…Tips & Tricks.
It’s been several months since I started messing around with drones. And mostly I’ve done just that … made a mess.
But along the way I’ve learned a thing or two. Actually; more than will fit in this article, so I suspect this will be “Tips & Tricks #1.”
First though, let’s have a look at what I’ve achieved so far. After about two hours of learning, during which I’ve graduated from short flights in the road, to longer flights in various fields, to venturing onto the beach, I’ve been able to store quite a lot of short video clips. The best of these I’ve cobbled together into a three minute movie of Khanom beach views. It’s in the Twitterings Youtube channel, but you can also take a look right here…
If you’re wondering how I edited that, I’ll cover it in a later article. The learning curve is steep, but the final execution is real easy.
So, tips’n’tricks, let’s get started…
- Don’t drop your drone in the sea.
Pretty obvious, right? But I did it anyways. Salt water is so corrosive that, if you wanted to murder a drone, this would be the fastest way. Now for the excuse…
The thing is, we’ve had several weeks of daytime high winds. Not flying weather. I don’t think any drones like wind, but the cheap hobby drones like mine don’t even like breezes. So, the only time I could even think about flying was before 7 a.m. I’m not a morning person, but I am now a drone person, so sacrifices had to be made.
There I was, on the beach, 6:30, clear skies, bright sun, and most importantly no wind, when I powered up the motors, took off, and that was the signal for the day’s wind to start up. Wind causes a drone to tilt, which removes the lift or downforce, and the result is quite brief. Plop.
The motors and all electronics were corroded in seconds. The only thing salvageable was anything made of plastic. See what I mean about early mornings? Should have stayed in bed.
Anyhoo, Izzie is on the mend with new parts. I only need one more shipment from China and she’ll be good as new. The mailman is starting to give me strange looks.
In the meantime, I’ve decided to upgrade, although Izzie will still be used for flight practice. Stay tuned for more on that.
- Forecasting the wind.
Pretty important, right? There’s an app for that. Maybe several, but I now use “UAV Forecast.” It shows wind and rain forecasts, along with a “yes” or “no” flying indication. This is a screenshot of what’s kept me grounded. Wind speed on the left…
- Training Skis.
My first attempts at flying were, how to say … well, if you were a spectator you’d say hilarious. I’d be a little kinder and say tentative. Crashes were common, especially on landing. I mentioned a while ago that most drones have quite narrow legs as landing gear; if the motors don’t immediately stop on landing, you’re likely to fall over.
So, I fitted some training skis. Actually I butchered some plastic coat hangers to get the long straight bits and attached them with cable ties…
I have to say, they worked pretty well. I also wrapped some red stickers around the front of the skis, which helped me to know which way the drone was facing. I don’t use them now, partly because they were visible to the camera…
…but I’d recommend the idea to anyone new to flying. They are a confidence builder.
- Bashing propellers.
Most drones have propeller guards, which experienced pilots don’t bother to fit. They add weight, and frankly, they don’t do much. I’ve noticed on crash landings – or unintended impacts with trees – the flimsy plastic guards bend and the props get damaged anyways.
Most purchases come with spare props, usually two or four. That’s not enough. When you order your drone, buy lots of spares. I think so far I’ve bought 16. You’ll find they get chipped or bent, and that sets-up nasty vibrations. And that’s where we come to the moral of this story.
Those vibrations loosen screws, damage motor axles and motors, strip gears, loosen props, and more. Hidden problems – which you will discover when your drone is fifty meters high. So when you order your spare props, also buy spares of everything else you can think of. You’ll need them. That’s why my mailman comes two or three times a week with little packages from China.
Actually, he’s quite a small package himself, being somewhat vertically challenged. He’s also super-polite, bowing deeply every time he sees me. If I happen not to be looking, he disappears from my field of vision. And just as I’m wondering where heck he’s gone, up he pops again with the latest package of drone goodies. A bit like a jack-in-a-box. Boing. “Your props sire.”
- Sticker markers.
Some things are important to find quickly, like the drone’s on/off switch when the motors refuse to stop running after you’ve landed. Why are the switches usually underneath? Are you supposed to turn it off while it’s still in the air?
A brightly colored sticker does the trick. Poke your finger at the bottom of the sticker, and there’s the switch.
I’ve found the same idea useful on the handheld remote controller. There’s a lot of info on the screen, but what I really want to know is the state of the drone’s battery, and next, the level of the remote’s batteries. So, more eye-catching stickers…
Okay, that’s a good list of tips for starters. Hope you found them useful. More later.