Learning to Fly a Syma X8G Quadcopter Drone
My brother bought me a Syma X8G drone for Christmas and I've been having a great time learning to fly it. At times, however, I did find the instruction manual a bit confusing, so I'm going to be documenting what I learn as I go along here.
The initial setup isn't too difficult once you know how to do it, and this is the first place where I was confused by the included instructions. The three assembly steps are to attach the landing skids, the blade guards, and the blades themselves.
How to Attach the Landing Skids
Attaching the landing skids to the Syma X8G is pretty easy and is the first thing I did. Just flip the body of the drone upside down, and you can see from the pair of screw holes near the base of each arm where they go. Use 2 of the screws with the wide heads for each one.
How to Attach the Blades
Attaching the blades on the Syma X8G was the hardest part for me. Mine came with a spare set in the box, so initially I thought I had to attach 2 blades to each arm! Once I'd realised this wasn't the case, it wasn't so difficult.
The first step is to remove the white plastic collar attached to the motor. Do this by rotating a quarter of a turn and then pushing out the little metal pin. Remove completely before putting the blade on and reattaching the white collar in the same way. Finally, push the decorative silver cap on.
Note when attaching the blades that the blades with an A need to go on the arms with an A and the blades with a B need to go on the arms with a B.
How to Attach the Blade Guards
Some people fly without blade guards but if, like me, you're a beginner, I would definitely recommend attaching them. They're quite fragile but don't worry, they're very cheap to replace!
The first thing is to remove the little black plastic insert at the end of the arm, then push the blade guard into the slot and secure with 2 of the small screws. Then repeat for the remaining 3 guards.
I was so keen to go out and fly that my first flight involved going onto a small park, flying to the far end, panicking when I realised I wasn't sure how to get it back again and then landing in a tree followed by spending about half an hour retrieving it. Don't do this! Take the time to calibrate it and get used to the controls first.
For your very first flight, I'd suggest leaving the camera behind as there's enough to concentrate on with just the basic controls. Turn the transmitter power on, followed by the drone power. The drone LED's will be flashing at this point. Push the throttle (left-hand stick) right up to the top (transmitter beeps), then pull it right down to the bottom (transmitter beeps again). The drone lights will now be on solidly, and it's ready to fly. Before you start flying, however, make sure that the drone is on a flat surface and push both the right and left-hand sticks to the bottom right and hold for a couple of seconds, the lights will flash rapidly for a second before going back to solid. This calibrates the X8G, and it remembers this as being flat, and when it's hovering it will try and stay in this position. You'll probably still need to tweak the trim however...
To adjust the trim, slowly push the throttle up until one leg starts to lift off the floor. The trim controls are to the left and below the right-hand control. Adjust these one click at a time until all 4 legs are coming off the floor at the same time. You'll notice that the trim amounts are also displayed on the LCD screen.
You're now ready to start flying, but I'd suggest keeping it low, and near to you, anyone can fly a quadcopter really high or really far away, but it takes skill and control to fly it low and nearby. Try just hovering around head height initially and then landing gently. Once you've mastered this, try moving side to side, forward and backwards and finally rotating. Pretty quickly, you'll feel confident in flying higher and further away from you.
As a tip for when flying, if it looks like a crash is unavoidable, turn the throttle off completely to stop the blades rotating as having the blades spinning during a collision will cause more damage than if they're stopped.
My First Video
Below is the first video I recorded. You can see I'm in a nice wide open field with no one around to be safe. Compared to what I can do now it's not brilliant as the landing was pretty bumpy and not that close to me but you have to start somewhere!
Headless mode on the Syma X8G makes flying it an absolute breeze! Earlier I said that on my first flight, I flew to the far end of a field and then couldn't get back again. The main reason for this was that I didn't know which way the drone was facing, so going backwards didn't mean the drone was coming back to me! Had I bothered to read the manual first, I would've known that in headless mode it doesn't matter which way the drone is facing, forward is always forwards and backward is always backwards!
Now I use headless mode almost all the time when flying as it makes it far easier. If I can see the drone in front of me and I want to go right, I just push the stick to the right, and it goes that way, no matter which way the drone's actually facing.
To use headless mode, make sure that you take off with the drone pointing away from you. Hold button on the left shoulder of the transmitter for a few seconds, and the transmitter will make 4 short beeps to let you know that headless mode is on. The lights on the drone will also blink every 4 seconds. Now, no matter which way the drone itself is pointing, it will go in the direction you tell it based on what YOUR forward is as opposed to what the DRONE's forward is.
Note that if you turn around, then of course the drone doesn't know this, so be careful that if you fly over your head and behind you, then forward in headless mode will be towards you again.
The camera on the Syma X8G is one of the key selling points about this drone. The G in the model number is meant to stand for "Go-Pro," as in it's a Go-Pro "style" camera. It seems pretty good from my brief use with it so far, although I can see why some people prefer to upgrade by adding a gimbal and a camera with wifi.
To use it, all you need to do is use the switch to the side of the left joystick. Push up to take a photo (red light on the back of the camera flashes) or push down to start recording video (red light comes on and stays on) and push down again to stop recording.
I have noticed that when recording video, if you turn the drone off using the power switch on the drone (or if the battery dies completely) whilst recording then the video is lost. You must always stop the recording using the switch on the transmitter before turning the drone off! Also, the recordings get split into 5-minute files.
One thing I haven't worked out how to do yet is set the timestamp on the camera for the X8G, so my videos always say they were recorded at midday on the 1st Jan 2014. I've seen instructions for the X8C involving using a file called time.txt, but this didn't work for me so if anyone knows how to do it, then please let me know in the comments!!
The first few times I flew my drone, I just left it in low speed not really knowing what high speed did or what it was for. I did find that (especially at higher altitudes) it would get blown by the wind sometimes though and really struggled to come back, which was really frustrating (and a bit scary a couple of times!)
The last time I flew it however there was a bit of breeze coming from my right, so I was careful to keep it low as it would barely move to the right at all. I was hovering the drone in front of me, which meant holding the right stick all the way over to the right and pressed the button on the top left corner of the transmitter, which alternates between high and low speed. To my delight, the drone leaned more to the right, didn't lose any altitude, and powered straight into the breeze. The whole thing became a lot more responsive, which might not be so great for a first flight, but it's perfect for when there's a pesky breeze!
So there you have it, if you're wondering "what does high speed do on the Syma X8G", it makes it a lot more responsive and can handle stronger winds!
Flips (or 360 Eversion)
This is a cool trick which I thought before I did it would be a bit scary and would be a definite no-no with the camera attached. In reality though, as long as you have a bit of space available to the sides and are hovering above head height you should be fine to give it a try, camera or no camera.
Just hold the button on the top right corner of the transmitter and push the right stick right to do a flip to the right or left to do one to the left. The quadcopter will give itself a bit of throttle before performing a relatively tight flip so you won't lose much height at all.
I don't know how high this thing can go yet, I've seen online people flying it up until it's a tiny spec up above but I worry that when I fly up then it will get blown off course to the side and end up landing miles away! Anyway, this is as high as I've dared to go so far...
Questions & Answers
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