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How to Operate a Done Camera (Without Crashing)

How to Operate a Drone Camera (Without Crashing)

Dwight Pavlovic
Reading time: 6 minutes
Drone cameras are relatively new, but they’ve become more popular thanks to improving technology and shrinking prices. You can find great beginner drones with a camera, a drone with a powerful HD camera, and even high-res 4K camera drones. While the variety of models has grown quickly, most drones share many of the same controls and functionality.
In this article, we’ll explain topics including the constantly expanding world of remote control drones, how you can use them, where to buy one, and how you can safely fly one on your own.

What is a drone camera?

When we talk about a drone or a drone camera, we’re typically referring to a quadcopter configuration. These models dominate the market almost exclusively thanks to their relative simplicity compared to single-rotor or other systems.
Quadcopter drone cameras maintain stability, direction, and motion using four rotors; two rotate clockwise and the other two counter-clockwise. A mounted camera sits at the center to take photos and record videos.
While the marketplace continues to find more uses for these small drones with cameras, their basic layout is fairly consistent. You may find some with more complex or sensitive hardware, but the structure is essentially the same.

Fun ways to use your drone

Drones are great for taking photos and capturing video. For photographers, they provide a way to get a unique angle on events or take eye-catching selfies, and they can even be set up to follow you around for more dynamic footage.
Drone cameras also have some practical advantages and features you may not know about. As the technology becomes widely available, drones are becoming more integral to a whole range of professions. For example, they take a lot of the risk out of the equation for surveying hazardous areas or identifying maintenance needs.
They’re a great foundation for a lot of small businesses, too, so you don’t have to be a surveyor or a wildlife manager to get a lot of benefit out of one. Wedding and event photographers, filmmakers, journalists, and real estate agents can make great use of a drone.

How to get started

All drone cameras have their differences, and you’ll find plenty of variety in terms of performance and design. Some offer better range and are more durable, while others provide superior video recording and photo hardware. What’s most important is up to you.
Fortunately, the majority are also fairly similar. Outside of differences in hardware, there are many shared features and the same basic use: a remote control drone with a camera attached to it.
Let’s now look at some basic operating procedures to follow when you use your new drone camera.

1. Know your drone’s controls and settings

This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s important to make sure you know the controls in and out. We mentioned earlier that quadcopter drone cameras fly using two pairs of rotors that rotate in different directions. This balance of forces allows the drone to stay oriented and upright without the typical tail rotor you see in helicopters.
Standard remote control configurations are built with two joysticks that allow you to control your drone’s orientation and movements. Using the left joystick, you can control elevation and orientation. Just move the joystick forward to ascend, backward to descend, and left or right to rotate. With the right joystick, you can accelerate forward, backward, and side-to-side.
Beyond these standard direction controls, you should also find controls for your camera so you can take photos, record video, and so forth. Consult the manual for your particular device beforehand so you know its capabilities.

2. Know the area and any local regulations before you fly

Before you take off, it’s crucial to be aware of your surroundings, where you intend to fly, and any local regulations concerning drone devices. You will need to maintain some distance from power lines and natural obstructions that may get caught in your rotor assembly.
It’s also important to be aware of anything that may interfere with your remote control signal. Getting too far away or being obstructed by certain materials can cause a potentially damaging loss of signal. You should always know your drone’s range and be aware of any potential sources of interference.

3. Check your battery

When your flight plan takes you over areas that are potentially inaccessible on foot, it’s particularly important to know the battery levels and maintain a strong charge. A low battery means dealing with the risk of sacrificing your drone if it goes down somewhere that makes recovery challenging or impossible.
Staying on top of the battery power and bringing back-up batteries are both good ways to avoid hassle and potential cost in terms of money, time, or even personal safety.

4. Stay aware of your drone at all times

Most drones are sensitive, so it’s important to stay aware of its position at all times. Push it too hard in any direction at the wrong time and you could crash or collide with obstacles. Before you make any complex maneuvers or accelerate too quickly, take note of your surroundings and any unexpected weather patterns.
A remote GPS module will usually help your drone hold position when it’s not moving, but it can still be subject to wind or unexpected drift. This means that you can sometimes be at risk of a collision or accident.

5. Takeoff and landing

For takeoff, the left joystick is all you need. Move it slowly forward for a clean ascent, while keeping a close watch in case you need to compensate for wind patterns or any changes in your environment.
Smooth landing is also important when you’re done flying. It works essentially the same way, only in reverse. Choose a landing area and move the left joystick back toward you to descend.
Make sure you have plenty of room to land with clearance for additional safety in case of wind shear or unexpected turbulence. Bringing your own landing pad can be a great way to mitigate surface problems, too, like tall grass or uneven surfaces, and provide a good visual guide for pilots during landing.
If you’re just getting started, repeat the takeoff and landing process a few times. And when you’re in flight, perform some quick maneuvers nearby to help you get used to your controls.

Where to shop for the right model

While budget or more specialized needs may lead to you a specific manufacturer or supplier, there are plenty of options to consider as far as a new drone camera. These days, most major online and national tech retailers are a fine place to get started. The internet will be your best bet for higher-powered options and sheer variety. Check out the HP Tech Takes article on the top ten drones for the money here.
For beginners, if you have any anxiety about learning to fly or the cost of repair, it can be helpful to prioritize more affordable models. Often the best beginner drone with a camera is also the cheapest. Plus, it may be less expensive to repair, which means you won’t be out of commission for too long after an accident.

In summary: what you need to remember most

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about drone cameras and how you can safely operate yours, but it’s important to know your device and stay in control at all times. We’ll wrap up with a quick start-up checklist for anyone new to drones:
1. Make sure that you’ve thoroughly studied your drone’s layout and controls beforehand
2. Check your battery and recharge the device if necessary so you don’t lose control in an inconvenient location
3. Familiarize yourself with whatever area you plan to use for your flight
  • It’s always best to avoid flying too close to buildings or natural obstacles
  • You should also make sure you’re aware of any drone or flight regulations in your area
4. Don’t lose track of your drone mid-flight, particularly around obstructions or other people
5. Remember to plan your takeoff and landing, making whatever preparations you need to overcome tall grass or uneven surfaces
Most of all, keep safety in mind throughout your flight - and remember to have fun!

About the Author

Dwight Pavlovic is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Dwight is a music and technology writer based out of West Virginia.

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