Yeah, I know, it’s confusing having all these Mimis.
#1 was my first Fimi Mi 4K drone which suffered a sudden battery failure and fell into the sea more than a year ago. But she’d worked hard for about fourteen months, so it wasn’t a total disaster.
#2 I bought secondhand a long time ago, and kept it in case I ever needed spares. Now, I need spares!
#3 I never even set eyes on. The customs people in Phuket saw fit to impound it unless I could prove I’d registered it with the appropriate authorities. That’s tough to do (i.e. impossible) when you don’t actually have the drone, but they didn’t see it that way. So…
#4 I bought in Thailand, to get around the customs nonsense, and that’s the one which met an untimely end a few days ago. Here’s the story…
I mentioned in my last article that I’d revisited a well-known wat in Don Sak, partly to see if it was a suitable location for an aerial video. I decided it was, but, at times the place can be quite busy and I don’t like to disturb people with a buzzing drone, so I thought it best to go early morning, when it is also cooler. So that’s what I did.
Well, it was perhaps not quite as early as it could have been. I went thought my usual morning ritual of making coffee, checking Facebook, checking weather forecast, checking wind forecast, drinking coffee, reading news, checking Facebook again, reading e-mails, seeing what’s new on Youtube, making breakfast, checking Facebook again, eating breakfast, depressing myself with the latest foreign exchange rates to the Thai Baht, doing the usual morning ablutions, washing up, checking Facebook again, and finally walking out the door. No matter. When I reached the wat, it was deserted, aside from two ladies bringing breakfast for the resident monk.
I decided to start by flying a little way away from the main building complex so that I could film the new extension and walkways…
But that was a problem. There’s so much metal inside the concrete (as you would hope there would be) that Mimi’s compass could not function. I had to walk some distance away, put Mimi into the air, and walk back, so I could see what she was doing. And as I was walking back, not looking anywhere in particular, I heard this strange whirring noise. As I scanned the view ahead of me, I suddenly realized it was Mimi spiralling out of the sky, and disappearing somewhere below me. She landed with a dull thud somewhere in the field that’s at the bottom of the above picture.
It was time to play “Where’s Mimi”…
Just slightly left of center if you haven’t found her.
Now, what’s not too obvious is the fact that’s about a 45 degree slope, and it’s a long way below where I was standing. I stood and stared for a while, not having any idea how I might get down there, and wondering if the remains were in fact worth retrieving. The longer I stood, the fewer answers I had.
It’s a strange feeling crashing a drone. You suddenly go from being a professional aerial video producer, to feeling like a naughty child who has just broken his favorite toy and thrown it out of the pram. I went back to sit in the car.
One bottle of water later, I went for a long walk to scout the whole area to find some way to get down to that field. What was clear was that I wasn’t going to get anywhere near the field that day as I was wearing totally inappropriate flip-flops.
Anyways, there wasn’t an obvious route, but I reasoned it must be possible, otherwise people wouldn’t have been able to build the place. I needed to sleep on it.
Next day I really was out early, after coffee and quick ablutions. What I call a “splash’n’dash.” And I was wearing my large boots that I bought to go trekking through the jungle. I’ve never quite figured why I did that as I never go trekking through the jungle. But today, they were destined to be useful.
The wat was again deserted aside from the monk who was diligently sweeping the entrance. I took a quick look to make sure Mimi was still there, and then wandered over to the monk, to see if he could tell me how to get down there. I was hoping he might speak a little English, and that with my little Thai, we’d understand each other. He didn’t, and we couldn’t.
So, with lots of gesturing I persuaded him to come to the back of the parking area and look at the problem. Then I pointed in all directions to ask if one of them would get me down there. At last, we were communicating. Off he went, with me trailing close behind. Down some steps and through a secret doorway, where we found ourselves standing under the parking area. But I stared in horror. The ground was loose gravel going downwards at a crazy angle. One false step would have resulted in rolling down the bank into the sea. But at eye level, there was just the lattice of concrete posts and girders. It looked like a waffle that was short on batter.
We were somewhere to the left of this picture, way down below the parking lot…
I confess I froze. The more I looked at it, the more I thought – there’s no way I’m going down there, boots or no boots. But the monk, with his saffron robes and flip-flops just brushed passed me and walked out onto the horizontal beams like he was a tightrope walker. I figured he must do this ten times a day before breakfast. When horizontal beam met vertical beam, and there was no place to put a foot, he just kind of danced around giving the vertical beam the briefest of hugs. It was impressive and scary in equal measures.
Once he reached the final beam, he sat on it, lowered himself down, and disappeared! For several minutes it felt like he was Schrödinger’s cat because I had no idea if he was dead or alive.
But eventually he hauled himself back into view, which couldn’t have been easy as he had Mimi in one hand. It was “Yippee” moment for me. Then he had the problem of negotiating the vertical columns with only one hand to keep him safe. But of course, that problem was only in my head. He danced his way back without missing a step. I think the Cirque du Soleil should sign him up pronto.
Even though I was trying to thank him profusely, he had a look on his face that said “Did you really need me to go get this pile of plastic junk?” and disappeared. I must admit, my first impressions of a badly battered and muddy Mimi were quite similar. With her two remaining half propellors she barely looked like a drone.
And, I hate to admit it, I was a little disappointed that he hadn’t brought the camera. With a drone designed for filming, more than 50% of the value is in the camera and gimbal. It also had inside a top-quality microSD card, which made the combined value even higher. Plus, from looking at the video on the card, I may have had some idea of what went wrong. Being somewhat ball-shaped though, the camera had probably rolled down into the sea anyways. I’m sure if he’d seen it, the saffron dancer would have brought it.
At least I had something to work with. The story of which I will leave for the final exciting episode of “Will Mimi Ever Fly Again?” Stay tuned.
Oh, and the moment I stepped back into Bert, one of my supposedly-sturdy boots fell apart. Lucky I wasn’t halfway down the gravel bank. I guess I shouldn’t complain. I must have worn them at least twice. Maybe even three times. If I ever remember why I bought them, I might buy some more.