Another drone day

It’s way too warm to ski, I’m way too sore to bike, so I went out and droned. One of the things I was curious about was range – I see people complaining that although DJI says you can fly the drone up to 10 kilometers away from the controller (but only 2 kilometers from the controller in the EU) but they only get a kilometer. I wanted to see how far away I could fly the drone and still see it, or how far away before I got a loss of signal and an automatic return to home.

So I searched for a place with a very good long line of sight. I settled on the Great Embankment Park (GEP) on the canal. I was thinking of Durand-Eastman Park, but the wind was blowing out towards the water, and I didn’t want to get into a situation where my drone was heading out towards Canada without a signal.

GEP is a good place to play with a drone because it’s got several sports fields, and then that long stretch of canal. And being Monday, not too many cyclists and walkers on the path, and being February and the canal is still mostly empty and frozen, nobody to worry about there either. Not the most interesting video, but good for practice.

I discovered many things during today’s flight.

First was that it didn’t matter if it was below the horizon (in the canal cut), above the horizon but below the tree line, or above the tree line either up-sun or down-sun, I would lose sight of the thing well before 400 meters. (I did some blind flying where I couldn’t technically see the drone, although I knew exactly where it was and could see through its camera on my controller – that’s technically illegal, but no harm no foul.)

Second was that I completely misunderstood how to activate “Spotlight” mode. There are three special modes that appear at the bottom of the screen after you draw a square on the screen of the controller with your finger. Those are “Active Track”, “Spotlight” and “POI”. I wrote about Active Track in my last blog post, and POI isn’t all that interesting to me because it just circles around the thing you’ve drawn around. Spotlight keeps the camera pointing at the selected point no matter how you fly around it, even if the selected object is moving. But the thing is that when you select the box, and the menu pops up, if you want Active Track or POI you have to select them, and I thought that’s what you’re supposed to do with Spotlight, but when I did that the menu would just go away. It turns out that Spotlight is selected by default and I wasn’t supposed to select it. Oh well, hopefully I’ll remember that for next time.

Third was that a very useful drone move is diagonal flight, where you point the drone and thus its camera off at say a 45 degree angle to the left, and then try to balance the forward and right movement of the right joystick to create straight line motion. I practiced it a lot today but I’m going to need more work on it.


Went for a bit of a fun practice with my drone (have I mentioned I have a drone? Probably not, I’m a bit sporadic with the blog these days – it’s a DJI Mini 3 Pro, lovely little drone) since it’s been a few weeks, and I was wandering all over this park, trying out the active track on a steep and closed in trail (where it did excellently, by the way). I was walking along and i got the RTH (Return To Home) warning. I was miles away from the Home Point, so I cancelled that, but now I didn’t have a Land icon on the screen – or at least I can’t see it, but it’s on the screen recording so I don’t know . I was on a paved path, so it would have been a perfect place to land if I’d had the opportunity. I decided to do a hand catch. I’ve done a bunch of them before, but like I said it’s been a few weeks since I last flew. Somehow I got my thumb sticking up too much and I got two nice little slices in it, and now I’ve got blood stains all over my drone.

Later on I was flying in this grove of trees, weaving in and out and I lightly tapped a tree and crashed. I examined the drone, and nothing seemed wrong with it, but every time I tried to start it, the props would run for a second and shut down, and give me a warning about a motor being jammed. One of the motors was definitely harder to turn so I gave it a good shaking out and blew it out. It started up and took off, but it was really slow to move. I landed it and took off again, and it was fine.