How to fly a quadcopter

The AR Drone is very simple to fly but does not fly like anything else on the market. If you are going to move up to bigger or more advanced quadcopters you are going to need a different set of flying skills. In this article we are going to start learning how to fly them and help you get your copter off the ground.

The first thing you need to know is that flying a quad is exactly like flying a R/C helicopter. The controls are exactly the same so if you have helicopter experience, you can easily fly a quad while flying a quad is excellent practice for flying a helicopter.

The Controls

Unfortunately, if you have been using the AR Drone, you will find the controls to be basically swapped when you move to a different product. Normal controls will have the altitude/rotate on the left with the pitch control on the right. If you don’t know what that means, just follow along for a complete explaination.

On the left side of the controller the joystick control, when moved up and down, will adjust the propeller speed causing the copter to gain or lose altitude. Before attempting to take off, you need to make sure your weight is properly balanced front to back and left to right to make sure it will take off straight.

Note:Before your very first flight, its a good idea to have a more experienced flier do a test flight and get it all trimmed properly.

The yaw control rotates your craft left and right. The further you push it, the faster it will rotate. Until you get really comfortable with flying, it is best to keep the front of the craft pointing away from you so you don’t get disoriented. As soon as your craft is facing you, the controls are actually reversed and it is very easy to get confused with the controls and end up crashing. Since multirotor copters are inherently more stable than a helicopter, it is usually easier to recover from getting disoriented but you still need to be pretty careful about getting confused.

The right joystick controls the pitch or angle of the copter to enabled it to move forward/back and left/right. What this is a actually doing is increasing the speed of the propellers in opposite relation to the direction you push the joystick. If you push the joystick right, the left side propellers will speed up to tilt the copter and cause it to move to the right.


Start by standing behind your quadcopter and facing in the same direction as your drone. This way when you move the stick right, the quad will go right, etc.

When lifting your quad off the ground, immediately bring it up 2 feet or more vertically. If you do not, the prop wash and ground effect will make it harder to control.

Not all simulators have models for multirotor copters, but since flying a helicopter is identical, you can use pretty much any R/C simulator to practice with. I personally use the ClearView R/C Simulator as I have always spent a lot of time on simulators before any helicopter flight. The nice thing is that if you can get half-way decent at flying a helicopter in a simulator, you are in really good shape for flying a quadcopter.

Flying a multirotor copter is relatively easy and some people with no previous flight experience have had good success with just firing up a quad and learning on the fly. I will still recommend a simulator or having someone around to help you get started your first time – or, buy one of the inexpensive models such as the X1, read up on using it, and fly it outside where there is plenty of room to get the hang of it without putting it in a tree or on a roof!




  1. [...] review will not go into the basics of quadcopter flight – see our other articles as well as other sources on the web for more detail on typical transmitter operation. The V959 uses [...]

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