Guest Blog: Top Tips for new drone users

Dec 12 2022

Posted by Altitude Angel Insight

news main image Gifting a drone this festive season

This guest blog is written by Ben Shirley, from Heliguy.

Well that time of year is once again upon us, the smell of cinnamon fills the air, the chilling nip of the morning frost, but it’s also that time where social media community pages will soon be awash with posts of either missing or found drones, an inevitable result of first-time drone owners receiving their must-have gadget as a gift over the festive period.

So if you’re either planning on gifting, or have a drone taking pride-of-place upon your wish list, you might want to make a start now so that you’re prepared for the big day….no, not Christmas, I’m referring of course to your first flight!

Whilst I can (and routinely do!) talk nonstop about drones, I’ve condensed down my guidance for those who are new to the world of drones, in the hope that the early days of learning to fly your new gadget will be safe, legal and of course, enjoyable.

Tip #1

To operate a drone in the UK, you must be registered with the CAA and have a Remote Pilot Identification Number. This is attained free by completing a series of online training, culminating in a multiple-choice examination.

If you own a drone, or are responsible for one, you must also register as an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) operator, and your operator ID must be placed onto your drone; like a little number plate, but routinely created using a standard label maker. This costs £10.00 and must be renewed annually. If you have more than one drone, you will use the same operator ID for them all, as you’re registering yourself, not the individual drones.

If you’re gifting a drone to a young person, the parent or guardian should register as the operator, but both must complete the required training and examination to attain Remote Pilot identification numbers.  

Visit the CAA Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Service (DMARES) to find out more and complete the necessary training and registration:

Tip #2

You’ll undoubtedly be in a hurry to get your new gadget in the air as quickly as possible, but you must resist the urge to do so until you have read the user manual. This is not only important for understanding its safe operation, but also critical safety functionality and technical specifications.

In anticipation of receiving your desired drone, it’s worth heading over to the manufacturer’s website and downloading the user manual. That way, you can become well-versed with it before you even unwrap it. Online video tutorials can also be useful, however, I recommend taking caution with such learning, and limiting yourself only to the manufacturer or reputable sources, as some video creators' rules may be significantly different from here in the UK and any bad habits which they have will inevitably transfer over to you. Some manufacturers' flight apps feature inbuilt training and familiarisation tours, so it’s well worth running through those.

Tip #3

Before you even think about flying, you need to plan your flying area wisely. Avoid flying indoors until you’ve become proficient with the drone and likewise, apply caution when flying from your garden, as this can not only be a source of anxiety for your neighbours privacy, but also a potential breach of drone regulations.

The Altitude Angel Drone Assist application (available free from both Apple App store and Google Play store) is a fantastic resource for checking airspace, but also it shows a wealth of other relevant information too. This app should be the first thing you check when planning a flight, and the last thing you check before you start flying. It’s also available as a desktop version at

Tip #4

Flying drones is very much reliant on suitable weather, something which can be somewhat frustrating when you have a burning desire to get your drone airborne. You must, however, resist temptation when the conditions are not commensurate with both the technical capabilities of your drone, but also your own level of skill. Whilst the former is simple to identify from the user manual, the latter will require an honest evaluation of your own capabilities.

Winds which exceed the technical capability of your aircraft will inevitably lead to a loss of control, as the drone can only generate so much thrust. You need to consider both constant and gusting wind speeds, routinely taken from a suitable weather forecasting source such as the Met Office, Windy or UAV Forecast apps. It is also worth considering the purchase of an anemometer (wind speed measuring device) so that you can gain an understanding of the conditions at your selected operating site. Most will also feature a digital thermometer, and temperature is another factor you’ll need to consider.  

Additionally, the vast majority of consumer and pro-sumer drones don’t feature any ingress protection and therefore, cannot be flown in precipitation (any form of water falling from the sky). So if it’s raining or snowing you’ll, unfortunately, have to keep that aircraft grounded until the weather becomes more suitable.

Tip #5

Finding a suitable place to fly your drone is important, as it will be a suitably benign space to familiarise yourself with the drone’s flight characteristics. There are particular rules which dictate how far away your drone will need to be from any uninvolved persons and built-up areas, so you should ensure that you are familiar with these distances, as well as places where you shouldn’t fly. Again, Altitude Angel’s Drone Assist App can help in validating any areas which you think might be suitable.

Tip #6

As a Remote Pilot, you must keep your drone where you can clearly see it. That means that you shouldn’t fly behind obstacles which obscure your view of your drone and likewise, not beyond a distance where you’re unable to visually identify the orientation (which way it’s pointing). This is obviously dependent on a number of factors, including but not limited to the size of the drone, your eyesight and weather conditions.

If however, you’re planning on flying First Person View (FPV) with a drone which is compatible with a set of goggles, you must have an observer present standing next to you, who can keep an eye on your drone, as well as the surrounding area.

Tip #7

Before you even think about taking off, ensure that you assemble and check your aircraft in line with the manufacturer's guidance. Once you have completed assembly checks, you should then conduct functional checks, ensuring the system is configured for the specific flight which you will conduct. This can include sensor calibrations, height and distance limitations, battery warnings and return-to-home settings. These are important to ensure that both you and the drone are ready for that specific flight.

Tip #8

Begin to learn some of the basics of flight, before thinking about the more complex functionality and camera control. Get used to how the aircraft flies and build-up your skills steadily. Keeping the aircraft close to yourself (within 30m) will help with orientation awareness. And take it slow: Don’t be tempted to start flying at the speed of a thousand gazelles too soon!

As a Remote Pilot, you have a lot to think about whilst in-flight, and the majority, in time, will become second nature. Although the stunning images will appear on the controller in your hands, don’t forget to maintain an awareness of what’s going on around you - conducting regular and comprehensive visual checks of your surroundings. You’ll also have to monitor the status of the drone throughout flight, ensuring you land with plenty of battery remaining - I recommend landing with a minimum of 20%.

Tip #9

Give yourself plenty of time to develop your skill in a structured and progressive format. Start off with the basics such as take-off and landing, simple coordinated turns and manoeuvres. It might feel somewhat alien to begin with, but don’t worry, it will come. Be gentle with the sticks and you’ll quickly learn that it doesn’t take a lot of input to get your drone moving. And remember, provided your aircraft remains in a GNSS-assisted flight mode, you can simply take your finger off the sticks and the aircraft will return to a stable hover, giving you the opportunity to think about your next move.

Flying drones can be very enjoyable and rewarding, and most people will catch the bug from the outset. Remember to always fly safely and considerately, in-keeping with the rules and regulations. Outside of the world of recreational drone use, they are also being used in a variety of different industries and as technology continues to evolve, drones will soon become commonplace in our skies.

If you have an aspiration to explore the fascinating world of drones, head on over to our website and take a look at some of our case-studies and find out how we can help you get the most out of your drone:

All information correct at the time of writing, December 2022