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You're probably going to think I'm insane...

Discussion in 'Pro/Adv Discussion' started by StrikerOne, Aug 5, 2015.

  1. StrikerOne

    Nov 2, 2014
    Likes Received:
    So, I've had all three of the Phantom models - having cut my teeth on a defective Phantom 1 that I bought second hand (It was physically undamaged) for a few hundred dollars, the fault being that the GPS unit was faulty and completely non-functional. The lack of the GPS assistance and no RTH function available to fall back on meant that I was flying manually from day one and within visual sight. I took off the FPV/Gimble rig, given that it was only going to weigh the bird down and would only serve to be a liability should it fly away or otherwise.

    I had a number of tree's jump out in front of it during it's operational time - I look back now and think "**** I couldn't imagine the insanity of crashing my P2/P3 rigs as regularly and solidly as I did that thing! But on the plus side, the baptism of fire with the P1 meant that I had learnt to fly it in circumstances that are probably as difficult as it can be for a novice/first timer. I got to the stage though where I was confidently flying it at distances that were technically within visual line of sight, but required absolutely perfect eyesight and not a moment's lapse in keeping eyes on the bird in the distance, which was barely a speck and easily lost in track at these times. The other thing that it forced me to get reasonably good at was keeping a tab on the drones's "forward" facing direction at all times, with a fairly uncanny grasp on how much of a yaw/direction change would result from measured amounts of control input... because it's pretty much educated guesswork when the drone is barely a speck in the distance, 350-500m away - especially at night over water.

    So, when I flew my P2 for the first time, the jump in controllability, reliability and functionality was truly light years ahead of what I had experienced with the P1.

    I had my P2 for about 3 months before I got the P3 and sold the P2, but during this time, I learnt to understand the GPS functionality and RTH feature - purposely calling on it to self check it a few times and having it save me from losing my P2 twice when I was flying out of visual range (behind tree's) and having lost track of my heading, prompting me to switch the controller off and pray to the drone gods for a safe return.

    I had a pretty solid FPV setup on my P2 - but I got jack of the analogue video transmission and its pretty sh!tty range (which in my area was pretty much useless as far as flying out of direct visual sight goes - hilly terrain, dense bush, high gumtree's and tight little valleys etc) and the fact that apart from the RTH fallback and a bit more stability, it was essentially no more challenging to fly than the P1 had been and was not really taking the FPV capability to the kinds of distances that I was now looking for, or expected.

    So initially, I went in to the local Phantom dealers with the intention of upgrading the video FPV setup - but after doing the maths and seeing the out of the box capability of the P3, it was a no brainer. I bought the P3 Professional 4K right there and then ($1950) and sold the P2 FPV setup for $1450 - the difference I would have otherwise spent on trying to get the FPV quality on the P2 even close to the "out of the box" standard of the P3. Best decision I ever made.

    The only real scares I've had with the P3 so far? I had a close call with a tall Gum Tree when the drone was in automatic RTH mode, having lost video feed at the same time that the control signal was lost - So it was without the FPV video feed during this return flight. It flickered back to life a meter or two away from colliding with the highest branch of the gum tree... I had just enough time to react and climb before impact - with one of the landing skids clipping the branches leaves as it passed over the tree. Scary! My bad though, I had failed to account for the gain in terrain height over the flight path, having calibrated at a lower altitude - meaning the RTH altitude that I had set was obviously not as high as it should have been.. I've since corrected that!

    Second one was yesterday, with the DJI App crash that I've posted about already.

    Anyway, I am at a stage where I am fairly confident in the reliability of the GPS/RTH feature should I lose the controller-drone signal. I'm flying it right out to the point of signal deterioration using a DBSElite Range Extender Kit and a combination of calm nerves with a bit of luck to stop it from just meters short of the automatic fail safe taking over to bring it home... keep in mind, I'm flying in an area with terrain that is of variable height, with large, tall tree's etc - meaning that I am generally not able to maintain line of sight past about 100-200m depending which direction I go, so the range in still significantly less than the massive distances we see on video's and quite understandably less than this setup is capable of in ideal line of sight operations.

    So I'm not really interested in trying to fly my bird out to 5 mile distances over a built up suburban area of a major australian city - much less interested in breaching the busy controlled airspace that covers this entire area, with one of the major approach paths being directly overhead my area, with inbound aircraft usually coming over between 1500 and 2500 Ft AGL.

    What I am getting into though, is what I nicknamed "Close Proximity FPV Exploration By-Proxy" - flying low (generally around 5-10m depending on obstacles and terrain that I am following), completely out of visual sight and relying totally on the FPV with a methodical, patient and calm under pressure approach for navigation.

    It's going to end with a crash one day (probably sooner than later) without much doubt, but it's in my opinion, one of the most challenging, interesting and most importantly, safe, ways that we can enjoy flying drones recreationally - without getting ourselves in trouble with civil aviation safety authority, or risking injury or death to another person with failure of an overhead drone. It can be done in challenging terrains (canyons, valleys, bushland, mountains, etc) and it for the most part means that you have a reasonable idea where the drone is at all times and should it crash, its generally going to be from a lesser height - meaning more chance of an undamaged bird.

    It also satisfy's the need many people have for pushing distances and challenging FPV flying.

    IMO, there's nothing further to be gained out of LOS video signal/controller distances. I'm way past being impressed by video's of guys flying their drones 10miles or whatever over flat ideal areas... we really need to step this thing up if we are to progress this towards real advancements, and I believe that improvement of the ability to control the aircraft and maintain video feed signal behind significant terrain and other obstacles is where we need to be putting the efforts!

    But I've begun pushing my boundaries toward an even more challenging kind of "mission" - Low level, close proximity flying, out of direct visual sight - with complete reliance on FPV for navigating and visual cues.
    dnszero and jcknows0 like this.
  2. jcknows0

    Dec 21, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Northern NJ
    I look forward to your report. I got mine for 850 and sold my P2 setup for much more and I still can't imagine risking it at that level, although I have flown over a couple open public farm fields and swamp terrain (yes that's right historical farms in NJ) for about 300m before getting chicken and bringing it back at 40m high. The view is incredible when you are that close to the ground but equally scary as there is plenty of wildlife to knock you down.
  3. VenomX15301

    Jul 7, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Pennsylvania, USA
    $1950!? Wow!
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