General Drone / Quadcopter FAQ for Beginners

This page is a non-stop work-in-progress. I will be continually adding new content to this page. Please contact me if you think there is something that should be here!

I am presuming that you are operating your drone/quadcopter under your local laws and that you’re not breaking the law. Please follow your local laws and don’t do anything stupid.

Flight Checklist

What do you need to do before you fly? The short answer is: make sure everything is working properly with as close to 100% certainly as possible.

Every component that uses a battery – are all the batteries charged? Before I fly, I use freshly charged batteries in my transmitter: then I know 100% that the transmitter won’t die.

Every device with an antenna – is it attached? Is there a signal? Every device with a sensor – is the sensor working, is it calibrated, is it functioning? Are your propellers tightened onto the motors with a wrench? (You need to use a wrench to make sure they are extremely tight; a loose propeller could fall off while you’re flying).

Is your battery visibly bulging or otherwise damaged? Then don’t use it.

Does your transmitter work properly? Before you start flying around, move both sticks around a few times to make sure that your drone is behaving the way it should, and then start flying around.

If you are going to use GPS-assisted flight, then you need to make sure that your GPS is working. Do you have a GPS fix? One way to guarantee that your GPS is working is to switch to Home Lock, fly 30 meters away, turn the copter around 90 or 180 degrees, and then pull back on the left stick. If your quadcopter moves towards you, then your GPS is working.

What should I do if I lose my drone?

You should wait for a phone call from the kind person who found it. You did write your phone number on your quadcopter, right? Right? 🙂

What should I do in an emergency?

Remember The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: DON’T PANIC!

“Emergency” could really mean a lot of things here. If you’re a beginner, it might simply mean that you have lost control of your copter. In this case, you should let go of your controls. Your drone will probably move more slowly if you let go of your controls. In the best case, your drone is operating in “GPS mode” and it will simply stay where it is when you’re not moving the controls. If your drone is far away and you can’t tell which way it is oriented, you could activate “home lock” and move the left stick backwards to move it back towards you. If this doesn’t work (maybe you didn’t activate “home lock” yet) then you will need to figure out which way it is oriented. If you can’t even see your drone, you could first move it upwards until it is within line-of-sight. Then, you could move it left and right – if it doesn’t move left and right, try turning it clockwise a little bit, and repeating the action. You should eventually be able to see if it is moving left and right, and then you could move it towards you.

If your drone has broken a propeller and is spinning out of control, it is probably best to switch off the motors completely before it crashes – this will minimize the damage (both to the drone and to whatever it hits).

If your FPV has stopped working, you can activate Home Lock and pull back the left stick to return home.

What should I do in the event of a flyaway?

If you are having “a flyaway” it probably means that you have done something wrong. Maybe your drone is not in the flying mode you think it is? Is it in fully manual mode, or course lock, or home lock? If so, the movement of the sticks on your controller will not correspond to the movement you think. Is your transmitter even working at all? Is it switched on? If your transmitter has been inadvertently switched off, then your drone may have gone into “failsafe mode” which means that it is flying back to you (if you got a GPS lock before flying away). If you didn’t get a GPS lock before you flew away and your drone goes into failsafe mode, then it is flying back to the last point where it had a GPS fix.

You have these possibilities if you see your drone flying away from you, out of your control:

1. Your transmitter has enough battery power to regain control your drone. Switch the control mode (from GPS to manual and back again) to get your drone out of failsafe mode.

2. Your transmitter batteries are dead. You have to wait for your drone to fly back to you.

3. There is something wrong with GPS or ATTI mode. Switch to Manual mode. You have practiced flying in fully manual mode, right?

4. There is some kind of interference with your radio. If you switch your transmitter off (or otherwise force failsafe mode) your drone should enter failsafe mode and fly back to you.

5. Your Gopro has wifi switched on, and your quadcopter (say, a DJI Phantom 1) is using the same frequency (2.4 Ghz): You should stop streaming video from your Gopro and force-quit the app on your phone. This will hopefully stop the huge amount of data being transmitted from your Gopro, and you can hopefully regain full control of your quadcopter.

What are the best “combos” (gopro or other setup) , the known facts like wifi that seems to interfere with flights (and why), if there are good unofficial parts (batteries, etc…), maintenance, preflight checklist,…

What should I do if it starts raining?

If you don’t have a waterproof drone, then land it immediately. A wet drone is not going to work. Don’t even bother flying back if it’s raining hard. Fly as low as possible to a place where you can land safely without hurting anyone.

What is Home Lock?

Home Lock is a certain type of control mode which means this: “Forward” means “away from you” and “Backward” means “towards you”. It DOES NOT MATTER which way your drone is pointing. This mode can be very, very useful in an emergency (if you have lost orientation and don’t know which way to move your drone to move it back to you; or, if your FPV has stopped working and you can’t see where your drone is because it’s so far away). Note that Home Lock only works when you have established a “home point” for your drone by getting a GPS lock.

It is also possible to use Home Lock to fly circles around an object: establish GPS lock over the object you want to circle around, and then fly more than 20 meters away from it. Now by turning left or right, you will actually fly in a circle around your Home Point.

where are we allowed to fly, where is it forbidden (maybe a world map with red & green areas)…