Drone Fishing – Learning to Fly

Guest post by Tony Cornell

So, you are a keen fisherman and would like to have a crack at Drone Fishing – but you have never flown a drone before. Well this article will assist you greatly and hopefully reduce the expensive mistakes many of us have made in the past.

Drone fishing is unique and in a lot of ways remarkably similar to balloon and kite fishing. With these fishing styles they all utilise a rig and bait delivery method rather than a casting action. Each one of these fishing styles enables the delivery of the rig and bait out to distances of up to 500 metres. At these distances, the angler can target much deeper water and larger fish, but as appealing as this is to many – it in turn creates a whole new set of challenges. The results from using a drone can dramatically increase the species you catch and the quantity. It is also way cheaper than buying and maintaining a boat.

When learning to fly a drone there are some important things you should do and not do, to reduce the risk and maximise your success. Below are several do’s and don’ts and some of these pointers listed are common sense, but it is a good idea to read these before your first few flights.

Do’s

  • Read the drones manual and make sure you fully understand it
  • Watch the instructional videos
  • Always use the GPS mode when starting
  • Always choose a large location such as a park and locate yourself in the very middle away from poles and trees with a 20metre maximum radius.
  • Always use a drone landing pad to ensure a safe and flat landing platform such as the OANNES 130cm folding landing pad or the OANNES 1.8 X 1.8 metre landing mat.
  • Always ensure the drones compass is properly calibrated and take the drone to a maximum height of 10 metres and hover it for 10 seconds – make sure the drone is behaving correctly and maintaining position – if not, carefully land the drone and perform the calibration procedure again.  
  • When calibrating any drone, keep the rotations tight and this will provide a more precise compass calibration. Download the useful APP UAV Forecast as this will give you an idea if Satellite reception in your area is good or bad on the day.
  • If you are having trouble calibrating the drone’s compass and the drone is erratic or ‘toilet bowling’, it may be due to a magnetic interference in the area. It is better to move from that location and try another one. Large steel light poles, concrete pavement that uses steel reinforcing, buildings etc will create a magnetic interference
  • Make sure you know the position of the front of your drone and always watch your drone to ensure you know the direction the drone is facing – If your eyesight is less than perfect, always wear glasses when flying.

WARNING:  While learning, your mind will be focused on the drone – But you must also constantly monitor the drone and remote controller’s battery life.

Don’ts

  • Never learn to fly your drone when the wind is more than half the rated wind rating of your drone – the lower the wind level the better- Calm is perfect.
  • Never calibrate your drones compass next cars, power lines, buildings or parking lots that may have metal bar in them that can give off high magnetic fields. Remove keys, metals, and mobile phones from your pockets.
  • Never fly the drone without reading the instruction manual or watching the videos tutorials first and always keep the manual with you while flying.
  • Do not break the drone rules and make sure you can fly in the location – apps such as oktofly or openskys can be downloaded for free at APP stores.

TIP: Pre-Flight checklists can be highly beneficial to make sure you have checked all important factors prior to flying – it teaches regimentation in your pre-flight checks. Please download the free pre-flight checklist at https://ultimatedronefishing.com/knowledge-base/pre-flight-checklist/

Drone Safety

One of the main responsibilities all drone owners have, is to ensure you understand the drone laws and you operate the drone safely. Make sure you understand and comply with the rules in your country as the fines can be exceptionally large.

In Australia the drone rules are governed by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority ‘CASA’ and they can be accessed at https://www.casa.gov.au/drones/rules/drone-safety-rules

In New Zealand the drone rules are governed by the Civil Aviation Authority New Zealand ‘CAA’ – drone rules can be accessed here https://www.flyyourdrone.nz/

For the United States of America the ‘FAA’ Federal Aviation Administration governs UAV’s and information can be located here https://www.faa.gov/uas/

Know Your Drone Banner

Drone Simulators

Using a Drone simulator is a fantastic way to learn how to fly a drone and to hone your skills without the risk of losing your drone. A drone flight simulator enables you to get your flying hours up in the comfort of your home and without distractions. They are also great when your time is short, or the weather conditions are not favourable. Starting with a drone simulator is highly advisable before you even attempt to fly your new, and possibly expensive drone.

DJI Flight Simulator is a professional pilot training software using DJI’s leading flight control technology to recreate a natural and realistic flying experience. High resolution graphics and simulated flight conditions such as wind effects, ground effects and crashes, provide total immersion to create an authentic flying experience.

You can download a free trial and upgrade to higher specification’s at any time https://click.dji.com/AJziJ6A8nnc6sfI4OM3u1A?pm=custom

Taking Your First Flight

While you are learning always maintain a maximum 25 metre height and a circumference radius of 20 metres and never go beyond this flight zone. If the drone gets away from you – never panic, and always activate the return to home function and let the drone return. Keeping the drone in this tight space will also teach you valuable drone control. Always use gentle fluid movements on the remote controller’s sticks – do not use jerky movements.

TIP:  If you lose control of the drone or your landing results in an uncontrollable crash – de-arm the motors immediately before the propellers hit an object or ground – This will reduce damage to the drone’s motors.

  1. Once you are confident in the drone’s calibration ensure the flight mode is set to GPS Mode and launch the drone to a maximum of 25 metres and let it hover – use the remote controller sticks and gently rotate the drone clockwise and anticlockwise.
  2. Slowly move the drone forward 10 metres and then return the drone backwards to the original location – repeat this 10 times.
  3. Next move the drone forward to 10 metres and stop – then rotate the drone around facing you and return the drone 10 metres– repeat this 10 times.
  4. Fly the drone out to the perimeter of the 20 meter circumference and fly the drone in a clockwise square pattern around you, and then reverse to a counter clock wise square pattern – repeat this a number of times until you are comfortable.
  5. Move the drone forward and move side to side to get the feeling for forward movement while moving the drone in different directions. Once out to the perimeter turn the drone around and return towards yourself – Be aware when the drone is facing you the stick movement will be the opposite of when the drone is moving away from you (Spend time on this – as it is one of the hardest things to grasp when learning)
  6. If you are comfortable at this stage, you can then turn the square pattern into an oval and using gentle stick control – fly the drone clockwise and anti-clockwise using very fluid motions. This exercise will improve your stick control and drone coordination.

Landing the drone is another particularly important skill to learn and intermittently during the exercises land the drone and practice take off. When landing your drone reduce the height very slowly and always stop the drone at eye level – make sure it is behaving normally and then gently lower the drone and quickly de-arm the motors as soon as it touches the landing pad.

You should spend at least 5-6 batteries in GPS flight time before becoming familiar with the Atti mode. When using this mode make sure you try it at a safe height of 25-30 metres and it is important to fully understand the drones flight characteristics without the aid of GPS. You need to become familiar with this mode should the GPS stop functioning due to a magnetic disturbance or interference. If the drone ever loses control, quickly switch to Atti mode, and manually take control of the drone and land it as soon as possible.

There are no secrets to flying a drone – just take it slow, be methodical, Do Not Panic and Practice-Practice-Practice.

Learning to Drop Baits

When you add weight to the drone it will totally change the flight characteristics -make sure you are confident enough flying the drone before attempting the bait drop. Do not attempt to carry more than half a kilo while you are learning.

WARNING:  Always use at least 6-10 batteries in flight time before you even attempt a bait lift

  • The main flying mode is GPS mode and never fly at full speed when taking baits out to avoid reel over wind. It is important to use long bait rigs of 4.5 – 6 plus meters to reduce pendulum effect. 
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Connecting the bait rig

  • When using Electronic release mechanisms – open the bait release and attach the rig via a drop loop of no less than 1 meter to the crafts electronic bait release and then close the release.
  • When using a tension release mechanism – simply clip the drop loop to the tension point and always use the same diameter line for connecting. If you change the line diameter you will change the tension on the release clip.
  • Ensure the reel bail is open for spinning reels and if you are using an overhead reel, bring the drag setting down to a light level, but be careful not to go too far as you can over spool the reel.
  • Make sure the line from the rod to the drone is kept lower than the drone and away from the motors – Never hook rigs to the drone whilst in flight. It is handy to have another person assisting the pilot to hold the rig line down and away from the drone’s propellers.
  • When lifting the baits, keep in mind to rise the craft in a controlled pace and be ready to compensate power for the additional weight. Once the rig is off the ground take the drone to a minimum height of 25metres. Slowly move the craft forward at a safe speed to the desired drop zone and always use gently fluid movements on the sticks. The pilot needs to be communicating with the person assisting in case the line snags when using an electronic bait release – if the line should snag or bind quickly release the bait immediately and gain altitude. Tension release clips are much safer as they will simply release automatically in the event of a line snag.

WARNING:  Immediately drop the bait if the craft wants to return due to low battery.

CAUTION:  When taking baits out the craft will naturally want to descend a bit initially – compensate by increasing altitude whilst flying out the bait.

Bait Lift Guide

For safety only lift 80% of the drones specified carrying capacity

Bait Lift Guide

Dropping the Bait

Drone Fishing

Electronic bait release

  • Always try to release the sticks slowly when approaching the drop zone and come to a full stop and then press button the button to release the bait. Practice this function over land before flying a bait out.
  • Once you have dropped the bait press the Return to home function to give you time to bring the excess line in and set the sinker.

Mechanical tension release

  • Keep the drone flying at same speed and when you are at the drop zone simply flick the reel bail over or tighten the drag on an overhead reel – do not slow the drone down.
  • Once you have dropped the bait press the Return to home function to give you time to bring the excess line in and set the sinker.

Landing the Drone

  • Once you have reeled in the excess line and the fishing rod is in the holder, switch from Return to home function to GPS mode and safely land the drone. Manually landing the drone will save valuable battery power.

WARNING:  Always wait until the props have completely stopped spinning before approaching the drone. Once landed turn the drone off and then the controller.

Check the battery level and switch the drone off – Good luck and tight lines. 🙂