Previously: Dealing with the fear of water
Ever since my last fly over the water of lake Margruite in Scottsdale, I was looking for my next opportunity to fly.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to do that for four weeks.
Don’t get me wrong, I did have the intention and made the necessary plans, but ‘reality’ was not on my side (no, ‘reality’ is not how I call my wife and daughter…).
I even brought my drone with me to our short trip to LA hoping to catch some nice views…
My drone stayed put the entire round trip until we got back from LA. Well, almost in the same position. 5 minutes into the ride my daughter informed me that if this “thing” in the back seat will not stop “clicking”, she will teach it how to fly out the window, so I had to stop and rearrange the bungee cords to hold the gimbal in place so its metal parts stop hitting each other in loud metallic sound.
During the visit, every time I dared to think: “This is the perfect time to fly it”, either my wife or my daughter (I guess I do call them ‘reality’) had a convincing reason for why I shouldn’t stop the car to fly it at that specific moment.
I really wanted to fly it next to the power windmills in Palm Springs but, “surprisingly”, the winds in the area were too strong (now I know why they chose this area to install them) and it was too cloudy to get a good picture anyhow.
Of course this is when my wife and daughter said it would be ok if I’ll fly it now… twisted reality…
When we got back home, I had to crawl into the back of the car to detach the poor plastic bird off the back seat and bring it home, without giving it a chance to fly during the entire trip.
I felt like I have to correct this, so the following Sunday, I cleared my schedule to find the time to fly it.
By the time I got things going it was close to noon. In the desert, ‘close to noon’ during summer can mean 3 digits temperatures of about ~104ºF (~ 40ºC for my metric friends), but this mid-May Sunday noon was already showing these high temperatures earlier than expected.
The good news about this time of year in the desert is that you get to watch the blooming of the cacti. If you never seen a blooming cactus, you better not say you lived in the desert. This is one of the most beautiful phenomenons of the desert view. Seeing these tall Sonora Saguaro cacti rising to an impressive 40-60 feet (12-18m), with a bright cluster of flowers at the top, is one surprise that is waiting for any new desert resident (sorry for ruining the surprise to any future desert residents…)
So I decided to dedicate my next shooting to this beautiful act of nature.
Finding cacti in the desert is quite easy, you just need to walk in any direction for 5 minutes and you’ll hit one. But finding a blooming one can be quite tricky if you missed the peak of the season which last only a few weeks, which of course is what happened to me.
So I’m in my car, scouting for blooming cacti and as I drive I notice a few on side of Frank Lloyd Wright road just a few miles before it ends.
I stopped my car in one of the first exits, and got ready to fly.
Quick pre-flight check:
- RC On: Check
- GPS ON: Check
- IOC Off: Check
- GoPro On: Check
- GoPro Recording: Check
- Battery plugged: Check
- 6-tone sound effect: Check
- Gimbal stabilized: Check …. Uncheck…. FAIL!
I scratch my head, why is my camera pointing to the floor? oh… maybe the tilt control is down…
- Tilt Control up: Check
- Gimbal Stabilized: FAIL!
$H1T! what do I do? Like any good software engineer, I look for the quickest way to: “restart”… Now I understand why they have this little plug between the gimbal and the quad, so I can reset it by quickly unplugging and plugging it back in.
I unplug, count to 5 (like in any troubleshooting guide) and plug it back in.
A second later the gimbal does its initialization and the camera is …. stable… well sort of…. but stable enough for me to fly it…. I know that something is wrong but I don’t know what yet…
I run a quick pre-flight-check again, all seems good, except for the crooked camera, but hey, these flowers will not wait for ever….
I take off, flying over FLW trying to get to the cacti on the other side of the road, having the worst angle to do any decent guessing on the actual position of the camera relative to the one cacti that is blooming, but hey, I’m thinking of all the poor people who are actually hiking in this weather, and I’m immediately appreciative of the easy hobby I chose.
The entire flight the drone is “fighting” my attempts to control it, although the wind is very light, and it reminds me of the times when my children were 3 yrs old and I was trying to convince them that it is time to go back home from the park, while they keep running through my fingers and returning to the swings…
Without any other option I force the drone to land next to me, and we are off. I could swear that the flight time was shorter than usual but I’m not sure. I get to the drone, picking it up from one of its arms, turn the GoPro off, and I realized an overwhelming sharp burn in my arm. I almost dropped my baby before I realized my arm touched one of the motors. It took me less than 1 second to realize what happened. The motors had their first ‘welcome to Arizona’ flight ever, and they didn’t like the heat, so they were fighting back by producing counter heat! That was HOT!
I kept looking for more cacti to shoot, found a couple of other locations and since one of them was next to a nice green area, I decided to use it to practice some flight maneuvers in that area.
I realized that shooting without watching what you shoot, brings us back to the old film days where you had to wait for your film to be developed before you could watch it. So, when I got back home and went through the ‘digital development process’ (copying the files to my computer) I could finally review my footage.
The good news, no “burnt-film on my memory card”, but the bad news were that there was a reason to my bird’s madness. It seems that my gimbal over-rotated and got its wires tangled which caused its motors to over-fight gravity.
This explains it all… The Gimbal’s brain was trying endlessly to adjust the camera, but the motors got blocked by the wires and therefore the camera kept rattling and the footage came out fuzzy and jumpy.
I managed to get only a few seconds of stable video… nothing close to what I wanted… but here you go…
Luckily I had about one more week before it is too late to find the blooming cacti… maybe next week would be more successful?