How to Fly a Quad Copter




Do you need a new hobby?  Want to fly?  There are multiple instructions about how to make a quad-copter, but what about if you want to fly it as well?  I am going to show you all the necessities to be able to fly a quad-copter.  The best part is that while I will be specifically talking about a quad-copter, it can cross into all the different flying vehicles out there.

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Step 1: Safety Procedures

The first part of learning to fly should be safety.  Since you will be working with a flying machine, it can get quite dangerous.  Make sure that if you have a copter larger than a dinner plate, tie it down to the ground or surround it by a cage so you do not injure those near you or yourself.  Also, if you think you are going to crash, turn the throttle all the way down to 0 so that you don't break the quad or break what it will run into depending on how powerful of a machine you have.  

Make sure not to get fingers close to the blades.  If you have a powerful machine, serious injury could occur.  

Always unplug the quad before trying to fix anything on the copter.  One flip of the switch while working on it could result in serious injury.

Step 2: Terminology

Now it is time to get down to some of the terminology I will be using to explain the flight pattern.  

Yaw its the direction the quad is facing.  When you start flying for the first time, make sure to face the quad with the front end away from you.  This will make it easier to fly because it's right will be your right, and its left will be your left.  When you turn it so that it is facing you, these controls are now backwards.

Pitch is the rotation for moving the front and tail end.  This means it moves the front end higher than the tail end, or vise versa.  This aspect controls whether the quad is moving forward or backward.

Roll is the rotation from side to side.  As you can expect, this makes it move to the right or to the left.

Altitude is the height at which the quad is flying.  Keeping the quad at a lower altitude while learning to fly is an easy way to get used to the controls.

Above is a helpful picture featuring a plane that explains pitch, roll, and yaw if the text is confusing.

Step 3: The Controller

The above is what a more heavy duty controller will look like.  If you have one that is a little simpler, that is just fine since I will only be talking about the simple controls in this instruction set.

The left most stick controls the altitude and the yaw.  The default area for this to be in is down (a motor speed of 0) and in the middle.  It should automatically want to be in the middle for the side to side aspect.  The side to side area of the controller is the yaw.

The right most stick controlled the pitch and the roll.  The pitch is in the up and down direction and the roll is the side to side motions.  
The little switches can control the default setting for how the quad wants to fly.  A simple controller may not have these, but if the quad doesn't take off in only altitude, changing these will help that process.

Step 4: Starting Flight

When you start flying for the first time, as I have said in other parts, you want to maintain a lower altitude.  So slowly lift the altitude node to test how quickly the quad will take off with the motor settings.  

Do not try to move it.  Just start with trying to maintain a constant low altitude, and slowly rising it to higher altitudes.

Step 5: Movement of Quad

Now that you have the hang of keeping it at a normal altitude, it is time to finally start moving it.  The first thing to try to accomplish is making it go in a circle.  

Do not work with the yaw, keep it facing away from you.

Now try using the pitch and roll to make it go in a circle in the clockwise direction.  Once you have the hang of that, do the counter-clockwise direction.  Learning to change between these two will come after mastering both directions.

Step 6: Reverse Direction

Now comes the tricky part.  Work with the yaw so that the quad is facing you.  Now, attempt to do a clockwise circle again.  Notice that the controls are exactly opposite of what they were with the different yaw.

Continue with this direction as you did in the first direction.  Once you get good at it facing you, it is time to work on a more advanced way, the figure 8.

Step 7: The Figure 8

Once you have mastered those steps, it is time to see if you can accurately make it do a figure 8.  This is the last step to being able to fly a quad well.  If you can do this, you are understanding how it works.

You need it to face the direction you are going to start.  First, make it do a figure 8 while facing away from you.  Once you can do that, turn the yaw so it faces you and try doing a figure 8 in that direction.

Once you master both of those, you want to make the quad always face the way it is going in the figure 8.  This is where you will have to pay attention to the yaw, pitch, roll, and altitude.

Once you accomplish this, you are now a master of flight!

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    12 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Hi CPEngi Great tutorial, with great explanation, you are simply the
    best Man, Thank you. Also if you like here i find good tutorial What is a Quadcopter and many many things.


    3 years ago

    Be very careful and know the laws and your rights. Some people are paranoid of this hobby. Watch out for jerks.


    3 years ago

    when i try to fly it it wont do nothing when i click certain buttons it just makes loud noises like beep beepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeep

    Arduino Tech

    4 years ago on Introduction

    I have never flown a quadcopter or any other flying toy but I am building arduino quadcopter. After seeing this instructable I think it's quite difficult to fly it. I have 6 channel FlySky CT6B transmitter but the quadcopter I am building has MPU6050 3 axis accelerometer and gyroscope so it will be a lot easier to fly.

    1 reply
    EnginairArduino Tech

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    In short... no.

    Flying with the accelerometer and gyroscope is the only way to fly a quad as the standard quad configuration (center of mass at motor level, 0* tilt on all motors) is inherently unstable. The accelerometer and gyroscope can keep the quad from completely flipping itself or drifting out of position, but it cannot compensate for lack of proper control input.

    Also, having an accelerometer and gyroscope will only help if the pid algorithms are properly tuned. Normally, the default values are fine, but depending on your setup you may need to tweak them. This is a great explanation of it:


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Great publication! Most new drone flyers will be able to learn the basics from this writeup. Even I, an experienced quadcopter pilot, learned some things. If you would like to learn even more, please visit my website!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    A Very Nice Article! I hope this would help first time RC Flyers to learn the basics on Quadcopter Drifting, Safety Procedures, Maneuverability & Many More. I also learned some useful facts which were good. I run a small personal blog where I share my experiences on Quadcopters, Drones and UAV models.


    5 years ago on Step 3

    Probably worth mentioning that the throttle isn't always on the left (mode 2). Though throttle on the right (mode 1) is a lot less common.

    I find the learn to fly instructions interesting, but in reality it is more difficult than you say. I am learning to fly a quadcopter & it should be done outside away from people animals buildings bushes & trees, plus you must be a where that the wind has an effect. First you must learn to just hover on the spot, starting low then to about four feet or so, just must learn to manoeuvre the craft to compensate for the wind and stay in one spot, always practise up the wind about eight feet away from you. Apart from the hover you must learn to take off quickly and out of the ground affect from the props, then learn to land gently this process can take up fifty 5 minute flights You must be competent at the hover before making the next step learning to fly away from you and back facing forwards at a constant height. There are at least another four steps before you can start pattern flying.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    step 5, I was wondering where I can get a set of those prop guards


    5 years ago on Introduction

    thanks for the post. I've been thinking of building a quad but realized I had no idea how the controls works.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Great article! Hope that many new quadcopter pilots can learn from this resource : ) If you want to learn a little more about the various models out there, I run a website with information and reviews of the latest consumer quadcopters: