How to Avoid the Most Common Mistakes that Drone Pilots Make

Losing your drone or drone footage is the most common fear that pilots have, and yet, the majority of crashes are pilot errors that can be easily avoided. Drone expert and YouTuber DansTube.TV explains how he’s managed to avoid crashing a single drone in over 12 years of flying.

top-drone-mistakes-diana-macesanu
Photo Credits to Diana Măceşanu   

Since launching his channel in 2009, Dan has evolved from reviewing tech across a number of industries to finding his niche and becoming a leader within the Australian drone industry.

“In 2021 I became Australia’s number one drone YouTuber, putting all my energy into quality drone reviews, comparisons, tips and settings videos, giveaways and more,” says Dan.

Looking back, Dan says the first drone he flew was the Call of Duty: Black Ops drone in 2012. Whilst almost unusable, it got him really excited about drones and sparked a passion that has propelled his career.

“It wasn’t until 2016 that I decided to buy my very own drone. After the announcement of the folding Mavic Pro from DJI, I decided that the technology had reached a point where I could trust it and the price was affordable enough for me to enter the market. I still remember my first flight, I was terrified!”

Since then, Dan has massively grown his channel DansTube.TV, reaching 1.2 million drone enthusiasts in 2021. It was this content that caught the attention of local drone school Ace Aviation where he trained to become a licensed drone operator.

“Since then I have helped other drone schools develop their curriculum, and last year I launched my own ultimate online drone course, Fearless Drone Academy.”

Dan divulges some of his tips to combat the most common mistakes that drone pilots make, and how you can apply them to fail-safe your own drone.

BATTERY CARE

Dan says one of the most important things you can do for your drone is to monitor the health of its battery.

“I recommend taking a photo of your brand new battery and inspecting it for any ruptures in the body, cosmetic damage or battery bulging.”

If the battery doesn’t slot into a drone freely then that may be a sign the battery is damaged.

“If you do notice any significant damage to the body of the battery or the battery bulging, then you need to replace it immediately and take it to a drone repair shop for further inspection,” he says.

So how can you prevent this damage in the first place? Dan says using battery safe bags, storing your drone in a cool, dark place out of sunlight and avoiding third party chargers/battery hubs can help prolong battery life.

WIND DIRECTION

A common mistake that drone pilots make is not accounting for wind direction. We’ve all heard countless stories of pilots flying too far away, and then having to compete with the wind to fly back before the battery dies.

Dan recommends pilots download apps such as “Wind Compass” which will help you identify wind speed, gust speed and wind direction.

“In general I would recommend not flying on extremely windy days, flying close by if it is windy and testing how quickly you can return back to the take-off point.”

As battery life starts to dwindle, the drone will try to return automatically at the predetermined Return To Home (RTH) setting, usually at 20 or 30%.

“When the battery life starts to dwindle in windy conditions, make sure to fly the drone close to the landing point and set your RTH warning to 30% so you can immediately fly back safely.”

IDENTIFYING AERODROMES / NO-FLY ZONES

Perhaps one of the most crucial things you need to be aware of as a drone pilot is the location of heliports, airports and army bases operating in your local area.

“It is essential that you download a reliable app that can display the no-fly zones and help you discover your airspace,” says Dan.

Whilst DJI drones have geofencing built into the software that limits them from taking off in no-fly zones, there is still a chance that a helicopter or low-flying fixed wing could still be operating in the area.

“If you see any aviation activity in your area then you need to cease operation immediately. I would recommend downloading apps such as AirMap for Drones, Drone Buddy and OpenSky to give you a clear picture of your surroundings.”

“If you get caught flying in prohibited areas or your drone is interfering with aircrafts, you can face large fines and even imprisonment.”

FLY UPWARDS TO AVOID BIRDS

The last thing that drone pilots need when they are trying to focus on capturing the perfect shot is the interference of birds.

“Birds seem to be the arch nemesis of drones, they want to dance around it, attack it and even befriend the drone sometimes,” says Dan.

“One tip that has saved my drone countless times is increasing the altitude of my drone/flying upwards – you will notice that the birds will struggle to match the thrust that your drone can produce.”

“If you decrease your altitude then the birds can easily catch your drone. If the birds continue to pester you then it’s probably best to find a new location.”

APPS THAT YOU NEED

It can be overwhelming when you start flying a drone and if you’re struggling to know where to begin, Dan recommends arming yourself with valuable apps that can help you find your way.

“UAV Forecast is a powerful app with a customisable tile layout – easy at a glance information for pilots on the go such as weather forecast, GPS satellites, solar activity, no-fly zones and more.”

“Downloading a Rain Radar app can also stop you from being caught off guard – some weather apps can be unreliable but rain radars normally give you immediate rain information at a glance.”

“I also like to use the Drone Buddy app for up to date drone news, no-fly zones and accurate wind and weather information.”

MOST CRASHES ARE PILOT ERRORS

So, the million dollar question is just how many drones has Dan crashed? Amazingly enough, his answer was none!

“I have a strict routine before I fly my drones and regularly go through a pre-flight checklist which is available for free at Fearless Drone Academy, followed by a risk assessment for each location.”

“Ask yourself questions before each flight: Have you done your pre-flight checklist? Have you scouted out the area? Have you inspected your drone/batteries for any faults or visible damage?”

“Once you take-off, monitor the behaviour of your drone and the responsiveness from the controller. These are easy procedures that not enough drone pilots do. You can avoid crashing your drone in most situations, most crashes are pilot errors and could be avoided.”

DansTube.TV

Drone Pilot

Australia's #1 drone pilot and YouTuber, bringing you the latest drone news, reviews, comparisons and tips. He aims to help people unlock their creative potential with technology through producing high-quality content, unique video experiences and drone courses for beginner drone pilots.

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