Recap of the last test
During the last test of the new Mavic Air, I found that it was me, the pilot that didn’t have the confidence to fly the drone around the block. My general lack of knowledge about drone flight, coupled with a lack of skills created doubt. I had doubt about my skills, and doubts about the drone’s ability to actually make the trip without suffering loss of communications to the controller. And, given my inexperience with drones, I wasn’t exactly sure what would happen if the drone lost contact. But, that seemed like it was ages ago, and with only a few more days of drone piloting under my belt, I decided to try it again.
I need a drone wrangler for this flight
As I thought about what might go wrong as I flew the drone around the neighborhood, I imagined the worse. I imagined that the drone would lose contact with the controller, and it would crash back down to Earth. Considering that we’ve got a number of trees in the neighborhood, it seemed like I would probably be flying in excess of 100 feet in the air, and although this drone is pretty hearty, I did not think that it would survive a crash to the pavement without severe damage. So, I found me a wrangler, and we started the test.
Drone Wrangler; Who has that kind of skill-set?
To be honest, being a drone wrangler doesn’t require that much skill or knowledge, so the most important attribute that my Drone Wrangler could have would be trust-worthiness. So, I picked my buddy Ralph as the wrangler, and at about noon today, we decided to do a test run.
How is the test being setup?
Over the years, I’ve had a lot of involvement in testing large-scale systems. We would run all manner of functional testing, and also performance testing, and even integration testing, ensuring that all of the messaging between systems was correct, and tolerant of minor failures that were likely to happen during normal operation. In this case, and while the drone is a very sophisticated piece of technology, this test would be based on answering a single, simple question. The test run was going to consist of flying the drone around the block, monitoring the entire mission through the video feed that was present on my SmartPhone. The video that comes from the drone is pretty high quality, so I had a good and clear view of what the drone saw from it’s overhead position. Throughout the flight, the drone would operate at about 100 feet or so, with minor fluctuations, which were mostly due to my inclination to push my left thumb forward or backward, when I should have been flying at a fixed altitude.
Results of the test
Throughout the test you’ll see that my piloting skills are still under-developed. Said another way, I need to keep practicing, but I am getting better, and I am getting more confident. This test had me move the drone to someone’s front yard, just down the block. I laid the landing pad on their front yard, and hoped for good results. As it turns out, this location is in just about the exact sent of the block, so I expected to be able to communicate to the drone without losing signal, or suffering loss of control. Unfortunately, there seems to be quite a bit of interference in my neighborhood, and throughout the test, and certainly more in certain locations, I was receiving messages that alerted me to these high levels of interference.
The distance that the drone was located from me, as it flew around the block varied greatly. But, the drone has pretty good telemetry, so I was able to see that once I was beyond 500 feet from the controller, with the drone about 100 feet in the air, I started to lose the signal, which translated into erratic, and jumpy controls. Nevertheless, I never lost contact with the drone completely, although when I was at the maximum range, I found that the video was lagging from the actual flight, which caused me to over-correct, making my already jumpy technique even jumpier.
Thinking about using this drone for the World Tour
While I’m traveling around Europe and Asia, I will be in big cities, little cities, tiny towns, and extremely remote areas. Flying the drone in the cities is probably a bad idea all around, but flying the drone in these small cities, or tiny towns should be just fine. In particular, I’m imagining the usefullness of the drone in at least three specific scenarios. First, I imagine that I’ll fly the drone out over the Great Wall of China, as the stretch of the wall that I’ll be visiting is pretty darn remote, but the nearby city probably has a population of a couple thousand people, at most. Next, I imagine that I’ll fly the drone in follow-me mode, as I make my way accross some of the river crossings that we might come upon. In these cases, I’ll launch the drone, put the controller in my tank bag, and ride across the river. What could possibly go wrong?
And finally, I have a vision of arriving in Kyrgyzstan, where I believe it is our third night that I will spend the night in a Yurt. In fact, according to my research, we’re staying in a Yurt Village. So, try to imagine that our bikes will be parked next to the Yurts, we’ll be in the middle of nowhere, and I’ll launch the drone up, and out, using both the boomerang method, and the Asteroid method to record video. I’m pretty excited about this, and can’t wait to see what the yurts look like from 250 feet above ground, with the mountains of Kyrgyzstan in the background. Can you say awesome?
Introducing the video
The video that follows includes two separate drone segments. First, you’ll see the drone’s journey around the block. I’ve sped up, and slowed down the footage throughout the video, in essence, keeping the video intact, but compressing the timeline. This relies on a feature within Adobe Elements Premiere known as Time Lapse. I’ve also included a good amount of audio/music in the background, along with some more sophisticated narration. For the narration, I would reduce the audio level of the music, start recording, and insert the narration into the video at precisely the right spot. All of the video editing is pretty complicated, but I can’t thank Frank enough for helping me get copies of it, and Chris for suggesting it in the first place.
Beyond any doubt, this video editing s/w is truly awesome. Each time I open the program, I’m able to find another feature that I manage to stuff into the video. Which brings me to my last point for this post.
It’s ugly to watch the sausage being made
We’ve all heard the expression about making sure to avoid watching how the sausage is being made, especially if you enjoy the sausage. In this case, you’re watching a grown man go through a learning process, which can be slow, and painful at times. For sure, trying to get all of this technology figured out, to the point where I’m able to render videos of interesting topics is time consuming, and tricky. So, I’ll thank you in advance for hanging in there, and hope that the quality of the videos is getting better and better.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, I hate to watch videos, or read blogs that are boring, and irrelevant. So, I’m trying to make these posts interesting, and relevant to all of you. It seems an impossible task to make videos relevant to everyone, but I’m giving it all that I’ve got (I stole this line from Scotty of Star Trek).
I hope you enjoy the video below.