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So You Want A Drone? Here Are Some Tips To Get Started.

Photo by: Marco Verch
Photo by: Marco Verch
Photo by: Marco Verch

Drones are an amazing tool that requires its users to act responsibly.

If you have disposable income or you have a rich (and hopefully not crazy) uncle, there’s a chance that you’re the owner of one of the new high-tech toys: a drone. So, you own a drone. Assuming you’re not planning on launching attacks on ISIS, you’ll be using your drone for recreation and fun.

But the skies are not always friendly. Don’t assume that controlling your drone is as easy as playing Call Of Duty. With a drone, the reset button doesn’t erase either crashing your toy or running afoul of the FAA. Neither option is pleasant.

So, here’s a list of suggested steps and tips to follow.

Research Your Purchase

If Uncle Warren decided to spend his money on a time share in Bermuda – and that disposable income is burning a hole in your pocket – you might want/need to buy your drone.

There is a wide range of choices. The “very small” can be had for less than $100 while the “large” variety can set you back $3,000. Here’s one site that can help with your research. And remember – Google is your friend.

Register Your Drone

Before you even un-box your drone, it’s best to get it registered with the Federal Aviation Administration. Look, the temptation once you’ve unwrapped your toy is to play with it. But if you haven’t registered with the FAA, you’ll be breaking the law.

It costs $5 to register and you can do it online at the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Registration site. (Simply visiting “Unmanned Aircraft Systems Registration” increases your “cool” factory by five.)

Registration applies to UAS “weighing more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) and less than 55 pounds (approx. 25 kilograms).” You’ll need to provide your name, home address, e-mail address and the make and model of your drone. Your registration lasts three years before you must renew.

Don’t Be ‘That Guy’

You know, “That Guy.” The one who doesn’t read the directions. The guy who likes to say “Hey, watch this” or, “Don’t worry, I got this.”

Admit your ignorance, remove the instruction manual from the box and read it. Do. Not. Fly. Your. Drone. Before. Reading. The. Instructions.

“That’s not to say, drones don’t require significant skill, practice, and patience to master. On the contrary, their simplicity is deceptive and to that end, many newbs go into them with unreasonable expectations.”
HowToGeek.com

Your favorite video game has a reset button. Your drone has a button or a sequence of buttons that activate the “return home” feature. Memorize that procedure or your drone’s first flight could end up in the next county.

Two other boxes to check before the maiden flight. Make sure you understand the startup procedure and also check to see that the firmware is up to date. With technology advancing at warp speed, even new drones might not have the latest GPS or software data.

Where To Fly

OK, this section is where you get to roll your eyes. What follows is basic common sense. Don’t be offended, but “sense” isn’t that “common.”

Particularly for your first flight, you want a large open area without trees, power lines or a lot of people. If you live in an urban area, this might require a road trip.

Learning how to control your drone’s flight requires patience and practice. It’s best to start with maneuvers as simple as lift off, hovering and landing. Next, attempt some basics like flying your drdone in a box pattern, a circle and a figure eight.

Here’s where we’ll pound home some more of that “common” sense. DO NOT FLY YOUR DRONE NEAR AN AIRPORT OR AIR FIELD WHERE PLANES ARE TAKING OFF OR LANDING. There have been some close calls between planes and drones. Be smart and let’s continue to avoid any tragedies.

If you want some more tips on where/how to fly, the FAA provides some good tips here.

When To Fly

Again, we dip into the “common sense” well. The old saying of “there are old pilots and there are bold pilots but there are no old bold pilots” typically refers to flying conditions (weather). Check the forecast and the conditions before you put your drone in the air. If you decide to fly on a windy day, your drone might experience what Dorothy’s house did in the “Wizard of Oz.”

Before You Go Pro With Your GoPro

Technology has made drones available to the public. Photo and video technological advances have also made drones addicting. Most drones have built-in photo/video capabilities, Being able to get the “bird’s eye view” is alluring.

But before you think you’ll make money through the pictures or video you capture, be advices that if you plan on using your done for profit, you’ll need to apply to the FAA for a commercial exception.

Join A Club

Earlier in this post it was mentioned you want to avoid flying in areas where there are groups of people. However, instead of droning alone, you might want to consider seeking out other drone pilots in your community.

First, flying your drone with other drone enthusiasts is more enjoyable. Also, if you have questions about your drone, connecting with people online will no doubt allow you to communicate with folks who have experience and knowledge.

Thanks to myfirstdrone.com, here’s a list of some drone groups to get started: My First Drone Beginners Group, RCGroups.com, DIYDrones.com, FPVLab.com, PhantomPilots.com, MultirotorForums.com, DJIGuys.com.

Written by Wendell Barnhouse

Wendell Barnhouse is a veteran journalist with over 40 years of experience as a writer and an editor. For the last 30 years, he wrote about college sports but he has had an interest and curiosity about aviation since he was in grade school.

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