I've been doing a lot of drone pilot training lately and spending a lot of time flying the DJI fleet I've acquired -- I have DJI Mavic Air 2, DJI Air 2S, and DJI Mini 2.
It's a lot of fun, and after lockdowns and such, it's nice to get back outdoors.
During my training, as well as my time on the drone forums and groups, I've come across three mistakes that I see a lot of people doing, mistakes that can be both frustrating because the user isn't getting the best from their investment but also costly because they are putting their drones at serious risk of damage or loss.
No one wants that, do they?
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#1: Not taking the time to read the manual and get to know your drone
Today alone, I've come across over a dozen posts on Facebook in various groups from people who have either lost their new drone or crashed it hard into something on its first flight.
Get to know your drone before flying it. First off, read the manual (maybe do this while you're waiting for it to be delivered -- you can usually find the manuals online). Maybe watch some YouTube videos (I highly recommend filmmaker Jevan Dovey).
Then, when you get the drone, and you've unboxed it, taken off the stickers, and charged the batteries, it's time to fly.
But don't do what I see too many do -- throw it into sports mode and start flying it like you stole it! Find a big open area with no people and start small.
Practice take-off and landing.
Familiarize yourself with the safety features, especially return to home.
Then, after you've mastered this, you can start doing more fancy moves, like drawing a box with 20-foot sides. Then a box with 10-foot sides. Then practice doing circles of various sizes and then figure-of-8s.
This is the sort of stuff that will get you familiar with your drone. Not ripping about with it like you're in The Fast and the Furious.
#2: Getting too close to trees and water and power lines
About 90% of drone losses happen around trees and water (with a big portion of the remaining 10% being power lines).
Because the obstacle avoidance measures built into new drones can't detect small branches and twigs and can also go crazy over water (yes, the obstacle avoidance is far from perfect, and I never rely on it).
It doesn't take much to bring a drone out of the air, and getting it stuck 50 foot up a tree or losing it to a lake or ocean will bring your Top Gun days to an abrupt end.
And remember, some insurance packages, like DJI's own Refresh package, only covers drone losses in the event of a flyaway, not pilot error. So, unless your landing in a tree or voyage to the bottom of the sea was as a result of a drone problem, you're outta luck.
#3: Flying to the moon and taking photos of Earth
Yes, it's fun, and everybody does it. Fly it as high and legally allowed (yeah, remember that there's a limit) and take photos of things.
But overall, these photos end up looking flat and lifeless. And it's nothing that people can't see on Google Earth.
Practice getting shots and angles that make for more dramatic filming. Play with reveals and parallax.
It takes time and patience and working through that frustration that comes from wanting a shot but just not being able to do it… yet!
Again, there are plenty of YouTube channels that will help (here's a couple of good sources: Jevan Dovey and Stewart & Alina).
Got any good drone tips? Post them below!