If you are just getting started with drones, this information will help you get flying the right way. Remember – you are a PILOT now. It’s not just open sky up there. You have a responsibility to keep other aircraft safe in the sky, and people safe on the ground below.
How to Fly
Read the Manual. If your drone came with a manual, read through it. If not, search online. DJI and others have PDF manuals you can download and read or print for free. There is important info in there which will prevent expensive or dangerous accidents, and keep you flying.
Fly with a Buddy. Especially if you’re just getting started, find someone in your area to fly with. They can help you get to know your equipment, and learn how to deal with tricky situations. Most drone people love to talk about them, and would be glad to help you get started.
Start in Beginner Mode. Most $200+ drones have a beginner or restricted mode, which will keep the drone nearby, and keep the speed low. Use this when you’re getting comfortable with the controls.
Practice, Practice, Practice. The more you fly, the better you’ll understand your drone and how it behaves (and how you react) in different circumstances. If you know your drone, you can tell when it’s working well or poorly. Don’t risk an expensive or dangerous accident. Plus, it’s more fun!
Where to Fly
- Fly lower than 400 feet
- Keep it within sight
- Don’t fly over people
- Don’t fly near airports
- Check airspace and ground rules
Your drone is capable of flying higher and farther than you should. It is illegal and unsafe to fly to the limits of your equipment. Just because you can see from the drone’s point of view doesn’t mean it’s safe. The FAA UAS page has lots of good info for drone pilots.
Airspace Rules. This is critical, and it’s where most new pilots get into trouble. There are many restrictions on where, and when, you can fly. Use and app such as AirMap or B4UFLY to check the airspace where you want to fly.
Ground Rules. Some parks and schools and other public spaces allow drones, others do not. Check the rules for the area where you’re planning to fly. Just because AirMap says it’s clear above, doesn’t mean it’s permitted from the ground. If you’re not sure, call or email them and ask. Most places are happy to let you fly and will appreciate being asked.
There are many, many places you can fly legally and safely. Being aware of the restrictions above does take a little time, but it’s worth it.
Take it to the Next Level
Do you want to expand your skills, or flying for $$$? There are many resources to help you connect with people online and in person.
Are you interested in drone racing? There is probably at least one local FPV group in your area. Cleveland Quad Squad is a is the best in our area. For high school students in northeast Ohio, OIDRA connects local high school drone racing and STEM programs.
Are you interested in starting a drone business? Drones are cameras in the sky. They provide unique perspectives. They’re safer and faster than traditional methods for certain work. Their high-resolution photos and videos are valuable for many applications.
Whether you are interested in photography, videography, mapping, agriculture, infrastructure inspection, or something else – there are many job and business opportunities. Find a local professional group and talk to people who are working in the field. They will help you understand what’s possible, and how to get started. Our organization (NORCODA) provides many resource for connecting and learning about the business of drones.
There are many podcasts about drones, but the Drone to 1K Podcast is one of the best if you’re thinking about starting a drone business.
Build your skills with online courses and tutorials. Drone U and the Drone Launch Academy are a good place to start.
To fly for business, you will need a Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA. You can self-study with a book, or take a course. The FAA has a walk-through of the process here.
Whatever your interest, we hope this information is helpful and gets you started the right way. If you have questions or are looking for additional information, please contact us and we’ll do our best to help.