 30 seconds. It’s a basic rule, because the battery needs to head up. If it’s going to crack (read it as sudden power loss), then it will crack now. And you prefer to have a crash from 1m of ground and not from about 50-100m or more …
8. In winter or when outside temp. falls below 10 ° Celsius, turn the rotors on and let the battery warmup until its temperature reaches over 25 ° C. The temperature is displayed on the status screen.
9. Do not fly backwards (or avoid it as much as possible)
10. Do not rely on those damn proximity sensors. Although they can be a life-saver in extreme situations, they do not detect small objects, cables, columns nor tree branches.
11. Do not fly in areas with strong interference (like high-voltage poles) and do not take off under high-voltage poles or cables (even if you think you are experienced enough…).
12. Whatever you do, do not press the joysticks on the remote control diagonally down (toward you, that is: \ / at the same time). This stops the engines instantly, mid-air … It is a fail-safe function of maximum urgency, but this advice only works for P3 / P4 drones with outdated firmware. Lately they changed the emergency stop sequence. You can read about it in your drone user-manual.
13. Avoid flying when it’s windy. Any small drone is unstable in the wind. It happened to me to fly in moderate wind and try to come back but the drone did not had the necessary power for that, so the wind took it her in the other direction … Again, a cause for almost a heart-attack… But I was lucky and then the wind calmed down and so I could fly it home. To measure the wind speed you can buy an anemometer. It is very useful for the safety of your flight and your drone. And you can find one as low as 30-40$.
14. Certain bird species are disturbed by drones. Some even try to “defend their territory” by attacking drones. Youtube is full with such situations, many “face to face” meetings with seagulls or raptors resulting in a bad ending for the drones for the drones. So, pay great attention to birds when flying with your drone.
15. Takeoff and landing. Like in commercial aviation, take-offs and landings are the most “dangerous” stages of the flight. Especially when landing, pay attention to what’s around the drone, the landing spot, whether the wind blows towards you or not (in which case you better abort the landing a few seconds until the wind gusts) or if there are people / animals on the ground. Or, better, try to grab the drone by it’s landing gear when it hovers at fixed point 1.5m above the ground: with one hand you grab the drone by it’s “landing gear” and with the other hand you hit the engine shutdown command on the remote control. But beware of the popelers: they hit and cut very bad!
So, these are the basic tips that saved me a few times, so I’m talking soely from my experience. It also happened to me that my smartphone app crashed in mid-flight. It closed completely and did not start until I restarted the smartphone. I was saved by the “return to home” hardware button. I was droning at a distance of over 200 meters horizontally and I could not see it, I did not know where it was and how it was positioned to turn it back by flying visually… So it’s good to be calm and ready for anything.
Now, let’s talk about safety. What are your favorite tips for safe drone flying?
Enjoy your flight! And always Fly Safe!
Article by: Calin Stan – TheDrone.ro