Drones are fun, useful, and powerful. You can learn a lot about flying drones and taking drone photos and videos by getting an adult to help you understand the details below.
- Keep your fingers away from the blades.
- Don’t start the drone on concrete or near metal as this can interfere with the drone’s controls.
- Make sure you can always see the drone at all times.
- Know how long you can fly before your battery runs out.
- Don’t fly over people or traffic.
- Fly at a safe altitude for the area you’re in, never fly higher than 400 feet or 120 meters.
- Don’t fly behind buildings, trees, or bridges – they can interfere with your drone’s control signal.
- Be aware of the wind – some drones will drift in strong winds.
- Don’t fly near airports and stay away from low-flying airplanes and helicopters.
- Store and charge batteries in a safe place, based on what the drone manufacturer recommends.
- Learn about drone rules and regulations in your country, state, and city (see below).
LEARNING TO FLY
- Have an adult help you out as you learn to fly.
- Practice in wide open spaces while you are learning, and practice often.
- Get good at flying low and slow at first.
- Get good at flying with your eyes first, then start using the drone’s camera view as well.
- Practice all basic directions – first slow, then faster:
- Left, Right
- Forward, Back
- Up, Down
- Rotate Left, Rotate Right
- Practice flying in a circle.
- Practice flying two directions at once.
- Know what happens when you let go of the control sticks.
- Be sure you have good control of the drone before taking photos or videos.
- Practice landing slowly and safely.
DRONE PHOTO TIPS
- Learn about your drone camera features (read the manual, or look online for training videos).
- Learn how to control exposure (how light or dark your photos are).
- If your camera has “auto” exposure, this should be a good setting for most photos.
- Have one main subject in the photo.
- Try taking photos during the “golden hour” – 1 hour before sunset or 1 hour after sunrise.
- Respect privacy when taking photos or videos.
DRONE VIDEO TIPS
- For videos, set your camera to a “manual” setting if possible and adjust exposure as needed.
- If your camera has “auto” exposure, do not use it for videos.
- Your videos will look best when you learn how to fly smoothly.
- Most videos look best when flying slowly.
- Take short videos of one subject: a pond, a person, a group of trees, the sunset, a mountain…
THE RIGHT DRONE FOR YOU
Drones come in all sizes, from small, lightweight mini drones to very large drones used in motion pictures. If you’re just starting out with drones, we recommend you buy an inexpensive one to see if you like it.
- Mini Drones: $10 – $100; many don’t have a camera; flying controls are manual; good for finding out if drones are right for you.
- Selfie Drones: $100 – $400; all have cameras; are designed to let you easily take photos and videos of yourself and friends.
- Racing Drones: $200 and up; include low to medium resolution cameras; primarily for racing and ‘trick’ flying; can go extremely fast; takes a lot of practice (and usually crashes) to get good at racing.
- Consumer Drones: $75 – $500; most have medium resolution HD cameras; easier to fly than Mini drones; some have automated flying and features; good for starting out if you want to take drone photos and videos.
- Professional Drones: $900 – $3000; most have 4K high resolution cameras; usually easier to fly since the flying controls are helped by GPS satellites; include automated flying, obstacle avoidance, and camera features.
- High End Professional Drones: $3000 and up; have 4K – 8K high resolution cameras; used for motion pictures, construction, agriculture, inspection, etc.; takes a good while to learn to fly these safely.
A DRONE BY ANY OTHER NAME
By the way, you may see drones also referred to as UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems), sUAS (Small Unmanned Aerial Systems), UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), or something similar. These are the more formal names, but they are all talking about drones.
DRONE FLYING RULES / NATIONAL AIRSPACE
Each country has its own group that oversees its airspace. One of their primary goals is to ensure that airspace for their country is safe for aircraft that carry people (planes and helicopters). To accomplish this, these groups create rules on who and what can fly, and under which conditions. Since drones can potentially fly high enough to be a risk to planes and helicopters, they must adhere to these rules.
You should learn about drone rules and regulations in your country, and follow them every time you fly. Here are some common websites that may help you:
- United States – FAA: https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/
- Canada – CAA: https://www.tc.gc.ca/en/services/aviation/drone-safety.html
- Australia – CASA: https://www.casa.gov.au/drones
- United Kingdom – CAA: https://www.caa.co.uk/Consumers/Unmanned-aircraft-and-drones/
You can find a list of aviation authorities that regulate airspace and drones in a number of countries here: https://www.faa.gov/aircraft/air_cert/international/bilateral_agreements/link_intl_sites/civil_avi_auth/