This beginner’s guide to flying drones

white drone flying over brown leafless tree

In April, I finally caved into my urge and bought a drone. It was something I had been considering for probably a couple of years by that point, but the drone I wanted was just out of a comfortable price range for me.

Until it wasn’t. I found it around $100 cheaper, which I now realise was to make way for a newer model. So, I bit the bullet, and a few days later I was in possession of a DJI Mini 2, and I couldn’t be happier.

Until I wasn’t. In June, the Japanese government made it mandatory to register all drones under 500g (mine is under 200g). I hadn’t registered yet, and I very stupidly believed the people on Twitter who told me I was out of luck and essentially had a $700 paperweight on my hands. I tried registering the drone, but no luck.

Naturally I was devastated, I hadn’t felt a shock like that for a long time. I was also an idiot though. I posted about it on this blog, and a friend told me I was straight up wrong, and that all I had to do was register.

Turns out when I tried to register the drone it didn’t accept my katakana name the first time around, and they had emailed me to let me know, but it was sent to my spam folder.

Long story short, my drone is back in action, so I thought I’d take the time to collect my thoughts about some of the things I have learned so far.

1. Be mindful of movements

Nobody likes jarring footage. With drones this is ten times true. The smoother you can move in the air, the better. Slight movements with your fingers are going to go a long way, I would say to practice this first.

A side note on this is that it’s fine to have your drone static in the air, as long as there’s some movement in the picture, and the picture is framed well, it looks great!

2. Be mindful of the battery

Besides the obvious making sure you never run out of battery while in the air, this can be used to give you a variety of shots. My drone has three batteries, which ideally means three flights. When I’m out on the mountains I’m thinking of three different perspectives I can get of the mountain.

Usually this means something from the summit, something from far away, and I’m working on getting some action shots too, although this really depends on the type of mountain.

3. Be mindful of surroundings

This is another obvious one, but besides things in the direct way of the drone, also be aware of the weather and light. Multiple times I’ve wanted to get footage of a mountain, only when I get around to it, it’s covered in cloud. Best to take advantage of the weather, as that’s one thing that can and will change!

Having a drone is amazing. It’s been more fun than I thought it would be, and I’m learning so much by getting it out and trying to capture good footage. It feels like I felt 12 years ago when I first picked up an SLR, a sense of excitement at what I can capture. And for the most part, it has been delivering, but I want to develop my skills even more.



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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan

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