May 18, 2016


What are the safety guidelines for sUAS recreational users?

• Follow community-based safety guidelines, as developed by organizations such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics.
• Fly no higher than 400 feet and remain below any surrounding obstacles when possible.
• Keep your sUAS in eyesight at all times, and use an observer to assist if needed.
• Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations, and you must see and avoid other aircraft and obstacles at all times.
• Do not intentionally fly over unprotected persons or moving vehicles, and remain at least 25 feet away from individuals and vulnerable property.
• Contact the airport or control tower before flying within five miles of an airport.
• Do not fly in adverse weather conditions such as in high winds or reduced visibility.
• Do not fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
• Ensure the operating environment is safe and that the operator is competent and proficient in the operation of the sUAS.
• Do not fly near or over sensitive infrastructure or property such as power stations, water treatment facilities, correctional facilities, heavily traveled roadways, government facilities, etc.
• Check and follow all local laws and ordinances before flying over private property.
• Do not conduct surveillance or photograph persons in areas where there is an expectation of privacy without the individual’s permission (see AMA’s privacy policy).
If you want to use a model aircraft for recreational purpose, we encourage you to read the AMA’s Model Aircraft Safety Code and Community-Based Guidelines.
For more safety information, please download the Know Before You Fly brochure here.

This guide is intended to help quadcopter beginners get started and learn to fly quadcopters and other multirotors. Multicopter flying is fun and it’s a relatively new and emerging hobby. There isn’t much information for people when they start out, so very often they just pick up the radio controller and start to fly around without knowing anything. It’s important to know that quadcopters are pretty powerful machines with fast rotating propellers, you can easily break or damage what it crashes into. To minimize the risk it’s important that you follow the rules, and avoid flying over or near people and property, or any restricted area without permission.

Best First Quadcopter for Intermediate Level

It’s always a good idea to get a cheap, robust “ready to fly” mini quad to start with. It’s also a good choice for presents and gifts for someone who wants to get into this hobby. They are usually under $50, so it’s easier to deal with if you crash, than having a $500 quad. Also they are a lot smaller and lighter, it causes a lot less damage to people or objects.
Although there are expensive and advanced flight controllers and copters that offer amazing GPS stability and assisted flying modes, you still need to be a good pilot to handle all sorts of situations. I don’t remember how many times I have seen someone posting a request online looking for a missing “fly-away” Phantom, or a picture of their wrecked costly quadcopter after maiden flight. I bet a high percentage of these incidents were due to inexperienced pilots. It might save you money to go straight to the quadcopter or setup you want, but learning on smaller, more crash-resistant nano quads benefit you in the long run.
Looking to protect your drone from a flyaway? Check out our recent post on uav tracking!

Radio Transmitter Control Explained

If you have ever played games with game console, the Radio Transmitter is very similar. Here is a diagram of the controller, showing what each control does to the quadcopter.

Intermediate 3

You have two main sticks for the throttle and direction control, and you will have some optional switches as well (aka AUX switches), which are often used for switching between flying modes, turning on/off LEDs, etc.
• Throttle – makes the quad ascend (climb) or descend (come down).
• Yaw – rotates the quadcopter clockwise or counter-clockwise.
• Roll – tilts the quadcopter left or right.
• Pitch – tilts the quadcopter forward or backward.

Intermediate 2

These controls are also referred to aileron (roll), elevator (pitch) and rudder (yaw).

Quadcopter Flight Modes

There are many different flight modes (stabilization modes) for a quadcopters, depending on the kind of quadcopter or flight controller. The most common flight modes being rate mode (aka manual mode or acro mode in KK2 boards), Self-level mode (aka horizon mode in multiwii, Naze32), Attitude mode, GPS hold (aka Loiter mode) and so on.
Each flight mode is designed for different flying purposes, and might use different sensors and electronics modules. For example for the self-level mode, it uses the Gyro sensor and accelerometer, and the copter will always try to balance itself when you are hovering. But manual mode only uses Gyro, and the copter doesn’t level itself. Once you tilt it, it just keeps going that direction until you manually correct the angle, thus the name “manual mode”. Self-level mode is good but it’s not perfect, you will still find the quadcopter drifting around. Also it tends to wobble and vibrate a bit because of the the fact that it’s constantly trying to balance itself. Therefore many FPV’ers including myself prefer to fly in rate mode, and the result is a lot more smoother, and it becomes fairly easy to control too once you get used to it.
However I still recommend new people to try self-level mode first, to build up experience and confidence. Manual mode can be very hard to control for someone just beginning to fly. Most cheap nano quads come with self-level mode, some even have the optional rate mode available.

How to Fly Quadcopters and Rules

Here we begin talking about how to actually fly the quadcopter. First, here are some safety rules.
• Pick a nice day with no wind.
• Go to a large open field with no obstacles such as buildings or power lines around.
• Keep distractions at a minimum, and switch off your phone.
• Make sure you don’t fly near people or properties.
Now it’s time to practice your skills. Taking off and climb a couple of meters, hovering, flying from point A to point B, and landing. Take it slowly.
Wind Speed
This is probably the first thing you need to find out before your flights, if you are flying outdoors. I personally would not fly if the wind is stronger than 15mph. It’s flyable, but the the quad will be a bit wobbly and the video footage will be a bit shaky.
Before I understand how important this is, I flew my 450 size tricopter in gusty wind (it must have been 25mph – 30mph) and it didn’t end too well. It was totally uncontrollable, eventually it was pushed away by the wind and crashed pretty badly. So you need to know the limits of wind speed your quadcopter can handle and don’t risk it flying in powerful wind.
Practice Hovering
Hovering is actually harder than it seems, especially when you are flying FPV through a monitor or FPV goggle. Mastering hovering does not only allow you to have better control over your aircraft, but also allows you to shoot better aerial videos and pictures.
Cut Throttle
When you are flying forward fast, and you are about to crash intro a tree, what would you do? If you can escape by turning left or right, a wise option would be turning off your throttle. By stopping throttle, you also stop the fast rotating propellers as well. This reduces the chance of breaking your props, motors and further damages to your quadcopter. Some nano quads come with prop guards which are also good features to consider.

Intermediate 1

Unfortunately crashes are inevitable, even for the experts and pros. The best you can do is to learn how to minimize the breakage.
I hope this short article gave you some basic ideas about quadcopters, and how to fly one. There is indeed too much information to cover in just one article so do check out my other pages as well. Have fun and fly safely.