First Flights Review
As a new drone pilot, I am slowly building confidence in flying my DJI Mini 3. After my initial surprises at how quiet the drone is and how amazingly stable it is right after launch, I am still experiencing new wonders.
Flying a drone and seeing everything unfolding in real time on the remote control’s monitor continues to amaze me. I have now spend a good amount of time getting familiar with the controls and gradually growing accustomed to the inverse nature of the controls as the drone approaches. It feels natural controlling the drone when it is flying away but the controls are obviously reversed when the drone if flying to me. A little trick I play with my mind is to just think of myself, sitting on the tiny flight deck of the device, and that helps a little bit. But the big ah-ha moment for me was when I realized I could actually put myself into that cockpit by just looking at my screen. When I am watching the screen left is always left and right is always right, no matter if the drone is moving toward me or away from me.
Using the Screen
When I look down at the screen, I see exactly what the drone sees. Steering and navigating becomes natural again regardless of the direction of flight. This can be super helpful if I am momentarily disoriented… just trust the screen. But focusing on the screen brings up another issue. If I am focused on the screen, doesn’t that interfere with the FAA’s regulation to keep the drone in visual line of sight at all times? This is a little dicy for me. I am pretty much a “by the rules” sort of guy and if I lose visual sight of my drone for even a moment, I begin to creep out! I get nervous. For this problem, I have turned to fellow drones operators on YouTube and watch how they are flying their drones. Frankly, I don’t see them spending a lot of time focused on ground based observance of their aircraft; they are more focused on what their camera is seeing. And, to be honest, I have seen a number of videos where the operator surely was completely out of direct visual contact with their craft. Why don’t they seem have the same qualms I have. As I watched them, I realized they had a far different trust in the drone and the controller than I do. Their confidence in their equipment and abilities gives them a bit more lag time in regaining visual sight of the drone.
Trusting the Screen
I am learning this art of trusting the screen. What is true immediately after take-off… the drone just standing still, waiting for commands, is still true when the drone is 196 feet above ground. My feelings of panic when I lose brief sight of the drone, are quelled when I look at the screen, see that the drone is still sending a very calm stable image and just waiting to be told what to do. Since the picture is stable and clear I realize that my brand new drone is not tumbling uncontrollably out of the sky, ready to crash into the pavement… it’s so patient with me. Another survey of the sky and sure enough, there it is… just hovering and waiting. I never let it get too far away… and brings up another issue… separation anxiety!
Altitude and Distance
I live in the Class D Airspace of the MBS Airport. To even fly here, I must get LAANC authorization and DJI Authorization… yes, two different auths. (More on that some other time.) I am only permitted to fly up to 200 feet. I initially, nervously inched the drone up to 196 feet; trying to make sure not to go over the legal limit. The higher the drone got, the more uneasy I became. But once again, as I stop climbing, the drone still just sits there…happy to wait on me and my phobias. After about 4 or 5 times climbing up to that altitude, I am now completely comfortable jumping up there quickly to take a look around. The thing I am not so comfortable with, just yet, is sending the drone more than about 25 yards away from me horizontally. It’s a gray drone and a gray sky and it just gets hard to see. I know… trust the screen. I will continue practicing. I have purchased and use the FireHouse LED strobes during daytime operations and they are a God-send. As a Part 61 Private Pilot, I can’t put enough emphasis on the importance. of aircraft lighting, even during the day, for the advancement of the vital “see and be seen” mantra. I totally recommend strobes. I suppose I need to push the envelope a bit and fly down to the traffic circle and come back.
I Dream of Flying
Let’s end with this. Flying a drone, with a camera attached is the closest thing you can get to actually flying without an airplane. There is an indescribable surreal feeling about it and I actually have dreams about the experience. I think pretty much everyone has those dreams where they can actually lift themselves off the ground without the aid of technology and fly. This is how it feels for me to fly a drone. It feels like I am living in that dream world. As I watch videos on YouTube and gain more knowledge, understanding and wisdom, I know my skill set will improve over time and in fact, is growing quickly already.. Now there is just one horrible problem I have to deal with.
I just discovered FPV flying. Yikes! I’m in real trouble!