Flying a drone for your organisation? Understand the basics

Written by
Ray Gillinder
August 25, 2022

There are many reasons why you and your business might be interested in flying your own drones. Whether you need to conduct asset inspections, understand construction progress or measure the stock levels in your mine site, drones provide businesses with plenty of potential. 

Of course, with an all-in-one aerial intelligence platform like Birdi, you’re more than welcome to have our pilots fly the drones for you. This allows you to take a back seat and simply wait for the data and insights to come rolling into our easy-to-use interface.

However, if you’re gunning to fly your own drones, it’s important that you’re aware of the basics of drone flying (and have met all the relevant aviation requirements to do so).

Getting to know your drone

Before we drone on and on about the different techniques for drone flying, let’s make sure we know what we’re talking about when we use certain jargon.

All drones come with a remote controller, sometimes called a transmitter. With a series of joysticks and buttons ,this gaming-like device is what a pilot will use to get the drone in the air and move in the direction you want. Again, like gaming controllers, drone pilots operate the controller with their thumbs which allows for maximum control and dexterity.

Controller Functions

The four most common functions on a drone controller include:

  • Yaw
  • Throttle
  • Roll
  • Pitch

Left Joystick: Yaw and Throttle

On most standard drone controllers the stick on the left hand side controls the yaw and throttle (these are more often than not the standard configuration, but on more advanced drones, you can change the configuration to suit your flying). 

Yaw - The yaw just means the clockwise rotation (or counterclockwise) of the drone itself. In other words, by pushing the joystick one way or the other you can make your drone pivot along its axis, allowing you to change direction without propelling forwards (or backwards.)

Throttle - As you may have guessed, the throttle controls the drone motors’ power. The more you push the left joystick up or down the more or less power your drone will have. As a result this will change the speed at which the drone flies and consequently its altitude. 

Together, the yaw and throttle allow you or your pilot to control the drone’s flight, height and direction. 

Right Stick: Pitch and Roll

While your left thumb is all busy yawing and throttling, your right thumb will be activating the right joystick allowing you to roll and pitch. 

Roll - This just means moving your drone either right or left. While not literally ‘rolling’, moving your joystick in one direction to another will make your drone move in that same direction. This is essential for avoiding crashing your drone into obstacles in its path.

Pitch - This refers to the level of tilt on your drone, and the tilt is going to determine if your drone moves forwards or back. By moving the right joystick one way or the other you can control whether your drone flies forwards or backwards. 

How to start flying your drone

Once you’ve understood the basics of drone control, it’s time to start flying! Follow these helpful steps to make sure you practice your pilot skills in a safe and practical way.

Step 1 - Read the manual

We know, we know, who wants to read the manual? Nonetheless, drones can be both expensive and also potentially damaging to people and property, so it’s worth taking the time and effort to familiarise yourself with your specific drone model’s manual. 

Step 2 - Find a suitable place to fly

When you’re starting out, it’s useful to find an open, secure and safe place to practice flying your drone. The fewer trees, obstructions and even people the better.

Tip: Remember to consider any permits you may need for flying in public spaces and familiarise yourself with the local Council and/or State laws regarding drone usage.

Step 3 - Prepare for take-off

Once you have your take-off spot, position your drone properly. Keep the drone in front of you and oriented forwards. Flat surfaces make for the best take-off spots, especially for beginners. 

Step 4 - Connect the drone transmitter

Sequencing refers to the connecting of your transmitter to the drone itself. Most drones make sequencing super easy but make sure to check your manual first.

The standard operation is as follows:

  1. Push down on the throttle.
  2. Turn the transmitter on.
  3. Connect the battery of the drone. 

This needs to be done before every flight and is very important! When you’re finished flying your drone, you need to ‘un-sequence’ the transmitter by working through the above checklist in the opposite order. 

Step 5 - Practice, practice, practice

It goes without saying that practice makes perfect when it comes to drone flying. When you’re starting–especially with take-offs and landings–just go slowly. There’s no race to the finish line and no rush to get into the air. Trust us when we say that “slow is smooth and smooth is fast” when it comes to drone flying. 

Once you’re comfortable with lifting your drone into the air and landing it back down, start familiarising yourself with the following:

  • Operating the yaw, throttle, pitch and roll. 
  • Hovering your drone in one spot and as smoothly/steadily as possible. 
  • Keeping your drone balanced.
  • Rotating your drone and changing direction. 

Once you’ve mastered the above basic techniques, start developing your piloting skills further with these manoeuvres:

  • Fly your drone in parallel sequences using both the right and left joysticks.
  • Try ‘drawing’ shapes, such as squares, circles or even figure eights, in the air. 
  • Practice avoiding imagined obstacles to simulate navigating around real ones. 

Extra drone flying basics

Flying a drone that is facing you

You may have worked out this little nugget yourself, but just in case you haven’t we thought it’s important to point out.

If your drone is facing you, as opposed to facing away from you, remember that your controls are all going to be the opposite in terms of direction. The drone controller moves the drone to its right or left, and it's forward or backward direction. When the machine is facing you, the drone’s right is going to be your left.

Spend some time exercising your brain muscles by flying your drone whilst facing different directions. While this point is intuitive, it does take some time to get used to. 

Important To Do items for drone flying

To help you operate your drone safely and legally, here’s a quick checklist to run through:

  1. Make sure your drone battery is always fully charged and that you have compatible back-up batteries. 
  2. If required, register your drone with the relevant authorities. 
  3. Download and use helpful No Fly apps or familiarise yourself with local rules and regulations about drone flying. 
  4. Obey the safety rules:

a. Do not fly your drone higher than local regulations allow. 

b. Always ensure you can see your drone when flying.

c. Do not fly your drone over people or private homes.

d. Do not fly your drone close to an airport, emergency response facilities or other aircraft.

e. Never fly a drone if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

f. Clean your drone after every use.

Using your drone with Birdi

Now that you know the basics of how to fly your drone, make sure you know just how insightful and impactful the Birdi aerial intelligence platform is for making the absolute most of your captured drone data for visualisation, processing and insights. If you'd like to learn more, Book a Demo with our team.

Ray Gillinder
Ray is an Operations Manager at Birdi, and also our Head Drone Pilot and resident expert on all things drone-related. When Ray isn't supporting the runnings of Birdi, he's out flying drones and capturing data at any number of sites.

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