Learning to Fly

Learning to fly the Mavic Air has been a pleasure, and actually much easier than I feared.

Droning Over the Badlands
Flying a Mavic Air over the badlands of recent Hualālai lava flows
The purchase of a drone was a bit of leap, one I had been considering for quite some time. When you realize where I will be over the next month the time was now.

Our annual boating trip into the wilds of Alaska and British Columbia offers stunning photographic opportunities for a drone. Not that the island of Hawaii does not offer a great place to learn.

Now or never! So I put down the money and bought the aircraft.

With drone in hand I need to learn to fly it. I need practice to achieve the level of competency I feel is required. I have had a month to practice, a month I have made good use of. Regularly flying and logging quite a few discharged batteries each week.

I am taking learning to fly seriously.

To watch a thousand dollar drone disappear into the sky takes a leap of faith. Faith in the technology and faith in your own skill to pilot the drone back to the launch site. Any number of times I have piloted it far enough away that the drone itself is lost to view, even though I have a clear view of where it is. It is always reassuring to hear the buzzing grow louder and have this little aircraft reappear as it returns.

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The Mavic Air

OK, so I bought a drone.

Flying the DJI Mavic Air in the saddle at the base of Mauna Kea
Flying the DJI Mavic Air in the saddle at the base of Mauna Kea
I have been flying the aircraft for over a month now, logging hours of flight time, and discharging plenty of batteries. I have practiced launch and recovery, navigation, hand catching the drone, and taken some great photos.

Describing the Mavic Air is simple… Impressive.

This is not a review, I am making no effort to list through all of the features and faults of the aircraft. What follows is more my impressions of the drone, a few things I have encountered while learning to use it.

The issue here is that I am completely new to flying a drone, the Mavic Air my first real drone, not considering the cheap $20 toy quadcopter I played with a bit to learn. I have had to learn everything from scratch. It also means I come at this little aircraft with fresh eyes having nothing to compare it with.

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Where can you fly a drone in Hawaii?

For a new drone pilot, learning the rules can be a bit daunting.

Hawaiʻi is a state that is incredibly attractive to a drone pilot. The scenery, from reefs and beaches, to the soaring volcanoes, just begs to be flown over and photographed from the air.

Flying the DJI Mavic Air in the saddle at the base of Mauna Kea
Flying the DJI Mavic Air in the saddle at the base of Mauna Kea

I am determined to fly responsibly, that means going through all of the various rules. The rules are not simple! They are a patchwork of regulations from federal, state, and local authorities. How do you make sense of it all?

Below is the results of my research on the subject. More than a few hours of reading state and federal websites. The process of writing this post was in itself a means of educating myself. Hopefully others will find this useful. If you know of anything I have missed, drop me a line to let me know.

This post is focused on the Island of Hawaii, home for me. But much of what is discussed here applies to all of the islands.

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