Category Archives: Flying Tips

Planning a Long Range Flight in Litchi

Disclaimer: if you are planning on doing a long range flight with your drone make sure you follow local regulations, such as CAA in the UK.

In this tutorial, I will use waypoint navigation in Litchi app together with its online mission hub for creating waypoint flights. I could, of course, create the whole flight in Litchi app but it’s much more convenient to do so on a PC using Litchi website https://flylitchi.com/hub.

Few things to bear in mind when planning such flight:

  • Make sure it’s no longer than 15 minutes including the flight back, such that at the end of the flight you have at least 30% of battery available. This is in case you have a strong headwind.
  • Use UAV Forecast website or their app to check for weather conditions, especially for the wind direction. You want to begin the flight into the wind so that on the way back you fly with the wind. Use many of the apps available for checking the wind direction in the area you want to fly (such as MyRadar, WINDY or tens of other similar apps).
  • Litchi is capable of completing the mission even if there is no signal from your controller. However, there are some limitations such as it will fly at the last commanded speed and the gimbal pitch will no longer be pointing to the POI.

Registering with Litchi

If you haven’t already got an account with Litchi, go to https://flylitchi.com/hub and create a new account. By doing so all the missions you create on the website can be synced with the mobile app.

Continue reading Planning a Long Range Flight in Litchi

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How Not to Crash Your Drone

  • Don’t use the motor switch off command while the drone is in the air (combination stick command – when you pull both joysticks inwards) . It will turn off the motors and your drone will go down. Even when you have landed the drone don’t use that command either. It’s way too easy to do it incorrectly tipping over the drone (happened to me). Just hold the throttle down for 3 seconds.
  • Use propeller guards. If your drone happens to hit a wall or a tree without the propeller guards one of the the propellers will most likely break off, that will definitely make the drone uncontrollable and it will end up on the ground. With the guards the most likely scenario is that the drone will simply bump into the obstacle without breaking the props and will carry on flying.
  • Don’t fly stupidly low. I’ve seen videos of people flying their drone 1 metre off the ground (3 ft). You are just asking for trouble. Any mistake and your precious drone will hit the ground and somersault most probably damaging the propellers. But the damage could be more serious depending on the speed and the surface it’s flying over. (Water = total loss, grass = damaged props, asphalt = possible damage to the camera)
  • Don’t fly when it’s windy. Even though the drone is extremely good at battling wind there is a limit to everything. Also the higher you fly the higher the wind will probably be. And I’m not aware of any app that takes wind into account when calculating the time remaining (DJI GO or Litchi). So while you might be able to fly away the drone might not be able to return due to high wind.
  • Set the return to home home altitude to 100 metres (330 ft) to make absolutely sure when it comes back it won’t hit anything. Don’t rely on the drone landing itself, unless you’re on a field, return to home function is notorious for being quite inaccurate, the drone could end up landing itself up to 10 metres away from the point it took off. As soon as you can see the drone, take over and land it manually.
  • When you take off let the drone hover at low altitude for about 30 seconds. This will give you a chance to notice any potential issues with the drone (such as a battery malfunction).
  • Fly in GPS mode and avoid ATTI mode, especially in an area with a lot of obstacles.
  • Keep the drone in sight at all times

Functions of Phantom 3 Standard Controller

Return to Home

If you are finished flying and want the drone to land itself from where it took off, you need to activate the return to home function (RTH).

To activate the RTH, quickly toggle the S2 switch back and forth. The controller would then start beeping and the return to home procedure will be initiated.

To cancel RTH toggle the S1 switch back and forth and move the S2 switch to the uppermost position. The controller should then stop beeping and the drone will simply hover until you take over.

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Civil Aviation Authority – Drones

The outline of the CAA guidelines:

The regulations for recreational drone flights are contained within the Air Navigation Order 2016 (ANO) which is the primary document for all aviation regulations within the UK. In order to keep the regulations at a proportionate level for these small drones, a set of specific, simpler, regulations apply to aircraft that have a mass of 20kg or less (which are termed ‘small unmanned aircraft’ within the ANO).

In simple terms, these regulations state that:

  • you are responsible for flying your drone in a safe manner
  • you must keep the drone in your direct sight at all times while it is flying so that you can ensure that it does not collide with anything, especially other aircraft
  • you must not endanger anyone, or anything with your drone, including any articles that you drop from it
  • if your drone weighs more than 7kg, additional rules apply if you fly in certain types of airspace and you must not fly above 400ft above the surface

If your drone is fitted with a camera, there are also a number of additional limitations surrounding where you can fly it, and how close you can fly it to other uninvolved people or objects. In order to be able to fly within these areas, or closer than the minimum distances that are in the regulations, you must obtain prior permission from the CAA to do so.

Continue reading Civil Aviation Authority – Drones

Propeller guards, why I think they are a must.

Phantom 3 series drones use brushless motors for propulsion. At full speed with sharp blades, especially the carbon fibre ones, they have enough force to chop yours or somebody else’s finger off. If your drone hits someone it can seriously injure the person. Having the propeller guards should at the very least mitigate the injury caused.

Safety issues aside, they could stop you from crashing and destroying your drone. Say your drone touches a wall. Now those high RPM propellers would break to pieces sending your drone to the ground. If it was high enough chances are you would need to get a new one or at the very least spend hundreds of £ replacing the gimbal, camera and possibly the shell.

With the guards attached it would simply bounce off and carry on flying.

I understand that the guards add to the total weight of the drone and mess a little with the airflow, shaving off valuable 10-30 seconds of the flight time. Now imagine what you could have done with all that time? Personally, I have never used more than 75% of the battery.

There are two types of guards available: permanent ones and detachable ones. There almost zero difference between the two and the obvious choice is to go for detachable ones.

They cost few quid and take about 10 minutes to install, only because you have to deal with 16 screws.

My personal view is that DJI should have included that accessory by default. I see no reason why you shouldn’t install them on your drone as they don’t affect the flying characteristics of the drone and encourage everyone to do so. I have mine the same as in the picture above, they are nothing special but they do the job.