As of just a couple of weeks ago, I've been flying drones for six years now, and over that time, I have learned quite a bit. I hope that you have as well by watching my channel here. One of the best ways to learn something is to do it incorrectly first, and TRUST me, I have made a lot of mistakes over the years with my drones.
So today, I'd like to share with you what I think are six of the most common mistakes that new drone pilots make. Hopefully, by making you aware, I can mitigate some of the headaches and heartaches that I had to go through over the years. So let's get started.
Hi everyone, welcome back to the channel, and if you're here for the first time, my name is Russ. Nice to have you here.
1. New drone pilots, don't fly your drone inside!
The very first mistake that I made was with my very first drone, my DJI Mavic Pro, and I know many of you have done this as well. I did it in my first week of owning it, and that was to fly my drone inside. I was completely overjoyed that I had this amazing new machine that could hover in place with incredible accuracy, no matter where it was. Little did I know at the time that GPS does not prefer to find its way indoors, at least not with very much ease.
So as I was flying it inside, right in front of my son, not realizing there was a pretty good chance that I could injure him, I noticed that it was not maintaining position. It was floating all over, drifting around, and it was in what's called ATTI mode. Also, the prop wash added to that instability, and thankfully, I landed it before it hit anything.
Now I see videos of people flying their drones inside all the time. You see it on all the social media platforms, and if you're a skilled drone pilot, you're most likely going to be fine.
But if you have never flown a drone before, there is a certain level of panic that ensues, and you may make some stupid decisions or overcorrect. And that could be very bad for your drone, your home, or even your family.
So don't ever fly your drone indoors, at least not until you're very comfortable with how it functions in that environment, as well as without having any GPS locked on.
2. Flying your drone too close to water
Now, another common mistake that new drone pilots, and even some not-so-new drone pilots, make is flying too closely to the surface of a body of water. Flying over water is incredibly fun, don't get me wrong. It feels like you're soaring through the air, and most of the time, the scenery that you're going to be capturing is gorgeous and inspiring.
But even though you may experience a certain level of peace and joy flying over the water, your drone is having the opposite reaction. It panics.
The downward vision sensors have a very difficult time with reflective surfaces and lack of contrast, and this confuses the system. It can give you incorrect readings or even disobey your inputs.
Now, I made a catastrophic decision to fly too low over the water with my DJI Air 2S a couple of summers ago. I thought I was up high enough, according to my telemetry, but in fact, the drone was right above the surface of the water, and it dove right down to its demise and fell 96 feet to its final resting place.
It was the most sinking feeling that I had ever experienced, pun intended.
Now, I got too confident. That was my problem. My iPhone screen went dark because it was too hot. I was just being too confident flying, and I ended up losing my drone.
Now, thankfully, a very generous company, Master Airs Group, purchased a brand new one for me, and I could not be more appreciative of it. I still fly my DJI Air 2S today, and it's probably still my favorite drone overall.
But the bottom line is, you guys, when you're flying over water, I recommend getting no closer than five meters above the surface of that water.
And if it's a super calm day where the water looks like a mirror, I would extend that a little bit higher to maybe 10 meters. It's just not worth losing your drone.
3. Return-to-Home and putting the remote controller down
Now, I mentioned that I got just a little bit too confident that one time flying over the water. Well, that's not my first time that my arrogance got the best of me. A few weeks after I got my Mavic Pro, my first drone, I was kind of showing it off to my family, demonstrating how amazing it was. It was completely automated; I was flying in a circle without me having to do anything, and it was flying right back home by itself when I hit that return-to-home button.
So, when I demonstrated the return-to-home, I set the controller down on the table just to show everyone how smart this drone really was. But actually, it wasn't that smart because it did not capture the most accurate launch position when it took off, since I launched it from a glass table.
So when it returned home, it was off by a few feet on its descent, and as I realized it was decreasing in altitude, it was going to hit a chain-link fence.
I grabbed the controller real quick, just in time, but in that process, I panicked and flew the drone directly into that chain-link fence.
Now, this accident was completely 100% due to my machismo and having that attitude of “nothing bad could happen to me.”
So, no matter how skilled you are at flying, you should never put 100% confidence in the fact that the drone will always do what you expect it to, and don't ever take that controller out of your hands, no matter what, because you never know when something could go wrong.
Now, the only exception that I maybe would say it's okay is if you're flying the Skydio 2 with its amazing obstacle avoidance technology. But even as good as that drone is at avoiding obstacles, it still is not 100% guaranteed.
4. Avoid power lines with your drone
So, power lines. I have hit quite a few power lines in my years of flying drones, and the majority of the time, it's been while I've been flying backward.
The reason that I stated earlier that even the Skydio is not guaranteed, is because I've seen quite a few videos of that thing hitting power lines.
“Oh my God! I just hit a highline wire, and it didn't stop. Whoa!“
Power lines are the nemesis of drones, probably next to birds. But obstacle avoidance cannot see power lines, and the average person has a difficult time seeing them on their screen as well, because the majority of the time, the sky is very bright and they kind of blend in with the sky.
Power lines are everywhere, and you always need to be vigilant about where they are. Always survey the area that you're going to be flying to make sure that you're very familiar with their location and position.
And then also, keep your drone within the visual line of sight. This will help because you can have two ways to make sure that you're clear of the lines, both with your eyes on the drone and your eyes on your screen.
5. Use a pre-flight checklist
Now, this next mistake is so easy to prevent, but just about everybody does it, and it's when you don't create and use a pre-flight checklist.
A pre-flight checklist is something that you have written down or maybe entered into your phone that you can look at each time before you fly. One purpose of it is to make sure that the drone is working okay, that your batteries are charged, the props are intact, and everything is just okay with the drone.
But the most important reason to have it is to make certain that all of your settings are where you want them to be for your upcoming flight.
A great example that I used to do all of the time before I started using a pre-flight was, I would get done flying and I wanted to get that drone home quickly, so I switched it into sport mode, and then I flew it home. I landed, and then I packed it away.
So, the next time I would go out and fly, guess what? It was still in sport mode. And what gets turned off in sport mode? That's right, obstacle avoidance.
And when you are flying confidently around, thinking you have obstacle avoidance on but it's actually off, bad things can happen.
So, a pre-flight prevents things like that, as well as other things like camera settings, your return-to-home height, and many other important settings that you need to check each time.
I once completed an entire real estate shoot with my camera set to 1080p. I didn't even notice it, and it wasn't that big of a deal. But the deal is, I promised my client that I would be recording in 4K, so I had to go back out and do that whole shoot over again.
So now, my pre-flight gets done every single time that I fly, and that has helped me save so much time and headaches, and it's really prevented me from making a lot of mistakes.
6. Fly your drone within visual line of sight
So earlier, I mentioned visual line of sight. Now, this is the golden rule of flying drones. It's also the rule that is commonly ignored, especially by new drone owners that aren't even aware that the drone rule exists.
Not understanding this rule is a pretty significant mistake. There is no better way to crash your drone than flying it further away than you can see it. You see, that rule was set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States, and is set by other governing bodies in other Countries.
It is put in place not just for the protection of manned aircraft but also for your protection. You know, they aren't just some evil empire that makes up rules to steal your fun.
They want everyone that's operating anything in the air to be aware that they aren't the only ones out there, and it's their job to mitigate any damage or injury to property or people, both in the air and on the ground below.
So, when you fly your drone, make sure that when you look up towards the sky, you are able to see where it's at. You don't have to stare at it the entire time it's in the air. You just need to have awareness and see it when you look towards it. That's all, and for most people, that can be up to like 1,500 feet, maybe even 2,000 feet away with a normal-sized drone.
And when I say normal-sized drone, I'm talking about something like the foldable drones, like the DJI Mavic 3, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, the DJI Air 2S, and things like that. I can see the Air 2S up to 1,500 feet away, depending on conditions, and that's pretty good. Some people with even better vision can see further than that.
Now, I know that many of you are going to stand your ground, that visual line of sight is a dumb rule and you're never going to comply.
But I just want new pilots to understand that as you are learning to fly, it would serve you best to keep your drone where you can see it, because it really does help you understand how that drone behaves when it's in the air.
Alright, so there are six tips. Now, here's one quick bonus tip that I have for you, and it's very simple. I just started doing this last year, and it has saved me so much money.
7. Offload your aerial footage right away
When you're done flying and recording video or taking photographs, offload that footage right away. Take out the micro SD from your drone, put it in the computer, and download all of your files. If possible, back it up to the cloud or maybe a second drive, and then delete those files from your card.
Then put it back into the drone, so you don't forget it. You don't need to buy a new card every week or every month, like I used to do. I have a whole container full of cards that I just—it's just so dumb to spend that much money.
So, find a couple of good cards and just keep reusing them. If you want to see what I consider to be the best card for drones right now, check in the video description down below.
So, there are seven of the most common mistakes that new drone pilots make. Of course, there are many, many more, and if you want to see a follow-up to this video, let me know in the comments, and also subscribe so you don't miss it. Hit the like button if I presented you something of value today.
Hey, watch this video next, because I know that you feel like you really need to get up off the recliner right now and get something productive done, but honestly, don't you think you can do that thing tomorrow?
Have a great day, everyone, and as always, fly safe and smart.
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