Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Learning to Fly A Quadcopter

The old adage was that you had to get an instructor to learn how to fly a radio controlled airplane - don't do it yourself, you will crash, it is hard, you need an official flying field, etc etc.  This was clearly true when I tried to fly RC planes in the early 1970's.  The planes took a long time to build, were powered by glow engines, flew very quickly, were expensive, and hard to repair.  You could easily crash and it was very costly.  My first attempt at flying wrecked my Goldberg Falcon 56, damaged my OS Max .30, and damaged my RC servos.  The cost in 1970 was about $200, in today's money that is about $750.

The good news is that you don't need a lot of money, an instructor, and a flying field to learn to fly a quadcopter drone.  You can do it at home for about $35.

Buy a good toy quadcopter with rotor guards like the Hero RC Sky Matrix H1306 for about $35 US.  You will get a decent indoor quadcopter that will withstand multiple collisions and crashes, along with extra props, battery, charger, transmitter.  You just add some AA batteries for the transmitter.  You can bash this into the wall, ceiling, floor, and it will likely be undamaged.  My unit is fine after probably 20 or 30 crashes, I have not even used the extra props.

To teach yourself to fly:

  1. Follow the instructions to set up the unit on its stand that is part of the display box.
  2. Make sure the LEDs are solid red.
  3. Point the nose of the unit with the red LEDs away from you.  Pick a room that is pretty open and not cluttered with chairs, tables, etc. so you have some room.
  4. Slowly advance the throttle until it lifts off.
  5. Try to get it to hover at about 3 to 6 feet in front of you.  Manipulate the throttle to get it to hover.  Don't touch the other controls or just give small inputs.
  6. Don't worry if it crashes, pick it up, put it back on the stand, go back to step 3.  Try again.
  7. Once you can get it to hover for about 10 or 20 seconds, try to use the controls on the right stick to keep it hovering in one place.  Left and right stick makes it move left and right, forward stick moves it forward, and back stick moves it back.
  8. Try this for a while until you can get it to hover in one place for about 30 seconds.
  9. Next try making the unit turn around using the left stick.  Make the nose point towards you and try to hover in one place for 30 seconds.  This "nose in" position is tricky because all the controls are reversed except the throttle.  Right stick right makes the copter go left, stick left makes it go right, etc.  This is one of the trickier things to learn.
  10. Once you have mastered all this, which will take a little while, try flying around the room in a circle and then landing.
A few things you will discover:
  • It is a little harder than you think if you are uncoordinated like me
  • The battery will last about 5 mins
  • As the battery is expended, you will need more throttle to stay aloft
  • There is only a small range of throttle where you can keep it hovering - a little less and you hit the floor, a little more and you hit the ceiling.  It is good training for your thumbs!
Check out me learning to fly in this Youtube video.

1 comment:

  1. Drones, quadcopters, tricopters, hexacopters, octocopters… These unmanned aerial vehicles  bring plenty of fun, and are unbelievably popular nowadays. Experts predict that in the next 5 years they will be even more popular all over the world which is why we think now is the best time to get you interested in how to fly a quadcopter. See more