Whether flying line of sight or with an onboard camera and video goggles for the first person view experience, drone flying is great fun. We will be focussing on FPV drone flying, but a lot of the same principles apply if you are flying line of sight as well. If you’re just starting out you will probably be flying line of sight or high and slow through FPV, getting used to the feel of the quad and the effect of your stick inputs. This feel for your quad is very important and you should be confident about flying low and precisely before moving onto the more advanced flying that we will be discussing.
The best way we have found to get this experience is to start off slowly and flying low, your improvement will be slow if you spend the whole time retrieving crashed drones or repairing them! Time in the air and familiarity with how your drone reacts is the most important aspect in improving. Flying slowly will give you more time to react, to avoid crashing into trees or other obstacles. Flying low will help with throttle control, which becomes more important with the advanced flying we will be moving onto and also means that when you crash, it is from a lower height and will cause less damage. Again, less time making repairs = more time in the air! It’s important to practice using the “acro” or “rate” mode, whereby you have full manual control with no auto-levelling enabled, as this is what we will be using when performing tricks.
Once you are comfortable flying low and precisely, able to manage your throttle and navigate around trees avoiding branches, it’s time to head back in and play with the settings on your flight controller!
Whilst it is possible to carry out advanced maneuvers using only the “acro” or “rate” mode, it is a lot easier when using something called air mode. Understanding how your drone works and how the flight controller reacts when in different modes will enable you to get the most out of it, so a quick lesson. Under normal circumstances, if your throttle is set to zero you will have no control over pitch, roll and yaw because all motors have been told to go to zero/minimum throttle. Most maneuvers rely on having control over your drone, but at the same time not accelerating towards the ground! To do this we use something called air mode.
What air mode allows you to do when switched on, is provide full control over pitch, roll and yaw, even if throttle is set to zero. It is recommended that air mode is linked to a switch so that it can be turned on and off, as the downside to air mode is that when landing it will likely cause your drone to flip and could cause damage. If you cannot see an option for air mode you may need to update your flight controller firmware. We use (and recommend) Betaflight, but air mode is also now available in Cleanflight and both are compatible with a very wide variety of flight control boards.
We will start with a roll, which is probably the simplest to pull off because you can always see the horizon.
Tips & Tricks:
The principles of carrying out a roll are the same for the majority of tricks, so it’s worth practicing and getting it right. To begin with we recommend carrying out any tricks for the first time nice and high, so that you have a bit more time to correct for any mistakes and can avoid crashing. We break each trick into three stages:
As you won’t normally be flying this high and probably want to be doing flips around obstacles, you’ll need to gain some height and ideally have some vertical momentum to carry through the trick. This can be achieved by briefly punching the throttle (1-2s at most) and then cutting the throttle to zero.
The maneuver itself:
The throttle should be kept at zero throughout, or the drone will be accelerating towards the ground while you are upside down, undoing the benefit of the punch out. Once you have the throttle at zero (as soon after as possible) you need to carry out the maneuver quickly and then level out. For a roll only a simple roll input is required.It’s best to flick the stick all the way over to achieve the highest roll speed possible and reduce the amount of time you are in the air with zero throttle. When you first start, you may have to roll a bit further, or in the opposite direction if you’ve gone too far. This comes down to practice and having a good feel for your quad. After a while you will find that you can consistently complete a roll and stop close to horizontal.
Once you have completed the trick and are back to level, throttle back up to arrest your fall.
Going through these same steps, you can carry out any number of tricks like flips, spins and combinations such as inverted yaw spins.
It is worth noting that you may need to increase your rates in your flight controller software. If your flips and rolls are very slow, even when pushing the stick to the limit of its movement, then your rates are probably too low. Low rates are great for gentle flying but when you want to carry out an aggressive, snappy maneuver, low rates will limit how quickly you can make the drone flip.
There are more and more new tricks being shown off every month and if you’ve been watching many FPV drone flying videos, then you will know that what we have covered here are the real basics. Having said that, the principles covered here stand for almost any trick, so mastering these basics and combining movements will allow you to create complex tricks and wow your friends.
If you liked this article and would like to see more, let us know! Also let us know if there are any particular tricks you would like to see covered and we will go into step by step detail to get you flying like a pro.