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So you want a Quad ...... Beginners Guide

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by deltamike, Jul 25, 2014.

  1. deltamike

    May 12, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Shropshire (UK)
    So, you want to buy a Radio Controlled Quadcopter?

    You may have seen U-Tube video clips and thought, ‘I want to do that’, and everyone says how easy they are to fly because with GPS they are stable and safe.

    Well, NO ACTUALLY.

    The GREATEST mistake beginners make is assume that they can unpack an aircraft – charge the battery and then fly it before reading the instructions and learning about the aircraft characteristics. Trust me, that is the scenario for a crash situation.

    Any type of radio controlled aircraft in beginners’ hands is likely to crash and cause damage to property or persons, so it is STRONGLY advised to have help in flying at the start - such as a flying club.

    Consider this - if while you are having fun with your new aircraft – and you accidentally hit and cause damage to a person or to property, are you rich enough to pay for the medical expenses and any other damages that your ‘fun’ aircraft has caused? Can you meet all the necessary legal fees incurred? Or is it a case of “Oooops. Sorry your honour – I was not aware that insurance would be needed”. People have lost their homes and businesses to pay compensation to injured parties in the past which shows you how serious this can get, so don’t be stupid and fly it near people – not even the mother-in-law. Ignorance is NO defence.

    The first thing to do before buying your aircraft is to get insurance e.g. (BFMA) British Flying Model Association (UK). Click on the link to view their web site :-


    It costs £32 at the time of writing. The next thing to do is join a flying club to learn the ropes. Its more than likely there will be members only too glad to help out with advice.

    Are you aware of CAA regulations? Here is a summary of UK CAA rulings :-

    Provided the aircraft has a mass of 20 kg or less, the current regulations state:-

    1. The operation must not endanger anyone or anything.

    2. The aircraft must be kept within the visual line of sight (normally taken to be within 500 m horizontally and 400 ft vertically) of its remote pilot (i.e. the ‘person in charge’ of it). Operations beyond these distances must be approved by the CAA (the basic premise being for the operator to prove that he/she can do this safely).

    3. Small unmanned aircraft (irrespective of their mass) that are being used for surveillance purposes are subject to tighter restrictions with regard to the minimum distances that you can fly near people or properties that are not under your control. If you wish to fly within these minima, permission is required from the CAA before operations are commenced.

    4. CAA permission is also required for all flights that are being conducted for aerial work (i.e. in very simple terms, you are getting paid for doing it). Under current CAA rules it is not permissible to operate a Quadcopter for 'hire or reward' unless you are a commercial operator. If you want to take a video of your house and put it on U-tube, that’s fine, and if something happens near you that you think is newsworthy and you think it will be 'cool' to rush out and get some aerial shots to send to the BBC and expect payment... don't!

    5. The 'remote pilot' has the responsibility for satisfying him/herself that the flight can be conducted safely.

    Note: there is currently no 'protected' frequency band allocated for the control link between 'remote pilot' and aircraft. Some control frequencies are also 'shared' with other uses (such as Bluetooth and Wifi, or a band for research and development systems).

    The small UAS manufacturers should be well aware of this, however it would be worthwhile checking with them to ensure that there are no other related precautions which need to be taken with their specific machine. You will need to ensure that any other equipment you routinely need to use does not adversely affect the flight of the aircraft.

    Careful note should be taken that the collection of images of identifiable individuals, even inadvertently, when using surveillance cameras mounted on a small unmanned surveillance aircraft, will be subject to the Data Protection Act. As this Act contains requirements concerning the collection, storage and use of such images, Small Unmanned Aircraft operators should ensure that they are complying with any such applicable requirements or exemptions.

    Further information about the Data Protection Act and the circumstances in which it applies can be obtained from the Information Commissioner’s Office and website: http://www.ico.org.uk

    Have you had permission to take off and land from the landowner? “Oooops. Sorry your honour – I was not aware ……………”. Make sure you obtain permission before flying.

    FINALLY :- While flying, THINK and ASSESS what you are going to do BEFORE you actually do it. If you are not sure – then don’t do it.

    My last bit of advice, and perhaps the most important is :- It is possible to cause SEVERE injury by catching a Quadcopter while hovering.

    The Phantom FC40.

    Perhaps the most common question is “How long will the Phantom fly for?”

    There are various forums where flight times are shown, and there are modifications that can extend them considerably, one of the favourite being a slightly larger capacity battery. The stock battery is a 2200 mAhr battery but with simple modification a 4000 mAh. can be used giving a flight time of around 13 to 20 minutes in most cases, but this is dependent on what your payload is of course.

    See :- viewtopic.php?f=20&t=23071

    Now lets have a break from reading. The following video will help in setting up your Phantom :-


    Note that in the above clip Jim is using propellers guards. These are invaluable while learning to fly and they will save you LOTS of money by saving you renewing your chipped and broken propellers.

    It is also advisable that you try to learn to fly in Atti Mode and not GPS. The reason is that if you are flying in GPS mode and a glitch occurs, the system will enter Atti mode and if you don’t know how to fly the aircraft in Atti mode you will probably crash.

    FC40 Details.

    The Phantom FC40 Quadcopter is based on the same platform as the original DJI Phantom and features a detachable FPV. (First Person View – where the camera view can be seen on a screen by the pilot) The camera has Micro SD recording. The transmitter (TX) is a 6-Channel, 5.8GHz Transmitter.

    The FC40 is designed to get you started flying and capturing aerial video, the only additional piece of hardware required being your smartphone or other mobile device running iOS or Android. If you use a mobile phone to compose your shots then buy a non reflective matt screen film and a hood. They greatly improve the ability to see the screen in daylight. Remember to put the phone into Flight Mode though – it is possible that if you do not it could cause a fly-a-way condition and check if people standing near you do not have their mobile phones switched on.

    As with several other DJI quadcopters, the FC40 uses the Naza-M V2 flight control system to maintain flight stability and provide assisted flying features. Out of the box, the FC40 comes configured with two GPS flight modes, GPS Mode and GPS Attitude Mode. GPS Mode will probably be preferred by beginners as it provides the greatest autopilot control and holds the aircraft in a fixed hover whenever you release the controls, automatically compensating for drift and light wind. Additional functions can be unlocked using the Naza Assistant Software for desktop computers.

    This version of the FC40 aircraft (RTF) "ready-to-fly", meaning that a 6-channel, 5.8GHz transmitter is included and pre-bound with the aircraft, and that only minimal assembly is required. As with any multi-rotor system, before flying the Phantom FC40 you will still need to follow all of the proper calibration steps and ensure adequate GPS connectivity for the Naza flight control system to operate correctly.

    Time for a break. Go and get a cuppa – come back and watch this educational video.


    Supplied Transmitter (TX).

    The Phantom FC40 features a 6-channel, 5.8GHz WI-Fi transmitter, with dual joystick controls similar to the kind found on other multi-rotor RC aircraft transmitters. The transmitter is configured by default to "Mode 2", where the throttle is on the left hand side stick. Mode 2 is considered the most popular in the U.S and the UK., but may be less familiar to pilots from other countries. The left stick controls throttle (up/down) and yaw (rotation). And the right stick controls cyclic motion (side-to-side tilt pressing right/left and tilting the nose up or down pressing up/down). A switch on the top right (Switch 1) lets you choose between Attitude and GPS flight modes and a similar switch on the left (Switch 2) lets you select between IOC modes (See below).

    Detachable FPV Camera.

    A 720p FPV (first-person view) camera comes with the FC40 and features a wide-angle, 100° field of view lens. It uses a thumbscrew attachment similar to a GoPro mount that allows the camera to be manually tilted up or down before flight. Using a smartphone mounted to the transmitter you can monitor as well as record a low-latency, live video feed from the camera at WQVGA resolution (400 x 240 pixels) using the free FC40 app for iOS and Android. In addition, the camera features a Micro SD slot allowing you to record video internally using cards up to 32GB.

    The FPV camera has a native resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels at 30 fps. A dedicated 2 . 4GHz transmitter in the camera provides the wireless link (Wi-Fi), and features a line-of-sight range of up to 328 feet depending on conditions. In good bright light this camera is nearly as good as the GoPro series for recording video, but that’s my opinion. To modify the camera equipment, fit a Zenmuse or GoPro gimbal. Banggood Tarot 2 axis gimbals are cheaper but can be VERY awkward to fit so do research to find the one best for you by looking on U-Tube. Because the transmitter for the FC40 operates on 5.8GHz, there is no danger of the camera's Wi-Fi causing harmful interference.


    The standard 11.1V, 2200mAh 3S lithium-polymer (LiPo) battery is able to power the FC40 for up to 12 minutes. It can be charged using a variety of RC balance chargers including the supplied charger.

    Naza-M V2 Flight Control System.

    In the FC40 the brains of aircraft is the same Naza-M V2 flight control system as several other DJI models. The software is preconfigured with two available flight modes, GPS Mode and GPS Attitude Mode. Additional modes and other custom configurations can be enabled using the Naza Assistant software, an application available for free download from the DJI website. In addition, the software can download flight data for diagnostic and teaching purposes and well as perform firmware updates.

    Attitude and GPS Flight Modes.

    The FC40 has two GPS - assisted flight modes for you to choose from. Of the two, GPS Mode is the most automatic. In GPS Mode the FC40 will stop as soon as you release the controls and stay hovering at a fixed horizontal and vertical position. This setting is the easiest to fly and is generally preferred for shooting video as the a/c won't sway or drift because of light wind gusts.

    Attitude Mode.

    Known as ATTI, this is a manual flying mode in which the FC40 does not try and maintain a fixed spatial position. When you release the controls it will continue to drift unless friction slows it down or you stop it, and in this mode it will be more likely to be blown around if there is any wind. This not a true manual mode, however, in that the GPS navigation system is still used to maintain flight stability and by the "return to home" feature in the event of signal loss.

    You must get used to the ATTI modes as soon as you can because you have to pilot the aircraft and have greater control rather than relying on automatic systems, which, lets face it, could fail at any time and without warning.

    Return to Home Failsafe.

    If the FC40 loses the signal from the controller for any reason the "return to home" feature should initialize. The aircraft will ascend to 60 feet then make a straight-line course back to the "home position" you will have defined during the GPS calibration process. Once there, it will safely descend to the ground and power itself off.

    (IOC) Intelligent Orientation Control.

    IOC will enable the aircraft to head in the direction you move the right hand stick no matter which way the aircraft is pointing. To enable this feature you will need to use the Naza Assistant Software.

    The following video will explain more :-


    LED Status Indicator.

    LED status lights on the tail of the FC40 provide you with various feedback as well as warnings. Colours alternate between green, amber and red and can either be flashing or solid. These messages give you valuable information such as whether the GPS system is properly calibrated, warning you the battery is getting low, or telling you the transmitters signal is out of range or not functioning. Don’t take off too soon either. Wait 20 seconds or so after the green LED has appeared, and if there are any red flashes with the green then don’t rely on GPS to give you a stable flight.

    Self-Tightening 8" Propellers.

    The propellers screw on directly without requiring a separate prop nut. This design is self-tightening so there is no danger of a loose prop coming off in flight.

    Flyaway’s. (Sudden total loss of control)

    These problems are mainly traced back to two causes :-

    A: Radio interference.

    A most probable cause of fly-a-ways is a microwave link signal. You can see these aerials on masts and they look like a white round tin similar in shape to a tin of chocolates. They transmit a ‘tube’ of microwaves and if you fly through the beam it transmits it WILL cause the compass and other electronics to malfunction, so have a look around for one of these.

    Another thing that could cause a fly-a-way is caused by the pilot having a switched on mobile phone with you so, until positively proven if this is the case or not, err on the sense of caution and switch off your mobile phone and do not allow other persons carrying a switched on mobile phone within 20 metres – or roughly 60 feet. If you want a Wi-Fi link, put your phone into flight mode.

    If you do have a flyaway, the best action to take is by going into manual mode or cutting your throttle to zero. If you do the latter, at least you can recover your aircraft instead of loosing it totally as it flies off the edge of the world.

    Here follows boring 'stuff' concerning aircraft operating frequencies.

    Phantom FC40 and Phantom 2 vision +
    Operating Frequency : 5.728 GHz-5.85 GHz.
    Phantom 2 & Blade 350 QX
    Operating Frequency 2.4 Ghz.
    GoPro camera Wi-Fi operating frequency
    All HERO3 cameras built-in Wi-Fi frequency is 2.4 GHz

    GPS uses carrier frequencies of 1.57542GHz (L1), 1.2276GHz(L2) and 1.17645GHz (L5) .

    You can see that using a GoPro camera wi-fi is definitely not a good idea to use on a Blade 350QX or a Phantom 2 for example.

    The supplied white transmitter operates normally in most cases, however, it is found that near Wifi Jammers they can crash and lockup. These Wi-fi Jammers are used by larger companies to protect against intrusions of their wireless network, so keep away from large buildings and structures. (Which you should not be near in any case).

    B:- The loss of GPS lock.

    Also called "Blow Away" where the aircraft switches without warning to Atti. Mode and is blown away by the wind.

    The receiver in a Phantom receives only a very weak signal, as the power of the transmitter (Only 100 mW) is emitted in a circular pattern and the signal acts as though it is shredded and the aircraft receiver may receive less than 0.1 mW. To prevent further degradation of the transmitted signal, never let the transmitter antenna point in the direction of the aircraft, but always have the antennas parallel to each other, or in other words, turn the aerial so that the length faces the aircraft.

    Always download from http://www.dji.com to check that the failsafe position is active using the PC Naza assistant. How to check this is in the Basic RC menu at the bottom in the wizard.

    If the transmitter locks up, or is jammed, a Failsafe signal will not be transmitted to the aircraft and the return to home function will not work and this can be made worse by loss of GPS signals. The only thing to do is to try switching off the TX for five seconds – switch it back on and if there is still no control – switch it to Atti.

    The Phantom FC40 operates on 5,8 Ghz for the radio control signals. Don’t try to fly its to its limits because it becomes susceptible to low levels of interference which can cause loss of control. Another possible cause of a "fly away" is not calibrating the throttle stick in the NAZA assistant and checking it regularly. This can lead to an irregular or jerky behaviour of the throttle, and in some cases, a complete engine shut down.

    Loss or problems of GPS and / or magnetic compass.

    The positions of satellites change and the GPS receiver sees and continuously loses several satellites. If the NAZA controller of your aircraft looses too many satellites, it will no longer stay in GPS mode and it switches automatically to Attitude mode without any warning.

    It is NOT advisable to rely on the GPS mode. The GPS Navigation is just a tool.

    NOTE Some government facilities actively block GPS signals at a low level to stop UAV's.

    There are several other factors that will cause loss of GPS mode.

    1. After a crash, the internal GPS system might be damaged.

    2. High trees can degrade the GPS satellite signal which blocks the signal and so can flying under trees.

    3. You are next to a tall building which blocks the satellites in the same way.

    4. You stand next to a railway line, high voltage pylons, or a car. These create a magnetic field that will cause problems.

    5. The plug of the magnetic compass is loose or there is a battery mounted near the GPS antenna.

    6. You have taken off without waiting for the second wave of green signal pulses that indicates the position Home position is stored. It may even prevent the controller from holding an old position of a previous flight in the memory, and in the case of a Failsafe tries to flies to that position.

    7. Know in what mode the aircraft is in. (Read the manual and learn the colour codes of the LED). Each series of red flashes of the LED is a serious problem, and you have to land immediately.

    8. Home lock position has never been logged, or the blinking of the Led’s is mistaken for another message.

    9. The antenna of the transmitter is wrongly positioned.

    10. The aircraft is too far away.

    11. The flight time was not monitored.

    12. You will be disoriented at far distances and therefore, uncontrollable because you cannot see the orientation of the aircraft.

    Always stay in range of good visual contact and learn to orientate the front and back and learn to fly nose in. Practice flying sideways, do not completely rely on the IOC. Consider an SMD/LED headlight as found on E-Bay.

    A pilot must become proficient in manually flying in Atti. mode with the aircraft. This is in case you lose satellites and other support modes.

    Updating Firmware and Software.

    Always follow the latest instructions that can be found on the website of DJI.. There is also the latest version of the Naza assistant to be found and you can update your DJI Controller to the latest soft and firmware. At the time of writing there been already some changes in the software that can help prevent a flyaway. The receiver failsafe has been improved and there are modifications written into the programme that if interference is experienced then the system will fail safe and return home.

    So link your Phantom to the computer at least once a month and update the software if necessary.

    And finally, I conclude with some tips and advice with regard to Lithium Polymer batteries. Unless these type of batteries are handled carefully and charged with a good quality charger they have been known to burst into fire and / or explode.

    Purchase good quality battery packs ONLY. Be aware that some cheap Far East cells are a bad investment with regards to life, performance and safety. Turnigy batteries are reliable and have an excellent reputation.

    Li-Po batteries cells do not have a “memory” unlike Ni-Cad’s and therefore they SHOULD NOT be cycled.

    Where ever possible always use a cell balancer charger. A Cell balancer will keep the cells within a pack at the same voltage, and greatly helps the pack maintain it’s peak performance and prolong it’s life.

    A cell balancer will also give you the 1st indication that a single cell within a pack is failing. If one of the LED’s on the balancer remains constantly on during the charge cycle this is an indication that one of the cells is failing. A failing cell can cause the other cells in the pack to become over charged, which can result in a fire.

    Do not charge your packs below 10ºC or above 50ºC.

    Do not charge hot cells. Warm cells are OK, cool cells are best. Let hot cells cool before charging.

    If you draw the absolute maximum current from your cells and fly until your ESC (Electronic Speed Controller) cuts power to your motors you will damage your battery and reduce its life and likely render it useless.

    If your aircraft shows a ‘low battery’ warning, take heed and land within a minute or so. I have had a useless, un-chargeable battery because I didn’t do this. DO NOT discharge a Li-Po battery over 80% of its capacity otherwise, at best, shorten its life and you might render it useless altogether.

    DO NOT “top up” your cells before flight. Apart from being unnecessary there is a chance of overcharging your cells which will damage them and possibly cause a fire.


    Do not fly in wind speeds of over 10 miles and hour.

    Happy and safe flying,


    Sep. 2014

    With thanks to all contributors.

    Edited for updates.
    RayH likes this.
  2. deltamike

    May 12, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Shropshire (UK)
    Re: Beginners article

    Updated 26 Aug 2014
  3. damoncooper

    Mar 20, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Boston, MA
    Beginners article

    Also: here's a primer on VRS that might save your aircraft from a very common, but preventable type of crash that mystifies many new pilots: viewtopic.php?t=17468
  4. deltamike

    May 12, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Shropshire (UK)
    Re: Beginners article

    That's handy Damon.

    Descend gently.

    BEGINNERS :- Do not do as the pratt in the clip below did.


    For him to take off with a faulty aircraft and for his friend lying under it - he would have been hit and injured had he not legged it. What a load of pillocks!!!!! :roll:

    Go to 3 minutes for the juicy bit.
  5. bmr528

    Aug 12, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Cetral California
    Re: Beginners article

    I can hear the conversation now!!

    I think there may be something wrong!!

    Yea, Lets go fly it over water!

    Then you stand under it while I fly it up and down.

    Oh that Darwin...

  6. Buckaye

    Aug 24, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Re: Beginners article


    Hey Pete - great stuff! I wish DJI's instructions were as well written. As an RC Heli enthusiast - I found myself having to read and re-read many sections of the manual because it just wasn't straight forward.

    The biggest thing I think people need to realize is that this thing can do damage to your person or property.

    One section I think would be helpful is how the iPad Ground station actually works including:

    1. The Groundstation is meant to be used with the standard controller switched ON as well (I have seen no documentation that actually spells that out).
    2. If your GS app crashes mid-flight - you can regain control of your Phantom by switching to ATTI mode and then flying it home or after you regain control switching back to GPS.
    3. The Groundstation does NOT know how tall trees are. You need to program in appropriate heights.
    4. "Home" is not perfectly precise - you need to be ok with the Phantom landing within a good 3 yard radius in any direction... (so don't set your home point within 3 yards of your car, your pool, a cliff etc).
    5. Do not eat a sandwich and grab a beer when flying autonomously with the GS - this thing was still programmed by humans and you need to always be prepared to pick up the standard controller and guide the craft back to you (or away from people).

    Just my 2 cents with limited experience - but I was fairly frustrated by the lack of clear info particularly about the GS.

    I LOVE this thing.... I hope idiots don't get reckless with these things and ruin it for all of us :)
  7. Fantomas

    Aug 15, 2014
    Likes Received:
  8. deltamike

    May 12, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Shropshire (UK)
    Re: Beginners article

    First post updated 6 Sep. 2014

    Thanks Buckeye.

    Those of you thinking of buying, or have, a Phantom 2 can find a wealth of information in the following link :-

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/mv8d1hohc3mce ... e.pdf?dl=0

    It is worth while to download the PDF and print it out for future reference. When you have done so, you will find the links to various sites work by clicking on them which is a great help.

  9. discv

    May 7, 2013
    Likes Received:
    London, UK
    Re: Beginners article

    I don't know how I missed this 1st rate article when first published.

    Well worth a sticky.

    And full marks for setting a good example by avoiding that US macho word dr*n*.
  10. Fantomas

    Aug 15, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Re: Beginners article

    Thanks ;) ;)

    Please, feel free to spread the word. Every single Phantom's 2 vision/vision+ owner NEEDs this guide to fly way much more safely and keep their aircraft in one piece. :)
    Remember, this guide wouldn't exist without all of those who shared their experiences, good or bad, with others.
    THANK YOU and please, keep on sharing :)

  11. deltamike

    May 12, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Shropshire (UK)
    Re: Beginners article

    Another most probable cause of fly-a-ways is a microwave link signal. You can see these aerials on masts and they look like a white round tin similar in shape to a tin of chocolates. They transmit a ‘tube’ of microwaves and if you fly through the beam it transmits it WILL cause the compass and other electronics to malfunction, so have a look around for one of these before you take-off.

    In a flyaway situation, the best action to take is by going into manual mode or cutting your throttle to zero. If you do the latter, at least you can recover your aircraft instead of loosing it totally as it flies off the edge of the world.

    The above info was kindly supplied by Roger at

    http://uavision.co.uk/store/index.php?r ... path=68_76

    He owns the firm and amazingly enough made the time to speak me. He's got lotsa Phantom goodies too.

    Many thanks Roger if you pick this up.