Everything you need to know before you fly your new drone

ZZ58769884Congratulations if you were lucky enough to receive a drone for the holidays!

Please be aware:

  • Drones over 1 pound are not toys! Responsible adult supervision is always required.
  • Flying a drone is not as easy as you might have been lead to believe!
  • You can actually injure or even kill someone with it! This is not an exaggeration!
  • You’re extremely likely to crash because of your lack of experience!

The vast majority of drones sold are actually crashed beyond repair within the first 30 days because of PILOT ERROR. Keep in mind that crashes are not covered by any warranty. So, you won’t get your money back or receive an exchange unit no matter how much you complain or argue. However, if you follow these simple simple do’s and don’ts you’re more likely to avoid trouble:


  • Check your drone’s manufacturer’s web site for instruction manual updates and read that updated manual from cover to cover. You really can’t skip this! YouTube videos, quick start guides, or checklists are not enough. Don’t even put the batteries in until you have actually done it at least once.
  • Confirm that your new drone and its controller have had all available firmware updates installed. If it’s from 3DRobotics, also confirm that all the recalled hardware has been replaced with the new versions.
  • Calibrate your drone’s compass EACH TIME before you fly, especially if you changed locations. Failing to do this, or doing it improperly, is the most common cause of “fly-aways” and crashes.
  • Carefully inspect the props and the entire aircraft before each takeoff. Look for cracks in the propellers and any loose or missing screws or parts. Freezing weather greatly increases the likelihood that the props could crack or shear during flight. So avoid fast ascents/descents, hard turns, and other stressing maneuvers and always change the prop at the first sign of damage.
  • Check the current weather forecast, wind conditions, and Planetary KP-Index before each flight. In freezing conditions keep the drone low and closer to you so you can watch for ice buildup on the props.
  • Get some local and experienced help for your first few flights.
  • Join a local club or group and utilize their expertise and experience. I’m an active member of the NNE Drone Users Group. It’s completely free to join and attend our events and we’re always welcoming and happy to help!
  • Join the AMA as a full member so you’ll have their awesome insurance coverage. When joining the AMA, they’ll ask for recruiter details. You may provide the following details:
    Recruiter Name: Steve Mermelstein
    Recruiter AMA #: 544166
  • Find a large, completely open, clear, and empty field, that’s far away from powerlines and people. Walk or drive around it and neighboring properties to confirm your drone will always be at least 2,500 feet away from high tension power lines and 5,000 feet away from cell/microwave towers. Don’t forget to get permission from the property owners.
  • When flying, always keep your drone in your direct line of sight. Yes, they can go real far and high but there’s no point in trying this or seeing this for yourself. You’re just greatly increasing the risk of crashing/losing it.
  • BABY STEPS! Fly it low, slow, and close to you until you’re more experienced at controlling it, landing it, and keeping it from hitting any other objects. One or two flights is not enough experience to do more. Not even 10 is! Unless you want it to end up in a tree, you’ll need considerable practice/experience in order to learn how down/up drafts affect it and so you’re not so easily confused by depth perception.
  • Mentally prepare yourself for costly repairs or a full replacement because a crash is still very likely and inevitable even if you’ve done everything above right and not done anything wrong below.


  • If you haven’t flown any multi-rotor crafts at all, DO NOT fly your new expensive drone without practicing with a simulator and with cheap mini or micro drones. Once you’ve mastered that, you’re finally ready for bigger drones.
  • Don’t drink and fly! Droning is just like driving a car but only more risky as the controls aren’t as reliable or predictable, especially when you’re inexperienced. Actually, when you first start droning you need to treat it like driving at night in freezing rain with old all-season tires through a deer crossing zone. You must be super focused, clear headed, and able to react quickly without any warning.
  • Don’t fly it the first couple times without help from someone who has at least hundreds of hours of flying experience. Doing so is extremely risky and dangerous! I’m happy to come and fly with you (if you’ll pay for my gas.)
  • Don’t take off after your drone has a very solid “GPS lock” (see what the manual recommends for the minimum number of satellites for your drone and add another 2, otherwise you’ll be very sorry!)
  • Don’t fly in fog/misty conditions or when it’s raining or snowing. Never fly when its below zero F. Also avoid freezing temperatures until you’re more experienced.
  • Save yourself embarrassment and distractions. Don’t invite friends with zero flight experience to your first dozen or so flights. At the very least they’ll distract you with stupid questions. At the very best, they’ll be bored after a few minutes and are then likely to pressure you to attempt maneuvers you’re not ready for.
  • Don’t fly it over 50 feet Above Ground Level (AGL) until you’re way more experienced. NEVER exceed 400 feet AGL unless you want a visit from the FAA, can afford fines, and can live with potentially crashing into manned aircraft. This is no joke!
  • Don’t fly it within 5 miles of an airport. Again, don’t toy with it! An airplane could fly into it and suck it into its engines and you’d become the infamous douche responsible for all drones being completely banned!
  • Don’t fly it beyond your line of sight.
  • Don’t fly above or near other people. Just don’t risk it!
  • Don’t fly if the Planetary KP-Index is 4 or higher as you’re likely to loose control of your drone. The “return to home” feature is also unlikely to work under these conditions.
  • Don’t fly if the wind is higher than 10MPH until you’re way more experienced. Also keep in mind that the wind forecast is just for ground level. The higher up, the faster the wind can be moving. 10 MPH at ground level can easily be 25 MPH at 200 feet AGL. Your new drone is most likely not powerful enough to fly against that and you could end up losing it in the wind currents.
  • Don’t fly into valleys or ravines, close to tall trees or buildings, within 2,500 feet of high tension power lines or 5,000 feet of cell/microwave towers as you might have trouble maintaining radio control and GPS lock.