Drone Flight Exercises
Flight Exercise 1: Tail in hover
By keeping the quad’s nose facing away from you, orientation issues are minimised. The quad’s left is your left, and its right is your right. Learn to maintain a constant height of about two metres.
- i) Use GPS mode
- ii) There is no gentle take off option – that is deliberate
iii) Don’t try to hover close to the ground.
- iv) No more than walking pace.
- v) Prop guards on.
- vi) Less is more: do not over-control.
vii) Just bring it up to hover height, very gently use the controls to maintain position, and then descend to land gently. Gradually increase your flight times to three of four minutes.
Flight Exercise 2: Tail in hover manoeuvres
Now extend the previous exercise and start to gently move the quad around. Take off, establish a stable hover, then apply forward pitch and move it forward a metre or two, then hover. And then reverse it back to the original position. Repeat this a few times. Then use the right roll control to make the machine fly sideways for a metre and stop and hover it there. Then bring it back. Repeat to the left. You should fly this exercise in four or five minute blocks until you are entirely happy with your ability to move the quad around exactly as you wish. Use the yaw control to keep the quad facing forward, away from you at all times. Maintain a constant height of about 2 m. Then try going up to 3m and doing the same manoeuvres.
Flight Exercise 3: Side on manoeuvres
Now gain familiarity at flying the quad sideways on to you, by flying backwards and forwards along a line at right angles to yourself. Make the imaginary line about 3 to 4m long. Maintain constant height. Fly at a slow walking pace. Stop and yaw turn at the end of each beat. Don’t turn your body to face the same way as the quad!
Flight Exercise 4: Nose in hover preparation
The best introduction to this is to fly a rectangle in front of yourself. Position the quad as in Exercise 12, but at the end of a beat, fly a short leg (1m or so) away before turning 90 degrees to fly another beat back in the opposite direction. At the end of this turn 90 degrees forward and fly a short leg before turning 90 degrees again to start the rectangle again.
Build on this gradually, extending the ‘away’ and ‘forward’ legs. Then shorten the cross legs until you are flying just the ‘away’ and ‘forward’ legs.
Flight Exercise 5: Nose in hover
The next logical step is to stop and hover the quad at the end of the ‘forward’ leg. Just hover for a few seconds, before using the yaw control to turn away. Keep repeating this, gradually extending the time spent hovering nose in.
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE PROP GUARDS FITTED! And never come closer than 1.5 metres.
Practice, practice, practice. Nobody got good at quad flying in an afternoon.
Flight Exercise 6: Hover Circles, Figures of Eight
Flight Exercise 7: Advanced Turning
Roll and Yaw
Pitch, roll and yaw
Turning with pitch, roll and yaw: with the quad moving forward at medium speed, apply both roll and yaw control in the direction of your desired turn. Adjust the roll as needed to ensure the tail doesn’t hang out or drop. Don’t expect to get this right the first time – it will take practice.
To increase the rate of turn, pull back a little on the pitch while maintaining the position of the roll and yaw controls.
Flight Exercise 8: Fast flight circuits and figures of eight with banked turns
Don’t descend vertically. You will be descending in your own vortex – and the level of turbulence may be more than the Flight controller can deal with. Descend at a forty five degree angle.
- If you suddenly find that you have lost your sense of where the front and back of the quad are, or which way it is going (i.e. have lost ‘orientation’) then with a GPs equipped quad the simple move is to flick it into GPS mode. It will hover on the spot. Then you can walk closer to it and refocus.
- If the quad is some distance from you, and all you can see is a dot in the sky and you have lost a sense of where the front is, then use this tip. Apply a small amount of nose down pitch and then see whether it is moving to the left or to the right. Keep the forward pitch applied and if moving left, give some left yaw command. If it is moving to your right feed in some right yaw command. This will result in it curving around to fly back to you.
- If you are still at the stage of learning where you only fly ‘tail in’, then this ‘emergency orientation method’ works just as well with the quad moving backwards. While it seems counter-intuitive, if you give some rearward pitch and can see that the quad is moving to the right, then right yaw will turn it toward you. (Yes the right yaw moves the nose of the quad to the quad’s right – which is away from you. But the important point is it moves the tail of the quad to the quad’s left – and with the quad going backwards this is towards you. Even if the quad is flying sideways this method works. It is a fantastic little trick to have up your sleeve.
Flight Exercise 9: Emergencies
Loss of control / flyaway
A flyaway is extremely rare and is almost always due to an error on your part. With a DJI machine firstly remove any control input (just leave the throttle at middle). Quickly check that you have not inadvertently selected IOC. Activate GPS mode. If the quad is still not stationary, activate failsafe mode. If it is still flying away, stand and study its flight path until it goes out of sight. Identify a marker on the horizon in the direction it went. Drop a marker where you are standing. The quad will generally autoland gently when its battery runs flat, somewhere close to that line. Bear in mind that you will have lost sight of it after it went a few hundred metres – so it could easily be less than a kilometre from you position. If the ‘flyaway’ was vertical – in that the machine vanished going straight up, then the chances are that it will come straight back down when the battery expires – so you should simply wait and listen for it.
See next section here: Drone Flight Assessments