With winter upon us, many pilots and would-be drone flyers find their mission options limited. Flying in high winds, snow, slush, ice and cold temperatures can take some of the fun – plus much of the battery life – out of flying. However, it is possible to get some stick time indoors if you follow some basic guidelines. [Read more…]
Seemingly out of nowhere, drones or UAVs flew off the shelves for recreational flying. They have already caused their share of problems for the general public and firms that want to use them for a wide range of commercial applications. Proposed regulation of the free-flying aircraft is still a work in progress.
It’s estimated that about 1M UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) or drones if you prefer, were gifted this Christmas. [Read more…]
DJI this week announced new plans to expand the list of its restricted flight locations to include places like prisons and power plants.
The software update is an expansion of its geofencing program, a virtual barrier which literally prohibits the drone from taking off or flying into areas in its geofence. DJI already uses geofencing in “no-fly-zones,” which are mostly airports and Washington, D.C. [Read more…]
Here’s the next installment of Ask Drone Girl. Got a question for her? Send your email here.
Hi Drone Girl,
My son and his cousin started a droning business in Michigan about a year ago. Recently they were asked to drone a festival in our town, and they readily accepted needing the exposure. I have a question…have you ever filmed a festival or in an area with large crowds. How do you launch your drone? Do you cordon off an area or have a launch pad? We’re worried about the thousands of people milling around the area and the danger of the blades of the drone.
P.S. the boys company is insured.
This is a great question, and I’m glad you have safety first in mind! Take the exposure, and give exposure to safe drone flying practices while you’re at it.
I have filmed in large crowds, and it’s tricky! People love to come up to you and talk to you about what you’re doing, and while it’s easy to want to be friendly and have a chat, you also need to focus. For example, I once photographed a crowd with a drone flying over Crissy Broadcast in The Presidio for The San Francisco Chronicle.
Luckily at this event there weren’t too many people, so I was able to stand away from people in a grassy area to launch, without having to cordon off an area. Most drone injuries happen during takeoff and landing, so it’s important that you don’t do these steps near other people. If your event is going to be wall to wall people, you’ll definitely want to cordon off an area where you can launch.
It’s great that you’ll have what sounds like two people there. One should be piloting with their eyes on the drone the whole time, and one should be the spotter looking out for other things in the sky (or coming at you on the ground too). You may even want a third person to control the drone’s camera, depending on what kind of gear you’re using. The great thing about cordoning off an area is you don’t have to worry about people coming up and asking questions while you’re in flight.
As for flying over crowds, it’s tricky! The FAA recommends not flying over people, but if it’s over public property for non-commercial use, you have a right to. If you have any slightest doubt about your piloting abilities, don’t fly over people. If you are 100% confident, then I think I feel comfortable advising you to go for it.
One of my favorite drone videos ever from when I first started reporting on drones was from The Drone Dudes. They fly all over the crowd, but that’s obviously risky. Use your judgement.
And of course, happy flying!
Most modern electric Quadcopters use Lipo batteries, so it is important for the beginner to understand a few basics about these powerful cells. There are a lot of very technical articles and discussions around the web on this subject and it can be confusing, so let’s just go through the basics.
Keeping it simple, here are the first things you should know about your Lipo batteries.
1. Only charge them when you are present – DO NOT leave them alone, overnight, etc.
2. Charge and store in a non-combustible location. An old coffee mug or small can can do the job for smaller Lipos.
3. Charge and store in an area when you have smoke detectors present.
4. DO NOT charge these batteries when they are inside your models
5. Do not charge or store in extreme heat (your car during the summer, etc.)
OK, so by now you are probably wondering if these things are going to catch fire or blow up! It’s highly unlikely, but it can and has happened when these rules are broken. It’s better to be safe than sorry and fire is nothing to mess around with.
Make them Last
Now that we are not going to ignite our homes, let’s move onto making these babies work for you! Here are the basics:
1. Use only the stock charger or a specially designed Lipo battery charger – ideally a “smart” charger which knows when the batteries are fully charged. Large Lipos have multiple cells and require a “balanced” charger. Your Model may have come with one – as an example, the AR Drone is sold with a balancing charger.
2. As above, remove the batteries from the charger when fully charged.
3. Do not run the batteries until they are completely discharged. This will help ruin your batteries quickly! It’s best to only run them down 3/4 (75-80%) of the charge.
The Other Stuff
1. Read your owners manual – it is likely to tell you some of the basics above and possibly more.
2. Do not hold or carry the batteries by the wire of connector.
3. Do not cut, mutilate or otherwise dissect or poke your Lipo batteries.
4. When storing your Lipo batteries, keep them from 30-60% charged – NOT FULLY CHARGED. Charge them up when you are ready to go flying again.
Note that some of these tips are more important for big (multi-cell) and expensive Lipo batteries – you may not care as much about getting the maximum number of charging cycles out of your $4.99 single cell special. Still, it’s important to develop good habits.
Here is a nice article with illustrations detailing how to charge and store and otherwise take care of LiPo batteries.