…And Why I Needed It!
For the past several weeks sunshine has been a rare commodity. I haven’t too much cared while being locked down and indoors. But now, the movement restrictions are being eased, and I’ve been trying to get out to fly drones. Well, it’s what I do.
The forecast for today claimed the skies would be almost cloudless until lunchtime. I decided I needed to make an early start and if possible, stay out most of the morning. I had a list of six places to visit.
I woke a little late, but once the brain was booted up, I made a mental list of things to be done. Priorities were charging batteries, tablets and phones, plus making coffee. I managed to twizzle around in bed and put one foot on the floor. That was enough to make the power go off. Hold the to do list. None of them can be to done. I should have accepted this as a warning and gone back to sleep.
But oh no. I headed downstairs, plugged everything in, prepared the coffee machine and waited for the return of power. The average wait seems to be about forty-five minutes, but today was only thirty. By this time I devoured a bowl of corn flakes, as this didn’t need electricity to prepare. Even so, I was about ninety minutes later leaving home than I’d planned.
The Khanom City Shrine was last on my list, but driving past I realized it was resplendent in the early sun, and stopped to take photos. There was minimal wind, so I sent up Minnie the Mavic Mini. She did a good job…
Next was Nangkam Beach. The place was busy. So I decided to head to the end of the beach where there’s a small fishing jetty, and where there were likely to be a few fishing-persons but no tourists. I wanted to get some nice shots pointing 90deg down onto the boats. I jumped out of Bert and did a quick recce. Sun – check. No wind – check. Boats – check. No people around – check. Unobstructed place to take off – check. Time to take out Minnie again.
The selected take-off point was maybe twenty meters from the boats, so I sent her far enough into the air that she couldn’t hit anything in front of me. I looked up to make sure she was over the trees and cables, and started walking forwards while pushing upwards on the right stick to make Minnie go forwards above me. I’d only taken about four steps when there was a sudden silence. It was obvious Minnie had switched off. Had a battery failed? Was there some technical problem. I waited for the plop as she hit the ground. There was no plop!
Confusion set in. I couldn’t figure where she’d disappeared to. I should of course have been watching her. But I decided that walking on a stony path over a narrow bridge needed 100% of my concentration. I carried on walking forwards thinking she must be in the bushes next to the water. Or maybe – in the water. I wandered around for a good ten minutes before I thought to look at the camera view on the iPad…
Ah ha. She’s still turned on, and seems to be in a tree or bush. But which tree or bush? There were dozens. Hundreds maybe. And from the silence and the picture I concluded she was upside down. The Mini does have one nice feature that if it’s upside down the motors turn off. This can prevent a lot of damage. I’ve had other drones that would thrash around in trees, chopping off branches and damaging props and motors. No, I don’t make a habit of flying into trees, but new drone fliers don’t understand that trees are magnetic and pull drones into them. They learn quickly.
While kind of standing there staring at trees, I realized that the Mini has a Find My Drone feature. I’ve never needed it before. First job was to navigate the menus to find the Find My Drone feature, and then find the correct way to use the Find My Drone feature after selecting the Find My Drone feature.
First it showed me two dots, being me with the remote controller, and Minnie. That seemed good, but when I moved, nothing changed. Then I tapped on something that said Use Other Maps. Why I did that I’m not sure, but it was a Good Thing. Now I had two dots, one of which moved when I did. As I wandered around, it was taking me to a point behind where I’d taken off. This can’t be right I thought. The GPS is being affected by that big hill in front of me. But the more I wandered around, the more it seemed I had been looking in the wrong place.
And I’m thinking, if Minnie is where the map says she is, then she went backwards not forwards, over my head and straight into the big tree behind me. What The…?
Then I found the feature that makes the drone beep and flash its lights. I tapped that. I could vaguely hear something, but my hearing’s not great, plus there were people zipping around on motorbikes, obliterating any chance I had of hearing Minnie beeping for help.
Long story short… I was there more than an hour wandering around, looking in trees from all angles, peering into bushes in people’s gardens, and generally standing still looking confused. I’d been there so long I almost gave up. But I felt like I was looking for a lost sheep, and I wasn’t going to abandon her so long as I could still hear her. Not that I’ve ever lost any sheep you understand. Drones yes. Sheep no.
Now, I was aware that people were watching me without wanting to look like they were watching me. I think they wanted to be sure I wasn’t the kind of nasty farang who eats Thai people for breakfast. Eventually a guy plucked up enough courage to stand next to me. Duh Lone he said. Yes, I confirmed. D’Rone. Then he asked if I would pay a certain amount of money if someone found my drone and returned it to me. I confirmed I would. No need to haggle. It was a tiny fraction of the replacement cost.
This released the flood gates. It was like someone had opened a box of kittens. There were people running everywhere, looking in trees, shouting duhlone, duhlone. It was as though some mystical deity was about to descend from the skies, and they just had to be there to get blessed. Eventually though they all heard the beeping and stood next to me, as I was closest to the epicenter. Now we had at least eight people who could hear the bleeping duhlone but couldn’t see it.
No worries. The offer of payment had caused the local spiderman to appear out of nowhere. Superheros seem to do that. He jumped on the wall and disappeared up the tree. I wouldn’t even have made it to the top of the wall…
I’d earlier decided that even if could see Minnie, there was probably no way I could get her down. But now spiderman was so far up the tree even he was hard to see…
It was big tree! Next there was shouting. Spiderman had Minnie in one hand, and … dropped her. There was the plop I’d been expecting ninety minutes ago! She was still turned on, still beeping and flashing her lights, and seemed undamaged. I can now confirm she wasn’t.
Payment was made. Smiles were exchanged. Everyone seemed satisfied by the Return of The Mini, and probably rushed off to the nearest wat to give thanks. More likely, Spiderman was being told he had to buy drinks – lots of them. While others were using the four numbers on my licence plate to buy lottery tickets. Me? I rushed home with my tail between my legs, anxious to look at the logs to see what had really happened.
And that simple task took longer than finding the drone. It was something else I’d never needed to do with Minnie. With other drones it’s a simple task. Somewhere in a menu you can find “Flight Logs”. You can tap the log of your flight, and see exactly what you’d done and where you’d flown. Like the picture below. With the the Mini you can throw logic to the wind. Not one of DJI’s alleged 15,000 R&D people seems to have any idea of how to design an app. To display the flight log, you ignore all the menus, go to the main opening screen, and tap Profile. This, as you might imagine, is where you can see your account details, username, gender (for some reason mine is “confidential” so don’t ask) etc., etc., and and you tap “more” to get a list of your flights. How F-ing illogical is that [rhetorical].
Anyways, the simple answer to what I’d done is… brainfade. Senile moment. Call it what you want. I’d put the drone on the ground facing me, not facing the boats. As I walked forwards, she flew back over my head and into the tree. It underscores the fact that no matter how hard you try to do things right, a simple lack of concentration can make things go very wrong. I guess this time things ended well. I just hope there won’t be a next time. But there will. Maybe tomorrow. I’m going back to Nangkam Beach to finish what I started.