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How To Safely Operate a Drone In Urban Areas

Every building and anything you see in the city is an obstacle that could potentially cause your drone to crash. With that said, it is necessary to practice flying a drone without obstacles, and a field is a great setting for this type of training. The drone must be in perfect condition, with working software, charged batteries, and all the additional equipment. Furthermore, make sure you have all the Must-have tools for drone pilots.

Compass calibration is a must

The only way to make sure your drone functions properly and does not fly away is to calibrate the compass. Since the city is full of devices that can create magnetic interference, it is best to find an open field the size of about 1-5 acres. There should not be any parking areas, cell phone towers, or metal guardrails. Once all the conditions are met, you can proceed with the calibration process. Just follow the instructions for your drone, word for word.

Another good idea is to take the drone to a verified drone service center and check if everything is operational. This is just a good measure of protection.

Know no-flight zones

There was a famous case in October 2018 when a Swiss tourist was arrested in New York for flying a drone in a no-flight zone. This is a common situation that can occur in a city.

Before you decide to operate a drone in urban areas, make sure to understand what parts to avoid. Furthermore, when traveling with such a device by plane, make sure that it is allowed, and if you are visiting another country, check the local laws and regulations regarding crossing the border with a drone and operating it in an urban area.

Enable multiple flight modes

All latest drones have an array of flight modes to ensure everything goes smoothly and without any issues. The three most common DJI modes are:

●        p-mode (position)

●        a-mode (attitude)

●        s-mode (sports)

P-mode flying

Position or p-mode flying is the most common flight mode for a drone. It activates all the device’s sensors and GPS, so it hovers steadily even if you stop controlling it.

A-mode flying

This flight mode, also known as ATTI flying, does not rely on sensors or GPS to hover. Instead, it will try to maintain the altitude while the pilot needs to steer it in the right direction.

S-mode flying

This flight mode has forward obstacle sensing disabled, and the movement with the stick is more challenging and more aggressive. It mostly focuses on speed.

What flight mode to use if you wish to safely operate a drone in urban areas?

With everything said about flight modes, you should avoid p-flying and s-flying in the city. Position flying is not good because the GPS and sensors may fail due to magnetic interference. If you lose the connection with the drone, you won’t be able to bring it back safely. Sport flying is also not a good option. Since it focuses on the drone’s speed, it does not allow you to fine-tune movement, so you might quickly crash the drone.

ATTI is your go-to mode for safely operating drones in urban areas

Now we are getting to the good stuff! This mode is the best option for operating your drone in the city because it is a completely manual mode. GPS and VPS are disabled, so you need to rely on your skill to move the drone between the buildings.

Now comes the time when you ask, “Why would I disable GPS and VPS and use the harder way to operate a drone?”

The idea of ATTI mode is that it turns itself on when GPS loses its signal. That way, it makes sure that the drone does not crash after losing navigation. Since the city is full of signals that will interrupt GPS connection, the drone will almost certainly crash at one point if you use the S-mode for flying. However, have in mind that your drone must support an option to turn the ATTI mode manually. You should not allow it to switch back and forth between the two modes.

Plan the flight route

Having a clear plan of where the drone will go is just common sense. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you don’t have enough visibility, and you don’t know where to go next. Furthermore, having a route is essential when you must retrieve your drone. It will also help if you determine the MOCA or the Maximum Obstacle Clearance Altitude. When the drone’s battery comes close to the end, it will activate the Return to Home feature and safely bring back your expensive drone. You can look this information up by either looking at groups of buildings on Google Maps or contacting building managers to get more information.

Once you know the highest altitude, add about 10 feet to it, so you are sure the drone will clear all obstacles.

A couple of best practices for the end

Before we finish for the day, let’s cover a few of the best practices that should help you safely operate a drone in urban areas. One option is to attach prop guards to your drone. This option is not 100% foolproof, but it should provide enough protection should your drone hit a wall and crash. Next, make sure the drone stays within range. Don’t allow it to fly off too far away. If you are operating it in a crowded area, it is smart to have an observer that will track the drone in the air. Finally, don’t forget to check the weather forecast for that day. Strong winds will affect flight precision, and you might have to say goodbye to your drone if you are not careful.

Fly Safe.

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