5 Habits of Professional Drone Pilots You Should Do!

Hi everyone! Today, I'd like to show you five habits that longtime professional drone pilots do that many beginners don't. It is my hope that by sharing these things, you're able to gain the knowledge to become a better drone pilot and do it much faster than I did over the years, and ultimately have more fun flying your drone.

Hi everyone, welcome back to the channel, and for those of you who are visiting for the very first time, it's so nice to have you here. Thank you for stopping by.

My name is Russ, and the primary goal of this channel is to help people enjoy the hobby of flying drones, mostly DJI drones, through and demonstration.

Today, I have some things that you can do that will make you feel and look like a seasoned drone pilot, and you can start doing them today, or at least start practicing some of them today.

1. How to hand-launch your drone

So, when you're new to flying drones, it's very common and recommended to launch and land your drone from the ground, obviously, whether it be on a landing pad of some type or just on a flat, clean surface.

But there are going to be times when you may have to hand-launch or hand-catch your drone. And once you get comfortable doing it, you won't even think twice about doing it; you'll start doing it every single time.

And I know it sounds intimidating – those blades can cut you quite easily – but it really is more simple than most people think.

So let's do a quick tutorial on how to hand-launch and hand-catch your drone.

Okay, so the first thing we're going to do is hand-launch. Now, just a couple of things to consider when you're holding the drone: when you're hand-launching, you want to pinch the belly of the drone.

So the belly is the bottom of the drone. What you're going to do is pinch it with your index finger and your middle finger, just like that, and then on the other side, you're going to have your thumb, just like that.

Okay, so you're pinching the drone just like this on the bottom, and then what I do is, I use my ring finger and hold it on the bottom of the drone like this.

Secondly, you want to hold the drone away from you and hold it up at about a 45-degree angle, just like this. Okay, so hold it away from you, pinch the bottom. Lastly, and one of the most important things I can tell you if you're going to hand-launch on a regular basis, is to get a lanyard.

A lanyard will change your life if you're a hand launcher because it's really hard to push that launch button that's in the middle of the screen, and if you have a lanyard, it's a lot easier.

These Are 5 Habits Of Professional Drone Pilots You Should Do!

And if you are left-handed, this is a little more challenging because you're going to have to hold the drone in your right hand and then launch with your left hand. Because the launch button to get it started is on the left-hand side of the screen, whether you're using the phone, the RC, or the RC Pro. The launch button is best to be pushed with your left thumb. So, that was weird English, right?

Okay, so to initiate the launch process, I'm just going to turn on my screen recorder here, and there we go. Okay, so we're going to hit that little arrow on the left-hand side of the screen. We're going to tap that, and then see where it says “Take Off”?

These Are 5 Habits Of Professional Drone Pilots You Should Do!

This is where the lanyard comes in very useful. Oops, I just turned my light on by accident. There we go. And then what you're going to do is, you're going to hold down that middle button that says “Take Off.” So, I'm going to hold this at a 45-degree angle, I'm going to pinch the belly of the drone, I'm going to hold that button down, it's going to start the engines, and just slowly let go. Okay, go up in the air, just like that. And there's your hand launch.

2. How to hand-catch your drone

Okay, now when you're hand-catching, there are a couple of things. A lot of people think it matters if you have the drone facing away from you, or you shouldn't have it facing at you. That's nonsense. It doesn't matter.

Leave your obstacle avoidance on; don't turn off your obstacle avoidance. Then, you don't have to worry about it running into you if you inadvertently hit one of the sticks or something like that.

But you either want the drone facing directly away from you or directly at you. You don't want it facing perpendicular to you, so you don't want it facing right or left, because it's really hard to grab; it's kind of awkward like that. So, you want it facing either away or directly at you.

So, I'm going to bring it down here, and when you reach out for it, don't reach for it. Put your hand out. As soon as it gets down and your hand touches it, you're going to reach up and pinch it, just like you did when you launched.

These Are 5 Habits Of Professional Drone Pilots You Should Do!

You're going to pinch the belly of the drone. You're going to hold that stick down the whole time, okay? Keep holding the stick down, and you'll see, just like this. Let's bring it all the way down.

Okay, I'm going to turn it to face me. You're going to hold your hand here for a few seconds, so it pauses. Keep holding the stick; it will come down if you hold still, just like that.

Okay, now I will say this: catching it when it's facing you is a lot more intimidating than catching it when it's facing away from you.

I don't know why, but the propellers are the same distance away from your hand, from your face, or whatever. So just know that when it's facing you, it's a little more challenging. Okay, but hand up, wait till it touches your hand, then reach up and pinch the belly. That's all there is to it, you guys.

Like I said, do this 10 times for a couple of days, and it becomes second nature. And it's so much more convenient; you don't have to worry about finding the perfect spot to launch from. You can launch from pretty much anywhere.

3. Best drone moves flown manually

So, did you know that most experienced drone pilots do not use intelligent flight modes when they're recording videos and photos, except for maybe waypoints?

Waypoints is a different story. A lot of drone pilots of all levels use waypoints, and I'm so happy they brought it to the Mavic 3. It's amazing; it's so powerful. It allows you to get repeated flight paths over and over again.

But for the most part, seasoned drone pilots fly their missions manually. You see, having that precise control and moving the drone in exactly the way that you want it to go. And move the camera exactly the way that you want it to move, just can't be beaten by automatic modes. Plus, it kind of brings a sense of pride, I guess, when you get a beautifully done shot.

Now, there's only one way to become proficient at this, and that's with a ton of practice. My suggestion is: go out, find a nice wide-open space, and something that has a single subject that you can use as your focal point.

Then practice moves like an orbit, you know, like a point of interest. Do it by yourself; don't set the Point of Interest mode. Or, you know, do a pull away with the camera raising up at the same time.

These Are 5 Habits Of Professional Drone Pilots You Should Do!

Just try to do multiple complex movements and just do that over and over again. After doing that repeatedly, it will become natural, and you won't have to rely on those intelligent flight modes anymore.

It's all about repetition. And if you want to see what I think are the best drone moves that you need to master to make your footage look great, watch this video right here.

There are a lot of videos out there that tell you the best drone moves, and they say like “50 Best Drone Moves” or “100 Best Drone Moves.” You don't need that many, you guys. There are just a few key moves, and then you can fine-tune it after you learn how to do those. So watch that video; there's a lot of great information in there.

4. Flying your drone in public

So the first time you fly a drone in public, one thing that you may find very surprising is that you have this feeling of anxiety, like overwhelming anxiety. You might find yourself worrying about who's watching you, who's annoyed by the sound of the drone, who's going to call the authorities, and maybe even who wants to steal it from you. So there are so many different feelings that you probably don't realize until you start flying.

What most newer drone pilots do to avoid those feelings is they fly inconspicuously. They tend to hide, maybe sitting in their car or in a secluded corner under a tree somewhere, or maybe somewhere else that's hidden from the public eye.

But in my opinion, what you should actually do, and many seasoned drone pilots do this, is to be loud and proud when you fly. Act like you actually don't care who sees you, and present yourself as someone who knows what they are doing. Even if you really don't know what you're doing. You have to have confidence and show people that you are not trying to hide from them, and this will make normal people less skeptical about your intentions. Some may even become interested and come to visit with you.

Now, I say “normal people” because there are always going to be some ignorant individuals that are going to be triggered by you flying a drone. But even those people are going to be less likely to engage you if you actually look like a professional.

And even if you're not doing a commercial flight or a professional flight, who cares? I would still maybe set up some cones, wear an orange vest, and make it look like you are a professional. People are not going to bother you if it looks like you're working. Again, there will be exceptions to that rule, but it just helps.

5. Drone and camera settings on DJI drones for cinematic footage

Now, one of the most difficult things to learn when you start flying a drone and are trying to get great footage is all of the different settings: the camera settings, the drone control settings – there are just so many things to learn. But there's one thing that I think a lot of people, even intermediate pilots, avoid, and that's messing with the Expo settings in your control sticks.

The Expo settings are something that a lot of people don't understand, but they can be really important when you start trying to develop professional-looking footage.

5 Habits Of Professional Drone Pilots You Should Do! 5

So the Expo settings basically tell the drone how quickly to react to the inputs that you do on the sticks. Let's just run outside and do a quick tutorial on what the Expo settings are and how to control them, or how to set them, to work best for you and what you're trying to achieve.

Expo settings

Alright, so let's take a look at Expo settings. Like I said, most beginners don't care about Expo settings; they have no idea what it does and just don't want to deal with it. So I'm going to show you, just to help give you a little sense of how this can make a difference when you're trying to create cinematic footage.

Okay, so we're going to click on the three little dots in the upper right-hand corner, and then you'll go to “Control,” and then you'll click on “Gain and Expo Tuning.” Then you're going to scroll down; we're going to ignore all that for right now. And right there are the Expo settings.

So you can see right now my pitch roll is set to 0.27, my yaw is 0.19, and my up and down is 0.1, and that's where I usually have mine. And it can vary; it's really not that big of a deal if it's off by a few, but that's what I use for my settings.

But I just want to show you right now the difference. What this does when you turn all these down. So let's just turn the pitch and roll down, and now the pitch and roll is going to be your right stick for most people, okay? The right stick is going to make the drone go left and right. So, I'm just going to show you when I barely touch the stick. I'm going to push to the left, okay, and then we'll push to the right. See how the drone reacts?

5 Habits Of Professional Drone Pilots You Should Do! 6

Okay, now I'm going to turn that all the way up. We're going to go all the way up to 0.9. Okay, now watch when I push, just barely touch the stick to the left. Whoa! Barely touch it to the right. Okay, see that? That's really sensitive; that's too much. That is not going to give you cinematic footage. So that's why I try to keep this pretty low, right around 0.2-0.25.

Yaw settings

Let's look at yaw. So let's turn the yaw all the way down, and this is going to be your left stick, okay? Going left and right. So, I'm just going to barely touch it to the left, barely touch it to the right. Okay, now let's turn it all the way up. Left, right. Okay, see how jerky that is? Extremely aggressive. So, I keep this one pretty low as well, right around 0.1-0.2.

Up/down settings

Now, finally, we're going to do up and down. So, I have mine set all the way to 0.1. That's going to be your left stick; you're going to push up, the drone is going to go up, you push down, the drone is going to go down. So let's go up. I'm just going to barely touch it, barely touch it down. Let's do that again, up, down. See, I'm barely touching that stick.

Let's go ahead and move that all the way up to 0.9. Now watch as I barely touch it, okay? Very aggressive, very sensitive. I prefer that one all the way down, maybe 0.2-0.3. You know, like I said, it's not going to make that big of a difference, but I like to have mine all the way at 0.1.

So, that kind of gives you an idea of how important the Expo settings are, because the more aggressive you have those, the more jerky your footage is going to look. And like I said, most of the time, not all the time, but most of the time, you're going to want that to look as cinematic as possible.

So, hopefully, you got some value out of that, and hopefully, you can go into your settings right now and see what you have your Expo settings to.

Smooth and cinematic aerial camera movements

Choppy, quick camera movements in aerial video – it's a trigger for me. We've all seen it, you guys. The drone is flying over some beautiful scenery, and you're like, “Oh, this is really cool.” But then you see this [Music] or this [Music].

It drives me crazy, and I know it drives a lot of you crazy as well. This is something that the majority of new drone pilots do, and when you see it, you know you're watching a video from someone that is just learning how to fly a drone and just learning how to capture aerial video.

Unless you are flying an FPV drone – now, there are exceptions to the rule. I don't want to trigger any FPV drone enthusiasts; you know there are exceptions. But for the most part, when you're flying a GPS camera drone, like the Mavic series, the Phantom series, the Air 2S, or any of those types of drones, your footage should look slow and smooth with wide-angle turns. They should have slow, deliberate movements. There should be no jerky, quick movements. Again, there are exceptions to this rule, but generally, it should look cinematic.

So, let's just do a real quick comparison, and you tell me which one of these sequences looks better: this one, thank you [Music], or do you prefer this one [Music]?

So, practice your stick control, you guys. It's one of the most important things to master, and the more you do it, the easier it will become. Once you make it a habit, you will start to notice bad drone footage more when you see it.

Hey, comment anything you think professional drone pilots do that new ones don't. I'll make a follow-up video if I get enough suggestions in the comments.

Also, did you learn anything valuable today? If you did, please click on that thumbs-up button, that like button. I really do appreciate that; it helps the channel out so much. Subscribe if you aren't yet, and if you want to see more videos like this one, follow me on social media at 51drones.

And watch this video right here next, because it's literally going to change your life for the better. Thanks for watching today, everyone. Have a great rest of your day, and as always, fly safe and fly smart.

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Russ 51 Drones
Russ 51 Drones
Articles: 36


  1. Sixth item would be spell-check in all your professional communications. 2. How to hand-cath your drone

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