I was in my fifth semester at college when I notice that everybody was getting drones. I mean, it had been a big deal for a couple of weeks, sure. But I thought it was only certain types of people that got drones, you know, people that used them for work or something. It turns out that anybody with the money to afford it could get a drone and start flying without any excuse. That was tempting, sure. But I was only convinced when I heard about certain qualities about drones.
First, there was the whole deal of the video camera, the FPV or first-person view. That meant that I could put on goggles and watch through my drone as if I was the one flying it for someone that as a kid used to dream about being a pilot, that sounded wonderful. Then, of course, I found out everything about drone racing. My competitive side jumped out. I did the math and noticed that I had enough friends to start our amateur races. So that meant I most definitely needed to get a drone.
The first step to getting into the world of flying drones was, obviously, getting a drone. I needed the perfect drone. I got together with a group of friends that knew about drones, and we started pacing the local stores that had drones in their windows. We spent a full afternoon and half of the other one pacing aisles, asking questions, debating, all of it. Until I remembered that, funnily enough, to buy a drone you need the money. My friends didn’t think it was as hilarious as I found it.
After putting it off for a week or two, I finally had enough money to go for it. I ended up buying one online just as most people did. It was a pretty nice one, I think. The model was practical, not the most expensive one but popular enough to be trustworthy, one of the Phantom models. I still was so far away from being an expert, but I just wanted to fly and race as soon as possible.
Effectively, the same day my drone arrived, I rushed to the park near the college and assembled the little thing. It was slightly bigger than I had imagined it. But it was just like a little friendly flying robot. And it had the video camera I wanted, the goggles, everything. I felt so very ready to fly. Obviously, I wasn’t.
Luckily, I had a pretty nice group of friends. They could be annoying; as I was sure, they’d be if I lost on the races against them. But they were also eager to show their knowledge of drones. So they approached me right on time before I started inexpertly flying and probably crashing my first drone. The group surrounded, and they started acting like a machine themselves.
They started working on the drone, tweaking and turning things, adding and taking off other things. I had no idea what they were doing, but they were also talking to me the whole while. Explaining part of what they were doing and leaving me nice recommendations about flying.
“Look at this, don’t be afraid, come on, you have to know your drone. Learn every part of it, so you know if something starts going wrong.” One of them said, waving a screwdriver at me.
“The best drones for racing are modified by the users. You don’t just buy one and send it up flying.” Another one continued with a wink in my direction.
They were teasing me as well, but some of their pieces of advice were actually good.
“Don’t be an ambitious dumbass. For now, it’s fair that you stay on your line of sight, even if the drone could technically go farther.” My oldest friend said seriously without looking up from the drone.
“And please be patient, oh my God, start slowly. I know you were about to send this little guy up to the clouds in an instant. Treat it like a miniature plane; you take off slowly, slowly.”
What can I say? My friends knew me well.
Finally, they considered themselves done with the drone. According to the more knowledgeable ones, we still had a lot of work to do. But that could wait until I knew what I was doing because it was my drone after all and I was supposed to be the one to modify it if my heart so desired it.
That meant we were ready to fly. First, I talked with my drone. We were a team now, I told it. And I named the robotic guy Charlie. That was important. It created a bond. I needed Charlie to know I cared about him and that we could trust each other not to crash and embarrass ourselves. Charlie the drone and I against the world.
The moment arrived. Charlie was prepared, my friends stood around me, I had all the equipment prepared, goggles on my face, controller firmly held in my hands, everything good to go. I started delicately pushing the buttons, with a confident smile on my face. But it was a matter of seconds, and the drone had barely left the ground when I felt fingers brushing mine.
“Hey, look, try to do it like this.” One of my friends timidly said.
“Yeah, that’s right but a little slower, softer, no, no, go right… yes, that’s better.” Another friendly mumbled, moving my fingers on the controller.
“You’re tilted, fix your posture, or it’s going to be a pain in a few minutes.” My best friend said sternly and joked at the same time, slapping my back.
So for the next hour or so my friends continued to fly the drone themselves, twisting my fingers, moving my hands, pushing me away when I was about to do something stupid. But, hey, that’s one way of learning how to fly a drone.