New to the Mavic? – What You Should Do First – Updated!May 31, 2018
So you just got your new Mavic (Air, Pro, Pro Platinum, etc.). You may be new to the Mavic or maybe you’re new to drones in general. That’s OK. This post is to help you figure out what you should do first. Although focused on the DJI Mavic Pro, much of this article will apply to any drone out there and most of the accessories and apps will work for many of the DJI drones so, if you don’t have a Mavic Pro, that’s OK, you can still glean some useful information here.
I decided to write this article after answering so many “Hey, I just got drone X. What should I do first?” questions on social media sites. I hope it helps you.
Don’t have your Mavic yet? Check out my DJI Mavic – Which One to Choose post comparing the current DJI Mavic family.
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Unbox it and check it out!
This really goes without saying but, the very first thing you should do is open it! Take in that new-drone smell and admire the sleek contours. Make sure all the parts and accessories (i.e. the drone itself, batteries, remote control, props, etc.) are there and free of damage. Move all the parts that should move (i.e. extend any folding legs, spin the props, etc.). Make sure everything that should move does and does so smoothly. Check for any visible damage and consider lightly shaking the drone to listen for anything rattling. If you hear a rattle, that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong but, you should reach out to the community, describe the issue and just ask if that’s “normal” or not.
OK, so your drone is perfect. Now you need to get everything all charged up. Most electronics come partially charged but, it is always better to fully charge your drone and accessories (i.e. remote control) fully before operation. Pull out the old, or in this case new, charger and get those batteries charging. Pay attention to the indicator lights/percentage display as they will indicate if there are any charging issues (see your manual to see what the number of or speed of the blinking lights mean).
Read the manuals, a few blogs and watch a video or two.
Now that you’re sitting around with nothing to do while the batteries charge, take this time to read the manuals. They will cover operating your drone, safety precautions to take and so on. Once you have the manuals read, head on over to one or more of the popular drone web sites (hopefully this is one of them) or social media groups and just browse the articles and posts to get an idea of the questions others ask and get inspiration for what you can do with your new drone. Of particular interest might be those how-to videos you can find on sites such as YouTube, etc. There are many out there that will show things from making your first flight to specifics on the intelligent flight modes (DJI has a few good ones on their site as well). Take the time to watch a few of them as it will only make your experience that much better.
Scope out a location for your first flight.
Now you know all you need for your successful flight from all those articles and videos. Time to figure out where to take that first flight. Sure, you can power it on up inside your home but that’s really not the best place for your first time. Besides limited GPS coverage indoors you have other issues to deal with such as close proximity to obstacles, electronic interference and so on. The best place to conduct your first flight is really a wide open field (such as at a park, school yard, or out in the middle of nowhere).
Consider external conditions such as weather, activity (are there a lot of people around), visibility, obstacles (power lines, trees, etc.) and so on when selecting your flight location.
Update to the latest firmware.
Take the time to make sure you’re on the latest firmware. I recommend using the DJI Assistant desktop software and using a USB cable between your remote or drone and your computer to perform the updates. Being on the latest version will make sure you have the latest bug fixes and the latest features for your drone.
Create a checklist and follow it.
Create a simple pre-flight checklist to ensure your aircraft is ready for flight and that you haven’t forgotten anything, what to consider during flight and landing operations. The contents of the checklist will vary based on the drone you have. In general consider including the following:
- Weather – Current and forecast are good for flight.
- Winds – Current and forecast are within range for flight. If your drone can handle winds up to 22 mph don’t fly in 30 mph conditions.
- Power – All batteries and accessories are fully charged.
- Physical Condition – Drone and attached accessories have been checked for physical damage and all moving parts move smoothly and freely.
- Removable parts – attached securely (i.e. propellers).
- Camera Cover/Gimbal Lock – Removed before flight and really before power up as the camera gimbal will cycle through tests. If the lock isn’t removed before power up, it will restrict that movement and possibly damage the gimbal.
- Airspace – Free of restrictions or waiver in place.
- Obstacles – Awareness of all stationary and moving objects that can be potential issues for the planned flight.
- Safety – Awareness and planned avoidance of people and animals (i.e. don’t fly over groups of people, etc. unless they are aware and part of your current operation such as you filming a race, etc. and all parties involved agree).
- microSD – Make sure you didn’t forget to put the card in.
- Power-On Tests – Power up the remote, drone and any controlling devices (tablets, phone, etc.) and allow them to complete their internal tests and the drone to get a full GPS lock.
- Software Controlled Settings – Make sure your settings are what you want them to be for this flight (i.e. camera, flight mode, RTH settings, etc.).
- Take-Off – Take off and hover for a few seconds to allow the drone to get the visual lock (if applicable) for precision landing feature and to see if there’s significant drifting, etc.
- Fly – Fly around, take video, play with the intelligent flight modes but, above all else, keep the drone in sight and be aware of its surroundings to avoid a collision.
- Start Your Return – Make sure to start your return with enough battery power to get back safely and land with a little to spare.
- Clear Your Landing Area and Land – Make sure your landing area is clear and safe for landing (i.e. level, solid surface, etc.).
- Physical Check – After landing check the drone for any signs of physical damage such as loose screws, chipped props, etc. You’d be amazed at how many times I’ve chopped bugs up that I never saw and the mess the left on my drone.
- Power Down and Store Properly – Power down your drone, attach/detach accessories and store in a protective case.
- Review the Footage – Go home (or use your mobile station/laptop) to review your footage and share with the world.
Get that first flight notch in your belt and get a feel for the drone.
Get in the air. It’s an odd yet satisfying feeling to pilot your drone (odd because you feel like you’re almost up there flying yourself). Get up there and have fun. Start out with the safety’s on (i.e. beginner mode) and once you have a hang of the controls, pop it into one of the intelligent flight modes and play around with it. Once you’re comfortable with that go ahead and enable sport mode and see what this baby can really do. Learn what is available in what mode (i.e. your intelligent flight modes do not work in sport mode). Get a feel for how the drone response to various levels of input in both modes (i.e. wow look at that thing almost rotate 90 degrees to stop in sport mode when flying fast). Once you know how the modes work, what your limitations are and how your drone reacts to control inputs, you’ll be ready to plan and execute almost any type of flight to meet your photography, videography or fun needs.
OK, you have your drone, you’ve flown it and now you want a few items to make the experience better. Time to bring up that wish or shopping list. If you’re into photography or videography, you’re probably going to want ND Filters. If you want to keep your drone pristine and you launch from sandy, grassy or other dirty areas, maybe a launching/landing pad is in your future. If you want to be able to charge and go quickly, a multi-charger and/or remote outlet might be what you’re looking for. In any event check out my Essential DJI Mavic Pro Accessories – The Must Haves post. Chances are there’s an item or two on that list that you’ll want and maybe one or two you didn’t even know you wanted.
You may be thinking to yourself “Wow, this DJI Go 4 app is amazing!” and it is, but it’s not the only option. There are several apps out there to help you run diagnostics, make money, plan and automate your flights, check airspace restrictions and so much more. Check out my DJI Mavic Pro Apps – My Top Picks post for a list of the one’s I don’t go without.
Once you start using these apps, your options are really limitless. Check them out and give them a try.
Plan your next flights.
You’re comfortable with operating your drone. You know its and your limitations. You have your apps and accessories. Now it’s time to plan that next flight. Will it be to take video of an even such as a wedding, bike race, hike, etc., to make money performing a roof inspection, taking video for a realtor, etc. or will it be just for fun. Will you use DJI Go 4, Litchi, Autopilot, or one of the other apps?
In the end, it doesn’t matter, just go out and do it! It’s both fun and rewarding.
Drone DJ has a great post on Here are 5 quick tips to “Get Good At Drone Flying” by Matti Haapoja!.
OK, so you’re new to the Mavic. No big deal. This is by no means an exhaustive list of what you should do first but I hope that you found it useful and took something beneficial away from it. You’re only limited by your imagination when it comes to using your drone. Do what works for you. If that’s having fun the go out and have fun. If it’s making money, get that FAA license and go to town!
You bought your drone, use it!
If you feel I’ve missed anything, disagree with my post or have additional items you think should be included please comment below. I do review comments and once approved they will be visible on this post for others to see.