Pressure. It can be corrosive especially if the pressure you feel is from flying a good portion of your hard-earned money into the air. You know the more you practice your drone piloting skills the effects of pressure diminish. Little Arms Studios has a flight training program called Zephyr which can help the less experienced pilot get their feet wet or help the more experienced operator hone their skills.
What Is Zephyr
If you watch the Gif above you can see me practicing one of the basic training modules found in Zephyr. It was a simple session designed to teach pilots to hover at different altitudes. You can probably also tell I am not a seasoned pilot by my flight. If anything, I am about as basic of a pilot as they come. In other words, I need to hone my skills and practice as often as possible. This is exactly what Zephyr is; a training program for drone pilots. The big thing… Zephyr keeps you challenged in a fun way.
I almost want to call it a game because Zephyr feels like you are playing a video game instead of practicing your drone flying skills. Now, there are probably some pilots who suggest you go out and practice by actually flying your drone. Yet, this is not always an option for a number of reasons.
What Model Drones
At this time Zephyr can fly a handful of drones. The most notable drone models for me are the DJI Inspire and Mavic. These are the two I run into the most often and training on them is always a bonus. The drones you can fly in Zephyr are the: DJI Phantom 3, DJI Inspire 1, 3DR Solo, Syma X5C, Autel X-star, Parrot Bebob, and DJI Mavic. So we do not have any larger heavier lifting drones in the software. I think the reason is that Zephyr is targeting beginners and novice pilots who are not quite ready for a drone lifting a Red Helium just yet.
- DJI-style Controller ($139.99): Combine the FlySky FS-i6S controller with Zephyr for users that wish to learn on a transmitter similar to DJI aircraft which feature a center-sprung left stick (automatically returns to center position for hover)
Manual Aircraft Controller ($139.99): Bundle the FlySky FS-T6 and a USB adapter with Zephyr for users that wish to learn on a manual aircraft transmitter featuring a left stick that is not center sprung (manually return the stick to center position for hover)
Use Your Own Transmitter ($109.99): Includes a USB adapter along with Zephyr for users that already have a compatible transmitter with a trainer port, or wish to buy one on their own
You will find seven different scenarios in Zephyr: Tutorials, Basic Training, The Hill, Yard, Obstacle Course, Community Park, and Parking Lot. If you have flown before the Tutorials and Basic Training will feel… well basic. I do have a feeling that some of the “basic” training might be good for some self-taught pilots to experience. The “basic” part of the training eventually fades away and Zephyr offers up ever increasing challenges that push a pilot to be as good as they can be. I suggest all pilots to try to make it through all of the basic training it will likely do you some good.
For those more experienced pilots, Zephyr offers up scenarios with incredibly complex tutorials. For example, the obstacle course is about as difficult of a flying situation any pilot might face in real life or in a training program. After each training module, you will receive a grade. Just because you finished the obstacle course doesn’t mean you automatically receive an “A.” Nope, time and many other graded elements are all bundled into your final module score. This kind of basic education metric helped to push me as a pilot to be better and receive better scores. I image it will do the same for you too.
In order for this to be a great flight training program than a drone needs to fly like a drone. Anything else would be shorting the pilot who paid for the training. Zephyr delivers on Flight Physics. After a training session, I stepped away and flew a drone; It almost felt like I had been flying the whole time.
Zephyr also has weather in the software. Think wind. If there is wind in the scenario the drone should respond to it in the software. This is one of the ways Little Arms Studios has made this training program feel like the real thing.
FAA Laws and Regulations
According to their website, Zephyr promises to stay up-to-date. But, more important than promises is the fact you can see when you fly and make a violation. The software notifies you and will deduct points from your score. This is a simple and intuitive way to teach pilots best practices while keeping the feeling of the training to be more game like.
Professional licenses are designed for individual drone operators. At this moment, a single professional license costs $109 without any transmitter. To me, this seems like one helluva deal for a highly responsive flight training program. You could be a solo operator or a business. Little Arm Studios also has to price for business and groups. I could see a TV News Station taking advantage of a training program like this one.
I loved Zephyr and I personally think if you have a drone, are thinking about a drone, or are curious about drones then get this training software. You will not be disappointed. Nothing beats practice. The more you fly and challenge yourself the better pilot you become.