We see a ton of repetitive questions asked across many of the popular FPV drone forums and social sites. In an effort to make it easier for beginners to get answers to some of the most common issues starting out, we wanted to put together a basic FAQ with newer pilots in mind.
If you don’t find your question addressed here, we highly recommend checking out our Drone Racing Guide. This curated list of articles contains a wealth of information on nearly any topic you can think of in the hobby. This guide is meant mostly to direct and answer common questions we see for newer pilots looking for quick advice.
Where do I purchase parts for my quadcopter?
Purchasing quadcopter equipment is a little more complex than most hobbies. With a ton of unique components and feature sets, finding the right retailer is key!
Additionally, due to the popularity of drones, there are a LOT of cheap products that aren’t worth your time or hard earned money. Thus, we recommend choosing a reputable retailer and brand.
To start off your journey, read a bit about choosing a retailer here. This documents some of the things to look for when ordering products, saving on shipping, and getting comfortable ordering from China.
If you are looking for a specific retailer – be it boutique or large – check out our miniquad vendor list here. We have ordered from many of these vendors in the past.
On the other hand, you might not even know what you are looking for yet! If you are looking for reputable brands, check out our buyers guides. We put together a guide for every component you will run across in the hobby. These articles are broken up into two parts – the first outlining what you should look for when buying and the second giving some of our recommendations.
How do I get started building a quadcopter?
Quadcopter building and maintenance can be daunting for those inexperienced with repairing and programming electronics.
Your best bet is to start with our build a drone series. This written and video guide documents the complete process of putting together each major component on a miniquad. While some of the technology has certainly changed since this series was authored in early 2017, the general techniques and process are the same.
Here are the links to each section. The video links can be found within the below pages:
- Introduction – assembling all the parts
- Frame assembly
- ESC installation
- Installing electronics (flight controller, PDB, etc.)
- Finalizing and cleaning your build
- Adding FPV
How do I change the settings on my quadcopter or setup software?
It sounds like you are looking to change how the software runs on your quadcopter. In general, the software you install on your flight controller (usually Betaflight) controls “how” the quadcopter flies. If you want to tune sensitivity, customize flight modes, and add filters, you want to dig into the software.
This means getting familiar with the multitude of options within.
Your first stop should be our Betaflight setup guide. This covers the step by step process to getting your quadcopter flying after flashing your flight controller. However, as you advance in the hobby you will likely want to tune your quadcopter from time to time to get it right for YOUR style of flying. Don’t be afraid to up your rates and adjust your settings as your skills improve!
I can’t bind my radio transmitter to my quadcopter! Help with quadcopter binding issues.
Sadly, manufacturer documentation continues to be weak in our hobby. This can create plenty of confusion for new pilots trying to decipher poorly written manuals to undertake simple tasks like binding their quadcopter to their transmitter.
If you are having issues binding your radio transmitter to radio receiver on your quad, check out this article. This page includes links to specific instructions on binding for all the big transmitter manufacturers in the industry.
What FPV antenna do I need for my quadcopter?
Antennas deserve their own section. We see a ton of repetitive antenna questions on the multicopter subreddit and various other forums. If you are looking for purchase recommendations, check out our antennas buyers guide. Like our other buyers guides, this post outlines what to look for and our recommendations.
However, if you are looking to learn about the complexities of antenna theory, you should check out this article. Here, James does a great job providing high level explanations on how antennas work with our equipment. This is a must read for new and intermediate hobbyists who better want to understand why you want to use different antennas for different types of flying.
I crashed! How do I repair my quadcopter?
Fly long enough and you are guaranteed to have a crash that results in your quad needing some repairs.
Before that happens, you should take some time to improve the durability of your quadcopter. A little preventative work can save you hours of diagnostic time and hundreds of dollars in parts. Even if you purchased your quadcopter ready to fly, you should take some time to improve its durability!
Additionally, keep some small spare parts available at the workbench and in your field bag. Think of this as your quadcopter’s first aid kit. These items can repair small issues without ending your time at the park early.
On the other hand, most quadcopter repair is an exercise in process of elimination. Isolate specific systems one by one until you find the issue. Look for cut or nicked wires, unsecure connections, and test for shorts. Tools like a multimeter will probably be your most used diagnostic device.
If you have an idea where the problem lies, but can’t quite figure it out, Google it! There are tons of threads on Facebook, Reddit, and RC Groups that probably have some relevant advice for your problem.
If you have a real repair puzzler, ask for help! Those same communities listed above are usually receptive to giving help as long as you ask politely and don’t have an obvious problem. Again, do your research first before asking for help. A little research can go a long way in troubleshooting and asking the right questions when requesting help.
How do I fly my quadcopter? How do I fly acro mode?
Flying a racing drone is tough! If you want to move towards pulling off the stunts of your favorite YouTube pilots, you are going to have to put in the practice.
First, if you are just starting off in the hobby, we highly recommend picking up a cheap toy quad and practicing with that. These cheap quadcopters are excellent for practicing indoors, and their controls are very similar to their larger brethren. Trust us, it’s way better to beat the hell out of a $15 toy quad rather than your brand new $250 racer.
We even put together an entire training series to help you get the most out of your toy quad. Once you finish with these, moving to a larger, more expensive quad will be much easier.
Want to start pulling off flips, dives, and crazy stunts? You are looking to fly in “acro” or “rate” mode. Rather than stabilizing after releasing the sticks, a quadcopter set in acro mode will hold its angle when the sticks are released. This allows for crazy dives, rolls, and a slew of other acrobatic tricks.
We cover this more in detail in our beginner tips for becoming a better quadcopter pilot article. If you are just starting your flying journey, we recommend perusing these articles and guides.
Additionally, simulators can be incredibly helpful for learning the basics of any flight mode. All you need is a radio transmitter, USB cable, and a computer. There are a ton of inexpensive software options available (some are even free). To see some of our favorites, check out our list of FPV drone simulators here!
I’ve got a good feel for the basics. I want to improve… now what?
You’ve got some battle scars on your quad, can run loops around simulator tracks, and maybe even attempted a dive or two. What’s the next step?
Well, if you are looking to hone your skills, check out our moving from intermediate to advanced flying article. Here we cover topics, skills, and exercises you can use to increase your skillset.
Looking to race? You can get ahead of the competition by learning more about race theory. This series covers the more technical aspects of drone racing, including cornering, planning your race lines, and prioritizing exit speed. A must read for anyone serious about crushing the local competition!
Battery charging and safety questions
Charging a LiPo battery for a racing quad is a bit more complex than just sticking it into a wall charger. These batteries can be volatile if charged incorrectly!
Your first step should be to check out our articles on LiPo battery charging basics. This runs through the steps you should follow to safely charge your batteries for flight.
However, before you charge your first battery, please, please, please read about how LiPo batteries explode. If you are skeptical, just Google “LiPo battery fire”. There are too many threads, pictures, and stories on people who lost batteries, chargers, and sometimes entire houses due to improper charging practices.
Here are some quick answers to LiPo battery questions that we see pop up constantly:
How should I secure my batteries to my quad? Most people use a battery strap. Look for longer “rubberized” straps with a stitched clasp when shopping around. Many retailers give these our for free. Additionally, you can better secure your battery by adding Velcro to the undersized. You also should secure your balance lead!
LiPo safe bags – should I use them? No. Don’t use them. While they might make you feel safer, we tested common battery storage methods, and LiPo safe bags did basically nothing to contain a fire. Go with a modded ammo can (remove the rubber seal or drill vent holes), bat-safe, or cinderblock battery bunker instead.
Can I charge multiple batteries at once? Sounds like you want to learn more about parallel charging. Proceed with caution though – parallel charging incorrectly is a great way to start a fire.
What battery should I choose for my quad? What does 3S, 4S, 5S, etc. mean.? Sounds like you are more looking for information on LiPo tech rather than safety. Check out our buyers guide for more related info!
How do I find a spot to fly?
Unfortunately, more and more parks are putting up “No Drones Allowed” signs. Public drone flying gets more bad press than good. This can make finding a flying spot a challenge for beginner pilots!
If you want some tips on finding a safe flying site, check out this article. We outline what to look for, and more importantly, what to avoid when searching for a place to fly. Moreover, you can use apps to find safe flying locations from your phone!
Additionally, check out our article on interacting with the public while flying. Like it or not, you represent the hobby when flying at your local spot. We aren’t saying you can’t pull off crazy stunts, but rather we give some tips on interacting with people when you are out flying!
Is flying a drone legal / do I need license to fly a drone?
Another question we see pop up constantly. With any question on legality, we always recommend doing your own independent research before relying on random responses from Internet strangers. That said, if you are in the United States, we have compiled a ton of information that can help direct your research on drone legality.
For the most part, if you plan on flying FPV, you will need a HAM radio license. Otherwise, if you are flying non-commercially (i.e. you don’t make money while flying) you shouldn’t need any special licensing. Insurance is always good to consider, but mostly dependent on your personal situation.
I would highly recommend checking out this article on drone legality questions. We try to keep this post up to date with recent changes and adjustments in the industry. Aspects like drone registration with the FAA change frequently, but we try to stay on top of and post the latest information there.
Finally, the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) is a great resource for up to date news on laws and regulations around RC flying. While the AMA is traditionally based around RC planes and helicopters, they frequently post the lastest news from the FAA that directly relates to drone pilots.
Any other beginner questions we should answer? Ask us!
Do you have a question we missed? Let us know in the comments!
Similarly, if you are looking for more advanced articles, in-depth guides, and curated information, be sure to check out our drone racing guide. This page has a wealth of organized information for every type of drone pilot!