Reykjavik is the biggest city in Iceland and its capital. You can learn about the Icelandic Vikings at its museums, marvel at the architecture of its domes and churches, or soak in a spa.
You’d love to visit Reykjavik with your drone.
Can you fly a drone in Reykjavik?
According to the Icelandic Transport Authority, you can fly a drone in Reykjavik. However, you have to follow European Union Aviation Safety Agency and Icelandic Transport Authority rules.
If you’re soon planning a trip to Reykjavik and want to learn all the pertinent drone laws, you’ve come to the right place.
This guide will explore where you can fly and when, so make sure you check it out!
Can you fly a drone in Reykjavik?
As mentioned in the intro, the Icelandic Transport Authority establishes drone flight rules in Iceland.
That’s in consultation with the Environment Agency and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, which countries in the European Union abide by.
Under those drone rules, commercial and recreational pilots can operate a drone in Reykjavik.
You must follow the appropriate drone rules when in the sky. We also recommend using a drone app, especially when traveling to another country.
You could experience language barriers on your travels, but you’re still expected to know the pertinent Icelandic drone laws, nevertheless.
A drone app with real-time maps will indicate where you can fly versus where you can’t without the need to know a word of Icelandic.
Remember, red areas denote no-fly zones, and yellow areas are warning zones. If you see any blue bubbles spaced across the map, you likely cannot fly there either without authorization.
Where to fly a drone near Reykjavik
The whole of Iceland affords so many incredible, unforgettable drone flight opportunities.
We’ve narrowed it down to several places no further than two hours from Reykjavik for you to explore with your drone.
Loads of fun await!
The Westfjords region of Iceland is an administrative district. This part of northwestern Iceland has a low population count, so you never have to stress about large crowds.
Situated on the Denmark Strait, Westfjords is a heavily mountainous region named after its fjords or cliffside inlets.
Before you plan your visit, be aware that harsh weather like snow and ice can cause parts of Westfjords to shut down for months at a time.
Moreso, land communications can be iffy due to the fjords, so prepare accordingly before visiting with your drone.
In the Fjallabak Nature Reserve in Iceland’s Highlands is Landmannalaugar, which is very close to Reykjavik.
The area connects to the Laugavegur hiking trail on its northern side, the same spot where the Iceland Touring Association hosts hikers.
Thus, you can expect Landmannalaugar to be more much populous than the Westfjords especially.
If you’re renting a car in Iceland, you cannot take rented vehicles on the roads to Landmannalaugar that allow motor vehicles. Since these are classified as F roads, you’d need a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
About an hour and a half from Reykjavik is Bruarfoss, a part of Iceland esteemed for its waterfall.
Nicknamed Bridge Falls, Bruarfoss isn’t the biggest waterfall in Iceland, but it’s still a beautiful one. It’s no wonder another name for Bruarfoss among the locals is Iceland’s Bluest Waterfall.
Keep in mind that Bruarfoss is another more remote part of Iceland, although not quite as much so as the Westfjords.
Still, charge up your drone and bring everything you need and maybe a few backup modes of communication to be safe.
You can take a rental car to Bruarfoss, which makes it more accessible to tourists like yourself.
Only 40 minutes from Reykjavik is Reykjanesfolkvangur, a countryside region and reserve that safeguards the Reykjanes ridge volcano’s lava formations.
This area has a lot to see, including Krysuvikurberg, which has the biggest bird cliffs in the Southwest. Seltun is an active geothermal zone, while Kleifarvatn is a mineral lake and beach with black sands and hot springs.
The rusticism and remoteness of the area will give you peace and quiet to fly your drone, so don’t miss it.
Just under two hours away from Reykjavik is Nauthusagil in South Iceland. The ravine near the Eyjafjallajokull volcano and Stora-Mork farm grows rowan trees from which the trademark ravines come.
Across the ravine are waterfalls. While you can walk through the falls, make sure to use the ropes and chains around the ravine so you don’t slip and fall. Operate your drone cautiously to keep it dry.
Iceland drone laws to know before your trip
Before you schedule your flight to Iceland, make sure you study up on these drone laws. They’ll help you when flying around Reykjavik.
Your drone must be in the European Union’s Open category
You’ll recall that the Icelandic Transport Authority works with EASA as a European Union member. Thus, you must meet EASA’s criteria to operate a drone in the Open category.
That means your drone meets class labels 0 through 4, and you bought it before January 1st, 2023.
The drone must not ascend beyond 400 feet or 120 meters, it must not fly over people unless it weighs less than 0.55 pounds or 250 grams, and it must not weigh more than 55 pounds or 25 kilograms at takeoff.
Additionally, you cannot use your drone to drop any goods, you must keep a visual line of sight on your drone, you cannot transport dangerous materials with your drone, and you must keep your distance from crowds.
You must mark the drone with identifying information
The Icelandic Transport Authority requires drone pilots in the country to properly identify their UAVs. On your drone, mark down your phone number, full name, and address.
Do not interfere with other vehicles
Whether it’s motor vehicles, ships, other unmanned vehicles, or manned aerial vehicles, your drone flight path cannot get in the way of any of them.
Reroute your coordinates if necessary to avoid manned aircraft especially.
Keep in mind that if your drone causes damages of any kind when in Iceland, you have to pay for them. That’s a large cross to bear!
Maintain a visual line of sight
EASA requires drone pilots to keep a visual line of sight on their UAVs, as does the Icelandic Transport Authority.
VLOS allows you to watch your drone when wearing glasses or contacts (as well as your naked eyes), but visual augmentation aids like binoculars are not allowed.
Don’t fly close to public buildings
To preserve the beauty of its architecture, Icelandic drone laws forbid pilots from flying any closer than 492 feet or 150 meters from any public building in a rural environment.
The rules change if you’re in an urban environment. Then you can’t fly within 164 feet or 50 meters. That’s quite a significant difference, so know your area before you launch.
Avoid drone use near airports
The Icelandic Transport Authority prohibits drones within 1.24 miles or 2 kilometers of an international airport and 0.93 miles or 1.5 kilometers of other airports throughout the country.
Don’t fly over large groups of people
If you see a crowded environment, be it one of the tourist destinations from the last section or elsewhere in Reykjavik, you mustn’t operate your drone over the crowd.
Limit your altitude
In Iceland, a drone’s max altitude over the ground is 394 feet or 120 meters, not 400 feet like you might be accustomed to.
Insure heavier drones
If your drone exceeds 44 pounds or 20 kilograms or weighs thereabouts that much, drone laws require you to insure the UAV before you can legally fly it.
Recreationally, the Icelandic Transport Authority requires drones to weigh 55 pounds or 25 kilograms or under in a rural environment and 15.5 pounds or 7 kilograms or under in an urban environment.
As for commercial drones, the rural weight limit is the same, but a drone flying in an urban environment cannot weigh more than 6.61 pounds or 3 kilograms.
Reykjavik is a beautiful part of Iceland that permits drones.
However, you must follow the European Union’s drone rules and those established by the Icelandic Transport Authority.
If you are new to the drone hobby and recently received a Mini 3 Pro, there are quite a few things to learn to get up and running, or should we say flying, in a timely manner.
There’s nothing worse than having a shiny new piece of equipment and not knowing the sequence used to power it up.
For those that have been flying drones for some time, it might be easy to take the steps needed to get started for the first time, for granted.
This article and the included YouTube video will be a step-by-step tutorial showing how to power on and off the Mini 3 Pro and the remote controllers in your specific Mini 3 Pro Combo, whether the DJI RC or RC-N1.
Note: We recommend that all batteries for the Mini 3 Pro and the remote controller have been fully charged prior to following this how-to guide.
The Power Up/On Sequence
Like the Air 2S and Mavic 3 series before it, the Mini 3 Pro comes with two Combo options: The Mini 3 Pro with the RC-N1 controller and the Mini 3 Pro with the DJI RC controller.
Regardless of what Combo was purchased, DJI has a recommended power-up sequence for the Mini 3 Pro.
That sequence is to turn on the Remote Controller first. Followed by turning on the Mini 3 Pro, and lastly, opening the DJI Fly app.
If you own a DJI RC, then the steps for turning on and off the controller and the DJI Fly app are just one all-inclusive step.
Powering on the DJI RC-N1
To turn on the RC-N1:
Press the power button once, then immediately press+hold the power button.
When you press the power button the first time, the battery charge will be displayed via the green LED lights. The second press+hold then powers on the remote controller.
After the first step, you will also get an ascending audible tone, indicating the controller is powered on.
Note: Many phones, once connected to the RC-N1 controller, will turn the screen on once the controller powers on, followed by a dialogue box asking to launch the DJI Fly app. You can choose to launch the DJI Fly app at this time.
Powering on the DJI RC
If you have a DJI RC:
Like with the RC-N1, press the power button once, then immediately press+hold the power button. The DJI splash screen will appear at boot-up (with the same ascending audible tone as the RC-N1).
After about 10-20 seconds you will be at the DJI Fly home screen, ready to connect the drone.
Powering on the Mini 3 Pro
To turn on the Mini 3 Pro:
STEP 1: It is important for you to remove the gimbal cover that is on the camera. If this step is forgotten too many times, the gimbal may eventually suffer from gimbal failure and break because of the gimbal self-test.
STEP 2: Press the power button once (towards the rear of the Mini 3 Pro). Similar to the 2 Remote Controller versions, the LEDs on the Mini 3 Pro will light up letting you know how much battery power there is. Immediately press+hold the power button.
The motors will adjust slightly, followed by an auditory tone, after which the gimbal will self-test.
STEP 3: Start up the DJI Fly app IF you are using an RC-N1 AND the DJI Fly app did not self-start when the controller powered on, as mentioned early.
Turning off the Mini 3 Pro (and RCs)
Like with the power-on sequence, DJI also has a recommended order for shutting off the Mini 3 Pro and Remote Controllers.
This sequence is to first turn off the Mini 3 Pro, followed by turning off either the RC-N1 or DJI RC controller, and, if using an RC-N1, shutting down the DJI Fly app.
To turn off the Mini 3 Pro:
Press the power button once and then immediately press+hold the power button. The Mini 3 Pro LED indicator lights will count down, flash, then shut off. The LED lights on the arms and legs will shut off as well.
To turn off the RC-N1:
Press the power button once, then immediately press+hold the power button. You will hear a descending audible tone, indicating the RC is powering off.
After the RC-N1 is powered off, exit the DJI Fly app.
To turn off the DJI RC:
Press the power button once, then immediately press+hold the power button. Like with the RC-N1, you will hear a descending audible tone, indicating the RC is powering off.
The DJI Fly app will likewise shut down at this time.
One of the first things you’ll learn when flying drones is that you gain a whole new perspective on the world you see through your flying eye. Another thing you’ll pick up on is that camera can take really great pictures and video on its own in fully automatic mode.
What if you need better though? You’re looking for that award-winning shot to submit or you’re working in low light conditions.
You’ve taken the time to find the perfect setting/scene, you have gone through all of your planning, weather, airspace, etc.
You’ve picked the perfect afternoon golden hour moment, there’s some shadowing, with just enough rays of light to make the scene majestic.
That award-winning shot though is not going to be taken through the auto settings.
For that special shot in that special moment, you’ve planned so carefully for – no, you’ll want to be shooting that in manual and be able to adjust the settings for it to be perfect too.
That means you need to know how to change the camera settings and adjust them.
How to Access Camera Settings
The Mini 3 Pro uses the DJI Fly App. The Fly app is where you can access and change the camera settings.
Here’s one way:
Looking at the camera view screen, tap the three dots in the upper left corner. This will open the System Setting page.
From here scroll down to Camera and tap.
This will open the camera setting page providing access to the Camera parameters Settings, General Settings, Storage location, Reset camera settings, USB mode, transmission, and about.
With the DJI Mini 3 Pro and the Fly App, most of the common setting adjustments you may need are presented right on the camera view screen.
These include settings such as the:
Landscape/Portrait mode switch
Camera mode switch
This ease of access has made things a lot easier. Of course, to meaningfully adjust camera settings, we need to know more about what each one does.
Every photo ever taken relies on four basic principles:
Photography is an art form, one that is also claimed as the world’s greatest hobby, besides drone piloting, I guess.
The word Photography is derived from the Greek words – photos (meaning light) and graphene (meaning to draw). Meaning that the word Photography or photography as we know it is drawing images with light.
A camera takes a photo by taking light and running it through a lens concentrating the rays on the image sensor. This is how all cameras work.
When we think of Exposure, we can think of it as a Triangle.
This triangle consists of:
Aperture is placed at the bottom of our triangle as it is the base for any photography or videography. If we make a mistake here, the shot won’t be what we want.
The aperture is what allows the proper amount of light to reach the sensor.
As seen below, the smaller the F-number the larger the aperture, and the higher the F-number the smaller the aperture.
With the DJI Mini 3, we have a fixed aperture of F1.7. So, we won’t be able to change that, however, understanding how apertures work is still important.
Here you may be wondering why we would ever want less light to reach the sensor. The majority of the time the answer is that we want a larger depth of field.
Depth of field is a byproduct of aperture.
Small apertures (higher f-numbers) give a greater depth of field, which allows more of a scene to be in focus (Works really well for landscapes to have everything in detail).
Wide apertures (lower f-numbers) create a narrower depth of field, which isolates a subject and is one of the greatest compositional tools at your disposal.
This is how you can achieve portraiture with the blur backgrounds while the subject is in focus.
This is not adjustable on the Mini 3 Pro as it is equipped with a fixed aperture. I realize that.
It’s still good to understand how they all interact together to make that image though and even though you cannot change it, you can change what’s next.
Shutter Speed is what would be next in our triangle.
Shutter speed is the measurement of the time the shutter is open to let in light to the sensor when the shutter is depressed. As you can see, it’s all about the light.
Whereas the aperture controls how much light, shutter speed controls how long the sensor is exposed to it.
A faster shutter speed gives the sensor less time to collect light and thus, results in lower exposure.
The reverse of that is slower shutter speeds that allow more light to enter through the shutter and result in higher exposure.
When you photograph a fast-moving object, you should be looking to freeze that frame in time for a perfect crisp shot. This is accomplished by using a fast shutter speed.
You can have a shutter speed of 1/2,000th of a second all the way up to even 1/10,000th of a second depending on your lens capability and the type of motion you want to freeze.
Here again, you need to adjust your aperture and ISO accordingly to counter the increased shutter speed to get the correct exposure. We’ll cover a bit more about that next.
The final and third part of our triangle is ISO.
ISO is basically the measurement of the sensitivity of your camera sensor to light. Lowering the ISO will make your sensor less sensitive to light. The higher the ISO number the more sensitive your sensor will be to light.
The ISO increases in a multiple of two and the sensitivity of the sensor to light doubles itself with every increase. This means that even small adjustments might have big effects.
If that was hard to follow, I get it, it takes a little time. Once learned it does become second nature, I swear.
What it basically expresses is that the shutter speed and ISO respond numerically.
A change from ISO 200 to 400 is an increase of one stop; a change from a shutter speed of 1/30s to 1/120s is a decrease of two stops.
When you adjust one you should be adjusting the other accordingly.
2. White Balance/Color Balance
We’ve covered the all-important exposure triangle above. Next are color balance and white balance.
White balance is the key that decides the look of any image. Color balance is an adjustment that affects the overall mixture of colors in a photograph, mainly done in post to remove color cast.
Color Cast is a tint that affects the entire photo.
Although they both achieve the same thing and frankly are the same just different colors, White Balance itself only deals with the whites in a photograph and requires a white object as a point of reference and is typically done at the time of the photo being taken.
Beyond white balance and color balance, you can use natural balance and gray balance. With these two methods, you would use a neutral or gray object to guide color adjustments.
The object of balancing is of course to produce the most realistic, or possibly dramatic, image possible.
RAW vs. Jpeg
It is also here that the difference between shooting in RAW format or Jpeg format really comes into play. As in, camera color balance depends on the shooting format.
In comparing Jpeg or Raw, color balance is the most effective when shooting Jpegs, since the color balance settings affect the file that is saved to the camera.
When shooting in RAW, RAW files capture image data that isn’t processed or compressed, so you can make these adjustments in the editing stage as all the relevant data is present and you’re not limited on data in the image like a Jpeg.
RAW files capture a greater color range, a higher dynamic range, and more detail that allows for more that can be done with it in post-editing.
This makes it easier to correct the exposure and colors without losing the fine details within the image.
As described above, a camera takes a photo by taking light and running it through a lens, concentrating the rays on the image sensor.
The size of the hole through which the light travels is the aperture, which is fixed on the DJI Mini 3.
The smaller the aperture, the more focus you will have than with a larger more open aperture.
Here you will find the F-numbers which allow for the aperture size to be adjusted. In terms of the F-numbers, the higher the number is, the smaller the aperture opening will be.
I hope I haven’t lost you yet, as we’ve flown over a lot of ground so far. We’ve now reached the fourth and last of the basic principles of photography, each one just as important as the last.
Composition is no different. Making a mistake here can ruin a shot beyond repair and no amount of post-editing will help you.
There’s no class for this one either, no one will be able to teach this to you as it is unique to yourself and your vision. There are some things to keep in mind however to guide you.
Right out of the gate we have one that can make or break your shot. Light is the foundation upon which photography is built.
One of the easiest ways to work with your lighting in the field is to consider the subject matter as a light source.
Look at where the light is coming from, and make note if the subject is casting a shadow. If so, position the camera so that the shadow is falling away from the subject in the image.
One of the arts of composition is using shadows for more dynamic shots.
Rule of Thirds
Although basic, the rule of thirds is a guideline that can be applied to any composition.
The rule of thirds is a well-known technique for composing images and videos in a meaningful way.
The rule of thirds is a concept in photography and design that states, for any given image, the focal point should be placed along with one of the horizontal or vertical lines dividing the image into thirds.
Like I said, this one is pretty basic but is a foundation for a well-composed image.
By placing the subject matter along one of the third lines you will create a more dynamic composition that draws the eye in more than if the subject matter is in the center.
Now leading lines can be created or be natural in an image.
Leading lines are what draw the viewer’s eye to the subject matter. They can also be used to provide depth and motion to an image.
A photographer takes a three-dimensional scene and flattens it into a two-dimensional one.
The use of leading lines will give your image the appearance of depth, dimension, and shape. It’s also a good time to remember the rule of thirds here.
Mini 3 Pro Camera Settings
As we covered above, in the DJI Mini 3 the Fly app is where you can access the settings menu for the camera settings.
Many direct tabs are available right from the viewer screen, or by pressing the three dots in the upper corner. So you have two methods of accessing the camera settings.
We also covered some of the basics of photography. Now I know there is more, much, much more we could have covered.
With what we’ve covered, you should be able to have a basic idea as to what changing the shutter speed, the ISO, and white balance will do.
And although the DJI Mini 3 has a fixed F1.7 aperture, knowing how apertures work and their effect will help you when you use a system that offers a variable aperture.
Once within the camera menu, simply select the setting you wish to change, and that setting tab will open up. Make your adjustment, close it out and the change should take effect.
But more than anything else, enjoy flying!
Photo contests have been around since the very beginning days of photography and drone photography is not left out.
As a DJI user, you may have already heard of SkyPixel.
SkyPixel is recognized as the biggest worldwide contest there is for drone photography. There are others such as Dronestagram, and Drone Photo Awards by Siena, among others.
If interested in taking part in a photo contest, look into it!
Don’t forget to check locally as well, as there are many community-driven contests as well. You may even win, who knows?
Do you want to learn how to fly a drone? Droneblog is the perfect place to start your journey!
In its brief existence, the drone business has grown at an incredible rate. These aircraft are currently used in a variety of industries to perform activities such as aerial mapping, surveillance, photogrammetry, and audiovisual productions, among others.
It doesn’t matter if your goal is to become a professional drone pilot or a flying enthusiast. This guide will teach you all you need to know about flying one of these cutting-edge birds safely.
Basic, intermediate and advanced maneuvers, setting up your drone, logbooks, and operations, understanding the major physics forces, and tips on safety are just a few of the topics you will find covered here.
So, let’s get started.
Chapter 1: Before you start
You’ve come here because you want to learn how to fly a drone, no doubt. But why is it that you want to fly a drone? Is it because some of your friends already have one or because you have always wanted to learn how to fly this amazing tool since it first appeared?
Why learn to fly a drone? 3 Reasons
There are some things you should know before flying but don’t worry, we are here to talk about them. Let’s start with the basics, which are the reasons to fly a drone (we will give you three).
To create lasting memories
Have you ever been on vacation and thought: What if I could see this amazing place from a bird’s perspective? Now, thanks to drones, getting that breathtaking view is a reality.
With easy-to-carry drones such as the Mini 2, you can create stunning 4K videos and HDR images in just a few seconds, literally. Is your husband or wife on a shopping spree and you are bored to death in a heavenly location?
Now is your chance to record a video of the landscape or shoot that incredible 360° image that you dreamed of last night.
Thanks to the possibilities that drones provide, creating lasting memories has never been easier.
To gain a work skill
As new technologies emerge, the working environment is constantly evolving. Having the necessary skills can make the difference between getting a job and not getting it.
Certain job candidates will greatly benefit from being certified drone operators. For example, if you work as a camera operator for an audiovisual company. Drone video footage is used today in almost every TV and cinema production, from sports to Hollywood blockbusters or documentaries. In this line of work, learning how to operate a drone is virtually a prerequisite.
Other jobs that have been around for decades, such as real estate photography, have started using drones to increase their chances of selling properties. The possibility of showcasing real estate from the sky is very useful not only to display the selling building but also the surrounding area. All in one.
Furthermore, these aircraft have created new job opportunities, such as acquiring 3D models from aerial photogrammetry or inspecting solar plants, jobs to keep in mind if you are considering becoming a professional drone pilot.
Because it’s fun!
The fact that it is so much fun is perhaps the most important factor behind wanting to learn how to operate a drone.
Make no mistake, it will take you quite a few hours to become a master of the skies, but once you get to a level where you feel comfortable flying the drone in different scenarios, you will not be able to stop!
There is something inherently addictive about blasting through the air. Just be careful and take your time learning, as many people speed through the process and end up crashing their drones.
What to expect: Required Time, Learning curve, Costs, etc.
If you are a gamer, you will have an advantage over those who have never used a game controller in their lives. Flying a drone is very similar to flying some aircraft in a video game, especially if we compare it to simulators that allow us to use console / PC gamepads, such as DJI Flight Simulator.
Depending on your reasons for flying, the answer to this question will vary. Maybe you want to become a drone instructor and need 50 hours of flight time for that, or maybe you do not require any flight time and just want to learn slowly but surely.
Whatever your circumstances, you should schedule a flight at least once a week. Let’s assume you bought a DJI Mini 2, which is an excellent drone to start with, and the Fly More Combo, which comes with three batteries.
That implies that you will get around an hour of flight time every time you fly. If you go once a week, that means 4 hours per month or 48 hours per year.
Therefore, if you need 50 hours of flight time, and you go only once a week with that drone, you will need a whole year to achieve your goal. So, as I said, create a schedule according to your needs.
In my experience as an instructor, this will vary greatly depending on your natural ability to fly the drone. Some people are naturals and can do the basic maneuvers in just 10 minutes. Some others require more time to even feel comfortable with the idea of trying the maneuvers.
As a general rule, with 50 hours of flight time, you should feel pretty confident flying drones, especially if you usually fly one that you own and know well. However, be careful as being overconfident can result in crashes.
You can click or tap on this link to view buying guides, but keep in mind that there is a drone for any budget, so if you want to learn, money shouldn’t be an issue.
Learning to fly as an adult
Isn’t it true that being an adult is all about taking on responsibilities? Finding time to fly will be difficult at times; there is no way around it. But you also have some advantages.
Similarly, you may find yourself with some spare time on occasion, and you should take advantage of those opportunities to fly.
As an adult, you are:
Highly motivated: You will be in charge of learning how to fly, but there is nothing to worry about, as adults have a higher sense of self-direction and motivation.
Focused on achieving goals: Because you have been alive for long enough, you are aware that a learning process must have a goal. So, what’s yours? It can be spending time with your kid, acquiring a new work skill, etc. Set yours as soon as possible.
Know how to get information: Learning to operate a drone is more than simply picking up the controller and flying the aircraft. Other considerations, such as determining if it is legal to fly where you plan to spend your next vacation, are also critical. Luckily, you already know this!
Not afraid of asking for help: In this field, as a pro or enthusiast, you will need to ask for help more than once. Adults are less afraid to request help than kids or teens, so if you see yourself needing the help of another pilot, do not hesitate to ask. Having a copilot is always a great idea!
Open to new ways of learning: Did you finish your drone pilot certificate and think that was it? You are wrong! The trip has just started, so buckle up, there will be turbulence! In flying a drone, you will need to learn many aspects related to aviation, so it won’t happen just in the classroom.
Chapter 2: Getting Ready
There it is, your shiny new drone waiting for you to fly it. That feeling is awesome! I have been flying for almost two years and every time I look at any of my drones, I get a similar sensation.
You are almost ready for take-off, but first, there are a few aspects that need preparation, such as getting your device ready and installing the aircraft firmware, among others.
Before you start learning about drones and taking control of your aircraft, there are certain terms of this industry that you should know. Let’s have a look at them.
BVLOS: Beyond Visual Line of Sight. This term is used when you are flying your drone without having visual contact with the aircraft.
A clear example of flying BVLOS is when your drone is behind a building and you can’t see it, or when racing pilots fly their drones with FPV goggles.
This term is crucial since flying beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) is commonly forbidden across the world and requires specific clearance.
CTA: Controlled area. This refers to a region that is controlled airspace. Taking an international airport as a reference, the CTA is usually above the CTR (Controlled Traffic Region). The latter often surrounds the airport.
EVLOS: Extended Visual Line of Sight. This is when your drone is beyond your visual line of sight, but you are using a spotter to maintain eye contact with the aircraft.
For this, you will need to have constant communication with the spotter, which is usually done by radio.
Ground effect (drones): This is the distortion of the airflow circulating underneath the propellers due to their proximity to the ground. It can make you crash your drone when flying too close to the ground.
GPS: The Global Positioning System (GPS) allows our drone to situate itself at a particular point of the planet with great accuracy.
It does so by capturing the signals sent by multiple satellites. This way, the aircraft can tell its speed, position, and altitude with precision.
NOTAM: Notice to Airmen or Notice to Air Missions (US wording) is a notice that contains information important to those that intend to use a specific area of the National Airspace System (NAS).
It can, for example, prohibit pilots from flying in a specific zone on a particular day and/or time.
Quadcopter: This is the most commonly used drone. It has four engines, each producing both lift and torque about its center of rotation, together with a drag force opposite to the vehicle’s flight direction.
RePL: Remote pilot license. It’s the certification that you must have on you at all times when flying your drone.
Return to Home (RTH): This feature allows the drone to safely return to a pre-established home point in case it loses signal with the controller, or if the pilot chooses to do so.
RPAS: The Remotely Piloted Aircraft System is another name for a UAS.
UAS: This term is widely used when talking about drones, although UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) refers to the combination of the UAV and the systems that control it, including a ground-based controller, data links, and a system of communication with the aircraft.
UAV: UAV (Unmanned Aircraft Vehicle) is by definition an aircraft without a human pilot. Therefore, our drone is a UAV. Not to be confused with UAS.
VLOS: Visual line of sight. Flying VLOS means that you are seeing the drone visually. This is the safest method to fly since you can see any objects or birds that can cause it to crash.
Installing the fly application
You should download the fly app for your drone from the Play or Apple stores, depending on your device’s operating system. Some companies, such as DJI, have stopped distributing their applications on the Google Play Store, so you’ll have to download them through their official website.
Here is a list of some of the most popular fly apps:
You should keep your drone’s firmware up-to-date to ensure that it is in good working order. It’s also a good idea to keep the battery and the controller updated. It may help you avoid certain problems, and perhaps unwanted legal matters.
Chapter 3: The Fly Operation
One thing you need to think about is how to keep yourself motivated when flying your drone. What encourages me is to consider my operations as if they were some kind of military mission, where everything needs to be conducted perfectly.
Flying a drone is so much fun, but it can also be extremely dangerous, for example, to those unaware of having a mechanical bird above their heads. If you lose control and crash it into someone, it could be fatal. This is why you should prepare for your flight operations carefully.
The operation’s objectives
Knowing what you are going to be doing in the field will always save you time and prepare you for some time-related contingencies. This does not mean that you should not improvise when flying, but always have a clear idea of why you are there specifically.
Emergency landing zones
So far, I haven’t crashed any drones outdoors (although I have at home just being silly). However, in very rare circumstances, you could start losing power from one of the motors, experiencing a strange performance in your flight.
Thinking about emergency landing zones before you start flying might be the difference between having to fix your drone or having to buy a new one in this and other emergency scenarios. It may even prevent someone from getting hurt!
Topography and obstacles
Drones, particularly those without sensors, are vulnerable to colliding with trees, buildings, and other objects as a consequence of pilot error.
If your drone has an obstacle avoidance system, in most cases it will prevent you from crashing against something, but there is no better prevention than knowing the area where you are flying.
For those times that you won’t be able to check the area of operation in person, the use of Google Earth’s terrain layer, or topographic maps, can help you get an approximate idea of what you will find in reality.
In the past few years, most countries have been implementing an online system to check the airspace restrictions of a given area. These websites give you clear information about airspace class, restricted areas, location coordinates, etc.
Below you can find a few examples (click/tap on the links to open the website version):
Remember, pilot, that only YOU are responsible for following the drone laws of whatever country you are planning on operating in.
Certain areas, such as those located on a CTR (controlled traffic region), will require you to communicate with an airport tower or similar buildings in charge of the airspace.
For example, to carry out drone activities in certain zones in Spain, you must be certified as a radio operator. So, once again, make sure you satisfy all legal criteria to use your drone in your specified region before flying.
A crucial part of not getting into legal trouble when flying your drone is having all your documentation with you.
Personally, I like to have it digitally, as in my country it is not required to have any physical documents, but check what is needed in yours.
These are the most common documents to be carried for your drone operations:
Your national ID card, driver’s license, or passport
Radio operator certification (usually only required to fly in restricted airspace)
Waivers (if needed)
First aid certification (required in certain drone jobs)
There was no day when I first started flying my DJI Mini 2 that I didn’t forget something. This is why I started making checklists for practically every facet of my drone operations.
Take a look at the following checklists, they might be of use to you.
This checklist is focused on analyzing the technical limitations of the drone I will be flying. It involves checking for the first time the altitude and surroundings of the area, the weather conditions, and the necessary documentation to be taken with me.
☐ UAS Operator Registration ☐ Flying Above Sea Level at +4000m ☐ Obtain Permissions ☐ UAS Insurance Documentation ☐ Winds of Up to 10 m/s (36 km/h) ☐ Avoid Manned A/C ☐ UAS Pilot Certificate ☐ NO Take-off from Moving Objects ☐ Avoid crowds ☐ Temperature? 0° to 40° ☐ Careful Taking-off from Sand ☐ Avoid Prohibited Areas
The day before flying
I go through several things on this checklist that could have already been verified, but that may need to be revised due to their changing nature, such as weather conditions.
It also includes other aspects, such as charging the batteries, updating the fly app or the firmware, etc.
☐ Check Weather ☐ Shot List and Storyboard ☐ Controller Charged ☐ App Updated ☐ Check NOTAMs ☐ Ground Station Charged ☐ Flight Route / Area Planned ☐ Pre-Notification Requirements ☐ SD Card Formatted ☐ Site Survey / Obstacle Check ☐ First Aid Kit Packed ☐ Equipment Packed ☐ Firmware Update ☐ Aircraft Batteries Charged
In the pre-flight checklist, I review the facets that need to be considered just before taking off. Things like checking that I brought all the equipment, inspecting the aircraft for faults, double-checking for obstacles, or establishing a landing point are just a few of the things I check on this list.
☐ All Equipment Brought ☐ Set Comms ☐ Home Point (RTH Height) ☐ Inspect UAS for Faults ☐ Warn Spectators ☐ Check SD Card on A/C ☐ Compass Calibrated ☐ Check Controller ☐ Propellers Tightened ☐ Check Signal Strength ☐ Double Check Obstacles ☐ Establish Take-off Point ☐ Batteries Properly Fitted ☐ Check Satellite Strength ☐ Establish Landing Point ☐ Battery Temperature ☐ Check Wind Speed ☐ Turn-off Phone Wi-Fi
This list is the shortest, but it does not mean that it is the least important. On some occasions, there can be moments of tension before flying (for whatever reason), so it is good having a take-off checklist to make sure that you are not making any mistakes.
☐ Turn-On Controller ☐ Turn-On UAS ☐ Hover for 15 seconds at 5 m ☐ Record to Monitor Behavior and Sound ☐ Check All Controls are Responsive
The pack-up list was the last one I created on my tablet. Day after day, I realized that it was taking me too long to pick up all the stuff required for my drone operations, and I concluded that it was due to poor organization.
☐ Drone ☐ Batteries ☐ Controller ☐ Cloth ☐ Sun hood ☐ Landing pad ☐ DSLR ☐ GoPro ☐ Tripod ☐ Power bank ☐ Tablet ☐ Sunglasses
Chapter 4: Flight Modes
Regardless of the brand of your drone, these aircraft usually come with some pre-programmed flight modes. DJI, the industry-leading manufacturer, includes four: cine, normal, sport, and ATTI.
Except for the ATTI mode, which is initiated in-flight when the drone’s GPS disconnects from the global satellite set, these flight modes are typically adjustable, allowing the operator to adapt them to his or her individual needs.
Cine mode is the most sluggish of the four. It’s set up in such a way that the pilot can shoot seamless cinematic video. In this mode, the aircraft’s horizontal speed and yaw movement are both reduced, yielding an extremely distinctive effect.
Normal mode encompasses the parameter configuration that should be suitable for most scenarios. The aircraft travels at a much higher speed than in Cine mode, but slower than in Sport mode.
This is ideal for long-distance flights, as it achieves a decent mix of performance and energy usage. However, if we want to film any cinematic videos, we will not be able to do so since the yaw rotates significantly quicker (nothing that cannot be adjusted though).
For those that are looking for an adrenaline rush, they should set their drones to Sport mode. It offers the best aircraft performance but at the cost of battery consumption.
Sport mode will put the drone on its technical limit, and even though that usually means fun, it can also translate into crashes. The higher the speed, the longer it takes for the drone to come to a complete stop in the air, so keep this important detail in mind.
If you own a drone with an obstacle avoidance system, be aware that activating Sport mode will automatically disable this system, so you will be on your own in this regard. Try flying in open spaces while using this mode.
If you thought that the Sport mode is dangerous, maybe you have not experienced the ATTI mode. Short for ‘ATTITUDE’, this mode is enabled when your drone loses its GPS signal.
The loss of the Global Positioning System (GPS) might be disastrous for the aircraft, since any winds can quickly knock it off course, making it crash against obstacles.
In ATTI mode, you will have to continually counteract the wind force, which may be a lot of fun but also super risky!
Not all drones include an FPV (First Person View) mode. DJI aircraft, however, can access this feature thanks to third-party apps such as Litchi.
The user enjoys a flight experience as if he or she were flying onboard the drone. The FPV mode is ideal for enjoying the incredible views that birds get to see every day, as well as for doing inspection work, as you are more engaged in what you see.
However, because the drone is not in your visual line of sight, you are flying BVLOS while using FPV goggles. Depending on your country’s legislation, you may need to have a spotter with you to legally fly like this.
Chapter 5: The controls
So far, we’ve been helping you through the process of planning the flying operation, which should save you time and keep you from having problems like crashing the drone or getting into legal battles.
Now, you are finally ready to start flying your drone, and we are going to teach you how to do it, from the most basic maneuvers to the most difficult ones. Let us get started!
Drone Physics: Major Forces
The big difference between driving a vehicle and flying a drone is that the latter involves more complex physics.
Without entering the technical world of equations, these are the main forces acting on a drone.
Gravity: Due to the drone’s mass, gravity pulls it down. Therefore, the higher the weight of the aircraft, the more power is required to lift it and make it move.
Lift: This is the vertical force acting on the drone. The most important element that deals with it is the propeller, which lifts the body of the drone against gravity.
Thrust: This is the action that occurs in the motion’s direction. As the drone is hovering, the thrust is completely vertical, but when it moves forward or backward, the thrust force gets inclined.
Drag: This is the force opposite to the thrust, or the force contrary to the motion, due to the air’s resistance. The aerodynamic shape of the quadcopter reduces drag.
When you drive a car, the vehicle is always facing in the same direction as you are.
When flying a drone, however, if you are flying it towards you, while it’s facing you, you might get the impression that you should move the right stick backward, while in fact, you have to keep moving it forward.
Moving Forward/Backward (Pitch)
For you to become a skillful pilot, you need to understand the three aircraft principal axes in which the drone operates. From now on, pay strict attention to the figures, as they will help you perform the following maneuvers.
The pitchaxis, also known as transverse, comes from drawing a line from left to right. The resulting motion is called pitch.
If we push the controller’s right stick forward, the back engines will spin faster, causing the aircraft to move forward.
If we push the right stick backward, the front motors will spin faster, causing the aircraft to move backward.
Moving sideways (roll)
The rollaxis, also called longitudinal, is the result of drawing a line from the back to the front of the aircraft. The resulting movement is called roll, and it makes the drone go left and right.
If we push the right stick of the controller to the left, the motors located on the right side of the drone will start to spin faster, making the aircraft move to the left.
If we push the right stick of the controller to the right, the motors on the left side will start spinning faster, causing the aircraft to move right.
Rotational movement (Yaw)
The yaw axis, or vertical, makes the aircraft rotate to the left or right while it stays level with the ground.
Pushing the left stick of the controller to the left will cause the front left and back right motors to spin faster, causing the aircraft to rotate left.
Pushing the left stick of the controller to the right will cause the front right and back left motors to spin faster, which will make the aircraft to rotate right.
Going up and down (Throttle)
The throttle is not a directional element in pitch, roll, and yaw, but it controls the altitude and speed of the aircraft.
If you push the left stick of the controller up, all the motors will spin faster, making the aircraft ascend.
If you push the left stick of the controller down, all the motors will spin faster in the other direction, making the aircraft descend.
Hovering in position (ATTI mode)
As we discussed earlier, the ATTI or ATTITUDE mode is activated whenever the aircraft loses its GPS signal. Alternatively, some drones, such as the Phantom 4 Pro, can manually activate this mode.
The dangerous thing about ATTI mode is that the drone will drift in the direction of the wind if we do not take action. Therefore, if the wind is blowing from the left to the right side of the aircraft, we will push the right stick to the left to counteract the wind force and maintain the drone in its original position.
Note: When practicing ATTI mode, make sure you are flying in a wide-open region without too high winds for your drone.
Facing different directions
One of the most difficult things about flying a drone is being able to feel like we are on board when flying it in our visual line-of-sight (VLOS).
Pushing the right stick forward while flying the drone in front of us with its back facing us causes the drone to travel away from our position. However, if we move the right stick forward when the drone’s front is facing us, the quadcopter will travel toward us.
This seemingly unimportant fact is an essential part of flying a drone. Sometimes it gets hard to “get on board” the drone, as we are not used to doing that. Practice this from time to time.
Chapter 6: Intermediate Flying Maneuvers
So far, we have covered all fundamental aspects that you need to know to prepare for your flying operations, as well as some basic maneuvers to get you started in this field. Continue paying attention to the figures, as they will help you understand the maneuvers more easily.
Now, it’s time to up our game and start covering what will make you a great drone pilot. Most of the following maneuvers combine the use of both left and right sticks to be performed. Let’s get started.
To perform the square, you will need to focus on the right stick only, so it should be fairly easy with some practice. To do a simple square, follow these steps:
Make sure you are in a wide-open area.
Elevate the drone to a safe height. 16 feet (5 m) should be enough in most cases.
Slowly start moving the right stick of your controller to the right.
When you think you have reached the first corner of your square, move the stick up for the drone to go forward.
Move the stick to the left once you have reached the next corner.
On the next corner, move the stick down.
In the last corner, move the stick to your right.
If done correctly, you should be back at the starting point.
The yawing squares
Making a square only with the right stick was easy, right? Let’s try to do it with the help of the yaw, so we will be rotating the aircraft with the left stick, while we fly it forward with the right one.
Elevate the drone to a safe height.
Position yourself behind the aircraft, then rotate it 90° to its right (push the left stick to the right to do it).
Push the right stick forward to allow the drone to slowly begin advancing.
When you have reached the position where the first corner of your square should be, push the left stick to the left to yaw left.
Continue going forward by pushing the right stick up.
On the next corner, yaw left with the left stick.
Continue going forward again.
Once again, yaw left with the left stick.
Continue going forward.
Push the left stick to the left for the last yaw.
Continue going forward to reach the starting point of the square.
By now, you should have mastered making squares with your drone in the air. Well done! Let’s now make a new figure, the circle.
The process will be the same. We will start doing a circle only with the right stick, then we will use the yaw to draw it with the head of the drone.
Elevate the drone to a safe height.
Move the right stick to the right to slowly make the drone fly.
Then, all you have to do is draw a circle with the right stick (do it calmly)
Push the right stick right and forward.
Then just forward.
Then left and forward.
Then just left.
Then left and backward.
Then right and forward.
Then right (you have reached the starting point).
The yawing circles
Next, we are going to perform another circle, but this time we will use the yaw to make it, just like we did previously with the square.
Making a circle yawing is super easy:
Elevate your drone to a safe height.
Continuously push the right stick up to make the drone go forward.
Continuously push the left stick to the left for yawing.
Keep both sticks in the same position to make the drone draw a perfect circle.
Let’s move on to the next figure, the triangle.
Remember that we are just giving you some ways to fly your drone, things that will surely improve your skills. However, don’t forget to try drawing these shapes in different ways once you have mastered the ones we have shown you.
Time to see how to make a triangle with your drone. This time, use only the right stick of your controller.
Elevate your drone to a safe height.
Once the aircraft is hovering, push the right stick to the right to slowly move in that direction.
When you are ready to draw the first corner of your triangle, do so by pushing the right stick up and to the left side at the same time. That is, in a diagonal way.
Continue pushing the right stick up and left until you reach the next corner of your mental triangle.
In the next corner, push the right stick down and the left stick diagonally to begin drawing the next face of your triangle.
Continue pushing the right stick down and left diagonally.
In the last corner, simply push the stick to the right.
You have reached the starting position.
The yawing triangle
The same as before, we are going to make a triangle in the air with our drone, but this time we will use the yaw to do it.
This is how it is done:
Take off and rise to a safe height.
While the drone is facing away from you, rotate it 90° to your right.
Push the right stick to cause the drone to begin moving forward.
Whenever you have reached the corner of your imaginary triangle, push the left stick to the left while keeping the right stick up to continue moving forward, but also yawing left, drawing the corner.
Continue drawing the second face of your triangle by pushing the right stick up.
On the next corner, just like before, yaw to the left while keeping the drone moving forward.
Keep going forward to draw the last face of the triangle.
Once again, in the last corner, yaw to the left while moving forward.
Continue to reach the starting point.
Chapter 7: Advanced Flying Maneuvers
Hopefully, at this point, you have been practicing the basic and intermediate maneuvers that we have shown you in this article. As a result, we anticipate that you will be prepared for the next challenge.
The following advanced flying maneuvers require the highest concentration of them all, as they combine the use of both sticks, and move in all possible aircraft axes.
It is worth mentioning that you should practice all of the figures in this document both as shown and inverted.
Using the triangle as an example, I demonstrated how to draw it by moving the drone to the right of your location and then yawing to the left. You should, however, practice it yawing to the right as well.
This is because we have all favored sides to draw figures with our drones. It is a lot simpler for me to yaw to the left, and my explanations reflect this. It might be the other way around for you. Don’t forget to practice drawing figures from all sides.
The next figure we are going to draw with our drones is the spiral. This is the first time in this guide that we will be pushing one of the sticks diagonally while using the other one at the same time.
You will notice that the complexity has gone a step higher, and you might fail to do it properly the first several attempts, but don’t worry, it has happened to the best of us UAS pilots. Just keep trying.
Here is how to draw a spiral with your drone:
Elevate your drone to a safe height.
Have the drone in front of you, facing your right.
Push at the same time the left stick up and to the left, diagonally, and the right stick up.
Maintain both sticks in the same position to slowly draw the spiral.
Once you have ascended to a high position set as your limit, try drawing a descending spiral.
Remember to do both ascending and descending spirals yawing both left and right.
The following figure is a bit more complicated than the spiral, but only if you do it ascending and descending (and you should).
This time, you will be drawing in the sky an 8. Yes, the number 8. It doesn’t matter how big, we will leave that to you.
Let’s do it!
Elevate your drone to a safe height.
You can consider your take-off spot the starting point for your 8, or choose another one.
The number 8 is drawn by keeping steady two different stick combinations.
For the upper part of the 8, maintain the left stick yawing to the left while the right stick is up, making the drone move forward.
For the lower part, maintain the left stick yawing to the right while the right stick keeps moving the drone forward.
To make it more interesting (and difficult), fly the drone ascending/descending while yawing left and right. Be aware, though, that this won’t be easy at first, so be careful.
Ice Cream Cone
Lastly, we will be drawing something for all you summer lovers; the ice cream cone. This figure is quite interesting, as it is great to draw it both vertically and horizontally (that’s right, try to do this with the other ones too).
As usual, once you have mastered the figure, use any combination you like to make it more interesting. The first variation you should try is making the cone while ascending and descending, but you already knew that, right?
This is how you draw an ice cream cone with your drone:
Elevate your drone to a safe height.
Visualize the 6 waypoints from which your cone will be drawn.
Position the drone so that it is facing point 1 (remember that this point is much higher in height).
Push both sticks up to make the drone move forward while ascending to waypoint 1.
In waypoint 2, you will start drawing “the ice cream part” of the cone. To do it, maintain both left and right sticks in the same position. The left stick should be yawing left, while the right stick continues to make the drone move forward.
Once you have reached waypoint 6, rotate the drone using the left stick until it is facing away from you.
Initiate the maneuver to make the drone return to its starting position by pushing both sticks down. This will make the drone move backward while descending.
I know I’ve said it before, but I can’t emphasize how crucial it is for you to develop your flying abilities to combine the techniques you’ve learned here.
The easiest way is to add ascending and descending motions to your figure drawing. It might seem easy, but it makes things so much harder, as moving the sticks diagonally feels extremely awkward at first.
The other way to vary the figures is by visualizing them horizontally and vertically. For example, if you have drawn a square horizontally, try next doing it vertically, which will involve a series of ascending and descending maneuvers (not practiced when done horizontally).
Chapter 8: Safety tips
We have previously covered the majority of the precautions you should take when flying your drone, but we thought it would be even better if we added a list of things to keep in mind.
We recommend that you look at the following lists from time to time to remind yourself about these important aspects.
Basic safety tips
The first list consists of fundamental safety precautions that you may forget from time to time simply because you believe they are easy to remember. It occurs regularly.
However, keep in mind that any error, no matter how minor, might lead to an accident that we should constantly strive to prevent.
For example, a damaged battery could make the drone fall from the sky abruptly, or not updating your home point could mean that your drone won’t be able to return to where you are in case it loses connection with the controller.
To prevent those situations, and more, let us have a look at the following list:
Check regulations and then check them again.
Whenever possible, fly in open areas.
Fly in your visual line of sight (VLOS).
Do not fly over groups of people.
Avoid flying your drone without a GPS signal.
Put your device in airplane mode while flying your drone.
Never fly inside a stadium or near airports unless you have permission.
Check for emergency services that are flying in your area.
Make sure the weather is good for the operation.
Land your quadcopter if a manned aircraft is close to yours.
Never fly under the influence.
Avoid flying through clouds or fog.
Respect people’s privacy.
Stay away from rotating propellers.
Your drone should be able to withstand the weather conditions. Check them again!
Ensure that your insurance is not expired and that it fits the operation (recreational vs professional).
Check the battery power.
Inspect your drone for faults, including the propellers, motors, and any other aspect you might think could be damaged.
Calibrate the compass.
Update the home point before departing from the take-off location.
Consider landing your drone when the battery is at 25% of charge.
Upon landing, turn off the aircraft, then the remote controller.
Do not charge the batteries right after you’ve landed (they need to cool off).
Attach the gimbal protector as soon as you have turned off the drone.
Store the aircraft properly.
One of the most common concerns for drone pilots is ‘flyaways,’ which occur when your drone gets lost in the air and you are unable to control it. It must be quite frustrating.
This is something so worrying that DJI back in January 2021 launched flyaway coverage in its Care Refresh program. The DJI insurance covers you from flyaways, but you would still need to pay quite a bit to get a new drone. Although, it’s much less than without being insured!
To avoid having to deal with this issue, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Do not fly until the home point is established.
Watch out for any compass interference.
Maintain your drone within your visual line of sight.
Reset the home point if you have moved from the take-off position.
Adjust the return to home altitude appropriately, making sure that the drone will not encounter any obstacles when going back home automatically (particularly important if your aircraft has no obstacle avoidance system).
Monitor your battery to prevent the aircraft from doing an emergency landing.
Do not fly further than the range of your remote controller.
Avoid flying in ATTI mode. This is a big cause of flyaways, as the drone will drift towards the direction of the wind if the pilot does not counteract that force.
If you are not sure about something (battery condition, wind, connectivity, etc.) bring the drone back to its home point.
Chapter 9: Drone Maintenance
Maintenance is a critical component that prevents you from experiencing difficulties, yet it is often neglected. Taking care of your drone is essential, and because we are teaching you how to fly it in this document, we thought that we should also show you how to care for it.
The batteries are a crucial part of your aircraft. From them, it gets the electricity required to feed power to the motor. Connected to the motors are the propellers, responsible for lifting the drone into the air.
Here are a few tips to use batteries properly to maximize their life span:
Read and follow the battery guidelines in your drone’s manual.
Keep your battery firmware updated.
Be aware of the operating temperature range of the battery and never go above or below it.
Use the manufacturer charger to charge them.
Do not store them at 100%.
Avoid discharging them to 0%.
Make sure the battery is not swollen, leaky, or damaged.
Your drone’s propellers are in charge of lifting the aircraft into the air, thus they are crucial.
DJI advises changing them every three months, but according to the DJI forum, 56 percent of the pilots who responded to the survey said they only change them when they are bent, chipped, or damaged.
It would not hurt to change them every three months, though it does not seem to be necessary unless you are flying many hours every week.
Here are some tips on how to maintain the propellers of your drone.
Check that they spin properly.
Listen to hear if there is any strange sound going on.
Make sure they are tightly fitted.
Clean them after every flight using toothpaste.
Clean the gears after the propellers have been removed.
Before storing them check for any damage, like cracks. You can do this by bending them lightly. Change them if you notice any problems.
Always have spare propellers in your drone bag.
Write it down in your drone logbook every time you change or clean them.
Do not be cheap with propellers, as they can fly away from the motors if they are cracked, with the serious risk of injuring someone.
The gimbal is one of the most expensive parts to repair on your drone. During the pandemic, I crashed my Mini 2 at home and had to pay 220 euros for the repair. Ouch!
Fortunately, taking care of it is simple: DO NOT crash!
In addition to the obvious, make sure that you put on the gimbal cover as soon as you turn off your drone.
It is obvious that the motors are an essential part of why your drone is staying up in the air. While gliders can fly without engines, the lift of the quadcopter is based on the power of its motor. Therefore, if one fails, the aircraft will crash.
Let us take a look at all the things you should do to take care of your drone’s motors:
Inspect them before every flight.
Remove any dirt from them after flying, especially if you have been operating in a dusty area.
Clean them with a bristle brush, or a cloth.
If you have been operating under light rain, dry the motors once you have landed the drone.
Write down any maintenance done on your drone in its logbook.
In terms of drone maintenance, the MicroSD card is frequently neglected. A brief test every now and then, on the other hand, can save you from losing vital data.
To maintain your microSD card, download the following programs according to your operating system:
With any of these programs, you can check the performance of your MicroSD card by doing a simple and quick test, so it will not steal much of your time.
If there are any problems with your flash drive, the program will notify you. To avoid difficulties, you should consider changing your MicroSD card. However, in my experience, there is some wiggle room between reading the alert and your drive breaking. But don’t take any chances.
Another technique to tell whether your MicroSD card is performing strangely is to see if the speed in the test matches the speed listed on the card’s packaging. If it claims it should read 100 MB/s but only reads 50 MB/s, something is wrong.
Your drone logbook is at the core of your maintenance activities. It is essential to organize in this area to avoid future hassles. Remember that the safety of the operation should always come first, and keeping your drone in good working order is an important element of that.
Things to write down in your drone maintenance logbook:
Checks for faults in the motors.
Battery defects or maintenance duties, such as clean-ups.
Drone body clean-ups.
Any drone part replacements, such as the arms.
In my case, I keep a logbook in Excel for each of my drones. It’s simple to keep up with and back up on the cloud. Aside from that, I can simply copy the file and save it on an external hard drive.
Here are a few examples of drone logbooks for maintenance:
DJI Mini 2
January 20th, 2021
Maximum Take-off weight
Max wind resistance
Maximum flight time
Max Transmission Distance
RPAS Maintenance Log – DJI Mini 2
Description of maintenance or defect
Clean-up of the controller
Another excellent method for keeping a logbook is to use one of the free internet services, such as Dronelogbook.
These services provide you with an online solution to record any maintenance you do on your drone, along with flight data and other useful statistics.
Personally, I use Dronelogbook for my drone maintenance duties, while I also use Air Data to log my flights. Air Data is without a doubt the best place to log your flight data, check statistics, telemetry, etc. It supports most drone fly apps, such as DJI Fly, DJI Go, Parrot FreeFlight, Autel Explorer, Drone Deploy, Drone Harmony, Litchi, and many others.
Unfortunately, Air Data does not include a drone maintenance logbook in its free plan.
This is all for today. Hopefully, you are now confident in flying your drone in many different scenarios. For sure, you should be able to perform quite a few interesting maneuvers, right? If not, get out there and do it!
March 17, 2022 @ Xelevate, the DC Region’s Unmanned Systems Center of Excellence
Come learn the latest cutting edge weather-related tools, techniques, and tradecraft stemming from government and industry that will highlight awareness and maximize your flight operations and mission success:
Maximize pilot aeronautical situational knowledge and judgement
Lower missionrisk profiles for UAS waivers and flight operations
Higher mission effectiveness rates
Reduced operational downtime and costs
Boost flight hours and payload data quality
Detailed agenda is attached, with a diverse group of panelists, moderators, and attendees representing but not limited to:
FAA, NASA, TruWeather, Aloft, VIPC, NUAIR, Raytheon, ManTech, Skyports, Intellisense, Advanced Mobility Collective, ULTRA, Iridium, Loudoun County Fire & Rescue, Chicago Fire Department, DroneResponders, University of Maryland, and ResilienX
There will also be a social/networking hour by a bonfire at 4pm following the event!
Here’s more event details, and a quick overview of the conference:
As federal agencies and national security organizations begin to fully adopt and utilize UAS/drone technology in mission operations around the globe, there are several challenges that face these various outfits as they fully implement these disruptive technologies. As UAS flight operations and capabilities continue to evolve and develop towards long-range flight and advanced VTOL, some of the most pressing issues facing national security elements are:
Weather resiliency and integration
Mission operations planning
Decision making tools and techniques
Maximizing flight time and eliminating unnecessary operating cost
As our team at Xelevate has interfaced and met with over 30+ federal agencies, there is a common theme in our conversations at our facility that national security entities need more exposure to industry leaders, leading organizations, and want more direction to maximize their teams’ capabilities. To fully immerse you and your teams in these types of engaging discussions, we’d like to invite you and elements of your organization to our event, an all-day affair (9am-5pm), as we are joined by an array of distinguished panelists
You’ve decided that 2022 is the year you’re going to learn to fly a drone. You don’t know much about UAVs (yet), and you thought you’d change that by enrolling in an online school. One such school that caught your eye is the Pilot Institute. Is this online drone flight school worthwhile?
Pilot Institute is a great resource for learning to fly drones and airplanes alike. You can select the courses you’re interested in, pay for each one individually, and gain lifetime access to the video materials. You can even take practice quizzes or use a flashcard app.
We’ve just scratched the surface when it comes to what Pilot Institute offers. In this extensive guide, we’ll discuss the history of the organization, go over the available courses in-depth, and of course, talk about pricing. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know whether the Pilot Institute is right for you!
What is Pilot Institute? Who’s the Founder?
Let’s start by lifting back the curtain and revealing some backstory about the Pilot Institute.
As we touched on in the intro, Pilot Institute specializes in drone flight and airplane flight instructional lessons that cover the fundamentals as well as areas you’ll naturally want to learn about next. For instance, you can take a course on how to make money with your drone.
For the sake of this article, we’re only going to talk about Pilot Institute’s drone courses, but there’s a whole other side to this coin.
All courses offered by Pilot Institute are taught by remote pilots, flight instructors, Federal Aviation Administration or FAA commercial pilots, and other certified professionals. The instructors have experience in education too so they can make your lessons fun, engaging, interesting, and informative.
Headquartered in Prescott, Arizona, the team at Pilot Institute is led by co-founders Johann Beishline and Greg Reverdiau.
Greg was born in France and has lived in the United States since 2002. All along, he was involved in aviation, with more than two decades of experience in the industry. He’s worked as a commercial airline pilot and was an FAA Safety Team Representative.
Further, he acted as the President of a large Part 141 flight school.
Johann came up with the idea for Pilot Institute after flying a hot air balloon with his grandfather. Together, Beishline and Reverdiau created a school that has attracted more than 100,000 students who live in nearly 100 different countries.
The Pilot Institute team follows four pillars: connected, current, capable, and confident.
The “connected” pillar is because Pilot Institute has an online network where students can connect and study together to share their knowledge.
The “current” pillar refers to the knowledge imparted in the courses, which is always up to the current FAA standards, especially when applying for your Part 107 license to legally fly a drone in the US.
The “capable” pillar means that the Pilot Institute team wants their students to become knowledgeable and capable after taking their courses. In reviewing metrics for information absorption and retainment, Pilot Institute can make that possible.
Finally, the “confident” pillar refers to a student’s confidence in flying their drone. They will walk into an FAA exam knowing they can do it. But Pilot Institute graduates also possess other useful drone knowledge that extends well beyond what’s on the exam.
What can you learn at Pilot Institute?
As of this writing, Pilot Institute offers 19 drone flight courses in all. Let’s take a closer look at most of the courses and the information therein.
If you’re not already aware, the FAA issues Part 107 licenses to drone pilots ages 16 or over who prove their proficiency on a written exam. The exam tests whether you can safely fly a drone while sticking within FAA rules.
Commercial drone pilots must have a Part 107 license, so if you ever hope to make a dime from drone videography, photography, or flight, you’ll have to pass this exam yourself.
Pilot Institute has updated its Part 107 Commercial Drone License Course so it’s current with the FAA’s standards as of 2021. The course includes video instruction for 15 hours overall.
You will pass the Part 107 exam, Pilot Institute promises, or you’ll get your $175 back. That’s their guarantee to instill confidence in you to enroll in this course.
According to Pilot Institute, 99.8 percent of their students pass the Part 107 exam after taking the Part 107 Commercial Drone License Course.
Drone Business Made Easy
Once you earn your Part 107 exam through Pilot Institute, you might consider enrolling in the Drone Business Made Easy course.
This online course has all the information you need to establish a drone business or just to use your drone as a side hustle. The course includes seven hours of videos with step-by-step instructions for getting started making money flying your drone.
Included also are 25 assignments for making your own actionable business plan. Pilot Institute also includes a free business template you can use.
Commercial Drone Pilot Bundle: Part 107 + Drone Business
You can fast-track your success with the Commercial Drone Pilot Bundle. This cost-effective deal from Pilot Institute includes the above two courses in one, offering 20 hours of informative footage in all.
Drone Maneuvers Mastery
Do you want to show off using your drone to all your friends? Then Pilot Institute’s Drone Maneuvers Mastery course is a must.
The course will cover 50 drone flight maneuvers that are divided by difficulty. You can start with the easy ones and then work your way up. Watch live explanations from real drone pros and read the PDF guide to pull off these stunts yourself!
Drone Flying 101
If you’re brand new to the world of drones, then start with the Drone Flying 101 class. This Pilot Institute course includes nearly five hours of educational video content that will cover such information as how to fly, how to do basic drone maneuvers, what weather you should avoid when flying, and where you can legally fly.
Cinematic FPV Drone From Scratch
Creating the perfect first-person view or FPV drone doesn’t have to be hard when you take the Cinematic FPV Drone From Scratch class. For more advanced drone pilots, this Pilot Institute course provides three hours of video instruction for making an FPV drone.
DJI FPV Deep Dive
Pilot Institute offers a slew of courses that will make you a DJI master. Since DJI are among the most best-selling yet expensive drones on the market, it makes sense for Pilot Institute to focus on this manufacturer in particular.
The DJI FPV Deep Dive course is free yet still offers three hours of compelling content. For instance, you can glean more about Turtle Mode, Return to Home, Image Roll Correction, and EIS settings.
DJI Air 2S Deep Dive
Maybe you prefer the DJI Air 2S. In that case, then don’t miss the DJI Air 2S Deep Dive, which will teach you everything there is to know about this drone. Whether you want to improve in areas like videography, photography, or maneuvering, with three hours of video footage, you can!
Public Safety COA Made Easy
Some people want to learn to fly a drone to better serve public safety. The Public Safety COA Made Easy course from Pilot Institute is the first step to earning your Certificate of Authorization or COA.
The course teaches how to get a Tactical Beyond Visual Line of Sight waiver, the different types of COAs, and how to apply for a COA.
DRONERESPONDERS Part 107 and Public Safety COA Course
Emergency services professionals and first responders will get a lot out of the DRONERESPONDERS Part 107 and Public Safety COA Course. This two-in-one course will help you quickly earn your Part 107 exam. You also gain free membership to DRONERESPONDERS, a public safety community of drone users.
NIST UAS Made Easy
Do you have a UAS background and want to learn more about the National Institute of Science and Technology or NIST drone flight standards? Then the NIST UAS Made Easy course is tailor-made for you!
Recreational Flying Made Easy
The Recreational Flying Made Easy class is free and only takes two hours to complete, so you might as well put the time into it. Even aspiring commercial drone pilots can learn a thing or two from this Pilot Institute course, which discusses regulations and tells you everything you need to do to ready up for your first drone flight.
You can even pick the brains of a FAASTeam Drone Pro or FAA-certified flight instructor to get your most burning questions answered.
This short, hour-long course explains what you should do if you’re flying at night and an airplane approaches, how to respond when flying near an airport with a closed tower, and how you can obtain nighttime flight authorization.
Ultimate Drone Pilot Guide
How about a course that rolls up all the need-to-know drone knowledge into one convenient course? That’d be the Ultimate Drone Pilot Guide, a 75-minute course with fun, educational videos.
You’ll learn all the basics, such as what separates a registration from a drone flight license, what recreational drone pilots can do in the skies versus commercial drone pilots, and even how to earn some cash by flying your drone.
What are the other features of Pilot Institute?
You want more than just schooling when choosing an online drone school, so what else does Pilot Institute offer? Here’s an overview covering the full breadth of their services.
Short video lessons
With 210 video lessons across the entire 19 courses (and counting), Pilot Institute offers video learning because it’s an effective educational tool.
Although some of the courses are two or three hours long, that doesn’t mean each lesson in the course is that long. Instead, the average length of each video in a lesson is three minutes. Pilot Institute strives to make its content easily digestible so you’re not left suffering from information overload.
Although you pay for a Pilot Institute course only once, your money gives you access to the information in the course for life. You don’t have to cram in a half-dozen video lessons in a week because the lessons are going to expire. You can learn at a more relaxed pace that works with your lifestyle.
As a Part 107 license holder, you’ll really appreciate the lifetime lesson access, as you must retest for your license every two years. Being able to re-watch content comes in handy if you’re fuzzy on certain drone concepts or rules.
To prepare you for the Part 107 exam, Pilot Institute lets you take up to 20 quizzes as well as unlimited practice exams. The questions on the practice tests are lifted from real FAA exams. You’ll feel readier to pass your test than ever!
Lesson notes and cheat sheets
Make your study sessions more effective with cheat sheets and lesson notes courtesy of Pilot Institute. The notes include lecture slides.
As we talked about earlier, as a Pilot Institute student, you can connect with other current drone pilot students to form virtual study groups. In a study group, you can comment on lessons, and get instructor feedback.
If you need one-on-one support through Pilot Institute’s instructors, that’s available as well!
Certificate of Completion
You took the time and put in the work, so you’ll want to show that off. Passing Pilot Institute courses will earn you a certificate that you can add to your resume.
Don’t forget to download the free Flashcard app for Android and iPhone models. The Flashcard app has 110 cards that you can use to brush up on your knowledge or study before your Part 107 exam, and all from your smartphone.
How Much Do Pilot Institute’s Courses Cost?
As we’ve established, some of Pilot Institute’s courses are available for free, but not all. This list breaks down the prices in full:
Part 107 Commercial Drone License Course – $249
Drone Business Made Easy – $199
Commercial Drone Pilot Bundle: Part 107 + Drone Business – $449
Drone Maneuvers Mastery – $99
Drone Flying 101 – $99
Cinematic FPV Drone From Scratch – $99
DJI FPV Deep Dive – $0
DJI Air 2S Deep Dive – $0
Public Safety COA Made Easy – $0
DRONERESPONDERS Part 107 and Public Safety COA Course – $149
NIST UAS Made Easy – $49
Recreational Flying Made Easy – $0
Part 107 Night Training Course – $0
Ultimate Drone Pilot Guide – $0
DJI Mavic Air 2 Deep Dive – $0
DJI Mini 2 Deep Dive – $0
DJI Mavic Mini Deep Dive – $0
Parrot Anafi Thermal Deep Dive – $0
Parrot Anafi USA – $0
How is Pilot Institute rated?
It doesn’t matter what you’re buying. You like to rely on reviews to influence your decision-making. This is smart on your part, and we recommend it too. So what are people saying about Pilot Institute?
The website has its own reviews section (link) with a collection of 11,375 reviews as compiled by Trustpilot. By the way, Trustpilot is a third-party service for general reviews.
Of the 11,375 reviews, Pilot Institute has amassed a score of 4.9/5. That’s not perfect, but it’s darn near close.
With both positive and negative reviews, Pilot Institute staff members will respond. The team is especially willing to work with those who left negative reviews to assuage the situation and help the paying user get the most of their Pilot Institute experience (well, if they paid for a lesson at all, that is).
Admittedly, on Pilot Institute’s website, you see mostly sterling five-star reviews. The only less-than-perfect review is one for three stars, and that’s not bad.
If you’d rather read some negative reviews and then work your way up to the positive ones, here (link) is Trustpilot’s page for Pilot Institute reviews, which you can access from the Pilot Institute website. You just have to click the name Trustpilot.
Is Pilot Institute worth it?
Okay, now it’s time to address that question that we’re sure we’ve had lingering in the back of your mind the whole time you’ve been reading this. Is Pilot Institute a good online drone flight school?
The answer is undoubtedly, yes, it is. Pilot Institute has the credentials through their talented team of FAA drone pilots as well as airline pilots (remember, they also offer airplane flight courses) and other professionals in these two industries.
The Pilot Institute lessons are divided into short video lessons that focus on fun so the information presented isn’t dry or boring. You’re not just enjoying yourself when watching the video lessons, of course, but you’re learning as well.
To supplement the videos, you can use templates, take practice tests, and even download the free Flashcard app to study whenever you have five minutes. You also gain access to online study groups as well as one-on-one instructor support if you need it.
If you’re worried about the cost, Pilot Institute is one of the best online ground schools out there in terms of bang for your buck. Many of the courses are free, especially those that are centered around specific drone models such as from Parrot or DJI.
The courses that aren’t free are affordable, and even the higher-cost courses have a price commensurate with the information you’re receiving. Plus, Pilot Institute sometimes offers sales that can slash the prices considerably.
Whatever you pay to learn at Pilot Institute, remember that the content is yours for life!
Pilot Institute is an online flight instructional resource that offers plane flight and drone flight lessons. You can pick and choose which drone courses you want to take, and some are completely free. The video lessons make it easy to learn at your pace, and you own the material once you enroll in the course.
Whether you’re a complete drone beginner, someone who’s reapplying for a Part 107 drone license, or a new drone business owner, there’s something for you to learn at Pilot Institute.
The federal agency is using new systems to learn more about storm forecasting, greenhouse gases and atmospheric shifts.
You can steer them and you can get them back. In studies involving wind and sustainability, unmanned systems are becoming increasingly prized for their ability to survive dangerous conditions to be used again.
Since 2020, NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has conducted an Unmanned Systems Operations Program to support the rapidly expanding use of these systems across the agency. NOAA continues as a major player in these activities, both through the NOAA Uncrewed Systems Operation Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, which responds to funding requests, and through other units, such as the Severe Storms Laboratory in Oklahoma.
Captain Phil Hall, director of the Uncrewed Systems Operation Center, noted that 2021 was a busy year. “We run an internal peer review grant process and this last year we had 39 proposals” for projects that would involve a NOAA principal investigator and other institutions, such as universities. Hall also promotes grants through NOAA’s SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research Program) that go to small, innovative private companies working to develop uncrewed systems for NOAA research applications.
Many of the projects the center funds contribute to sustainability and use drones to study wind in both its most violent and gentler forms.
The violent interaction involves launching a drone from a manned aircraft into a hurricane, part of NOAA’s ongoing effort to determine how uncrewed technologies can improve forecasting ability. The concept of launching into storms was proven feasible using Raytheon Coyote drones launched from NOAA’s Lockheed WP-3D Orion “Hurricane Hunter” aircraft into major hurricanes Edouard (2014), Maria (2017) and Michael (2018). The Coyote, however, was limited in distance and other capabilities, and a call was sent out through the SBIR program for its replacement.
As reported in Inside Unmanned Systems in January, three potential replacements are on the list: Area-I’s Altius-600, Barron Associates Wingsonde and Black Swift Technologies SO. The Altius-600 has been tested over a field at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland.
“Basically, we flew a couple of missions to test the range and we got record deployment distances of over 150 nautical miles in clear air,” said Dr. Joseph Cione, lead meteorologist, new technologies, of the NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Lab. “We also took some measurements from the payload package for follow-up work.”
Then COVID hit.
“We’re getting back on track now,” Cione continued. “Besides ongoing analysis of the January test flight data, we’d like to solve some issues and be ready for test flights [of all three systems] in early 2022. That’s when we’ll be able to use NOAA’s P3 plane, which is currently busy with winter storms in Alaska. Hopefully we’ll be flying in hurricanes in 2022.”
Endurance has become crucial. Previously, NOAA’s WP-3D would drop expendable sensor packages called dropsondes, which would send back some data for short durations. “What we want to determine is if we could use UAS for a longer time and at very low altitudes within the hurricane’s most violent environment,” Cione said. The longer-duration drone, while still expendable, allows for additional data that the dropsondes are unable to provide.
“Our standard measurements include pressure, temperature, humidity, wind speed and wind direction,” Cione added. “We’re also measuring some things the dropsondes do not, such as sea surface temperature. By 2023, we’d like to also include a laser or radar altimeter that could give us information on ocean wave structure and provide us with finer vertical measurements than GPS alone. We also hope to obtain high resolution turbulence measurements that should lead to improvements within our forecast models.”
Right now, Cione is working with contractors to prepare for the flights. The primary integrator for the sensor packages is the Finnish company Vaisala and the small turbulence probes most likely will be by Black Swift Technologies out of Boulder, Colorado.
GLIDER SPIRALS AND SAMPLES
While the hurricane research looks at the characteristics of wind, other projects examine the content of the air itself. They can go to some unusual lengths to do that, such as dropping an unmanned glider from a balloon.
Sampling of greenhouse gases can be important tools as scientists work to sustain the atmosphere; use of weather balloons has been an important tool in that effort. Yet, “we throw away the instruments every time we launch a balloon,” said Dr. Colm Sweeney, of the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratories Aircraft Program. “We’re also limited in the quality of measurement we can get with disposable instruments. That’s what pushed us into developing a glider system.”
Sweeney is the principal investigator on that system—the High-Altitude Operational Returning Uncrewed System (HORUS) glider project, a new technology for high altitude air sampling and instrument recovery.
The system was flight tested last May at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
HORUS, named after an Egyptian god whose name translates to “he who is above,” is a custom glider with portable fixed wings spanning six feet that carries an AirCore sampling system. The “high altitude” part comes because it’s launched from a standard weather balloon, rising to a height of up to 90,000 feet. Once the balloon pops, the glider can descend for a soft landing, taking measurements along the way. According to NOAA, the glider is the first of its kind capable of returning a 10-pound high-capacity scientific payload and other instruments from the stratosphere.
During the test flight, the balloon carried the HORUS airframe and released it at 75,000 feet. The glider, preprogrammed to a landing spot, spiraled down over it until, at 1,000 feet, a parachute deployed to land it yards from where it took off. In the test, it was also able to work through 60-knot winds it encountered at 40,000 feet.
En route, HORUS was able to collect a “core” of air vertically on its descent, to be measured afterwards for greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.
While the glider is steerable and programmable to a location, it has no propulsion; hence the parachute. In fact, Sweeney said, “The faster it falls, the easier it is to steer.”
Sweeney reported that the concept can be used for many types of wind instruments and that measurements can be taken on the way up as well as down. Wind measurements usually involve use of GPS to determine movement.
Balloons and parachutes operate under a different set of FAA regulations than UAS. When HORUS is flying as a glider, even without propulsion, it may not fall completely under the balloon and parachute regulations. Sweeney said he is in talks with the FAA, discussing a “way to make it work.”
AIR ABOVE THE SEA
Dr. Patricia Quinn, principal investigator of the Atmospheric Chemistry Group of the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, is also looking up.
She examines aerosol particles in the air and has measured black carbon to determine its role in warming the Arctic; its deposits on snow and ice increase melting. “We’re the people who make the measurements that help improve computer simulations and models of our climate,” she said.
“For years we’ve worked off ships,” she said, “and now we’re trying to develop a UAS that can do vertical profiles above the vessels. We want to see what’s happening above as well as at the surface.”
The UAS of choice here is the L3 Latitude LLC FVR-55 with a three-person crew. Latitude, now part of L3Harris, began as a separate company and was the recipient of a NOAA SBIR grant. The hybrid quadrotor takes off from a flight deck constructed on top of two containers on the fantail of a ship.
“Right now, we have two payloads that look at aerosols and we’re working with another recipient of NOAA’s SBIR program on further payload development,” Quinn said.
“We still haven’t used our payloads in an operational sense,” she said, although some test flights have taken off at a military range outside Tucson. “We’ve learned that our payloads are operational and we can go at least to 10,000 feet.”
“We’re hoping that in February or March of 2022 we can go out on a ship and do some vertical profiling.”
3D PRINTER TO 3D WIND
While these projects study wind and the atmosphere in various forms, another NOAA project is taking things to a whole new dimension.
We’re used to thinking of wind measured horizontally—in miles, kilometers or knots per hour. But knowing the vertical dimensions of wind can also be important. This year, at the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory and the Cooperative Institute for Severe and High-Impact Weather Research and Operations (CIWRO, a cooperative agreement between NOAA and the University of Oklahoma), a new algorithm was developed that allowed an unusual drone to deliver 3D wind measurements.
Tom Galarneau, a researcher at CIWRO, observed that “adding the third dimension of measurements provides a view of how the wind is mixing air masses in the atmosphere.” His team uses drones to study the lowest parts of the atmosphere, up to 5,000 feet above the ground. “Using unmanned aircraft helps us fill an observational gap,” he noted.
Early on, his team realized they needed a very specific drone, with an opening to channel the wind toward temperature and humidity sensors inside the drone’s body. In 2018, they created the first 3D-printed Coptersonde—adding helicopter blades and a battery to the printed body. Measurements taken include, Galarneau said, “temperature, humidity and most importantly, wind.”
The ability to measure 3D wind was developed this year when CIWRO researcher Antonio R. Segales Espinosa developed an advanced algorithm that used the drone’s physical movements and forces. “There are no dedicated wind sensors,” Segales Espinosa explained. “Rather, we measure the movement, tilt and thrust of the Coptersonde, which are combined into a dynamic model to provide the 3D wind vector.
“The reason we’re looking at vertical motion of the air is that it can give you an estimate of how the atmosphere is evolving and mixing between its layers. All of these measurements go toward a goal of learning about climate change and sustainability with a higher accuracy and increased awareness using a cost-effective solution,” Espinosa said.
The electronics inside the Coptersonde include temperature sensors made by International Met Systems, humidity sensors by IST AG and a CubePilot Autopilot Board. “The Cube software is open source so we can develop our own algorithms on top of theirs,” Segales Espinoza said.
Both Galarneu and Espinoza stressed the advantages of UAS in their work: reusability, retrievability and the ability to target the location of the desired samples.
As we hopefully head past COVID, NOAA is making sure wind research will continue to break new ground.