I’m going to assume you’ve either just become or are about to become the proud owner of your very first drone. Congratulations on making a fantastic decision.
Even more importantly, you’ve had the foresight to find this article to make sure you’re using your new technology in a manner that is safe to you and those around you.
Luckily for you, drone technology is advancing with each passing month, and the latest and greatest drones for sale are some of the safest we’ve seen to date,
But there are still some quick tips you can adopt to make your experience the best possible.
1) Fly Safely (The User Manual is Your Friend)
Before you even think of taking off, the first thing you should do is take a good, long look at your drone manual to familiarize yourself with the aircraft.
This is important for safety purposes and to protect your investment. There’s nothing worse than finally getting your hands on the drone you’ve desired only to wreck it in the first flight.
My first multicopter flight was a few years ago with a DJI Phantom 1, and 10 seconds into its maiden flight I lost control and crashed it into a parked car in New York City. I know… embarrassing.
At least I got it in the air, which is far better than our Social Media manager, Ryan’s, first multicopter experience, where he took it out of the box and completely ripped one of the motors off while trying to put the propeller guard on it.
At UAV Coach, we’ve adopted a pre-flight checklist to make sure you don’t end up like we did in the beginning. A few important points to note are as follows:
- Inspect your hardware for cracks and damage
- Ensure your camera, monitor, and lenses are clean
- Check battery levels to make sure they’re full
- Ensure there are no frequency conflicts
- Make sure you’re taking off from a safe, level location that’s free of any metal
- Position the aircraft nose away from you
- Keep a direct line-of-sight and use a spotter if necessary
- Monitor your battery usage and start returning to your landing zone with 25% battery remaining
2) Fly Legally and Know the Regulations
For many reasons, this section is just as important as the previous one. While the previous section is really about ensuring the safety of you, your drone and those around you, this part is about keeping you safe from repercussions and safely operating within your country’s national airspace.
Depending on your RC drone model, you might now posses an aircraft capable of flying right into the middle of your nation’s commercial and recreational airspace, which is a responsibility you shouldn’t take lightly. Other pilots and government officials are counting on you to handle yourself accordingly and take other aircrafts and flight zones into consideration when planning your flight route.
Many countries are taking proactive steps and establishing laws, rules and regulations for how drone pilots should handle themselves within the national airspace. We’ve setup pages for U.S. based pilots/flights and pages for several other countries that breakdown the current rules and regulations for your locations.
3) Log Your Flights
This is a concept that we take pretty seriously, but others seem to skip entirely.
I’m a big proponent of logging your flights. A responsible pilot always logs his or her flights.
Why is that?
- Your LiPo batteries have a shelf-life. We’ll talk more about that in the LiPo battery maintenance tip, but you’re going to want to know how many battery cycles you’ve flown.
- Simply logging your flights makes you more deliberate about training and taking each mission seriously. You’ll become a much stronger pilot faster if you’re logging your flights. That’s human psychology at work.
- It may help you get cheaper liability insurance if you’re building a business. Logging your flights and being able to show them to an insurance broker can help you get more favorable premium rates.
4) LiPO Battery Safety
If you’re flying a drone that has lithium-ion polymer (LiPo) batteries, you may have noticed that the box that it arrived in it has warning stickers all over it. It basically looks like you’ve ordered uranium from a Soviet Union garage sale.
These batteries are great. They are all rechargeable, come in a variety of power capacities and sizes, and are used to power other devices like mobile phones, notebook computers, and battery-powered electric vehicles.
The reason the box came with all those warning stickers is because while this technology is great, it’s not perfect. LiPo batteries require extreme care because improperly stored and maintained batteries of this nature can cause fires. This is not one of those warnings to shrug off and pretend like it won’t happen to you.
If you take proper care of your LiPo battery, you can get as many as 200-300 cycles out of them. If you’re not taking care of your LiPo battery, you’re looking at as few as 50 cycles.
Here’s a great video from the Academy of Model Aeronautics on LiPo battery safety:
Quick side note, this is one reason it’s important to log your flights and aircraft maintenance. You need to know at any given time how many cycles you’ve gone through on your different batteries.
At the very least, you should be aware of the following:
- If your battery is swollen or puffy, it is done. Dispose of it properly and DO NOT use it again.
- DO NOT buy used LiPo batteries or from unknown manufacturers.
- Use a safety bag or fire-proof container for LiPo battery charging, discharging, and storage.
- Always store your batteries in a cool, dry place.
- Never leave your LiPo batteries sitting on a full charge for more than a couple of days.
5) Set Goals and a Budget
This can be said for a lot of subjects, but it’s an important topic for you and your wallet.
There is always going to be a newer, faster and smarter drone available with bigger and better toys and gadgets on it.
Now, I know it’s hard to swallow, but it’s possible you may not need that new drone.
Yes, yes. It is assuredly awesome and would be a lot of fun, but do you really need it? It’s smart to look at your goals and budget ahead of time and stick to it. There will be a time to upgrade away from your current model, but now may not be the time.
While this advice is important for the hobbyist, it’s vital for commercial applications. If you’re reading this list as a potential or new drone business owner, recognize that a failure to adhere to this advice could spell financial ruin for your fledgling business.
Take a survey of your needs for the business, your available budget, and decide how to best allocate those funds for drone purchases. Make sure you have left enough in the budget for repairs and accessories that may be needed for future jobs.
If you can at least follow these quick five guidelines, then you’ll be off to a great start on your journey. I hope that your new drone treats you well and creates as many fulfilling memories as my systems have for me.
Alan Perlman founded UAV Coach, a drone pilot and sUAS industry training community, to help push the drone community forward and to help new pilots break into the sUAS industry.
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