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The key skills you need to pilot your drone

By March 20, 2017 Photography No Comments

Hovering and sliding around in straight lines is no fun, so once you’ve got to grips with the basic controls, it’s time to move things up a notch.

drone in flight

There are several skills that you should practise as often as possible to help you use the sticks more naturally and become a real master pilot.

The real trick is the ability to use both sticks at once, and to develop an appreciation for the aircraft’s orientation. This is strange at first, and there is a strong temptation to stick with Intelligent Orientation Control (IOC) or ‘simple’ mode. However, doing so would be a lot like only learning to drive an automatic gearbox car in Europe, where stick-shift is far more common. Sure, you could drive if you found an automatic car, but you’d never be able to use most of the cars on the road and you’d certainly never get behind the wheel of a classic sports car.

Another tendency of many early pilots is to think only about one movement at a time, as if there were an invisible cubic grid guiding them. It’s perhaps true that people with a photography background who see their ’copter as a flying camera find themselves flying as if they are moving an imaginary tripod around without much grace. Even for dedicated photographers this isn’t the best way to fly; without developing more subtle control you’ll never be able to shoot the swooping video that is such a big part of clients’ requirements these days.

Manual altitude

The difference between Altitude Hold and manual throttle is pretty significant. It’s less important for photographers than racers, but it’s a good idea to practice trying to hold a fixed altitude without automatic assistance and as little input as possible from the right stick.

Drone key skills

Simple circles

Learning to fly in ever tighter and ever more accurate circles will help every aspect of your flying. Pitch forward with the right stick, then use yaw to turn the ’copter.

Drone key flying skills


Once you’ve got the hang of turning, it’s vital to refine your grasp of flying in whatever direction the front is pointed. A good way to do that is make fly-bys of your position, turning tightly at either end; slow yourself with backward pitch. As you get better able to judge the direction of travel, you can make the straight flight longer and faster.

Drone key flying skills

Figure of eight

Flying a figure of eight will require a combination of turning and passing-by skills. This will really help you focus on flying and perceiving your ’copter’s position in 3D space. Try varying the speed and the size of the figure of eight for variety.

Drone key skills

The Complete Guide to Drones is Adam Juniper’s comprehensive introduction if you’re thinking of dipping your toe into the world of drones. This book will show you everything you could need to know. What types you can buy (or build), how they work, how to fly them, all the relevant rules and how to keep ahead of the weather.

The Complete Guide to Drones, Adam JuniperThe Complete Guide to Drones
Adam Juniper

Buy it now!
RRP for print edition: £14.99
Digital Edition Amazon UK (Print)

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