Drone flying, as you are looking at it, can seem pretty complicated. A drone is able to move in every direction. It has the freedom to fly in any combination of 3D movements you can think of. All of this is controlled by a drone pilot. A drone pilot uses a smart phone app or a dedicated drone controller to move the drone through the air. Of course, some drones are meant to be flown fast. For example, racing drones have an increased level of complexity while flying because they are moving so quickly through the air. Camera drones, on the other hand, are made for capturing amazing footage. They are complex in a different way. In this article we will be going over the answer to the question: is flying drones easy?
Flying drones is getting easier and easier because of the advanced artificial technology that is becoming embedded in the drone hardware and software. Most consumer level drones now have some form of GPS location sensor which keeps it at a fixed map location and a barometer to fix an altitude. Simply taking your hands off of the drone controller joysticks stops the drone midair and it will hover until the battery runs out. There has never been a better time to fly a drone as a beginner or novice.
Where drone technology started
In the early days of drone technology the pilot would have to continuously manoeuvre the drones so that it would stay in a fixed location whilst compensating for any environmental factors that are blowing it off course. The lightest of winds would quickly blow the drone of course.
This required incredible amounts of skill as the only connection to the drone was a visual connection. They would have to do look at the direction the drone is pointing and use the joysticks to compensate for any drifting. When the drone is pointing towards you the left and right directions are reversed and it becomes even harder to intuitively control the drone. It required a lot of practice and hours and hours of flying experience.
However, nowadays drone manufacturers have been able to create a technology which is accessible to the broader public. They want you to have as much fun as possible whilst flying your drone. That means they have incorporated a load of fancy flight automation which means that you can be flying your drone within a matter of minutes after opening the box.
Even the most un-savvy technology consumer can fly a drone easily due to the quick start features and user experience research which has gone into flying a drone.
I remember when I first flew my drone. I took it to an oval with no obstacles, such as trees or powerlines, and was ready for a steep learning curve. To my surprise as soon as I took off the drone was so easy to control which gave me the confidence to quickly take it out on my adventures.
Here are the things that made the drone experience and learning about flying so easy.
Drones are easy to fly because:
The experience of flying drones has got better and better over the years. I remember the simple toy helicopters that were all the rage in the early 2000’s. They would crash land pretty much every time. These days, the features that we are all used to include:
Automated flight control
There are so many automated functions of a consumer level drone. Even a drone as cheap as the Ryze Tello and the DJI Mavic mini 2 contain all sorts of technology to make your flight as fun as possible.
- Altitude hold – altitude hold means that the drone will maintain its altitude as long as you do not touch the left-hand joystick and push it up or down. This means that once you reach a certain altitude you can use the right-hand joystick to explore the world at that fixed altitude.
- GPS location – the inclusion of a GPS sensor means that the drone is able to navigate to certain locations on its own. Also, you will always know where the drone is by simply looking at the screen of your smart device which is attached to the remote control.
- GPS auto home landing – one of the best features of most of the mid-range drones is that the drone will land itself. With the simple push of a button the drone will navigate to the stored GPS location that it took on takeoff and return to the exact spot.
- Auto take off – just like landing, the drone will also take off on the push of a button. You can also select for the drone to do a precise location grab where it will take photos of the landing spot. This means that when it comes back in for landing it will look for the same spot.
- Waypoints – what is amazing to me is that they drone is also able to be completely automated. You are able to download routes and waypoints which can be uploaded to your drone and the drone will go through the sequence of events completely automatically. This also means that the drone will take photos automatically according to the instructions you have downloaded… Incredible!
- Follow me mode – many people by a drone to capture the fun and exciting activities that they are doing. A follow me mode on a drone means that you can click on yourself on the monitor and the drone will follow you wherever you go.
- Obstacle avoidance – some drones have active obstacle avoidance. That means that when the drone reaches an obstacle it won’t just stop. It will try to navigate around the obstacle and then continue on its way. This technology is getting better and better with every new generation of drones released.
- Headless mode – headless mode is not available in all drones. It is great for beginners as the drone remains agnostic to the direction that it is pointed in. This means that the drone will always live in the direction of the joysticks irrespective of the direction the drone is pointing. This gets around one of the biggest hurdles of new drone pilots which is reversing the left and right controls when the drone is flying towards you.
- Hand controls – also, there are many drones that do not require any smart phone at all remote control for flying. My DJI Mavic air is able to follow my hand commands completely. This means that if I want to quickly launch my drone for a quick follow along shot I am able to do so without having to connect the drone to the remote control.
Some of the cheaper drones do not have this level of advanced software flight controls and therefore are less of a joy to fly. If you want these types of features in your drone you should consider buying a drone from the DJI Mavic mini 2 and up.
Intuitive remote controls
Besides the awesome advanced software features that come along with a drone, the remote controls are also incredibly easy to use.
Many of the modern remote controls for drones have a variety of buttons that are easy to access while flying. Besides the joysticks for the right and left thumbs, there are a variety of buttons and scroll wheels which allow you to control the drone and the gimbal and camera (if your drone has a camera).
If you are a beginner I highly recommend that you get a drone with a decent remote control. This will give you access to all of the features whilst flying and also vastly improve your drone experience. As a drone pilot the only connection you have to your drone while it is flying is your remote control. The more intuitive and better the drone controller is the better your experience and the further you can push your skills.
Drone pilots are very friendly and if you want to try out some of the drone remote controls I would recommend heading to your local drone enthusiasts club and asking them for a quick run down on what they like and don’t like about their remote controls. If you have small hands this is also an important factor to take into account when choosing the perfect drone for you to make it easy to fly.
The latest DJI drones and GO4 app have the following intelligent flight filming modes. These modes allow you to capture some impressive footage without having to master the manual flying needed to get such cinematographic shots.
- Rocket: Ascend with the camera pointing downward keeping the subject in view.
- Dronie: Fly backward and upward, with the camera locked on your subject. I use this one all of the time and it results in a brilliant shot for almost anything.
- Circle: The drone circles around the subject keeping a fixed distance away (does not move with the subject)
- Helix: Fly upward increasing heigh while spiralling around the subject.
- Asteroid: The drone flies backward and upward. It takes several photos, then flies to its starting point. create a “little planet” type of shot.
- Boomerang: The drone flies backward around the subject in an oval path, rising as it flies away from its starting point. It then descends as it flies back in.
These can start to look a little cookie cutter when used too often – that’s why I like to capture the majority of my footage with manual flying techniques.
On screen instructions
Because the drone manufacturers want to make it as easy as possible for you to get into the air they have worked extensively on the interfaces which you will use to control your drone. The DJI GO4 app is incredible.
As you are flying the app will give you different warnings and feedback. I think that the majority of people will be able to fly a drone without reading the instruction manual and get straight into flying with only using the on-screen prompts.
The app also tells you all about any calibration that you need to do. For more information about calibrations check out my other article – why do I have to calibrate my drone? Little-known issues – click here to be taken to article.
Drones also have a load of different modes for beginners.
Beginner modes on drones limit some features such as speed so that you can pilot confidently without accidentally running into something. The beginner modes can be switched off after some time but it is highly recommended that the beginner mode is left on for the first few flights that you take.
On the other end of the scale is sport mode or extreme mode. This turns off any speed restrictions whilst also turning off some of the obstacle avoidance features. This allows you to fly close to objects and get some pretty impressive fly through shots too.
One of the most impressive things about drone technology is how it is getting cheaper and cheaper. This means that drones no longer have one camera. They have a range of cameras and infrared sensors which are arranged around the drone body. This allows the drone to have an almost 360° view of what is going on at any given time.
The sensors are the one thing that is keeping you and your drone as safe as possible. They can be turned off but my sensors have saved me a ton of times from flying into trees and other obstacles that I didn’t see.
Of course, all of these features mean that drone is accessible to almost anyone – even children. But, there are some things which will never change about drone which increases its complexity. There are just some things that technology cannot address easily.
Drone flying is hard because:
here are some of the things that technology just cannot address because when you are flying a drone it is inherently a complicated process which requires you to become a skilled pilot and continue to improve your skills each flight.
There are a lot of things to control at once
there is no getting around the fact that as you are flying a drone there are a lot of things to keep in mind and control at any one time.
Navigating in a 3D space can be quite complicated. You have to be aware of the drones surroundings and it can be complicated to navigate certain flight parts whilst also remaining vigilant on being away from people, cars, or other obstacles in the immediate area.
Also, if you have a camera drone you will be looking through the first person view of the drone. The forward facing camera is used to capture the high definition footage and video of your drone flight. While you are flying not only do you have to navigate around objects but you are also responsible for capturing some great photos. This means that the gimbal and the camera settings need to be perfectly aligned and set to capture the perfect photo. You have got the same complications as a DSLR camera whilst also piloting an aircraft.
The combination of these two things can make drone to a cognitively challenging task.
You have to fly in different conditions
There is no getting around that no matter what drone you have you need to fly outdoors. As soon as you enter a new area there are tons of potential hazards and obstacles which will test your drone flying ability.
Things like wind, rain, snow, wildlife, people, and many other things will throw up some challenges throughout your flight.
Also, your drone will also throw up some technological issues as you are increasing your flight time. One of the most annoying things to happen is that drones are known to fly away from the pilot without any particular reason.
Check out my YouTube video where I go through all of the reasons why your drone has flowed away and the five simple checks you can make to make sure it doesn’t happen to you:
Rules and regulations
Lastly, you should check to see if your country actually allows you to fly drones or if you need to get a licence or special bits of paperwork to take your drone to the best spots in your town and city. The rules and regulations of flying a drone change regularly. It is up to you, as a drone pilot, to be up-to-date with all of the rules and regulations.
This can be one of the most challenging and difficult aspects of flying a drone.
Drone flying restriction in USA
Drone flying restriction in Canada
Drone flying restriction in Australia
Drone flying restriction in UK
What is the easiest drone to learn to fly?
The easiest drone to fly will have a great combination of advanced flying features and sensors to keep the drone safe during flight. The drone should include auto hover and GPS stability as well as sensors which stop the drone if it gets too close to an obstruction. The easiest drone to fly is the DJI Mavic air 2 but if your budget doesn’t stretch to that the DJI Mavic mini is also an absolute pleasure to fly.
The DJI Mavic air 2 (click here to be taken to more information) is one of the easiest drones to fly for a variety of reasons. One of the most important reasons this drone is easy to fly is the range of sensors and its vision system. For example it has this array of sensors and cameras:
- forward sensors – the forward sensors have a precision measurement range of 0.35 to 22 m and a detection range of up to 44 m. It can detect movements and distances while it is travelling up to 12 m/s and has a wide field of view so you can be sure that it will capture everything in its path. It has a 71° horizontal and 56° vertical detection field of view.
- Backward sensors – the backward sensors have a measurement range and detection range very similar to the forward facing system but the detection range is up to 47.2 m. It also boasts a pretty impressive field of view with 44° horizontal and 57° vertical field of view.
- Downwards – the downward sensors allowed for a measurement range of 0.1 to 8 m and a hovering range of up to 30 m.
The array of sensors on the DJI Mavic air 2 is impressive. It also has an advanced pilot assistance system (APAS) which controls its active obstacle avoidance system.
Drones are becoming easier and easier to fly. That is because of the rapid research and development which drone companies are spending a lot of money on.
Drones which have an array of sensors, automated flight features, automated image capture and other user friendly features are some of the easiest to fly ever!
If you want to be flying as quickly as possible stick to the best manufacturers of drones such as DJI, parrot, and Autel and you’ll be guaranteed that your drone will be as easy to fly as possible.
Happy drone flying!