[ Drone Tips # 1 ] Outdoor Drone Flying Preparation

[ Drone Tips # 1 ] Outdoor Drone Flying Preparation

Why Outdoor Drone Flying Preparation?

Flying a drone is fun. Yet most of us, being used to ground navigation like car driving, are not used to flying object navigation.


Navigating your drone in mountain area is particularly challenging, with hills potentially blocking your signals!

As a consequence, we often couldn’t get desire footage with limited battery flying time. Or even worse, crash our drones!

Here I want to offer some Outdoor Drone Flying Preparation tips I learned from my drone fly experience. I used a DJI Spark drone but the tips should apply to most general drones.

Check Phone APP Updates

This is most annoying at best: you want to fly a drone and the app tells you to update before taking off, wasting tons of your precious battery life and thus shortening flying time! Plus you wait there doing nothing like a fool.

Always check the app update before you go out. As the drone is still in active development, companies like DJI often releases update about once per week.

Also check the app update when you switch batteries. My DJI drones sometimes requires battery firmware update as well.

Remember to Re-Sign In!

Probably due to regulation your drone setting might not work unless you sign in. Yet many times an update causes the app to sign-out.

For Outdoor Drone Flying Preparation, remember to re-sign in after every update. For my DJI Spark I once wasted an entire battery puzzling why my flight range was limited to 50 meter, while my drone setting was 500 meter.


Originally I wanted to fly my drone to that waterfall, but was not able to due to app signing me out after update and limiting fly distance to 50 meters!

Study Google Maps Terrain

Many drone remote controller uses Wifi or radio signals, and these signals don’t work well when they were blocked by terrains like a mountain (remember you couldn’t get radio signals in a tunnel?), even if the distance is still in recommended value.

Thus for Outdoor Drone Flying Preparation especially in the mountains, study the terrain with Google Maps to make sure you don’t fly your drone to where there are blocking hills between your drone and your controller.

The simplest terrain study you can do is to find launching sites:

  1. At the hill top.
  2. At the center of a wide valley.

I once made this error and suddenly lost my visual signals. Luckily I pushed the Return to Home option and the drone was smart enough to fly back to regain signals.

I got a visual signal lost while filming in this mountain area. Luckily the Return to Home function worked and my drone flied back!

Pick an Obvious Launching Location

Using Google Maps Satellite View or scouting, you should pick an obvious launching location for Outdoor Drone Flying Preparation, so you could easily identify the location on the drone’s visuals.

Although now there is Return to Home functionality in many drones, you shouldn’t totally rely on it, and an obvious launching location helps a lot for manual fly back.

Choose an obvious launching location can be very useful!

Some obvious launching points are:

  • Single building, like the lone building on a hill top.
  • Colorful sites, like a temple.



Plan Point of Interests (POIs) Before Hand

Finally, at Outdoor Drone Flying Preparation you should plan for what point of interests (POIs) you want the drone to take footage. This maximizes your flying time for footage production and minimizes wasteful “searching” flying time.

At minimum you should know well the direction from launching point to POIs. This can reduce unnecessary time searching for POIs and make “direct flight” towards POIs.

If you could see the POIs from your launching point, pinpoint them and orient your drone to fly straight to them at start. If you couldn’t see your POIs, bring up your Google Maps and use the direction function to find the POIs’ directions.

The other useful information is the approximated distance from launching point to POIs. This gives you a rough guess whether you are too far away from POIs to your launching point.


A cool earthquake shaped terrain near MeiShan. Yet from Google Maps I knew it was too far from my launching point, so I didn’t bother trying.

Also Recommended:

[ My First Drone! ] DJI Spark First Impression 大疆Spark飛行機第一印象

[ Go to Radar Station! ] North East Taiwan Mountain Coastal Ride Part 1 台灣東北山海騎之一

[ See Tea Fields from the Sky! ] MeiShan 36 Turns with Drone Part 1 梅山36彎空拍之一

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