Tips For New Pilots

This page gives some advice on initial flying strategies for those with limited or no previous experience flying RC aircraft or multicopters.

First flight

Place the copter on level ground and connect the battery — do not move the copter until gyroscope calibration is completed (LED’s flashing red and blue). Ensure that your RC mode toggle switch is in Stabilize mode. Slowly raise the throttle until the copter just lifts off the ground.

If it seems like it’s going to flip or otherwise isn’t lifting straight up it is possible that you’ve set the wrong +/x orientation, hooked up your motors in the wrong order or have the prop direction or pusher/puller order wrong. You can test this by following the instructions in Testing motor spin directions.

If any of the controls are reversed (pitch or roll are backwards, meaning the copter moves in the opposite direction as your stick), you’ll need to reverse the affected channel at your RC transmitter side. Please see your RC transmitter’s manual if you’re not familiar with the process. It’s a good idea to re-do your RC calibration in the Mission Planner after you’ve reversed a channel.

If it lifts off smoothly, you may see a little yaw. That shouldn’t be more than about 30 degrees and will correct itself with more flying time. There should be no pronounced wobble (if there is, you may have an unbalanced prop or out-of-true motor).

The copter should also tend to stay in place, and you shouldn’t have to fight strong tendencies to move left or right or forward or back. If you do see that behavior, do NOT use your RC trims to correct (this just throws off the calibration). Instead, it probably means that the copter may not have been completely flat during calibration or the airframe is out of true (one motor tilted). Land and correct that.

If you’re having trouble and the copter is not hovering smoothly, run through the troubleshooting guide.

Assuming that all is fine so far, you’re ready for more advanced modes, such as Alt Hold and Loiter.

Tips for your first flights

  • Make sure you are in a wind free environment. (Wind will play against you on in air auto trim.)
  • Make sure you have no trim on your Radio. (The APM is what we want to trim, the radio should never get trimmed.)
  • Hold the copter still and level after connecting the battery to allow the gyroscopes to initialize.
  • Get above ground effect, around 3-4 feet is enough on most models.
  • Make sure to practice a lot before you actually try the auto trim to find the sweet spot on the Radio right stick to have the copter super stable and not moving. (This is where wind affect your inputs.)
  • We recommend not starting in Simple mode. Begin your flying in the basic Stabilize mode.
  • Copter establishes its home position at the time of arming, so arm your copter in the location you wish to designate as the home position.

Warning about low batteries

When flying Copter, you need to keep in mind that it flies much differently than a winged airplane. In an airplane, lift is generated by the wing and you still have control surfaces for maneuvering if the motor were to stop. Multicopters generate lift solely from the thrust of the motors, so if your battery is excessively depleted, you have no lift and no control over your Copter, and it may flip over and crash without a gradual warning. During first flights, fly only short durations until you know your battery consumption and use one of the following batteries monitoring methods to ensure that you always have enough power remaining to safely land your copter (and not ruin the battery).

  • The APM 2.5 power module and PX4 have Battery voltage monitoring built in. For more information, visit the 3DR Power Module for Measuring Voltage and Current page.

  • You may also program your ESCs to use a slow or no cutoff at low voltages.

  • For APM 2 or 2.5 without power module it is HIGHLY recommended you install a Battery Voltage Monitor.

    • For 3S LiPo batteries, the two wires can be soldered to the P-PCB directly, or you can connect to the balancing plug of your battery.

    • The battery voltage monitor linked above has a buzzer and LEDs that function as follows:

      Voltage LED Buzzer
      11.0v Solid Blue Off
      10.0v - 11.0v Flashing Blue Off
      9.8v - 10.0v Solid Red Off
      9.8v Flashing Red On

Note

If you are using a battery monitor, always connect the main LiPo battery wire before connecting the balancing port wire to the APM.