Flying a drone is one of the most enjoyable and magical experiences one can have. You can go quickly from heaven to hell though especially when you lose control of your drone and it flies off into the sunset never to be seen again.
This is known as a “flyaway” the bane of any drone users. The American FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) defines a "flyaway" as “an interruption or loss of the control link, or when the pilot is unable to effect control of the aircraft and, as a result, the UAV is not operating in a predictable or planned manner.”
The Wall Street Journal’s recent study shows that 1 of every 3 drone users surveyed had experienced a flyaway. Sometimes you can chalk this up to manufacturer’s defect if this is the case you might still be able to get a replacement depending on how well you can prove how faulty it is and the policies of the company. For most cases though this is mostly down to user errors. Be it flying it over rough terrain or harsh weather conditions.
Read the Manual
There are a lot of things you can learn, or better yet avoid if you simply read the manual. The best way to avoid a flyway is simply to know and understand first how your drone works and how to properly fly it. Take the time to read through your manual first before you even begin to think about flying.
In most cases of flyways, you either lose you drone or find your drone at a state where it would cost more to have it repaired. That’s money wasted and sway most drone pilots to quit flying altogether. The eagerness of most people to just get to flying leads to making avoidable mistakes if they had only just practiced a bit more and get more acquainted with drone flying.
It is highly suggested that new flyers start with microdrones first before moving onto the more heavy duty drones. Microdrones are a good way to learn and become better pilots for one they’re way cheaper than the more high-end drones. You’ll find that you’re able to practice in a more controlled environment because of the small size of these drones.
Lastly, because these drones don’t usually have the bells and whistles of the more advanced drones you're forced to really learn how to find the right balance to fly them effectively. Flying a Micro drone is like learning to drive a manual car before going on to an automatic. It builds better hard skills and an understanding of how to fly a drone.
Find a Safe Space
Though drones are often associated with the outdoors, flying through the open skies and the freedom this entails, you’d want to first start learning how to fly your drone indoors. It’s best to practice inside first, gradually making your way outside.
You can start at a nice open area, void of objects your drone might crash into. From there, when you’ve got the hang of flying your drone already, you can add little obstacles for you to practice maneuvering around. Once you're confident with your flying, and you’ve taken a good amount of time practicing, you can begin moving into unknown territory.
Watch out for the Weather
No matter how ready you might be or how skilled you already are with flying your drone, under no circumstance should you fly your drone in harsh weather. Yes, there are some drones which can weather the storm if you will, but it’s not advisable to do so with your regular drones.
Be it thunderstorms to strong winds, all these could have an adverse effect on your drone and you risk being unable to control your drone in these situations. A number of flyaways or lost drones are due to people flying their drones in risky conditions.
Don’t lose Sight
It is paramount that you don’t lose sight of your drone. Despite the labels giving a maximum distance you always want to keep within your line of sight. Of course, drones with live streaming or VR goggles are a whole different story but it would still be quite helpful if you had a friend watching out for your drone.
Losing sight can cause mistaking the orientation of your drone, which usually leads to loss, or your remote controller being unresponsive due to interference as it will be too far away from you to control. Overall it’s best to know the position of your drone at all times.
Calibrate, Calibrate, Calibrate
What good would your skills do you, if your drone is not calibrated properly? An uncalibrated drone sometimes takes a life of its own. Veering off into the opposite direction that you input. It’s just good practice to calibrate it always before you fly, just to make sure everything is in working order and to ensure stable flight.
Pay attention to the lights
It is very important to always to keep an eye out for the lights. This is the way your drone communicates to you if you will, by paying attention to these tells, you can figure out many things. Which way is forwards and which way is backward, the battery level, is your remote still synced with your drone, and a host of other things.
By understanding what light signals mean and reacting to the message your drone is giving you crashes and flyaways could be avoided. This is especially true with regard to when the drone is telling you that the battery is almost out.
In most cases the drone will be less responsive when it’s close to empty and when it’s completely out you will lose connection with your drone it will follow the last command that it was given or it will simply power off and crash. Ideally, you want to avoid both scenarios.
Given the amount of interference one can find in bustling metropolises, you’d be hard-pressed to find a place that doesn’t have some sort of radio wave or interfering signals. In most cases, this shouldn’t an effect. There are exceptions though, you must never fly your drone near high voltage power lines, and cell/radio towers.
Learn from your Mistakes
Given that everyone tends to have a story or has experienced a flyaway in their drone flying lifetime it won’t be surprising if it happens to you too. When it does happen all you can do is take a deep breath, hope that it’s under warranty, and learn from the experience. By learning from your, and others past actions you can reasonably avoid any flyaways that are due to user errors.
There will always be the occasional malfunctioning drone which is due to the fault of the manufacturers. In these cases, the company, as long as it is still within its warranty period, can replace your drone. With more and more companies being customer oriented and ready with an excellent customer service team, getting that replacement shouldn’t be too hard.
As companies race to develop more innovations and continue their research on how to prevent flyways from happening, it is still important to remain pragmatic and practice caution. Stay level-headed, be humble and know that It’s the little things that separate a good and lasting drone experience and you flushing your time and money down the drain.