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Drone training in the United States: What you need to know and where to learn

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More than a million Americans are now registered consumer drone owners (and there are presumably significantly more people who are unregistered).

How many of those million plus people have ever completed or even watched any drone training? Not many, I’d wager. Most drone owners, whether fresh or experienced, will never seek any training to learn about how to properly operate their drone, let alone read guidelines about following local or national aviation rules.

While we have not conducted any surveys while researching this story – my bro science sense is that most new owners buy their drone and experiment with flying through trial and error. This approach can be perfectly fine but it can also lead to destroyed drones and getting into trouble with authorities.

Thinking about this topic led me to a couple of questions: firstly – what sort of skills would people want to learn related to drones? Secondly, what options are available for those who do want to train?

Do you actually need training?

Flying a drone may at first seem like a straightforward activity: after all, isn’t it just a case of picking up the controller and going for it?

While most consumer drones have built-in software to make operating the drones somewhat idiot-proof, it still takes a bit of learning to operate it consistently and in different types of weather. Similarly, despite many drones having programs such as Active Track (which makes the drone follow a preset route or pattern of flight), things can and do often go wrong. You need to know the sorts of things to look out for and how to react when different circumstances do arise.

That sickening feeling of crashing your new toy – Screen grab from HighSidedFilms channel on YouTube.

Although it may seem easy – the fact that there is a group on Facebook with more than 30,000 followers simply called Drones Crashing gives you an idea of how many accidents regularly happen. Many of the people featured in the videos posted to this group are UAV newbies. They excitedly pull their new toy out of its package, pumped to take their drone for it very first flight.

Perhaps unsurprisingly these videos frequently conclude with the new pilot looking dejected, nursing the broken wreckage of their drone – having managed to crash it within minutes (or even seconds) of first taking off. In addition to the crash reels, some videos in the group simply feature people doing stupid, illegal stuff. We regularly see people flying their drones in controlled airspace or near airports (don’t do this!). YouTube has even more video of this nature. There are hundreds of clips with titles like “I crashed my brand new drone” or “How to Waste $3000 (Drone Crash)”. Perhaps drone operation isn’t as simple as it initially seems after all.

Cool YouTube videos for first-time drone pilots

Below I’ve compiled a couple of clips that give first-time drone pilots useful information tp get started. The first clip that goes over the basic controls for the first time flyer. Note: They test the drone in a wide-open space, not in their house or apartment (where there are far more things to crash into).

The second video’s title explains precisely what it’s about.

The third video takes the viewer through some of the key skills that a beginner should master when they first get a drone.

A video about drone regulations in the United States as of 2018

Not exactly a topic to get your heart racing but important to know nevertheless. This video very quickly summarizes the main FAA regulations necessary to be aware of before flying your drone.

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