Documentation to suggest Manual takeoff/flight before assisted-mode flight?

Hi Plane Dev folks,

When I’m giving advice on the forums — especially to help new flyers who might have recently crashed — I find that I’m often recommending that they takeoff, fly, and land in Manual mode before using any of the ArduPlane-assisted modes (FBWA, Auto, Autotune, etc.)

I do understand that there’s a counter-argument: A new pilot might find FBWA (or other modes) easier to fly than Manual. However, my concern is that I’ve also seen folks on the forums that crash because either FBWA wasn’t configured correctly, or it was compensating for some other “configuration” problem (a tail-heavy plane, a bad control surface, etc.)

What are your thoughts about having the official documentation suggest that folks fly first in Manual mode, or at least complete a safe takeoff in Manual and get to a safe altitude, before attempting FBWA (or other assisted) modes during flight?

It looks like the documentation currenlty recommends taking off in Autotune mode… which surprised me. That seems like it might be unsafe advice to give someone who doesn’t really understand what’s going on.

I’d be glad to create a pull-request on the wiki if that’s a better place to discuss this?

It depends on the skill of the pilot. If the pilot is confident of their skills flying in manual for the aircraft they are going to fly, then flying manual first is a great idea. A lot of users are not confident of their manual flying skills, or find doing a maiden flight in manual difficult, or the aiframe is unflyable in manual (eg. many quadplanes). In that case flying first in a stabilized mode is a good idea.
Note that if you do fly first in manual, and you trim the aircraft using the TX trim tabs, then make sure you transfer those to the SERVOn_TRIM values before flying stabilized.
Personally I almost always maiden in FBWA or AUTOTUNE, and have SERVO_AUTO_TRIM=1. I am a reasonable manual pilot, but I find it a lot more comfortable doing the first flight with stabilisation.
Cheers, Tridge

My 2c as a complete plane newbie (as in I’ve never flown RC planes before): manual mode is absolutely guaranteed to crash unless you’re competent with flying RC planes.

The important thing with plane as I found out is to read the documentation very carefully, and make 100% sure that the ailerons/elevators are moving in the correction direction for both manual and fbwa control. It took me forever to get this working properly in both modes on a v-tail - a bunch of initial crashes were down to it working 90% but not 100% (elevators were reversed in fbwa mode only).

Once it’s setup properly on the bench, I was then eventually able to take off in FBWA mode with someone else throwing it for me, and it flew beautifully for two flights until I got cocky and put it in manual mode. At which point the next time I tried to turn it performed a beautiful spiral nosedive into the ground, and is still in bits in my garage.

My takeaways from my unfinished foray into planes;

  • Planes are much harder to fly than multis.
  • It’s important to take the time to get everything working 100% on the bench
  • Test, test, verify, verify before flight
  • First few flights in some kind of assisted mode
  • Slowly remove level of assistance, do autotune
  • Fences use could be clarified. I didn’t use them because I was afraid I could get stuck above the hard deck and never land
  • It would be very nice to have an auto-takeoff mode without having to program missions. It took me many attempts and quite a bit of damage to get flying in the first place. Auto-takeoff from a throw would have been really nice to have, but I wasn’t confident in my ability to program a mission correctly and control auto mode.

In my opinion, specifically for FW UAVs, is that the pilot should first and foremost be an adept manual pilot.

My reasoning is that, if a newbie takes off in some assisted mode, he will manage to travel much further compared to flying manual. But the inevitable result, after reaching the cross-wind leg, will be that his control will be reversed and he will crash, because he hadn’t learned to fly while flying towards his position.
This situation is worse than flying manual because he will crash much further compared to flying manually, with possibly worse chances of damage to the surroundings.

Instead, I feel that the safety-oriented approach is to learn to fly manual with a cheap, light airplane (Flite-test planes are ideal for this), learn what a RC plane is capable of, and then graduate to assisted modes. Learning with a tutor is even better.

It would be ideal if that tutor was a fully-bounded, automatic, ArduPlane-assisted mode, but we are not there yet. Besides, a total newbie will now know how to set up such a complex mode anyway and will not fully appreciate its usefulness to begin with.

that sounds like TRAINING mode, with a geofence set