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Old November 19th, 2015, 10:10 AM   #1
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Drones - How Difficult to Learn to Fly?

I've just been asked by a potential client if I have a drone. Well I don't, and have never flown one.

I kind of presumed the learning curve would be very steep, and that a decent operator would need years of experience (like good camera work).

What do you all think? With the new technology can you pick up and learn relatively easily, or is it like I say above?

If it makes any difference, I'm in Guatemala where regulations either don't exist, or are not enforced (it would be flying in the mountains in any case).

Many thanks!
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Old November 19th, 2015, 10:17 AM   #2
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Re: Drones - How Difficult to Learn to Fly?

Easy to fly in GPS mode. Most people can't fly in Atti mode which means it will hold the vertical height but will drift with the wind and sto stop motion in one direction you need to move the control sticks the oppositie direction.

I flew my DJI Phantom 3 Professional right out of the box and got great footage. But I spend time on both the simulator as well as going out to an open field and flying in Atti mode in case something ever goes worng I know how to control the UAV.

In GPS mode when you let go of the controls the UAV just stops. Headed for a tree, let go of the contriols and let it stop before you make the wrong move on the sticks and crash it.

Also the rember that the controls are reversed depeing on if the front of the crast is pointing towards you or away from you.

Practice a lot with the nose coming towards you so you understand that to move the craft left you have to tell it to go right.
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Old November 19th, 2015, 12:41 PM   #3
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Re: Drones - How Difficult to Learn to Fly?

Like anything, it's easy to learn and forever to master. Most of the stuff you see on Vimeo you can re-create in a few minutes. Static objects are easy to shoot. Shooting something that's moving from the drone is very difficult, much more than it would seem.
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Old November 19th, 2015, 12:44 PM   #4
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Re: Drones - How Difficult to Learn to Fly?

How hard it is kind of depends on what you want to do with it.

For simple shots like fly bys of locations, establishing shots, I've found it to be pretty easy over all.

More complex shots will, of course, require more practice.

There is software to do a lot of the work for you, if you'd like. On a tablet, I can program in a flight sequence, and have the drone fly, say, in a circle, always facing the subject I want to film.
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Old November 19th, 2015, 01:17 PM   #5
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Re: Drones - How Difficult to Learn to Fly?

Another piece of advice is to have a spotter with you. Once you learn how to fly well you'll be spending more time watching your video feed coming from your UAV's camera and not see that as you're moving around for a shot you're about to crash into a tree.

If it's simple stuff like filming a tallgrass prairie fire I'll go out on my own because I can watch the UAV as I keep an eye on my video feed.

If I'm flying to keep something in frame I want to have a spotter to tell me of any obstacles in my flight path.
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Old November 19th, 2015, 10:48 PM   #6
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Re: Drones - How Difficult to Learn to Fly?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Watson View Post
Like anything, it's easy to learn and forever to master. Most of the stuff you see on Vimeo you can re-create in a few minutes. Static objects are easy to shoot. Shooting something that's moving from the drone is very difficult, much more than it would seem.
I'd agree with that statement.

I'm a year and a half in with this flying game and still learning everytime I go out. I'm now qualified to fly a UAV professionally with a PFAW certificate from the CAA but still find it a challenging, but very rewarding, proposition. It's not just the flying, its looking after the batteries, keeping abreast of obligatory firmware updates and then the biggest challenge of all, the weather.

And its a money pit!

Go for it!
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Old November 19th, 2015, 11:33 PM   #7
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Re: Drones - How Difficult to Learn to Fly?

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Originally Posted by Mark Dobson View Post
I'm a year and a half in with this flying game and still learning everytime I go out.
When people ask if it's hard and if I'm any good, I say... I fly 2-3 batteries worth every week. I've been flying for a year and a half. That works out to about an hour a week for a year and a half. That's about 75 hours in the air. Think back to when you were 16 and you'd just gotten your drivers license. A couple of months later you probably had 75 hours behind the wheel. I'm about as good of a pilot today as you were a driver when you were 16 and two months.
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Old November 20th, 2015, 08:22 PM   #8
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Re: Drones - How Difficult to Learn to Fly?

All good advice.

Go slow and keep in mind the further into the wilderness you go the more likely you are to turn the drone into a paperweight if you crash it.

If your thinking about a Phantom3 and if you take it slow, fly in open spaces, out of easy to launch and recover areas, focus on your flying and except what you get from the photography it can be a rewarding experience.

But if you fly in restrictive localities, under trees, between buildings, close to people and focus more on the photography than the flying things can get out of hand pretty quickly. If its a hard landing and all you have to change are props then you might survive to shoot another day, Phantom3's are pretty robust. However there's much more that goes into a rewarding experience than just the flying, the camera, knowing when to upgrade and not upgrade firmware, most the the third party applications that use waypoints to navigate a path require an internet connection so they might not be helpful.

You can get one of these, start flying and its pretty easy to get a sense of whether its worth the additional effort to use it. Its a considerable amount of extra effort to use drones for aerial if you don't know what your doing. I've seen quite a few producers who's first concern is principle photography take a drone to a location and never take it out of the case. Also its one thing to fly when your alone, its quite another to fly when others are watching.

Its easy for me to say its worth it, using a Phantom is literally child's play when you know what your doing, its horrifying when you don't. But good aerial can be so compelling, it can really differentiate your work but only you know the level of work you do and can decide if its worth the extra effort.

Is there anyone in your area that is already shooting aerial? Hire them to train you a bit or at the very least hire them to shoot some aerial for you to see if you can get a sense on how difficult you think it is. Again its also easier for me because I have any number of resources to get me back in the air if something goes wrong.
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Old November 20th, 2015, 08:38 PM   #9
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Re: Drones - How Difficult to Learn to Fly?

All great advice thank you. If I were to hire someone to shoot some material (say a full day trip to location, including some flying) how much might it cost? I imagine they would be reasonably new to it ... Don't think the market here could keep anyone too busy ...
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Old November 20th, 2015, 11:32 PM   #10
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Re: Drones - How Difficult to Learn to Fly?

It depends on the equipment they're using for the aerial. If there flying a Red Epic/Dragon then they're not using a Phantom, probably a custom MR and they can charge as much as $4000 to $6000 per day.

That's probably not what we're talking about here. A Phantom3Pro can shoot UHD (4K) and with some post color correction you can create some fairly nice HD. I'm sure prices are all over the map (literally). I've seen guys here in Los Angeles charge from $500 to $1000 a day for P3Pro and I'd guess they only fly two or three batteries in that amount of time.

Are there RC clubs around. Like I said earlier, if your around someone flying a Phantom for a day and you pay attention to all that they're doing you'll get a good sense if this is something you want to try.

Flying drones is not that difficult, it can be complicated but like anything else becomes much easier with practice. Probably one of the reasons people have a bad experience with aerial drone photography is that its actually quite easy to get into the air and start showing pretty decent results, trouble is those same people often get overconfident fly a little more aggressively or in confined spaces and when the drone does something they didn't expect they have no idea how to recover, they over react and bad things happen.
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Old November 21st, 2015, 04:56 AM   #11
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Re: Drones - How Difficult to Learn to Fly?

Newer drones like the Phantom 3 are very easy to fly, but only in ideal conditions. It becomes difficult when something goes wrong. You need to instinctively know exactly what to do to get out of a sticky situation (flying too close to a tree, human, animal, building, etc). IMO you need many hours on a flight simulator to get a good feel for how the controls work before you can safely fly a drone. Anyone that says you can pick up a drone and fly it with zero experience is wrong.
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Old November 21st, 2015, 02:52 PM   #12
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Re: Drones - How Difficult to Learn to Fly?

Sorry, I disagree. The Phantom3 is about as basic a drone as you can get. If this were an RC helicopter then I would agree about the simulator but if you don't have one this is about as beginner as it gets.

Like I said previously, take it slow, give yourself lots of space and begin by focusing on the flying and emergency procedures and after three or four batteries you should have the basic flight controls figured out. That's not to say your ready to do complicated aerial photography but you can do slow reveals and slow moving elevated shots etc..

The only way to get competent with a drone is by flying it. Be smart, choose locations where you can practice simple things like take off from one spot and land in another 10 times, Fly towards an object 50 feet away and land five feet from it and then walk up to discover if its where you thought it would be in relation to the object, fly a circle tail in, then orbit the circle keeping your point of interest in the center. And do all of that, and more, in an area that when you crash the only thing you will damage is your ego and P3.

Don't be intimidated, P3's are really about as easy as it gets, take it slow give yourself lots of space and did I mention take your time.
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Old November 21st, 2015, 08:32 PM   #13
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Re: Drones - How Difficult to Learn to Fly?

I agree with Chuck. Start in an open field with nothing around. Upgrade to a field with a tree or two, or an (empty) school yard. You'll get in a few hairy situations as you get braver, and hopefully learn to recover before you crash. This will eventually prove valuable.

If you see these videos of folks flying their drone a half mile from them, don't try and do that. It's how people crash. Fly the thing line-of site. If you want to shoot something a hundred yards down the road, land, carry the quad down the road, and fly from there.
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Old November 21st, 2015, 09:15 PM   #14
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Re: Drones - How Difficult to Learn to Fly?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chuck Spaulding View Post
Sorry, I disagree. The Phantom3 is about as basic a drone as you can get. If this were an RC helicopter then I would agree about the simulator but if you don't have one this is about as beginner as it gets.

Like I said previously, take it slow, give yourself lots of space and begin by focusing on the flying and emergency procedures and after three or four batteries you should have the basic flight controls figured out. That's not to say your ready to do complicated aerial photography but you can do slow reveals and slow moving elevated shots etc..

The only way to get competent with a drone is by flying it. Be smart, choose locations where you can practice simple things like take off from one spot and land in another 10 times, Fly towards an object 50 feet away and land five feet from it and then walk up to discover if its where you thought it would be in relation to the object, fly a circle tail in, then orbit the circle keeping your point of interest in the center. And do all of that, and more, in an area that when you crash the only thing you will damage is your ego and P3.

Don't be intimidated, P3's are really about as easy as it gets, take it slow give yourself lots of space and did I mention take your time.
Fair enough. I stick to my comments though. I think new pilot's SHOULD be intimidated. You can easily cause injury or harm with these things if they're not treated with respect. New pilots need to know the rules, and have some sim time before flight. Heck even the iOS DJI Go app has a built-in simulator - it's not a big task to use it for a few hours before flying.

I'm not disagreeing that the Phantom is incredibly easy to fly - but it's when something goes wrong that new pilots will often make the wrong decision (i.e. make incorrect controller inputs) and fly into something instead of away from it.
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Old November 22nd, 2015, 03:13 AM   #15
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Re: Drones - How Difficult to Learn to Fly?

I decided this would NOT be something I would put money into, after watching a friend and sometimes competitor assemble his new investment on a huge, empty beach, and then crash it twenty second into it's maiden flight into the only lump of concrete in miles! He's now on his fourth drone, has done his CAA pilots courses, and still has made very little money in real terms. When I need an aerial shot, I pay him, and it's much more cost effective.
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