Making First Drone Flights Safe and Fun

Learn how to enjoy this exciting new technology, keeping safety in the mix.

3DRobotics Solo Drone in Flight
3DRobotics Solo Drone in Flight. 3D Robotics

1. Find wide open space

Choosing a spot for first flights is important. A space with lots of room is ideal. Check for obstructions such as wires, trees, hydro towers, or anything else that could impede a safe flight.  Be sure that the space you choose has no restrictions regarding drones or model aircrafts. Property you own or rent is best, but most places allow flights in parks and other public spaces.

Just be aware of how safe the area is. Never put people, animals or property at risk when flying.

2. Perform all pre-flight checks

Drones are aircraft, just like planes and helicopters, and, as such, require safety and pre-flight inspections. Each manufacturer will lay out their own set of pre-flight operations that are necessary to ensure safe flight. These will usually include calibrating the internal compass and GPS units in the drone to make sure it knows where it is and where it took off from. In addition, check propellors for obvious signs of wear or damage, ensure the body of the drone is sound and free from cracks or other damage, and check the battery levels on the remote control, any smart device being used as a monitor/controller, and in the drone itself.

3. Practice basic maneuvers

Once the drone is deemed safe, fully charged and ready for action, the real fun begins. It’s time to fly!

Take off with the front of the drone facing away from you, and slowly practice maneuvers to become accustomed to the controls. Ascend slowly, and practice forward and reverse flight. Rotate the drone clockwise and counter-clockwise. Practice flying in a large rectangle, with the front of drone always facing forward.

Once mastered, try moving in large figure eights, again with the front of the drone always facing forward. Continue practicing these maneuvers, always keeping a safe distance from the ground and any obstacles.

4. Go slowly, keep control, go high

Flying a drone will be a first aerial experience for many of us. Unless you were in the air cadets, spent a lot of time building model planes or have a friend with a plane, the bulk of drone fliers are enjoying this new technology and feeling the joy of flight for the first time. This means we’re learning from the experience of those who came before us, and picking up new lessons with each flight. The best advice I’ve been given is to fly slowly, take moves slowly and remember the one great strength of the drone: ascension. Height solves a lot of problems. Slow, steady moves can keep a drone under control, but with anything new we can be prone to panic. If you’re flying beyond your comfort zone and are afraid of hitting something go high. Stop forward, reverse or side-to-side movement and just go high.

5. Follow local rules and regulations

When operating your drone, whether in a public place or at a controlled, private location, there are rules and guidelines surrounding safe operation.

Federal, municipal, provincial, or state rules can stipulate how you fly near airports, in public spaces, from city property, or in many other areas. Most regions will have rules about flying over private property. Unless your neighbors  expressly invite your drone to look in their yard, best not to do it. Many areas will insist you maintain line of sight with your drone. Do some research for rules in your area about what is legal or illegal, and when in doubt, use common sense. Don’t hot dog, take risks, or fly where your instinct tells you not to fly. Keep your drone within eyeshot, too. Looking at the stabilized image on a smartphone or tablet screen will not paint the whole picture of how the drone is faring high above terra firma.

There is plenty to read online about safe drone operation, but you’ll know your individual situation better than anyone. Use your head, and enjoy this exciting new technology.