When Flying a Drone, Read the Directions

It seems like everyone has a drone these days. My husband has three and I believe my father-in-law has six. Many of my photographer friends are taking more and more photos from a drone than a hand-held camera. According to many tech companies, who are investing heavily in drone technology, uses for drones will continue to expand. I figured it was time I learned how to fly one. I mean, I’ve watched my friends and family fly them…how hard could it be, right?

HA! Famous last words.

I chose the Sky Viper because it looked cool and large enough to control. I also liked that it would stream and record video of the flight so that I’d have ‘proof’ I did it.

Assembling the parts didn’t take too long. Understanding that as a newbie, I would probably crash it, I added the recommended blade guards. After figuring out which blades went where, I charged the drone battery and added three AAA batteries to the remote. Then I downloaded the Sky Viper Simulator application.

Once charged, it was time to attempt flying it. First lesson learned…read the directions…all of them.

I didn’t, which meant I spent about 15 minutes trying to figure out why the App wouldn’t let me launch the drone. I pressed various menu and setting options while trying to read some of the directions. I did not understand what I was doing wrong. Finally, I read that I needed to get into a certain simulator and simultaneously press “STUNT” on the app while also hitting the remote’s “LAUNCH” button.

I was so used to the buttons not responding that I was startled when the drone jumped into the air and I started pressing buttons in a random manner, like I did the first time I played Super Mario Bros. in elementary school. This promptly drove the drone toward a tree, so I managed to maneuver the directional thumbstick the other way and almost hit a parked car before the drone landed in a bush and weed-whacked the leaves until they wrapped around the blades.

I pushed the “LAND” button and the motor stopped. After untangling the drone from the bush, I once again placed it on the ground. I launched it like I had previously and without realizing, I had placed it on the ground backward. When it launched, I flew it directly into a palm tree, of which the palm fronds wrapped around the blades. I turned it off for the second time and untangled it.

Then I read the full set of directions (at least I thought I did). It was amazing how informative they were. Huh. Go figure. Apparently I was supposed to:

  1. Launch from a flat, level surface. (I was on a slight slope.)
  2. Adjust the trim by using various buttons for left/right and forward/back. (So that’s what those buttons are for!)
  3. Be familiar with what the buttons and thumbsticks on the remote do. (My hand-eye coordination is below par, let me just put it that way.)

Third time is the charm, right? Errr…well…

I launched the drone with the goal of adjusting the trim because it would instantly drift. That was most likely caused by the wind (sure, let’s blame it on the wind), which tossed the drone in a variety of directions. As I chased it down the street, I was trying to simultaneously keep the drone from hitting anything, notice which direction it was facing, which would then correlate to the buttons that I needed to hit to adjust the trim — OH, and intentionally and purposefully fly it. By the time I looked down at the remote and back at the drone it was around the corner and flying erratically. (I told you, it was the 11 mph winds. That’s my story.) It didn’t take long for it to be out of range and auto-land itself in another bush.

I was about to go for a fourth attempt when flashing green lights and a beeping noise from the remote alerted me that the drone’s battery was empty. Already.

At least I got that on video.

Wrong again. There’s a 4 pt font size, itty-bitty little notation on the directions that states the “Video and Photo recording buttons” are in front of the remote. You know, that part that you don’t see when you’re looking down at it. That part your pointer fingers rest on when holding it. The same buttons I never remembered to use in Super Mario Bros. Yeah, those.

Let’s just say that I’m not as confident as I was going into it. I may need to spend some time practicing in the simulation app before I attempt to fly the drone again. OH – maybe that’s what the app is for!

Biggest lesson learned: Stop trying to skip steps. The instructions and the simulations are there for a reason. There’s no fast-forwarding to the good part. Do the work…put in the time.

Same goes for life.

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