Flying a quadrotor is not that hard, as the heavy lifting is done by the flight controller. Still it takes some time, effort, crashes and bent props to become a pro pilot.
To start out your best bet is to get a high quality toy quadcopter, for example the Syma X5C and a few spare props. You could start with a professional quad too, still, crashing a Syma X5C is way cheaper (check the price) than crashing a Walkera Rodeo.The Hubsan H107L and H107C are good choices too.
Ordering a large number of replacement props (say 3 sets) up front is a great idea too, as they do not cost much, and you will not stay grounded while the props arrive.
Buying a flight simulator software you can use for training is a great idea too, for example the Great Planes RealFlight supports multirotor simulation. You will still need a transmitter with a trainer port for it – the Flysky FS-i6 is an overall well-rounded transmitter and should just work.
Got the quad? Got the props? Let’s start!
Step 1 – transmitter controls
Whichever quad you got, your transmitter will have two sticks, one on the left and one on the right. Most of the transmitters are Mode 2, which means that the throttle and yaw is on the left stick, while the pitch and roll is on the right. As this is the most common setup, we’ll use it here too.Initially you will only use the throttle, that is pushing the left stick up and down. Using the other movements can wait.
Before flying your quadcopter, the first step is to bind it with the transmitter. It’s usually achieved by turning on the quad first, next the transmitter, then pushing the left stick up to the top and down to the bottom again. You will not need this procedure if they are already bound.Would the props start spinning, throttle down immediately.
Pushing the left stick to the left or right controls the yaw, the rotation of the quadcopter. Later you will use this to fly circles for example.
The right stick controls the pitch and roll of the quadcopter. If you push the right stick forward, the quad will bend forward and start flying forward. Pushing the right stick backwards, left or right will make the quad bend and fly backwards, left or right. We will get back to these in a few minutes.
Step 2 – flight environment
Choosing the appropriate environment for your flights will take some time,but it can save a lot of hassle later on. For safety keep clear of things you could hurt, including people, property, animals, cars, and yourself. Also keep clear of things that could hurt your quad, for example trees and power lines.
For best results fly only above soft, even surfaces, fields or a areas designated for R/C flying are the best. Avoid bodies of water as the quads are not water proof.
To improve the quads longevity do not fly above sand – the sand could get into the bearings and wreck them.
Start flying only in calm weather, as fighting the wind is surely not something you’ll want to start with.
Finally keep away from bushed fields, finding a quad in the bush is not fun.Also keep clear of hawks and other kind of birds of prey, as they love to attack quadcopters.
But enough of the rules, let’s start the preflight checkup!
Step 3 – preflight checkup
Before your first flight, double check the battery levels on your quadcopter and transmitter. Check that the propellers are fixed in place and show no damage. Damaged props will cause vibrations, which in turn will cause premature failure of the motor bearings, and the flight controller will have to cope with the additional noise too.
Check the quad for lose arms and wires too, to avoid mid-air shorts or vibrations.
In case of a crash or emergency throttle down immediately – this will save the props, motors and the ESCs.
All looking good? Let’s start flying!
Exercise 1 – gentle liftoff and landing
Place your quad on an even surface far from anything it could hurt, power it up, and get back to keep some distance. You may have to bind the quad and your transmitter by powering up the quad first, next the transmitter, and pushing the left stick up to the top, then down again.
Once you are ready gently raise the throttle. Patience is the key here – you should see the props spinning up faster and faster, and the quad will slowly rise from the ground. Start slowly lowering the throttle once the quad is up in the air in a few centimeters, that’s all we want now.
Would your quad start drifting or turning do not panic, just throttle down slowly. These issues can be fixed either using the trim button or by recalibrating the gyros.
Repeat this a few times until you feel confident you can get up the air and land safely too.
Exercise 2 – hovering
This exercise will need more room than the previous one. Use the previous exercise to get up in the air with your quad. Once up the air keep raising the throttle gently, until the quad starts ascending. Once the quad is a meter from the ground start lowering the throttle until its tops ascending. Try to keep this height for a minute or so. The key is to gently raise and lower the throttle to keep the altitude. Would your quad start drifting, just follow it around for now.
Repeat this exercise a few times, until you get familiar with hovering and keeping the altitude of your quadcopter.
Exercise 3 – small movements
This exercise builds on Exercise 2, and will need just a bit more room. The objective of the exercise is to get a bit more comfortable with the sticks before moving on to flying more actively.
Start this exercise by lifting off to hover from the ground. Next very gently push the right stick forward so that the quad starts flying forward slowly. Then center the stick again, and repeat by moving the stick gently backwards, then gently left and right. The quad will fly a bit back,then left and right.
In the second part of this exercise we’ll focus on using the yaw on the left stick.Very gently move the left stick to the left and watch the quadcopter startturning left. Center the stick again, so that the turning stops. Next movethe left stick gently to the right, and watch the quad turn right. Center the stick again to stop the turning. Try to isolate the left-right movement of the stick from the up-down movement, so that the quadcopter’s altitude does not change while it’s turning.
The key for this exercise is to move the sticks only very slowly, and not letting the quad to speed up. Try to keep the altitude constant during the exercise.
Exercise 4 – square and circle flying with the right stick only
Get into stable hover as you did in the second exercise. You will need larger room, as you’ll start flying for real!
For square flying,move the right stick gently forward, and let the quad fly forward about a meter. Let the right stick center, then move it to the left to fly left 1 meter, then let it center again. Next move it backwards to fly back one meter, and let it center. Finally move it to right to fly right one mete rand let it center again.
Congratulations, your square is finished!
To fly in a circle with your quad
, all you have to do is move the right stick gently forward until the quad starts flying forward, then move it around slowly in a circular fashion and watch the quad fly a circle. Let the stick center to stop the quad. The circle you just flow is simply a rounded version of the rectangle you flew before.
As your quad gains speed it will loose altitude, so you will have to compensate by giving it more throttle. Just take your time to get comfortable with this.
Exercise 5 – circle flying using yaw
When flying a circle using the yaw, the quad will rotate to face you for some time. In this phase the right stick may not behave as you’d like it to- as the quad is facing you instead of away from you, the right stick’s behavior will get mirrored. So would you push the right stick left, the quad will start flying towards the right. Some quads support headless mode to counteract this behavior.But enough of the talk let’s start!
To fly in a circle, first get into hover as you did in the previous exercises. Next push the right stick gently forward, and let the quad start flying forward slowly. Next move the left stick slowly leftwards, and the quad will start circling slowly. To keep things simple, let the quad go a full circle before landing. If you do not have enough space for this, let the right stick center and move the left stick towards the middle to stop the movement before landing.
Trimming and gyro recalibration
Quadcopter’s internal gyro can get messed up during a crash – the quadcopter will start drifting if you try to fly it. If you experience this, you will have to reset the gyros. You will find the exact reset sequence in your quadcopter’s documentation, these are the required steps common to all quads:
- Place the quad on an even surface.
- Bind it with the transmitter by turning on the quad first, next the transmitter, then move the left stick up and down.
The next part depends on the quad, but usually involves moving both sticks to one of the corners and wait for the quad’s LEDs to flash. In case of the Syma X5C:
- Move both sticks to the bottom right corner and wait for the LEDs to flash.
After the reset the quad should not drift anymore.
Another solution to the drift problem
is to use the transmitters trim buttons,which are usually right next to the sticks. You can use buttons to counteract the drift and rotation you see on your quad. First you’ll have to find which trim button to use.
- If the quad is drifting forward or backward, you will have to push the button right of the right stick backwards or forwards a few times to counteract the drift.
- If the quad is drifting left or right, you will have to push the button bellow the right stick right or left a few times to counteract the drift.
- If your quad is rotating left or right, you will have to push the button below the left stick right or left a few times to counteract the rotation.
Flying a quadcopter is not that hard, just take your time and do not rush it. If you are unsure of yourself, try a simulator first, or check our review section for one of those indestructible toy quads. There are quite a few flying lessons on Youtube too, this is one is basic, and really easy to understand.