Quadcopter Beginner Guide | Learn to Fly Drones

This guide explains how to get into flying a drone (or quadcopters): where to start, what you should buy, and how to fly a quadcopter.

New to Quadcopters, Where to Begin?

Please read our guide to drone flying first. If you want to learn how a quadcopter works, check out my post about quadcopter hardware overview.

Best First Quadcopter for Beginners

It’s always a good idea to get a cheap, robust “ready to fly” micro quad to start with. They are small and light, it causes a lot less damage to people or objects.

Although there are expensive and advanced flight controllers and copters that offer amazing GPS stability and assistance flying modes, you still need to be a good pilot to handle all sorts of situations. I don’t remember how many times I have seen someone posted a request online looking for a missing “fly-away” Phantom, or posted a picture of their wrecked costly quadcopter after maiden flight. I bet a high percentage of these incidence was due to inexperienced pilots. It might save you money to go straight to the quadcopter or setup you want, but learning how smaller, more crash-resistant nano quad benefits you in the long run.

I have shared some info on how to choose a good first quadcopter before.

Radio Transmitter Control Explained

If you have ever play games with game console, the Radio Transmitter is very similar. Here is a diagram of the controller, showing what each control do to the quadcopter.

radio

You have two main sticks for the throttle and direction control, and you will have some optional switches as well (aka AUX switches), which are often used for switching between flying modes, turning on/off LEDs etc.

  • Throttle – makes the quad 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.

Orientation-Pitch-Roll-Yaw

These controls are also referred to aileron (roll), elevator (pitch) and rudder (yaw).

If you want to know more, here is a guide to introduction of Quadcopter radio transmitters.

Quadcopter Flight Modes

There are many different flight modes (stabilization modes) for a quadcopter, depending on the kind of quadcopter, or flight controller. The most common flight modes being rate mode (aka manual mode or acro mode in KK2 boards), Self-level mode (aka horizon mode in multiwii, Naze32), Attitude mode, GPS hold (aka Loiter mode) and so on.

Each flight mode is designed for different flying purposes, and might uses different sensors and electronics modules. For example for the self-level mode, it uses the Gyro sensor and accelerometer, and the copter will always try to balance itself when you are hovering. But manual mode only uses Gyro, and the copter doesn’t level itself. Once you tilt it, it just keep going that direction, until you manually correct the angle, thus the name “manual mode”. Self-level mode is good but it’s not perfect, you will still find the quadcopter to drift around. Also it tends to wobble and vibrate a bit because of the the fact that it’s constantly trying to balance it self. Therefore many FPV’ers including myself prefer to fly in rate mode, and the results is a lot more smoother, and it becomes fairly easy to control too once you get used to it.

You can check out all the flight modes on the Multiwii to gain some insight.

However I still recommend new people to try self-level mode first, to build up experience and confidence. Manual mode can be very hard to control for someone just begin flying. Most cheap nano quad comes with self-level mode, some even have the optional rate mode available.

How to Fly Quadcopter and Rules

Here we begin talking about how to actually fly the quadcopter. First, here are some safety rules.

  • Pick a nice day with no wind.
  • Go to a large open field with no obstacles such as buildings or power lines around.
  • Keep distractions at a minimum, and switch off your phone. :)
  • Make sure you don’t fly near people or properties.

Now it’s time to practice your skills. Taking off and climb a couple of meters, hovering, flying from point A to point B, and landing. Take it slowly. :)

Wind Speed

This is probably the first thing you need to find out before your flights, if you are flying outdoor. I personally would not fly if the wind is stronger than 15mph. It’s flyable, but the the quad will be a bit wobbly, and the video footage will be a bit shaky.

Before I understand how important this is, I flew my 450 size tricopter in gusty wind (it must be 25mph – 30mph) and it didn’t end too well. It was totally uncontrollable, eventually it was pushed away by the wind and crashed pretty badly. So you need to know the limits of wind speed your quadcopter can handle, and don’t risk it flying in powerful wind.

Practice Hovering

Hovering is actually harder than it seems, especially when you are flying FPV through a monitor or FPV goggle. Mastering hovering does not only allow you to have better control over your aircraft, but also allows you to shoot better aerial videos and pictures.

Cut Throttle

When you are flying forward fast, and you are about to crash intro a tree, what would you do? If you can escape by turning left or right, a wise option would be turning off your throttle. By stopping throttle, you also stop the fast rotating propellers as well. This reduces the chance of breaking your props, motors and further damages to your quadcopter. Some nano quad comes with prop guard, which is also a good feature to consider.

jj600-quadcopter-feature

Unfortunately crashes are inevitable, even for the experts and pro. The best you can do is to learn how to minimize the breakage.

Flying FPV

Once you have mastered flying line of sight with a small quadcopter, you might wonder how to fly in FPV which is the ultimate experience of flying a drone.

For more information on FPV system, check out this post.

Happy Flying!

I hope this article gave you some basic ideas about quadcopter, and how to fly one. There is indeed too much information to cover in just one article, do check out my other pages as well. Have fun and fly safely. :)

15 thoughts on “Quadcopter Beginner Guide | Learn to Fly Drones

  1. Charlo Cartin

    Amazing article for learning to fly a drone. It helps me in during learning process. You are doing a good work. Keep it posting.

    Reply
  2. Cooper

    So I recently bought a F180C+ from usa toyz and it flies great then suddenly, it stops midair! I’ve read about 16 articles and watched countless videos today and I’m still worried, could you help me out?

    Reply
  3. Jake

    Thanks for sharing this post, very informative! I wish I saw this article when I was starting, it would’ve made a lot of difference on my newbie experience, LOL!

    Reply
  4. Kenn Gorman

    I would like to use this web page as part of my high school Computer Science class. I will be teaching a short unit on drones (quadcopters) and this page is short and simple – well done.

    Reply
  5. Sompol

    Dear Oscar
    I am a beginner, I just bought the Sky Hawkeye 1315 and I have problem in trimming it. First it drifted to the left I tried to trim back to the right but it did not do. I did crash a couple of times. Then after that during the hovering and trimming, as soon as it leaves the ground, it flips or rolls to the left. It looks like the motor on the left produce less lift than the ones on the right. I tried to recalibrate it by moving both throttles down to the left until the flashing lights go steady. But it did not work! I just set the left throttle up very little to have the drone a few inches above the ground just before it roll over and I used the right throttle to roll to the right to make it level but as soon as I forward more thrust on the left throttle, it flips over to the left!
    Could you suggest what I should do. By the way the user manual is useless, I have to search from the internet concerning this matter.
    Sompol

    Reply
    1. Oscar Post author

      Hi Sompol, i have no experence with that quadcopter. ARe you able to calibrate the sensors again on a flat surface?
      if calibration didn’t help, it might suggest it’s a problem with the motors or props, that they don’t generate enough thrust to balance the quadcopter. Maybe try replace the props.

      Reply
      1. Mark

        Hi Oscar . Also check the motors by placing your finger on the middle of a propeller and giving it a wiggle . It should have hardly any movement . Check all 4 and replace any that move more than you think they should . I’ve had same sort of problems with my mini … We all do after a few crashes .

  6. shubho

    Hello sir,I m new to quadcopter hobby I just try to fly my quad very low in my home to see if it works well..but the problem is it goes here n there before it just lifts n makes it very hard to fly.what should I do to make it stable

    Reply
  7. anant kumar

    sir, i read above article but i have many question to you
    first is that “all the name of material which is used in making a quadcopter drone”
    second is that”what is the procedure to make it”
    means how to start and how make it by step by step
    and what the things which i should buy because i am a mechanical student

    Reply
  8. Daniel C.

    I have way to many questions to ask just at once. I have read well over 30 articals in 4 days if you could just text me so we could talk for a while because I have so many questions my number is 915-400-6422. Raceing fpv and Ariel photography are my passions please help.

    Reply
  9. frankieccc

    Hello Oscar
    Thank you for your insightful blog posts. I’ve been following your blog for some time now learning about multirotors and FPV. I’ve finally built up the confidence to order parts for my first quad build. For learning for fly, my build will consist of:
    300 Quad Pure Carbon Fiber frame with landing gear.
    Emax MT2204 2300KV (rear motors inverted)
    Simonk Series ESC 12A
    6030 CW, CCW Carbon Fibre propellers
    CC3D Flight Controller
    Turnigy 2200 mAh 3s 11.1v Lipo
    Li-Po voltage buzzer alarm
    Signal loss alarm

    Once I am confident with my flying I will add the following FPV gear:
    800TVL High Resolution HD FPV
    Mobius Action Camera
    5.8Ghz 200mW FPV Transmitter
    5.8 GHz 8CH RC305 FPV Receiver
    FPV769A Ground Station FPV 7″ Monitor
    FPV 5.8G Clover antenna

    I am wondering if you have any feedback or recommendations on my build specs? Also what are your thoughts regarding inverted rear motors?

    I’m sure I speak on behalf of many hobbyists that you blog is informative, insightful and interesting. Thank you and keep up the great work.

    Regards,
    Frankie

    Reply
    1. Oscar Post author

      I am not sure if you have seen my latest post on Mini Quad part list? It should also give you some ideas what to order :)
      I would personally go for plastic propellers for the cheap price (you will break quite a few props before mastering flying the mini quad, speaking from experience :) ) But overall it looks good to me, remember to also order heatshrinks, proper wires etc as well.
      In FPV gear, you should also add an OSD, so you can see the voltage in FPV.

      Sorry I am not too sure what “motor inverted” means, where did you find that phrase?
      Thanks again for the kind words! that motivates me to continue sharing my RC experience :)

      Reply

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I don't look at blog comments very often (maybe once or twice a week), so if you have any questions related to multirotor please post it on this forum IntoFPV.com... You're likely to get a response from me faster on there.