Careful With That Drone Now

So you got a drone for Christmas (or an unmanned flying vehicle, as the FAA likes to call it, or a quadcopter, if you prefer). That’s awesome. But don’t just head into your backyard and try to fly it without any preparation (unless it’s one of those Parrot MiniDrones, of course).

As we reported earlier this week, the FAA would like you to follow a couple of common sense rules before you take flight. Most of those you probably know about already (like staying away from airports, people and animals, and not flying over 400 feet) and some drones now automatically deactivate if you are too close to a major airport, so that’s getting a bit less of an issue.

But here is what you should really do before you take your drone out for the first time: read the manual and watch all the instructional videos. I know that’s a hassle, but you (or somebody who loves you very much) just spent a few hundred dollars on a flying lawnmower and it only takes one bad crash to ruin all the fun — and you really don’t want to crash into any people when you lose control, because those fast-spinning propellers are sharp. Most drones also have a specific start-up procedure you want to follow and you probably also want to know exactly what each of those knobs, levers and buttons on your remote control does before you take off.

After that, find yourself a wide open space away from airports, power lines, people and animals to start practicing. Try to learn to take off and land first. Don’t worry about the app that runs on your smartphone at first (unless it gives you a first-person view from the drone’s camera — I’d start using that right away because it can make flying more intuitive). Flying drones isn’t hard, but that doesn’t mean it comes natural. Keeping track of what direction forward is for your drone takes practice, for example.

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Also remember that it takes a minute (or five) for the drone to acquire enough GPS signals to find its way back to you in case of an emergency. Don’t rush the startup because you are so eager to get going (and know how to trigger the return to home feature if your drone has one).

Once you have the basics down, you can try some other maneuvers and then, when you are good with that, bring in the smartphone to control the camera and learn about all the other advanced features.

So basically: don’t rush it! Most of all, though, have fun! But if you try to take this kind of video with your new toy, you deserve what’s coming to you:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFWUlObSgn0