Learning to Fly A Quadcopter LOS and almost Losing it!

I am learning to fly the 210mm racing drone that I built this past weekend. It has been a challenging endeavor. My first flight was definitely exciting. I have been using the simulator with the controller I have to “practice” I do fine in the Liftoff Simulator in the level mode just up in the air. When I try to fly around an object or avoid an object that is where I have trouble. I have gotten a bit better but I am supposed to be flying in Acro mode. Which at this point causes me all kinds of problems. I guess I need to explain what the modes are exactly.

What is Acro Mode and Level Mode?

Level Mode is an assisted flight mode where the flight controller always attempts to put the quadcopter in its neutral position when there is no user input. On the other hand, Acro Mode doesn’t level the quadcopter automatically but always requires manual control during flight.

Level Mode has 2 different types: Angle Mode and Horizon Mode

Angle Mode: The sticks on your controller control the tilt angle of the quadcopter. When you stick reaches its max position the quadcopter will stop and hold there as it has reached its max tilt angle allowed. If you release the sticks back to center the quadcopter will come back to level!

Horizon Mode: Similar to Angle mode but horizon mode will allow flips and rolls when the sticks are held at max positions. You can think of this mode as within a range of center it behaves just like Angle mode but once you go past that range out to the end of the range of the sticks the quad will keep rotating on that axis until you release back to center.

What is Acro Mode?

Acro mode allows the pilot to use the sticks to control the quadcopters angular velocity of rotation, not the angle. In other words, your sticks control how fast the quadcopter rotates. This means if you move your pitch stick forward and hold it, the quadcopter will continue to rotate on that axis at a constant rate instead of remaining at an angle like it would be in Angle Mode. If you let go of the stick, the quadcopter will maintain its current angle and will NOT return to level, unless you move your pitch stick to the opposite direction to level out the quadcopter.

I start to have trouble in angle mode when trying to return to a hover position. It seems like I overcorrect back and forth until I am going all over the place. I have gone from flying with thumbs to pinching and that has helped some. Well, really I am doing a hybrid with my left hand.(throttle and Yaw) and full pinch with my right hand. The above explanation should make it easier for you to see what the different modes are and why Acro Mode is more difficult starting out.

Now that I have some terms out of the way I did start out my first flight in Level Mode. I placed the quadcopter out in front of me several yards and up I went. While I was up there I thought “Wonder how fast this thing is at FULL THROTTLE” well I am here to tell you it is FAST. I mean like 60-80 mph type fast. Well needless to say that it was flying away at a high rate of speed. I am watching the thing get smaller and smaller and smaller…..in my head I am thinking wow I am going to need to build another one of these cause this one is going to be lost. I had already decrease the throttle some by then and had kind of leveled off but I was too far away to determine the orientation of the quadcopter. In other words, I could not tell if I was flying away or which direction I was traveling in. I thought about it a few seconds and was like “Ok, it is getting smaller so you have got to be flying away” and I mean at this point it was so tiny I could hardly see it. I then just moved the pitch back to center. Then I moved the yaw left for a couple good bumps. I then pitched forward and gave a little throttle so as not to lose any altitude. It took a couple seconds but it appeared to start getting a bit larger. I think we all shouted “It is getting bigger!!! It is getting bigger!!”. sure enough, it was coming toward us!!! Thank GOD for the calm and sense to get it back! Then just as I was coming back over the trees someone said “start losing altitude” so I began to come down over the trees. Then some else was yelling “just kill it just kill it” so I hit the kill switch and it fell the 10 feet to the ground! Looking back I think I could have managed to fly it back over to us but I was just so happy that it came back from “The dot of Dispair” as I like to call it. It was just a tiny dot off in the distance that is certain. I do have some video of our first flights. My GoPro positioning was not the best so I am not certain how good the footage is but I will post that once I have edited it. I did not capture any of the almost losing it footage but you can hear us and see us react to realizing it is headed for “The dot of Dispair”. I am thinking about making some t-shirts associated with “The Dot of Dispair” on them but we will see.

I now just try to stay close and not get too far away especially since I am a beginner. I am going to continue working on learning to fly LOS first. I am looking forward to FPV I think it might be a bit easier since you can see through the camera the angle of the quadcopter! I might be mistaken but I am hoping it is easier anyway! If anyone that reads this has any suggestions or comments please leave them below.

Next is to learn the other things needed when piloting a drone. The flight controller has software running on it called BetaFlight which has a chrome app that allows you to change lots and lots of settings. It also allows for testing of things like motors and other useful things. If you would also like to learn more about BetaFlight then join us at thelab.ms for a class on BetaFlight. This will be a good place to start out learning about how to configure BetaFlight for a first use so to speak. Pat is going to walk through setting up one of his quadcopters start to finish. This should give a nice well-rounded introduction to BetaFlight and how to configure it on your drone.

May you always return from “The Dot of Dispair”

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