…Flying At Last.
If you’ve been following along I’m sure you’ll remember most of the trials and tribulations I’ve encountered in trying to become an amateur drone pilot. Well, I’m happy to say, I think – I hope, they are behind me. I can now be classed as an apprentice amateur drone pilot.
As I suspected, one of the four motors was at fault. Running at an unpredictable speed caused the drone to do some pretty-bizarre things.
Actually, I shouldn’t say “the drone” because the second Cheerson CX-35 – the one which would at least do something and is now fully working – has been named IzzieDrone, or Izzie for short. Only one reader will know why, but it seems like an appropriate name for something that zips around all over the place, don’t you think?
If I ever get the first CX-35 working – the one where the supplier gave me a 70% refund and told me to keep it – I guess I’ll need another name. Spares have been ordered, so it might one day work. Perhaps Ozzie and Izzie, or Izzie and Lizzie? We’ll have to wait and see. It likely will depend on the phase of the moon, or which side of the bed I get out of, or both.
I’m still quite surprised by how much fiddling and DIYing has to be done to get – and keep – a drone working. I mean, does everyone setup a mini workshop like this?…
Having watched umpteen drone reviews on YouTube, the answer is no – not all – but a lot. I watched a very positive review recently with all the usual phrases “easy to fly” “good video quality” “competitively priced” when the reviewer admitted it had taken him three hours to get it working. Stripped down, repaired this, checked that, tried different batteries. For the most part they’re certainly not as simple as open the box, plug in battery, and go flying.
So – why haven’t I spent the past month flying around and making awesome videos?
First; that thing I mentioned in my last article – weather. Not only has it been quite rainy, but we’ve had almost constant high winds. The kind where you look at the bending glass in the patio doors and try to console yourself with thoughts of aircraft wings – which if they didn’t bend would break. But absolutely not good for drones. For the lightweight hobby drones like mine, even a breeze is a challenge. And…
Second; el-cheapo drones don’t make awesome videos. Expensive drones have self-leveling gimbals on the cameras that make the videos look smooth and stable. Cheap drones, well, some of them, have a crude gimbal that removes some of the shakes. So, I’m hoping that as I get more experience, I will be able to create snippets of good video that I can stitch together into a watchable production. We’ll see.
But at times, especially in the last few days, I have been flying and learning and making mistakes and crashing.
Some things, I find, are not intuitive, and every maneuver needs thought. But those things become less, and so flying becomes easier. So far, I have about two hours of flying time, which is nothing when compared to a commercial pilot, but it is a significant step in my learning process.
Flying has been close to home, and I won’t bore you with endless wobbly videos, but here’s a few screen captures…
And there’s a story that goes with them. As you can see, Izzie was pretty high. Too high. I was looking at the screen on the remote controller and noticed the video was breaking up. That’s when it occurred to me I was no longer in full radio contact, and Izzie was getting further and further away.
Luckily, by waving the controller around in the air I did manage to regain control and eventually land more or less safely. If I hadn’t, this would probably be my last drone story! It also made me realize how important the video screen is. When the drone is that far away, it’s just a blob in the sky, and you have no idea which way it’s facing. Looking at the camera’s view really helps with orientation.
Anyhoo, the moral is: read the specifications. 100 meters it says. Hmm, I have a feeling I’d gone way beyond that. It’s not really very far when you think about it.
And it was on the way back that I discovered Thailand has magnetic trees… that attract drones. I apparently flew straight through this one without realizing…
And then there’s this video. I decided to fly down my small pathway that leads to the beach. Seemed simple enough. Stay low. Go slowly. Concentrate. What could possibly go wrong?…
And when you’ve stopped laughing, I can tell you that damage was minimal, so I can laugh along with you. It proves nicely that 100% concentration is needed. I glanced down momentarily to see where I was walking, and … well, four-bladed chain saw hit tree. It left quite a trail of destruction, but only chopped-up dead leaves. Izzie is tougher than she looks.
So now, with at least some experience, I can understand why many countries are introducing rules, regulations and certification. With zero experience, and if you’re wealthy enough to buy a heavy commercial drone, you can do a lot of damage.
In fact, here’s a short excerpt from the UK’s Daily Telegraph…
Well, I would be okay because Izzie is weigh less than 250g. [Sigh]
I’ve learned quite a lot on this so-far short journey, and I’ll share some tips and tricks in the next Drone Diaries article. I can really recommend drone flying. Getting it right is very satisfying, but with the caveat that it ain’t as simple as it looks.