How to fly your DJI drone: 7 steps to become a confident drone pilot

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Flying drones these days is incredibly easy and fun, despite the common misconception that they are difficult to use. Drone technology has evolved at lightning speed in recent years, thanks mainly to DJI drones, and it is now possible for beginners to fly one with relative ease.

That said, there are still a few important steps we go through to make the whole experience run as smoothly as possible. One of the most important aspects of flying drones is familiarizing yourself with their flight controls, so that you know how to control the aircraft, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

It is also imperative that you educate yourself about the rules and regulations surrounding the use of drones in your country to ensure you stay safe and legal at all times. In the UK you should familiarize yourself with the Drone Code before making your first flight, while in the US you can learn about the relevant rules and regulations in the FAA DroneZone.

All up to date with the latest drone laws? It’s time to plan your drone flight and take some awesome photos of the sky.

1. Find a safe place to fly

In addition to choosing a position to land and take off safely at the location of your choice, the first thing you should do before taking a flight is to make sure that the flight is safe and legal. The best app for this in UK is NATS Drone Assist (now called Drone Assist Uk, for iOS and Android), which allows you to select your current location using GPS or search for a future location using from the menu. In the United States, the B4UFLY Drone Airspace Safety app (for iOS and Android) does a similar job.

A NATS Drone Assist screenshot on an Android phone

(Image credit: Avenir)

Apps show restricted airspace where you cannot fly without permission in red on the map, while areas where you need to be careful are shown in yellow. They also alert users to NOTAMs (Notices to Airmen), which are temporary warnings and rules as well as ground hazards and more.

2. Make sure the weather is nice

Most drones should not be flown in strong winds or in the rain, so it is important to use a weather app to ensure the weather is favorable for safe flight. You can use any weather app, but UAV Forecast (available for iOS and Android) is specially designed for drone pilots and provides detailed weather information to help you decide if it’s safe to fly.

A UAV Forecast screenshot on an Android phone

(Image credit: Avenir)

UAV Forecast also provides information similar to NATS Drone Assist, detailing where you can and can and cannot fly, but this is much more limited, so it’s worth using both apps when planning flights. And best of all, they’re both free for Android and iOS users.

3. Configure and check your drone

When you first unbox your new drone, you’ll need to attach propellers, charge batteries, install a memory card, and hook up the controller to the aircraft. The companion drone app for your smartphone, which for DJI drones is the DJI Fly app (for iOS and Android), will guide you through the process.

A DJI drone on a box

(Image credit: Avenir)

Once this is done, you will need to perform a pre-flight check of battery, propeller, and airframe levels to check charge level and damage each time you fly. Remember to take the online security test and obtain your Flyer and Operator credentials (if required) before your first flight. In the UK, you will also need to attach your Operator ID to your drone, as failure to follow this rule could result in a hefty fine.

4. Set the maximum altitude and distance

It is always a good idea to set the maximum altitude and maximum flight distance in the main settings menu to ensure that you do not exceed the maximum perimeters set by the CAA (UK) and FAA (United Kingdom). -United).

In the DJI Fly app, tap the flight mode icon and scroll to the “Set maximum flight altitude” option. Set the maximum altitude to 400ft (120m) and the maximum flight distance to 500m (1640ft) to fence the drone in these distances so that you cannot break the law by flying too high or too far.

Remember, you should also maintain unaided visual line of sight with your drone at all times – in other words, you should always be able to see it in the air.

A screenshot of the DJI Fly app on an Android phone

(Image credit: Avenir)

If you are completely new to the field of flying drones, the DJI Go app (for its older drones) offers a “beginner mode” which can be activated to limit the drone to flying within 30m of the docking point. with limited speed.

This is a great setting that will keep the drone close to you as you learn to use the flight controls and perform basic flight maneuvers, takeoffs and landings.

5. Calibrate the compass

When you first turn on your drone and also visit a new location that is more than 20 miles from your last flight location, your drone will usually ask you to calibrate the compass.

A screenshot of the DJI Fly app on an Android phone

(Image credit: Avenir)

If not, it’s always worth calibrating it in the Fly app. Tap the three dots at the top right of the DJI Fly app and head to the “Security” section, before going to “Calibrate”.

Calibrating the compass will ensure that the GPS works correctly both in flight and against the on-screen map in the drone app you are using. When calibrating the compass, make sure it is performed away from metal objects to avoid magnetic interference.

6. How to use the controls

The main controls you will need to use are the two control sticks to pilot the drone and the gimbal dial to change the angle of the camera. The DJI Fly app has an on-screen takeoff button that you can press to launch the drone, or you can simultaneously pull the left stick around seven o’clock and the right stick around four o’clock to start the engines.

Pushing the left stick up will cause the drone to take off. Landing can be accomplished by pressing the Return to Home button or bringing the drone to a hover close to the ground and then holding the left control stick until the drone lands and the rotors stop rotating. .

Hand holding a DJI controller

(Image credit: Avenir)

The left stick is used to control yaw and throttle. Yaw rotates the drone clockwise or counterclockwise by pushing the stick to the left or right, while the throttle adjusts the drone’s altitude by pushing the stick forward / up to increase altitude and back / down to decrease altitude.

The right stick is used to control pitch and roll. The pitch is controlled by the forward / up and back / down movement of the stick and moves the drone forward and backward respectively. Roll maneuvers the drone left and right and is achieved by moving the stick in the appropriate direction.

These controls can be combined or used individually depending on what you are aiming for. But before you jump into capturing your first aerial photos and videos, take some time to practice using the controls and performing various maneuvers so that you can safely begin your first shot with skill and confidence.

7. The drone flight app

Most drones use smartphone apps that let you adjust settings, as well as view camera feed and control the camera. Most of the main drone settings, camera controls and visual information regarding battery life, speed, altitude and distance will be displayed in the app, which must be opened on the attached phone or tablet. to the controller and connected via a cable.

A screenshot of the DJI Fly app on an Android phone

(Image credit: Avenir)

In terms of controlling camera settings and modes, all are accessible through the app and you will find that the features and functions on offer are similar to standard mirrorless cameras and DSLRs, albeit small.

In the image above, you will see that the ISO is set to 100, the shutter speed is 1/30 s, the aperture is f / 5 and the camera is set to take photos in raw. The orange button is the shutter button, and the settings can be accessed by tapping the icon below – it really is that simple.


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