Flying FPV drones takes practice, in this article I will share some tips on how to fly FPV drones, and practices that will hopefully help speed up your learning progress and improve your FPV flying skills.
If you are new to mini quad, don’t forget to check out my FPV Racing Drone beginner’s guide.
Understanding Radio Transmitter
The radio transmitter (TX) we use to control an FPV drone is similar to a gaming console.
There are two sticks on the transmitter, they control the movement of the multirotor:
- Throttle – makes the quadcopter ascend (climb) or descend (come down)
- Yaw – rotates the quadcopter clockwise or counter-clockwise
- Roll – tilts the quadcopter left or right
- Pitch – tilts the quadcopter forward or backward
The directional controls are sometimes referred to as aileron (roll), elevator (pitch) and rudder (yaw).
There are optional switches (aka AUX switches) on a radio too, which are used for switching between flying modes, enabling certain features etc. You can learn more about radio transmitters in this article.
Fly Acro Mode
It’s fine to start with Self-level mode as a beginner, but you should learn acro mode as soon as possible. It’s the ultimate flight mode for smooth FPV flying. Here is an in-depth article discussing the differences between self-level mode and Acro mode.
Practice on FPV Simulators
Get an FPV simulator and start practicing! There is no better/cheaper way than FPV sims to learn and perfect your FPV flying skills. You can do all the practices we suggested below in a sim.
How to Hold Radio Sticks
There are 3 main ways of holding radio sticks: pinching, thumbing and hybrid. There is no right or wrong way, just do whatever you feel comfortable with. See this article discussing the difference between these ways.
Rate and Expo
Using the right rate and expo settings will help you fly more smoothly and precisely.
There are 3 settings, in a nutshell:
- RC Rate: defines the sensitivity of stick movement
- Super Rate: increases the sensitivity at the end of the stick
- RC Expo: reduces the sensitivity at the center of the stick
The combination of RC Rate and Super Rate determines how fast the drone can rotate, aka Max Velocity. You can find out Max Velocity (deg/s) in Betaflight Configurator, when you change the rate values.
For smooth flying, I usually use “slow rates”, with a Max Velocity around 500 deg/s. For acro flying, I use “high rate” with a Max Velocity around 900 deg/s. Changing rates can change your flying style significantly.
You can also change rates in FPV simulators to match what you use on a drone. Most simulators nowadays have very realistic rate/expo system just like Betaflight.
For example, for smooth flying, you can try this in Betaflight:
- RC Rate 0.9
- Super Rate 0.65
- Expo 0.2
Line Of Sight Flying Exercises
Flying line of sight (LOS) means you are controlling the drone by looking at it directly (not through the FPV goggles or display).
Before jumping straight into flying FPV, it’s best to have some experience with flying LOS. This is useful in case you lose video signal, you could still control and land your drone safely.
You don’t need to learn fancy tricks, just make sure you know how to stabilize the quad and move it around the field without disorienting yourself.
It’s important to start your practice by standing behind the quad, with yourself and the quad both facing forward. This will allow the movements of your quad to respond to your transmitter sticks in the same direction, makes it easier and more intuitive for yourself.
You’ll want to lift your quad off the ground almost instantly to around 1 meter. When it’s too close to the ground, your quad might become unstable due to air disturbance (ground effect/prop wash). Try to hover and stay at the same spot, same altitude. It’s not easy as you have to control throttle, pitch and roll at the same time.
If hovering becomes too easy for you, you can now try mastering landing. It sounds easy but it’s one of the most important techniques beginners seem to overlook. The key is throttle control, remember to lower it slowly and smoothly. Do not cut throttle too fast as your quad will just free fall and crash.
Pitch and Roll Control
Pitch controls forward and reverse, roll controls side to side motion. Pick a location you want the quad to move to, use pitch and roll to fly to that spot and then back.
Yaw is the 360 degree rotating motion around the quad’s centre, much like when you move your head to look right or left.
Start by trying to circle around an object. Apply a little pitch to go forward, and use Yaw to turn left and right. You can either practice flying in circle, or in figure of 8. This control technique is very useful when you start flying FPV.
FPV Flying Exercises
For the following exercises, it’s best to have your FPV camera facing horizontally (no camera tilting). The more you tilt the camera up, the faster you will fly.
Make sure you have enough space to recover from error, practice in an open field, and do not fly close to people.
Use trees or poles as reference to help spatial awareness and judging distance.
1. Takeoff, Flying Out and Back, Landing
- Goal: Practice forward flying, yaw turns, speed control, altitude control, landing
- Take off and stay at about at 1 to 2 meters high
- Fly forward by pushing pitch stick forward, for 20 meters or so. Keep your altitude constant at all time by adjusting throttle
- Start to slow down by pulling the pitch stick towards you, and come to a stop
- Turn around using the Yaw stick, accelerate again (pitch forward) to fly back to where you took off, and land
- Now repeat
- You can increase speed and distance as you progress. You can try to use roll to level your craft while making turns with yaw
2. Square Pattern Turns
- Main Goal:
- More turn practice and making corrections to your path after turns
- Getting used to flying in a bigger area
- Setup: Square off about 50m x 50m and mark it with a white ribbon or any thing else you think is right and visible
- Fly along the sides of the square while trying to keep a constant altitude and pace
- Switch between clockwise and counter-clockwise directions
3. Circling a pole or tree while constantly facing it
- Main Goal: Practicing yaw, roll and throttle control combined
- Circle a pole or a tree while continuously making roll, yaw and throttle adjustments to keep a constant distance from the tree and maintain altitude
- Keep the object as centered in your view as possible
4. Firgure-8 around 2 poles or trees:
Yaw is the most difficult axis to control because it’s the same stick as throttle (Mode 2 radio). Using Yaw in coordination with Roll Pitch will give you smoother and more natural control.
- Main goal: Gain much better coordination between both hands, you will be able to control all 4 axis better simultaneously: throttle, yaw, pitch and roll
- Fly in figure-8 while trying to maintain constant altitude
- It’s easier to have the 2 poles further away, it can be shortened later as you progress
- Try to turn around as smooth as you can
- You should begin to have some fun flying FPV
5. Sharp Turns:
- Main goal: Ability to make accurate sharp turns, this enables you to avoid crashes. Sharp turns are also an effective way of braking
- Fly towards one side of a pole or tree with some speed, and turn 180 degrees of yaw axis in a fast manner
- You will need to use roll and pitch to help keep the aircraft level and stable, as well as fight some of the momentum
6. Fly through a Tight Gap or Air Gate:
- Main goal: Practice fast flying combined with fine stick control
- Setup: Place one air gate in the middle of a long field. Start with a large gate and work your way down to smaller and more difficult gates/gaps
- Starting at one end of the field, above the height of the gate, fly towards the gate and descend slowly to the height of the gate
- Increase altitude once you’ve passed through the gate. Sharp turn and repeat
7. Learn Split-S
Split-S is the fundamental move to a lot of tricks. It’s basically a 180-degree roll and a 180-degree flip. It looks even better if you combine Yaw control in the move.
8. Clean Lines and “Flow”
Once you have enough “stick time”, it’s time to master the flow.
Try to minimize stick input unless necessary, feel the momentum of the drone and predict how it “slides”. Performing “clean lines” is key to smooth flying, this helps create cinematic footage when you shoot videos with GoPro later on.
Relax your hands, turn the music on and feel the flow :)
Having Trouble Learning to Fly FPV?
It’s normal for FPV beginners to struggle at first. Luckily we wrote an article about how to overcome FPV flying difficulties.
Join Our Community
If you need help or just want to share your FPV journey, feel free to join our friendly multirotor forum – intoFPV.com.
- Sep 2015, Article created
- May 2017, Article revised
- May 2020, revised