I did it. I went out and bought a remote control drone. The flying sort.
I had some trepidation, as did my wife, as a few years ago I had gotten into flying model aircraft and after a spectacular crash, got out again, deeming it too expensive and needing far more skill than I had. Would this time be any different or would it be another few hundred pounds down the drain?
I bought a cheap drone – just 12 inches across, with a camera that did not transmit a live picture and so, for the princely sum of £60, I could be airborne again.
The remote control looked familiar and appeared to do similar things to my old aircraft controller. The drone looked quite flimsy but needed minimal assembly with the enclosed tools to make it totally airworthy. The battery looked minuscule but at 500mA was rated to keep me in the air for 5 minutes at a time.
Battery charging is done through a computer USB port (lead provided) and takes about 2 hours. First lesson – if you want to fly a lot, get more batteries. They’re about £2 each on Amazon with a multi-port charger, so not too bad.
This is not a hobby for the impatient!
So fully charged up and AA batteries obtained for the remote control, I switched it on and as per the instructions, put the throttle all the way forwards then all the way bake to tie the controller to the drone. The props started spinning, lights were flashing then steady and it was ready to go.
The first thing that strikes you when you start flying is how skitterish the thing is. There is a sequence to learn when it comes to flying a drone. Forwards and backwards seem simple enough but you also have left and right slewing as well as clockwise and anti-clockwise spot turns.
As recommended in a video I found on YouTube, I spent the first battery-load at low-level, trying to keep the altitude even and learning that the drone flies in relation to its own forward, not mine. If you see 2 red lights, it’s facing you and 2 green lights it’s facing away.
Keeping an even altitude proved quite difficult and I had a few heavy-ish landings but nothing that dented the drone or my pride. I did think though, that by the time my 5 minutes was up (all 4 lights go from steady to flashing to give you enough time to find space to land) that I was beginning to get the hang of it.
I must say here that I am lucky enough to have access to a large enough area that I can do my flying indoors. This is not a living room flying machine and I understand that anything above a light breeze can make outdoor flying quite tricky.
I am now going through my 2-hour wait for the battery to charge (a 5 day wait for the extra batteries to arrive). But I’m all fired up and eager to fly again.
I now really appreciate the drone footage I’ve seen on TV. I realise that professional quality drones are a lot heavier, have GPS stabilisation and probably many other mod-cons that make them easier to fly. They still need a skilled operator though and I will be practising hard so I can justify something a bit flashier for my next acquisition.