Any Advice For A New Drone Pilot?

(Image Credit: Andrew P. Collins)
(Image Credit: Andrew P. Collins)

The unmanned aerial vehicles, quadcopters and/or aerobats we all call “drones” have become so commonplace that you can pick one up in a drug store along with your toilet paper and candy. I have big dreams of flying a fancy one, but today my quest begins modestly.


While I was off-roading across Peru last week, which you’ll hear a lot more about soon, my co-driver nabbed some unbelievably pretty pictures of our vehicles from his DJI drone. After he crashed it into a powerline and the poor thing fell into a river, I learned that the machine cost about $1,000. I also learned that they require some skill to operate.

But the images the drone came back with before its demise were so freaking cool that I was convinced I had to get in on this action. So I followed the advice of the internet and spent about $100 on a toy drone. A Syma X5UW, to be exact. Plus some spare parts and a bunch of extra batteries to help me learn the basic principles of drone piloting.

I chose this particular cheap drone because of Gizmodo’s recommendation, and the fact that it’s able to provide a first-person video beamed to my phone which will get me used to flying a more professional-grade aerobat.

By the way, have you heard them called “aerobats” before? I hadn’t until I cracked open the Syma manual, but I love this word now.

Anyway, the thing just came in off a bus from Amazon and is currently charging in my apartment. Meanwhile, I’m champing at the bit to get this little bird in the air.

Who has advice for me before I break it or hurt myself?

Jalopnik Staffer from 2013 to 2020, now Editor-In-Chief at Car Bibles


Biggest thing:

Read the regulations and take safety seriously!

Don’t fly over people, houses, cars, or anything that you wouldn’t want to crash into. Stay far away from airports and airfields. Check for listed aerodromes in your area (using the sectional charts) or the FAA’s free app.

Basically if you are in any doubt if where you are flying is a risk, don’t fly.

There’s a lot of plainly bad and misleading information regarding the regs out there, by the way, and just because some anonymous diploducus says his Phantom won’t damage a 747 doesn’t mean you want to be the guy to find out it actually will and be all over the news with a hundred thousand dollars owing.

Also, check to see if there’s a local club. Flying is tricky and first hand advice is always the best kind.

....and keep hair and fingers out of the props.

Ask me how I know.