So. You are understandably excited about taking your brand new drone out for its first flight.

Before you do so, you'll need to take the time to learn about your new toy. Or, better described - unmanned, semi-autonomous aircraft. These are cool devices, but they take a bit of setup and understanding before launching for the first time.


If you crash your drone on its maiden voyage, or, it takes off and flies off into the distance never to be seen again, there is a good chance it is not covered under warranty. That would suck, and we don't want that happening to you.

Calibrate, calibrate, calibrate.

If it can be recovered, the technicians can download the flight logs and check to see if the drone has been properly calibrated.

It's recommended that the drone be calibrated every time before it's flown. Once you have done it a couple of times, it will become part of the standard setup. Much like checking your knots, checking the small aircraft you are about to put up into the air can prevent a lot of disappointment.

SwellPro has a pile of resources over here - - and we strongly, strongly recommend you visit and spend some time learning the ins and outs of your new drone.

Remember - there are several different things you need to calibrate - and they are all important.

How you store your batteries is also important - we see some batteries come back that haven't been stored as per the manufacturer's recommendations - and again - they are not covered by warranty.

It's also well worth understanding the rules and regulations regarding flying drones in New Zealand. While a lot of beaches are remote enough that flight paths are not a concern, but it’s an aircraft so can be a hazard to people, property and other aircraft. So it’s important to know the rules before you fly. The Civilian Aviation Authority has resources available over here -

Take it for a test flight.

The first flight of your new drone should not be out over the water.

Take it out into a large field and have a play. Go through the calibration process and take off and land the drone a few times. Take it for a few short runs and ensure the drone and you have everything sorted. The last thing you want is something wrong while the drone is out over the Ocean. If you have an issue, at least if it's over land, you can recover the drone easily (hopefully).

Don't use the phone on the first flight.

If it's an option, don't use your phone app on the first flight. This adds in another layer of complication, and just focusing on the drone and remote forces you to learn how to fly the drone correctly in the first place. Once you are comfortable with manual flight, then look to add in some more automation, rather than starting, and relying on the advanced features when you don't already have the basics sorted out.

GPS Interference

People are quick to blame the equipment, but a decent amount of the time, we discover the equipment was working fine, but the calibrations were not done correctly or didn't get the level of GPS lock some drones need to function properly.

GPS interference is a very real thing and can be a challenge to identify.

Some good practice tips:

  • Look out for power lines - both above and below the water! Apart from being a physical obstacle, the power coming out of the lines can cause magnetic interference. It's also worth checking on a marine chart if there are any submarine cables running in the area - just because you can't see them doesn't mean they won't affect the drone.
  • Wait until you have a proper GPS lock before you take off. Depending on the drone, this is represented in different ways. So, read the manual, understand what a full signal looks like, and wait until you have it before sending the unit off.

Don't Rely on 'Return to Home' to save you.

The Return to Home feature is a convenience, not a save. If the unit has lost GPS connection (NZ has fewer satellites than many places in the world) or there is interference present (Power lines, underground cables, large magnetic fields), then the Return to Home may not work.

You NEED to be comfortable flying the drone in the manual (ATTI) mode before taking the drone out fishing. The non-reliance on the automatic and GPS modes is mentioned in the manual - so - if you take a drone out and have it crash while relying on the 'return to home' mode - you are likely not covered under warranty.

What can you do to help if your drone goes awol?

There are a couple of things that you should consider doing with your drone to help out - should the worse happen. Obviously, if the drone goes down in the water, you want to be able to retrieve it quickly. While these drones are water-resistant on the whole and do float - you don't want it sitting in the water for any longer than it has to.

Put your details on the drone itself.

Using a waterproof sticker - put your contact details on the drone. So if it ends up going down in the water, and some friendly boatie comes by it, they can potentially return it to the owner. If they don't know who owns it, it will be hard to return it!

Wrap some reflective tape on it

Most of us should be aware that it can be hard to spot anything in the water, even a small swell. Putting some reflective tape around the top sections of the drone (areas that won't impede operation) and the legs (for when the drone is upside down in the water) might be enough to catch the eye of yourself or someone else out in the boat trying to locate and retrieve the drone.

Consider putting a GPS tracker on it

We realise this might seem a bit redundant on something that should have it's own GPS tracking on it - but - redundancy is exactly what might protect your investment here. However - consider that it might be moving around quite a bit - so something with live tracking is likely your best bet here.

There are some more tips over here -

Fishing Rigs

Take some time also to consider the actual rod and reel you are also using. Electric reels are becoming increasingly popular - here, bigger is often better - as we are likely asking for more from the reel that might typically be needed for a deep drop application. If long-lining - consider the total amount of weight the reel is going to have to bring in, as well the force required to pull it in horizontally, potentially dragging along the sea floor is more than vertically.


No-one likes paying for insurance. However, if you need it, you will be glad you have it. It might be worth reading up on your house and contents insurance - as some companies do also include covering your drone during use. This might also include some public liability insurance - which is helpful if you crash into something that doesn't belong to you. It's worth checking before you need to claim on it.

On the flip side, some insurance will cover theft from your home, but not for damage in flight. It's important to understand what you are covered for.

Battery Storage and Warranty

Please note - the warranty on the batteries of your new drone is three months - not twelve (which the rest is covered for).

Unfortunately, it's quite common for people to spend a day out with a drone, then bring it all back home, store them without properly recharging the batteries first (75%) and then find the batteries don't work as expected when they next pull them out to use the drone again. Read more about this here -