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A major airline pilot tries to drone, Pt.1: neural collapse.

Illustration for article titled A major airline pilot tries to drone, Pt.1: neural collapse.
Image: Mofrukkin Steam! (Other)

I haven’t flown anything other than traditional controls on traditional airplanes for the last twenty-eight years. Needless to say, that fifteen-thousand flight hours later, a well-engrained one method of flight control has burned into my hand-eye coordinated wiring. I have never tried anything else except helicopter controls in the X-plane series of PC flight simulators, which usually turned into disasters if I’m trying to hover. I thought drones wouldn’t be too difficult to learn and fly, but when I got my first taste of the control system, my brain immediately short-circuited once I took off.

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I have luckily not sacrificed anything other than $10 for a good drone simulator. I have not touched a drone control joypad or ever worked with any RC aircraft before. I picked the DRL 3.0 drone racing simulator, and it is quite good at teaching basic drone flight. I got this sim because of all the effort they spent on making it as realistic as possible and, hey, I like racing too! My real drone goals are not racing, for now, but it is a fun way to learn the direct implications of what I command the drone to do, which was Crashing. So I clicked on the training exercises in the simulator.

Illustration for article titled A major airline pilot tries to drone, Pt.1: neural collapse.
Screenshot: DRL material. My screenshot.
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All I have to do is take off, move forward, and land on the roof. Simple. Not many things to do. But I landed. And was rewarded by my instructor...

Illustration for article titled A major airline pilot tries to drone, Pt.1: neural collapse.
Screenshot: DRL material. Powerful....really powerful...
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Having gone in this simulator direction to learn, I can already recommend that anyone new to this, wanting to fly immediately, gets a starter drone from the category the industry calls “toy drones” so you can get a feel for what has become traditional drone control, which this sim teaches. For that under $40, you can knock it around, crash it, lose it in a cornfield, or lake, replace props for not much, and it will generally take the abuse unless lost in said cornfield or lake. But you aren’t out of much money! That is already what leanring to fly a drone in a simulator has taught me. It taught me that I really suck, and any thoughts of being quickly good at this was a terrible dream to have. I have much much more to learn.

I was taught how abhorrent my control skills are when they stepped up the controls available to work my ‘starter drone’ and when I not only had to make turns and climb and descend, I just couldnt do it. Stick controls got confused. I was pointed wrong way and I was getting stuck under things I was supposed to go over. I started using the yaw function only to make turns and that was my crutch. When I had to start using the bank function to turn as well, that was another stick to use and I just couldn’t make it work together. Intuitive is not a word I was close to using. Another word with F was closer to being uttered in front of my children watching.

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I quickly fixed all issues with control by pressing Alt+F4.

I have no idea how drummers can maintain three different rhythms with different timings and keep it all together. That is how I felt this control system demanded things to be. As time goes by, my brain will process what just happened and grow new pathways of understanding. I am just learning a new thing and it will take time. That is why twenty years ago, my flight students flew with me every other day. If they did every single day, they werent learning as much and were blowing money. They needed that day to process what just happened. I am in that box.

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Part two will continue, hopefully without cursing in front of my children.

Here is a full on DRL First-Person-View feed that the pilots see when racing. Enjoy.

Youtube

If you can twitch fast enough, you might have a chance.

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