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Fly Your UAV Airplane Safely

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UAV Airplane Safety - Read Before Flying


Your first priority must be the safety of people!


  1. Crashes can happen, because of pilot error or hardware or software malfunction.
  2. If you are flying anywhere near other people, you are putting them at risk!
    1. Be sure to maintain safe distances between yourself, and spectators and your UAV Airplane.
    2. Circumstances require that you need to make your own determination of what is a "safe distance" from people and property.
    3. Taxi and take off in the UAV Airplane where you have clear visibility at all times and you and all others are well clear.
    4. If it is a hand launch make sure it will be well clear of others and take any necessary precautions for a pusher prop.
    5. Keep your UAV Airplane well clear of all people, property and obstacles, and the higher up, the further away it should be.
    6. Ensure that no one gets between you and your UAV Airplane.
    7. Spectators should always be a safe distance behind the pilot.
    8. If anyone intrudes beyond what you have determined to be the "safe" area, land and don't take off until they are clear.
    9. At full power, an average sized UAV Airplane can exceed 40 mph (64 km/h).
    10. And it can ascend to hundreds of feet and easily travel more than a mile in distance before running out of battery.
  3. If you are flying too high or near airports you are putting manned aircraft and the people on them at risk!
    1. Get to know where your nearest airports are and do not fly anywhere near them. (Call the Tower if you have doubts).
    2. In the US 400 feet above ground level is considered the maximum safe altitude due to general aviation use above 500 feet.
  4. Always ensure the battery cable is NOT connected to the power distribution board or harness until you are ready to fly.
    1. Always Turn on the transmitter and ensure the throttle stick is all the way down BEFORE connecting the battery.
    2. After landing the first thing you should do is disconnect your battery cable.
    3. Do not turn off the transmitter until after you have disconnected the battery.
    4. Always remove your prop(s) while you are testing motors, your hands, arms and face and those of your friends will thank you.
    5. When the battery is connected, always assume the motors are armed; You can check with a short throttle pulse.
    6. Don't pick up the model and the radio at the same time, you may bump the throttle.
    7. Do not attempt to fly longer than your batteries safe capacity, it is very bad for the battery and can cause a crash.
  5. The APM incorporates one and the PX4 or Pixhawk two motor arming safety features.
    1. Ensure the transmitter switch(es) have "Stabilize" mode selected.
    2. Immediately prior to flight turn on the transmitter and put the throttle stick all the way down.
    3. Connect the copters Battery
    4. If you have a PX4 or Pixhawk flight controller press the Safety button until it's LED is on solid (the Safety is Disengaged).
    5. To arm the UAV Airplane hold the transmitter throttle stick all the way down and to the right for several seconds.
    6. You can now take off by hand launch or taxi and take off.
    7. After landing your first response should be to hold the throttle down and to the left for several seconds to "Disarm" the motors.
    8. Disarm condition can be tested by moving the throttle stick up, if the motors do not move it is disarmed.
    9. If you have a PX4 or Pixhawk, you should also depress the Safety button until it's LED starts blinking. (Safety is Engaged).
    10. Even when disarmed, the throttle stick should always be kept in the full down position except when flying.
  6. Get used to switching back to Stabilize mode from other modes and reassuming full manual control.
    1. This is the single most important recovery technique (practice it).
    2. Do not start using any other modes than Stabilize until you are VERY comfortable flying your UAV Airplane.
  7. Especially while you are learning, it is recommended that you avoid expensive, stiff, ultra-sharp carbon fiber props.
    1. Get cheaper, more flexible and more breakable plastic propellers.
    2. Some of the super carbon fiber ones can cut better than a Ginsu and while they are almost indestructible - You are not.
  8. Important primary response to a crash, inadequate landing or unknown flight controller state.
    1. The first thing to do is throw a towel over your UAV Airplanes propeller (Propellers may start spinning unexpectedly).
    2. Then immediately disconnect the battery.
    3. A large towel is an important piece of safety equipment followed by a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit.
    4. Generally better to use the first one than the last one.
  9. When testing or flying any of the (waypoint) navigation modes (using GPS):
    1. Ensure that your GPS has "Lock" before arming and takeoff.
    2. Check that your home position on the Mission Planner is in fact correct.
    3. If the GPS doesn't accurately report your home position, reboot, wait for 8 or more satellites (not just 3D lock) and check again.
  10. It is very important to operate in accordance with all local and national laws and to avoid threatening anyones privacy.
    1. Our personal use of UAVs is under attack by those who fear "drones" and invasion of privacy.
    2. If you break a law, or invade someone's privacy, or put them in harm's way, you threaten the future of our hobby.
    3. Please, understand the laws and the rights of others - and fly accordingly.
    4. Most countries have a prominent model aircraft organization.
    5. In the USA the AMA is the main organization - Review the AMA safety code.
    6. Working with the FAA and other government organizations, the AMA is working to establish rules for UAVs and for FPV flight.
    7. If you are in the USA (or not), read these documents! The AMA has a strong lobbying group that will help protect our rights.
    8. Get involved and support your country's model aircraft organizations - and help protect our rights to fly.

Most important: Keep a safe distance between your UAV Airplane and People!


These tips can also help protect your Airplane from damage.


  1. Avoid sudden or extreme transmitter control stick deflections.
    1. Move the control sticks in small measured increments and don't "yank" on them.
    2. If the UAV is properly calibrated and balanced it should require only small stick inputs to control altitude, direction and speed.
  2. Trimmed properly, your UAV Airplane should fly straight and level with no rudder, aileron or elevator control inputs.
    1. If you are fighting the UAV, land and fix it - something is wrong - Hardware adjustment or software calibration may be required.
    2. You should also ensure that your UAV Airplane will glide straight and descend smoothly at zero throttle.
  3. Be especially careful of large throttle inputs, as a copter can gain (or lose) altitude very rapidly.
  4. Because Your UAV Airplane may be at a considerable distance it is easy to lose Visual Orientation.
    1. For manual flight modes, maintaining a clear vision of the Airplane's orientation (direction it is facing) is crucial to succesful flight.
    2. Especially while learning it is very important to keep your UAV appropriately close to you to aid in maintaining visual orientation.
    3. If the UAV gets further than 300 or 400 feet it can become difficult to maintain orientation and can easily crash.
    4. It is much better to simply descend and land rather than have an orientation-induced crash or worse still - a fly away.
  5. Always have Stabilize mode as the (Go To) one of your mode switch options.
  6. High or unexpected winds or gusts can make flight considerably more difficult.
    1. High winds can prevent forward progress or push the Airplane around causing you to become disoriented.
    2. The higher you are, the more likely high winds will be a problem.
    3. Switching to Stabilize mode and landing before you reach your skill limits can help you save your Airplane.
    4. Avoid flying at high speed or high altitude until you have gained considerable confidence in both manual and automatic modes.
    5. When flying around trees or buildings it is very easy to lose visual orientation or even to lose sight of the UAV completely.
    6. Gusting winds around objects can also worsen the problem.
    7. Radio signal loss can also occur.
    8. If your copter is approaching a potentially interfering object, switch to stabilize mode and land or return it to your location.
  7. ArduPilot specific safety modes: RTL, FailSafe and GeoFence.
    1. RTL can provide a safe Return to the Launch area if it starts to get away from you.
    2. Set up a FailSafe on Radio Fail with an RTL or Descend response to save your Airplane and prevent Injury.
    3. GeoFence establishes an automatic flying perimeter that will force your Airplane to stay in a safe proximity.
    4. Do not rely solely on the above safety modes, always be ready to take back control in stabilize and set the copter down.
    5. Do not rely on the above safety modes to perform maneuvers or training that you would otherwise consider dangerous.
    6. These modes are a supplement to, not a replacement for sound safety practices.
  8. On your first takeoff after tuning or hardware setup:
    1. Ensure all your servos are working correctly and that your motor can provide maximum thrust at full throttle.
    2. When all problems are fixed you should be able to launch the plane and have it fly normally.
    3. If stable and correct flight cannot be achieved, land and fix the problem until it can.
  9. When flying FPV "First Person View" (with a video camera), Have your modes set to: STABILIZE and RTL.
    1. Ensure RTL is working properly before using FPV.
    2. Use Stabilize mode to fly FPV.
    3. If you lose your FPV video, you can switch to RTL to get back.
    4. Keep your FPV plane within visual LOS (line of sight) so you can reassume visual external control at any time.
  10. Make sure your battery can't move around, use a Velcro Strap or adhesive backed Velcro to hold it in place.

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