Drones on a Construction Site? | Baltimore Aerials

Drones on a Construction Site? | Baltimore Aerials

Drones on a Construction Site? My Advice for safe sUAS flying

Last week (this blog post is three weeks late LOL sorry), I finished up with a film production crew covering the construction process of the new Guinness US Open Brewery and Taphouse. Compared to previous construction related shoots, this one took my concentration to another level. Four to five man-lifts were moving, a crane was operating, and the parking lot was being paved. All of this was contained within a five hundred foot square, so there was a shitload going on all at once.

Here are a few of my top recommendations for safely completing sUAS flights in an active construction zone. These tips are all equally important and are in no specific order:

Effective Communication

baltimore aerials guinness harp

With so many parts moving at once, communication is essential on any construction site. Before the flights started, we had a general safety meeting held by the head of safety. When the safety meeting was over, I pulled the safety coordinator, crane operator, and those bolting the letters and Harp to the building aside for a second to explain my intentions. After our discussion, all parties were on board, and most people were excited to have the drone document these lifts. 

Spare Equipment

First, I must say I was a little disappointed to find out my main board in the P4P RC was shot. While I use this equipment five days or more out the week, my Inspire 1 controller still works like the day I purchased it (it's another year a half older than RC for P4P). On the first trip down to Diageo, I realized my RC was not holding a charge, and battery life went from approximately four hours of flying to 45 mins. Once the last light on the RC was blinking, I knew it was time to plug in due to a possible RTH if the RC died. So for the rest of the shoot, I stayed plugged into a car charger.

DJI chargers can sometimes be touchy when it comes to power coming out of a cars AC adapter, for example. This brings me to my next recommendation of carrying multiple chargers at all times. I have an AC converter to plug in, regular plug-in chargers (120) and then another made by DJI which plugs directly into the car's AC outlet. 

Having an extra drone(s) also helps in a pinch when one is not performing correctly. I always carry another aircraft just in case. This is important if heavy winds or rain becomes an issue on the shoot. At this point, I have a drone for every circumstance such as rain or heavy wind.

The mid-Atlantic summer can be tough on equipment. Specifically on electronics. The hot and sticky climate is not as bad as the winter's low temps and wind, but I have heard of drone user's iPhones or tablets turning off due to overheating issues. I flew continuously for almost six hours an did not experience device failure, but my P4P batteries did take a while to cool down. The Intelligent Battery's firmware does not allow them to be charged above a specific temperature threshold, so I ran the A/C at 70 Degrees and left the batteries a few feet from vents to cool. I would not suggest cranking the air con entirely either because that could damage the cells. Just bring plenty of batteries :)

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Safety and Awareness

Understand the objective of your flying. Ask yourself:

  1.  Why have you been asked to be a part of this project? 
  2.  What else is going on where or over I'll be flying?
  3.  Have I completed my pre-flight checklist?

Safety and awareness are both critical elements in a day of safe flying. A few months ago, I was setting up my Inspire 1 and noticed one of the Torx screws was loose. This is the screw that connects the prop adapters to the motor, a failure of this part could result in an accident. This is only one example of why we need to check our equipment before taking off. Awareness is the real-time thought process of our flying. There are many moving pieces on a construction site, and as mentioned above, focus is highly necessary. 

Conclusions

Every drone operator is different, these are just a few tactics I use to decrease or eliminate risk. In addition to these recommendations, planning your shots is also important. Ask for a shot list if one if not provided, asking questions to help perfect your craft is never frowned upon. The client wants what they asked for, so give them that and something more. Be yourself, be creative and most importantly have fun while working. 

 

Using ND Filters with Drones - The Exposure Triangle, ISO, Aperture & Shutter

Using ND Filters with Drones - The Exposure Triangle, ISO, Aperture & Shutter

The Exposure Triangle for Drones Defined

 

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ISO - this is the amount of light sensitivity for the camera’s sensor

  • As ISO value increases, the sensor’s sensitivity to light also goes up

Aperture ( P4P & I2 Cams) - the amount of light be allowed in the camera

  • This manual setting feature has an inverse relationship. For example when your value is f10 a minimal amount of light will be let in while f5 allows double the amount of light

  • High aperture (f11) number is best for depth of field

  • Medium value (f6-7) is good for a sharp photography

  • Low number (2-4) could be used for low-light conditions or night photography. At the lowest aperture number, the greatest amount of light is let in and depth of field is minimal

 

Shutter Speed - light gathered by the sensor

  • The longer the shutter is open, the more light into the sensor

  • When using a drone, shutter speed should never be sub 1/30-1/50 (of a second)

  • Personal sweet spot for aperture is 1-2 seconds

Exposure Triangle Diagram from PP

 

Personal recommendations normal flying conditions

  1. f/8 aperture

  2. 1/250 shutter

  3. 100-150 ISO

What are ND Filters?

ND filters reduce the amount of light entering the camera’s lens, simply put. I use these filters to prevent the consequences of overexposure occurring when taking an aerial photo.

Standard ND Ratings

ND4, ND8, ND16 & ND32, CP

The number associated with an ND filter indicates that how much light enters the lens in terms of a fraction.

  • ND4 reduces light by 1/4. An ND4 filter can reduce 2 stops of light, allowing you to slow the shutter speed from 1/100s to 1/25s.
  • ND8 reduces light by 1/8. An ND8 filter can reduce 3 stops of light, allowing you to slow the shutter speed from 1/200s to 1/25s.
  • ND16 reduces light by 1/16. An ND16 filter can reduce 4 stops of light, allowing you to slow the shutter speed from 1/400s to 1/25s.
  • ND32 reduces light by 1/32. An ND32 filter can reduce 5 stops of light, allowing you to slow the shutter speed to 1/60s.
  • CP - can reduce up to 1.6 stops of light, normally used when shutter rates are not able to be manipulated
    • ND4-16 specs provided by Polar Pro

When to use ND/CP

CP - used in many conditions to reduce glare when the shutter speed is not controllable

ND4 - dawn and dusk applications

ND8 - cloudy or mostly cloudy situations

ND16 - partly cloudy or mostly sunny

ND32 - very bright sunny conditions, I use for snow and water

Video Recommendations

I believe the video settings are dependent on the camera. For example, the Mavic Pro is rated to shoot 4k @ 30fps, but does it? I never shoot in anything past 1080p at 30fps because the camera isn’t writing true 4k files onto your sd card. Most of us are using the media captured for social media and other web purposes anyways, so there is no point IMO. A YouTube video titled “Towson University Aerial Tour in 4k” is bogus. Unless you’re watching YT to Vimeo through a modern TV with an extreme amount of bandwidth. Of all the clients I’ve had over the years, less than ten have asked for actual 4k files. Most request 1080p or 2.7k (UHD) which is what you’ll view through Xfinity or Fios. However, the more prominent named clients will want 4k so it's essential to use a drone that will process that quality if you're a commercial remote pilot. There were a few instances when I flew the whole time capturing video with the end user having intentions of pulling still images. Since day one, I have always relied on Polar Pro ND filters. While DJI has their line, I have found Polar Pro filters provide a better final edit. Besides, if you're looking for a more budget-friendly brand; Neewer is pretty good, too.

Never have AWB on auto...Ever!

Settings for P4P, X5S & X4S

Cinelike - P4P ( For Post Users / no processing)

Sharpness -1/0

helps with aliasing and moire

Contrast -3/0

encourages dynamic range

Saturation -1/0

decreases Artifacts - blocking areas

Settings for DJI Mavic Pro

 Mavic Pro with Polar Pro ND

Mavic Pro with Polar Pro ND

Cinelike - Mavic Pro ( For Post Users / no processing)

Sharpness -2/0

Contrast -2/0

Saturation -1/0

How to change your settings in the DJI GO 4 App

Go to style -> custom -> change to your custom settings

Grid -> Grid Lines (shows if the horizon is level quickly)

 

 

These are only recommendations or guideline per say. ND filters and camera settings are just like working out, one program is not right for everyone. Half of the fun of aerial media is experimentation and playing with these filters. 

Contact us with any questions you may have about ND filters and drones. As always, happy flying!

Top 3 Drones for a Beginner in 2018

Top 3 Drones for a Beginner in 2018

During Summer 2013, a Phantom 2's MSRP was $549. Now, the current model Phantom (Phantom 4 Pro V2) will cost you around $1,499. In 2018, DJI released the Tello model which now competes with some of the more popular entry-entry level drones on Amazon. What is entry-entry level? Sub $100 drones with brushed motors with minimal flight time and a short range. DJI's Tello is capable of flying 300 feet and carries a 5MP camera with an integrated smartphone app. In early January 2013, the Phantom 1 was announced. This was break-through technology and labeled a "toy for adults" say, Daniel Huang. While the GPS technology wasn't brand new, it was within reach of the average consumer, meaning a user no longer had to complete a DIY build. Now, in 2018 we have the Tello that is capable of being programmed for flight, VR compatibility, and while using an app, the user can snap 360-degree pictures. While the Tello is not comparable to even the Spark model (DJI's next model up), the Tello stands out with an incredible amount of technology given the price. Let's discuss what you came for, the three top drones to get as a new operator. 

DJI Mavic Pro

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This model offers a few crucial traits as a new drone owner including portability, easy set-up, and stable firmware. The Mavic Pro is a foldable drone that will fit into any backpack easily. With a significant flight time of around 20 minutes (my personal average battery life landing with 30% left) and the remote control being extremely comfortable, the Mavic Pro is an excellent overall starter drone. Mavic Pros cost approximately $900, currently. To learn more about my thoughts on the DJI Mavic, visit my review here. 

Phantom Series from DJI - My Recommendation

Some may disagree, but the Phantom series is DJI's flagship. This model is what jumpstarted company started back in 2013. Personally, I believe the Phantom 4 Line is exceptionally stable. Flights are always smooth, and the drone can handle weather very well. I have flown the Phantom in winds with 35mph gusts, and it held tight in GPS mode. Phantoms are the best consumer drone because of the value. These drones come with the best cameras for the money, simply put. A Phantom 4 is definitely less than a Mavic, and the Phantom 4 Advanced and Phantom 4 Pro blow all other drones away at this price point. Autel has released a few Phantom copycats, which cost around $200 less. 

    Mavic Pro - Amazon
    Phantom 4 - Amazon

DJI Spark

With a flight time of 15 minutes, ActiveTrack and Gesture modes, the Spark is action-packed. There is one flaw with the Spark if you are going to drone meets, the WiFi connection interferes with those flying FPV. However, for the price, the camera is pretty good and the Spark fits anywhere. If you do buy a Spark, make sure the package you buy includes the remote control. For a while, DJI was listing the RC as an optional accessory which is required. 

Further Recommendations

My recommendation for the new user is a Phantom 4  refurb. It's $699 and takes a superior picture to the Mavic at $749. There is no doubt the Phantom takes longer to set up and it is a little more of a burden when it comes to transportation, but the Phantom is simply reliable. The Mavic is too, but the Phantom can also handle hard landings and a oppppps ohhh sh$t into a tree branch, the tragic fall to the ground is what does the damage LOL

If you have further questions about the three models listed above or another drone, feel free to shoot me an email. 

The Tiny Whoop Bug

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The Tiny Whoop Bug

This past Sunday, I worked my way through the race heats and semifinals to win the novice class of our local Tiny Whoop race. I have been flying drones for quite some time now (mainly LOS rigs) and have been officially bitten by the micro FPV racing bug.

 That's me LOL

That's me LOL

I’m writing this post to not only spread the word about Tiny Whoop racing but also to describe how fun this hobby is. On Sunday, May 20th, 2018 the DMV Droners MultiGP chapter held a pop-up race at Jailbreak Brewing Co in Laurel, MD. The track was fun and fast, even for an n00b like myself. Using Tiny Whoop’s TBS race gates, the LEDs lit the brewing area up! Besides, the public was able to enjoy the racing as the experienced pilots flew into Jailbreak’s taproom. 

Jesse Perkins, the founder of Tinywhoop.com and creator of the micro FPV society race community generously donated a custom TWR to the first place winner of the advanced pilot class. To learn more about Jesse, I reached out to Mr. Tiny Whoop with these two questions, his responses follow:

1. What do I love about Tiny Whoop Racing?
“I love Tiny Whoop racing because it's both competitive as well as casual. It seems like no matter how high-profile the races get we all keep the mood of the event stress-free and people are never too serious to laugh. It's easy to set up a racecourse anywhere- I've raced in restaurants, atriums, hotels, houses, gardens, huge trees, etc. Because the aircraft can't damage anything most venues are excited to host a race, and anyone not directly involved in the races, like unexpecting spectators, is pretty amazed by the tiny flying drones.”

2. How do I see the culture expanding in the future?
“Tiny Whoop is now the largest FPV community on Facebook in the world, and is likely the most-flown quadcopter on the planet, but it's amazing how many people are still learning about the fun that can be had with tiny flight. Understanding the freedom that comes with the gift of flight is a big deal, but there is a certain whimsy to being tiny in a giant world that is my favorite aspect. The international Tiny Whoop community will continue to grow, and I expect to continue to see local races and fun-fly events popping up in homes, bars, and restaurants around the world. It's clear that the best part of the entire global movement is the friendships created thru social Tiny Whoop events, and the more people experience, the more they seem to want to participate.”
 

How the Tiny Whoop Bug Bit Me

My love for the micro FPV drones started before Thanksgiving, 2017. I saw a video of little FPV drones flying through a coffee house in Fort Collins, CO on YouTube. Instantly, I thought to myself “I need one.” Well, I called my buddy up who was heavy into FPV drones at the time and asked for his help to build one. A few days later, I had my first whoop; a modified Blade Inductrix with a BeeCore board because I am using a FrSky RC instead of Spectrum. 

Once I posted the little drone on our local drone club Facebook group, interest among members peaked. Over the next few weeks, quite a few people that were and are still aerial rig users started to buy these little drones. Next thing I know, we have a MultiGP chapter set up, and we are organizing our first event. Forty pilots showed up to our first race in Alexandria, VA. It was a shit show LOL. We were overwhelmed and feeling the growing pains while we explored the micro FPV world head first. This past weekend was our third Tiny Whoop race, and it ran so smoothly, most pilots only had praise after the event concluded.
 

Micro FPV Society on the East Coast

Our race this weekend pulled pilots from all over the DMV and some from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. For The DMV Droners, this is a huge success! I’m not sure if the custom TWR brought the out of town pilots to the event, but damn it was awesome. Jeff Walrich and I split the race director responsibilities. He kept track of the laps, I started the races but what happened during the races was the special part. I asked Jeff why he loves to Whoop so much.

From Jeff: “I love Tiny Whoop racing because of how simple the quads are, you can fly anywhere and love being in different venues, which brings a unique experience to the pilot and the audience.   With the tiny Whoop quads, you can create your own look and theme with frames, canopies, and motors.  That is fun to me!

I have met so many different people since we started to have races.  Between races, people are talking about their quads and just having a good time.  Even with huge prizes at stake, we are drama free and encourage new people to the hobby. 

In fact, that is our mission on why we started the DMV Droners MultiGP FPV group.  We want to host “pop-up” Whoop events and spread this awesome hobby to other folks around the DMV area.  We always have an experienced and newbie level at our races, and often you see the experienced pilots helping the new pilots at our races.  We also have a “theme” to our races and where we hold them.  With the custom name badges at each race, everyone leaves with something!  This is a great community to be involved in. “     

As mentioned prior, the advanced pilots flew into Jailbreak’s taproom where the public was enjoying their food and beer. I have never seen drones bring so many smiles to people of all ages. The kids were running around chasing them, while parents wanted a go on the sticks. I think that is what captured my attention, to begin with, while people are wearing FPV goggles they are having a blast. In contrast to when a Phantom or Inspire is in the air, people are concerned you may be taking their picture without their permission and all that BS. 

People within the FPV community are more chill. I’m not sure if it’s because 107 people are burnt out and trying to figure out how to make it in a heavily saturated environment after spending their life savings on a Matrice package. Personally, I pick and choose my commercial drone gigs because the race to bottom as far as compensation for drone work has begun. Furthermore, we see that companies, even high-profile brands are ok with sub-par aerial media. From blown out skies to tilted horizons, the commercial drone industry is questionable. 

OK, so enough of the tangent, I apologize. 
 

Spreading the Tiny Whoop Vibe

Moving forward, the DMV Droners are hoping to have a race within Washington D.C.’s city limits soon. We hope this brings a lot of attention to the group and the micro FPV world. Of course, this race will be indoors as D.C. has the most regulated airspace in North America (maybe the world). I’m not sure if this has been done before, but just having a legal drone race in D.C. is a groundbreaking concept in itself. 

I continue to spread the word about these little drones, and you can fly them almost anywhere if the weather conditions are preferable. Recently, my fiance has picked up the addiction too. She loves it! While she may not be the fastest around the track, that’s not necessarily the end goal. Fun supersedes anything when it comes to hobbies, and I think this is the most enjoyable hobby I’ve found to date. 

Also, we are very inclusive. We have young pilots, old pilots, hearing impaired pilots etc. Two DMV Droners built the light pictured below to help everyone start the race evenly. Before this race, we used a whistle to start each heat. They built it to have a two minute countdown with final buzzer, too. Now, after running the light through many races, there is a final design. Travis and Dustin are going to reprogram the light, so the yellow to green light transition is random. The DMV Droners and Tiny Whoop racing is something I never see going away :)
 

 You can see the yellow light counting down

You can see the yellow light counting down

 The green light is on! Go!

The green light is on! Go!

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Best Places to Fly Your Drone in Baltimore

Best Places to Fly Your Drone in Baltimore

Baltimore is filled with heliports and controlled airspace, but don't let that stop you from enjoying our city from above. Always check airspace regulations and NOTAMS before taking off. If you find yourself close to a heliport, give them a call. Let them know what you're doing, where you'll be flying, and at what time and day the flight will take place. Communication is always crucial, notify any heliport, airport, or seaport before flying. 

Now that all the safety jargon is out of the way, let's get into what you came for; the best spots in Baltimore to fly your drone. 

1. The Inner Harbor

While the Inner Harbor is full of tourists, it is an excellent place to fly. Ultimately, the benefit is you'll be predominantly be flying over water. Thus, the risk is minimized. From the Maryland Science Center to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, you'll be able to view our harbor and surrounding areas from the sky. 

2. Federal Hill

This area is beautiful from the air and one of the very first spots we flew back in 2014. While on top of the hill, you can view Pier Five and the Pier Six Pavilion. If you're local to Baltimore, you already know some of the best summer concerts in the city take place at Pier Six Pavillion. While many do not know this, Federal Hill is in controlled airspace. If you're flying under the FAA's 101 regulations, this may not affect you, but if you're operating under a Part 107, you'll need to acquire the necessary paperwork. 

3. Druid Hill Park

As you head south on I-83 into downtown Baltimore (from 83-North), there is a fantastic park called Druid Hill. This area is located directly off of the 28th Street/North Ave exit from interstate 83. With an extensive lake and running routes spread throughout this destination is one for any drone enthusiast. The park consists of 745 acres with a history dated back to 1652. 

4. Fells Point & Canton

With many marinas and maritime magic, Fells Point and Canton are other places a drone operator would love to film. Fells Point is named after an English settler who started a shipbuilding company in Baltimore during 1726. Once known as the areas for the three Bs of Baltimore; bars, brothels and boarding houses. While you're in town be sure to visit Alexanders Tavern, Bond Street Social, or The Point in Fells

5. Graffiti Alley

This place is a graffiti artist's dream. A legal area in Baltimore where artists can display their work without having the possible consequences of breaking the law. Tucked behind The Motor House, this L-shaped alley is a colorful plethora for photography and video. Come often because the art changes frequently!

 

5 Tips for Flying Your Drone During Winter

5 Tips for Flying Your Drone During Winter

A few local drone operators have contacted me about flying drones in sub-freezing temperatures recently on social, email, etc. So, I decided to write a blog post about flying in the cold. Here in Maryland, we’ve seen two weeks of daily highs temps in the teens. Winds have been moderate, but there have been gusty days, too. Here are my top five suggestions when flying when it’s cold AF outside.

Flying Drones During Winter Weather

 

1. Cold hands?

Personally, my most common issues are my hands becoming cold. I feel like my hands move in slow motion after only 30-45 minutes in the elements. Over the last few years, I’ve tried a few different remedies, but only one has worked for me so far. These gloves from REI are my favorite option for now. When it is windy though, I add a pair of Nitrile Gloves as a base layer to cut the wind.

2. Device battery life

Cold weather and electronics don’t mix well. Low temperatures decrease battery life in electronics and slow performance. A significant share of drone users uses apps on either iOS or Android devices which are rated to operate efficiently at specific temperatures. This article states iOS devices perform best within 32 and 95 degrees while Android can run between -4 and 122 degrees Fahrenheit. If your app crashes, DON'T PANIC! Restart the app and fly home. If a worse case scenario occurs, you may have to hit the return-to-home button if your drone has this feature built it. I only suggest using the RTH button in a emeregency situation such as your device completely dying, do not rely on this every flgiht.

3. Inspect your drone before and after each flight

During flight ice can build on props and condensation could form around electronics. Usually, I find ice only forms on my Inspire 1 props, but it’s possible this could happen on any drone. However, the Phantom series easily builds condensation around the gimbal and the underside of the drone. There are many variables which affect flying conditions though so make sure it’s safe before buzzing around.

4. Let your craft warm up before taking off

Once you’ve arrived at your launch destination, assemble your drone and power on. I let the drone and controller warm up while I verify all settings are correct in the app. Furthermore, I will allow the motors run for a minute or two to increase the battery temp. In recent DJI GO App updates, new notifications have been included to remind the operator that the battery is too cold for flight.

5. Keep your batteries warm

Sometimes keeping batteries warm is tough. For example, the Inspire 1 batteries were notorious for issues in cold weather. DJI released a battery warmer to help but once out on a hike it was still hard to do. To combat the problem further adding a small hand warmer into a lipo safe bag will help keep batteries warm outdoors.

 

Plan B: Fly from inside your car. I would recommend sticking your head out of the sunroof to maintain VLOS though. 

Feel free to contact me with questions or concerns about flying in the winter weather. Happy flying!

How Drones Significantly Improve Hurricane Research

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Drone technology has improved a lot over the past months, and not only for entertainment purposes but for various industrial and search and rescue operations. Drone tech has inevitably shaped the way weather stations and scientists predict the weather as well.

With the support of the government, new developments in drone technology were tested and proven to aid in the understanding of wind patterns, especially related to hurricanes and tropical storm systems.

Latest Micro Drone Technology

This cool new technology called CICADA (named after the insect) or Close-in Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft MK5 is a micro gliding drone weighing 35 grams that transports a tiny sensor payload and uses GPS for users to determine its exact location.

The CICADA MK5 is designed for deployment by aircrafts and it can glide 15 feet using its mini wings. This little device is assembled by robots and prototypes of these were made by the U.S. Naval Research Lab (NLR). Its glide ratio is also 3.5 to 1 or 3.5 feet for every one foot it gravitates.

Hurricane Research Process

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These $250 microdrones are stacked into a cylindrical tube which fit up to 32 drones and launched by an aircraft using different methods. This tube is then thrown into the hurricane to collect data. Data used to detect hurricanes are transmitted using the CICADA’s antennas. The data gathered is mostly meteorological, biological and chemical information. The CICADA’s sensors report back humidity, temperature, and changes in air pressure.

Next Steps

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Securing FAA approval and acquiring aircrafts are just some of the things the NLR needs to do in order to harness the drone's potential for high-risk advancements. More tests will lead to a better understanding of the benefits of this technology and prepare it for manufacturing.

Advantages

The CICADA drone was designed to be virtually silent without the use of an engine. This makes it lightweight so it can freely float in the air and able to record readings clearly without interfering noise from the drone itself. It is also a secret weapon for creating 3D models for forecasting cyclones.

Disadvantages

This only disadvantage to the CICADA is that it’s disposable, which is understandable since it will be hard to bring back such tiny drones. Their signal only lasts a day before they are entirely eaten up by the storm or before they hit the ground. For some reason, not all CICADA’s are destroyed when they land on asphalt roads. The ones found wholly broken were those that fell onto something sharp and had the sensors wrecked as well as the body.

Other Uses

Aside from its ability to gather weather readings, the CICADA sensors are highly favorable in determining enemy submarines or spy on enemy operations. The government isn’t quite sure where it stands on drones and their use, but with a tool like this, it seems drones could help them out in numerous ways.

How to Fix DJI Mavic Horizon in 5 Quick Steps | Baltimore Aerials

How to Fix DJI Mavic Horizon in 5 Quick Steps | Baltimore Aerials

I have seen a few operators get torn up on social media for not having a level horizon recently. In my experience, the DJI MAVIC is particularly susceptible to not having an uneven horizon after powering on. Using a non-level surface while powering up the Mavic is the problem, usually.

Below is a step by step guide to fixing the horizon on your DJI product. Click here to watch a 40-second video.

  1. Press the three horizontal dots in the top-right corner of DJI GO APP

  2. Tap the camera icon on the left side - 6th image from the top

  3. Click “Adjust Camera Gimbal”

  4. Use the vertical and horizontal guidelines to manipulate the gimbal level using the two arrows

  5. Once you’ve perfected the horizon, press “Complete” and have some fun!

Below are a few pictures comparing before and after the horizon has been adjusted.

  Before correcting the horizon

Before correcting the horizon

  After fixing the horizon

After fixing the horizon

Always verify you’re powering up on a level surface. If you use a pre-flight checklist when flying, add this as a step before taking off. Taking 30 seconds to complete this procedure will ensure you don’t have to worry about correction during post-production.

If you have any questions or would like another tutorial completed, please contact me.

Decal Girl vs. Drone Wrap Japan?

Decal Girl vs. Drone Wrap Japan?

Is Decal Girl or Drone Wrap Japan better for the DJI Mavic Pro?

Well, I bought another DJI MAVIC PRO. So, I purchased another wrap. Furthermore, DJI has now released the Alpine White Edition  -_-  I wanted to discuss which company I think is better as a long-term fit for the Mavic. Of course, each brand has their pros and cons, but ultimately the primary decision is up to the drone owner. Variables such as how long the wrap will stay on, multiple skins, or even how much you're willing to pay for a wrap. Below are a few initial strengths and weakness of both Decal Girl and Drone Wrap Japan.

Drone Wrap of Japan  (DWJ)

Pros

  • High-quality finish with superior adhesive
  • Increased coverage compared to the Decal Girl skin
  • Great instructional youtube video

Cons

  • Material rips easily (see pics)
  • Long wait time
  • Expensive

Decal Girl (DG)

Pros

  • Great value
  • If you mess up a little, the material forgiving but weak glue
  • Paid for and received within 72 hours

Cons

  • Less coverage than Drone Wrap Japan
  • The skin is quite thin
  • Water caused some issues with ink

Since I bought my first Mavic wrap, Decal Girl has released the V2 skin which has much more coverage than the original. While comparing Drone Wrap Japan vs. Decal Girl’s V2, I think the better value may be the V2.  However, if you intend on keeping the wrap on long-term, Drone Wrap of Japan is better suited. Personally, my only complaint about DWJ is the material rips very easily. Not having the Mavic’s front legs covered is my issue with the V2. In addition to what I’ve mentioned already, Decal Girl has an extensive collection of skins ready to go including Solid State Yellow, Digital Woodland Camo, and Waterfall. There is also an option to upload your own media file and use that as your wrap. There have been a few rumors around DWJ releasing new design too, on MavicPilots.com.

PolarPro Gimbal Lock/Lens Review: Phantom 4 Pro/Adv

PolarPro Gimbal Lock/Lens Review: Phantom 4 Pro/Adv

I simply couldn’t wait for PolarPro to release their gimbal lock and lens cover for DJI’s Phantom 4 Pro. DJI supplied an extremely sturdy gimbal lock with the Phantom 4 Pro, but the amount of trauma the gimbal took while putting the lock on was extreme in my opinion. To me, the included gimbal lock was nearly identical to the one provided with the standard Phantom 4 just slightly larger to fit the new 20MP camera. One interesting feature I’d like to point out is the indentations on the bottom rubber of the landing gear (P4P). This was added to the Phantom 4 Pro because of the complaints people had while using the gimbal lock on the standard P4. While these areas made it easier for users to line up where the gimbal lock should go, there was still no improvement on the extreme wear and tear DJI’s lock put on the gimbal.

When using ND filters, taking them on and off constantly can be a big PIA. However, one of my favorite attributes is the ability to keep an ND filter on while using the gimbal lock. Having the capacity to keep a filter on makes set up and breakdown time drop 50% (for me). Half the battle sometimes is taking the lens cover off the P4P and then replacing with the appropriate ND filter. Now, because of PolarPro’s gimbal guard I can take the drone out, put the props on, fire up the RC, the AC, and I’m in the air.

Top 3 Reason Why I love PolarPros Gimbal Guard

  1. Easy on and off

  2. Less trauma to the gimbal

  3. Ability to keep PolarPro’s ND filters on while using

I made a short video of PolarPro’s gimbal lock for the DJI Phantom 4 Pro here. Please check out the video, my comments will be easier to understand.

A few things to keep in mind

  1. Make sure you hear or feel a “click” once the lock is completely on

  2. Verify that the square portion of the lock is touching the camera properly

  3. Be sure to check the ND/UV filter is screwed on thoroughly

  4. Confirm there is no debris inside the lens cover

Using PolarPro's Gimbal Guard in the Outdoors

While on a recent road trip we were able to really put this product to the test. During our trip, the drone would sometimes have to endure tough terrain hikes or long and bumpy bike rides. PolarPro’s gimbal guard never came off. However, while we transferred to a different rental car the guard did come loose. This was my mistake for not attaching it properly after our last flying location, I believe. Always double-check the lock is on completely or there will be an issue. When I first bought the lock, I didn’t put the guard on all the way. I didn’t hear or feel that “click” I discussed earlier. After hiking a few miles we took the drone out. Well, the lock did come off and when I powered the drone up the gimbal didn’t move. When opening up DJI Go App, I received a notification “gimbal motor overloaded” and freaked out. I manually manipulated the gimbal motor and then restarted the drone. No worries, the gimbal functioned well after that.

Recommendations for using with DJI’s Phantom 4 Pro

  1. Confirm you are using the lock for the P4P, not the standard P4

  2. View my video for proper use

  3. Make sure you feel or hear the “click”

  4. This is a two-handed job, unlike PolarPro’s lock for the regular P4

  5. MAKE SURE IT’S ON PROPERLY

Since purchasing this gimbal lock/lens cover, PolarPro came out with another version. This gimbal lock is for "maximum support" but uses the landing gear like DJI's.

5 Reasons Why I Love the Manfrotto 3N1-36

5 Reasons Why I Love the Manfrotto 3N1-36

Today’s post is about the Manfrotto 3N1-36 and why I believe it’s the best backpack for DJI’s Phantom 4 Pro. If you don't feel like reading this blog, then check the video review here. First, let’s discuss what I’m comparing this Manfrotto pack to. During the time I flew the standard Phantom 4, I used DJI’s hard shell backpack while traveling. In my opinion, that backpack screams “I am carrying a drone.” Its “turtle shell design” and large DJI branding made this pack’s contents easily recognized. This backpack was made for the Phantom 3 Pro but after a few modifications, the P4 fit nicely. While melting the styrofoam inside, a few alterations including making space for the large gimbal lock and increased Milliamp batteries were necessary. After those adjustments were made, I was able to use it successfully during my P4 use.

Then the P4P came out, we were quite excited at the time of the announcement- my GF gave me the approval to order it the first day available. I remember waiting anxiously for a couple weeks before the box showed up on the doorstep. With the P4P’s 20MP camera added to the equation, the hard shell was no longer practical. I also acquired a few more batteries and there so was no additional room in the hard shell for storage.

5 Reasons

Compared to DJI’s hard shell, the Manfrotto 3N1-36 allows for more space. Granted the pack is much larger, but only because it’s designed in a rectangle instead of an oval. Below is a list of everything I could carry inside or attached to the Manfrotto. Notice some items are in bold, these are my five reasons. DJI’s pack couldn’t handle the extra items. Manfrotto’s 3N1-36 is on the high-end of drone backpacks, but here’s why it’s worth the price.

There’s space for (in addition to the P4P & RC):

  • At least five spare batteries
  • ND filters
  • Extra SD Card holder(s)
  • A true 15” laptop
  • Medium-sized Pyrex Container for a meal
  • Two water bottles
  • Portable landing pad
  • Monopod or small tripod
  • DJI battery & RC charger
  • Space for a tablet- I use Apple’s iPad Mini

Manfrotto’s pack comes in handy during hikes too, it’s comfortable even after wearing it for a few hours. I sweat easily and the pack is usually soaked after a couple hours on the trail. However, this is made with nice synthetic material and doesn’t have an odor like some materials after perspiration has dried. I’ve been stuck in the rain with the pack twice and each time the interior is completely dry. Manfrotto includes a rain cover for the pack if you’re out in the elements for long periods of time, but in my case, the pack was only exposed for 30-45 mins.

In conclusion, Manfrotto’s 3N1-36 is by far the best pack on the market right now for the Phantom line. Although this backpack was made for serious photogs, Manfrotto has designed this pack in a way which easily converts to a drone bag. Originally designed to transport a camera(s), up to five lenses, laptop, and tripod, this bag gets it done. Check out my video that shows how much stuff I actually carry in the bag. Of course, each day is different and while I may not pack the bag to the brim, it’s always nice knowing the room is available.

Please contact us with any question about drones, the pack, or past blog posts. For more information about the Manfrotto 3N1-36, follow this link.

Baltimore Drone Blog- How I made my Inspire 1 into an Inspire 2 for $250

Baltimore Drone Blog- How I made my Inspire 1 into an Inspire 2 for $250

I really wanted to upgrade to the DJI Inspire 2, but I have two more semesters of grad school to pay for...obviously, we know what takes priority LOL. Instead of spending the 9k for the package I wanted, I added the Inspire 2's most desirable feature (for me at least) to my Inspire 1 for $250. Anyone that uses the Inspire 1 platform knows when the camera starts moving the remote pilot loses their FPV feed. At this point, I am nearly flying blind and have to navigate the sky only through my POV on the ground. Performing long tracking shots is sometimes stressful because of this. DJI's Inspire 2 does have some characteristics I wish the I1 had including longer flight duration, increased filming capabilities using the X5S, and a separate camera feed for the remote pilot. Standing out to me the most was the implementation of the second camera for FPV flight. I am comfortable with the Inspire 1's flight time and current camera. Furthermore, we only use the Inspire for shots requiring the dual operation. DJI's Phantom 4 Pro is still the main platform we use daily. 

Here is a guide with a picture gallery below which lists the steps I took to install the FPV camera.

  1. Remove the two PH screws holding the nose cone under the gimbal mount - pic 2 & 3
  2. Unscrew the four T9 Torx and pop the nose cone off - pics 4 & 5
  3. Using a pencil, outline the area needed to slide the camera through the nose cone and then drill a hole. After a "guide" hole is formed use the 952 Aluminum Oxide Grinding Stone to make a perfect symmetrical hole - pic 6
  4. Insert the RunCam Eagle into the hole and verify it's tight. I used a hot glue gun to secure the camera in place. It was a little messy but doesn't add much weight. Once the glue has set one can remove the excess with a scalpel - pics 7, 8, & 9
  5. Remove the left arm support and place your video transmitter of choice on the bird (pic 10). I used velcro to attach the FatShark 250mW V3 5.8GHz Video Transmitter With NexwaveRF. However you fashion the transmitter on the Inspire 1 make sure everything is safe when the landing gear move. I raised and lowered the gear multiple times before deciding on a safe placement. Next, add the Inspire's props and spin them around to mimic flight. This is another way to ensure your transmitter and accessories are safe during flight. I also added a second fail-safe, I added a Velcro cable fastener to hold the transmitter's antenna (pic 11). 
  6. Make sure the small battery for the camera and transmitter is secure - pic 12
  7. Attach the left arm support back to the frame and verify correct placement - pic 13
  8. Power on and make sure FPV feed is still working properly after installation - pic 14 & 15

The hard part is over! Now, you need to add your second screen to the Inspire's RC. Using the YKS Carbon Fiber Display Monitor Support Stand, I was easily able to add the FPV screen - pics 16 & 17. Finally, the last step which I was concerned about. Does the new screen work with the iPad Mini too? Is there any overlap? Check out picture 18 in the scrolling gallery below, I think the additional screen looks and functions great.

 

 

Baltimore Drone Blog- DJI Mavic Pro Product Review

Baltimore Drone Blog- DJI Mavic Pro Product Review

Today I will be discussing the DJI Mavic Pro, its pros, and cons and why this drone may be a good or bad fit for your #dronelife. First off, the Mavic is a fantastic piece of equipment and the drone never let me down. There were times I’d be flying and a strong gust would roll through and the Mavic always remained locked in place. If you’re reading this and thinking “so is the Mavic right for me?” I’ll be getting to that later in the post. Please keep in mind, I am not affiliated with DJI or any of the other brands I will be bringing up throughout this post. I am a Remote Pilot with four years experience flying drones who enjoys giving my opinion with the hopes that it will benefit others in the future.

Are you a hiker? Mountain biker? Fisherman? Regardless of your hobbies, if you’re looking for a drone that’s compact and will withstand the wind and minimal precipitation this consumer UAS is for you. DJI designed the Mavic to be portable, that was their main concern it seems because the camera is so-so, (we’ll get to the camera a little later) but there are many attributes that make the Mavic Pro a spectacular drone.

Pros and Cons

DJI’s Mavic Pro drone is quite small once folded up in its “transport” stage. See the below pic:

 The DJI Mavic Pro and an iPhone 7 Plus to the left for scale

The DJI Mavic Pro and an iPhone 7 Plus to the left for scale

Although not very well protected, the pocket of a normal sized hoodie fits the Mavic with no problem, and the controller I put in my back pocket. Just don’t sit down with the RC in your pocket LOL. I only carried the drone around like this in urban environments when it was best to be “low key” around town. I didn’t get a hardshell case or a protective sleeve like some pilots prefer, but I will say DJI’s original packaging did the trick while in transit.

The Mavic’s overall flight ability was astonishing. From unpacking to landing after a successful mission the Mavic got it done. Unfolding the drone’s legs while simultaneously opening the DJI GO 4 app and connecting the RC, the Mavic is in the air in under a minute. Obviously, if the operator would like to perform a compass calibration or gimbal calibration pre-flight duration will increase. One thing I have noticed from various Facebook groups and forums is this is the stage when most pilots go wrong with the Mavic, and subsequently, their content is sub-par. I am talking about the horrific terrors of having an uneven horizon. When new pilots post their content this is easily noticed, and most, not all, blame DJI. The issue is not the firmware like a lot of new operators think, it’s actually the pilot not following the Mavic’s instruction manual. Each time the drone is powered on, the Mavic (or any other DJI product for the most part) should be on a completely level surface. One of the worst things that can happen is you’re flying and you’ve framed up a beautiful shot, but the damn horizon is crooked. Performing a gimbal auto-calibration will correct this issue, but unfortunately, the Mavic needs to be back on the ground. Obviously the horizon issue can be corrected in post production but in my opinion, taking off with a properly aligned gimbal will save time in the long run.

After approximately ten hours of flight time (25 battery cycles), I have seen the Mavic operate in the sky near flawlessly. The range was impressive, no latency with the FPV feed, and flying in 30 MPH gusts was no problem for the Mavic Pro. DJI’s spec sheet for the Mavic suggests 27 minutes of flight, I never fly my batteries down to 10% or less but I do believe 27 minutes is possible. When I fly, I bring the bird back at the 30% threshold. It’s my belief that using the battery properly will decrease wear and tear on the li-po and will increase battery life while keeping cells intact. Each flight averaged 19-22 minutes depending on factors such as the wind and the mission objective(s).

Let’s talk about the camera - DJI has implemented the Phantom 3 Professional’s camera onto a small but powerful little gimbal, therefore, allowing users to shoot in 4k. Great, the camera can shoot in 4k at 24, 25, and 30 FPS but is the footage high-quality is the question. Simply put, no, I don’t think so. My reasoning for this is the 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor within the Mavic’s camera. Compared to the Mavic’s big bro, the Phantom 4 Pro and its one-inch sensor, DJI’s Mavic media output is nothing to rave about. This is the main reason why I decided to sell my Mavic, this was not a drone I could use for commercial purposes at all. What’s funny to me is the number of new drone operators that think the Mavic is capable of delivering commercial grade content. There’s been a large spike in consumer drone purchases because of the Mavic’s positive attributes. However, if a novice pilot thinks they are going to buy a Mavic then pass the 107 Exam and start making hand over fist money they’re in for a rude awakening. Sure, the camera is awesome for shooting a couple HDR pics for real estate, but if you’re trying to become one of those “overnight aerial cinematographers” you may want to reconsider the Mavic as your drone of choice.

 The Mavic and I - you can see how big the camera actually is. No larger than a dime.

The Mavic and I - you can see how big the camera actually is. No larger than a dime.

Usability of the Mavic is a positive feature too. DJI has designed the Mavic’s controller well, but it does have one flaw. I had to remove two plastic pieces from the RC that “grips” the smartphone being used. No biggie - but I prefer not to remove the phone from its case. Otherwise, the RC fits well in my or my GF’s hands, so it’s perfect for those female pilots too. I know the Inspire 1 RC is tough to handle for long periods of time without using a harness.

Overall the Mavic can hold it’s own in the sky and is a very stable drone, but media content output just isn’t at the level I need it to be for project deliverables.

Positive Features

  • Compact and very portable
  • Long battery life
  • Easy to fly - usability is A+
  • Stability in the air - the Mavic can withstand wind well

Negative Attributes

  • Camera is ok, but not great
  • Controller does not fit iPhone Plus with a case
  • RC doesn’t maintain battery life well
  • When the gimbal lock and protective housing are factored in, I am actually able to get the Phantom line in the air faster

If you’d like to purchase the DJI Mavic Pro here are a couple options:

DJI has pretty much caught up to consumer demand at this time, although during the months of December and January it was slim pickens unless you wanted to get gouged on Craigslist or eBay.

Please feel free to contact me at Robert@baltimoreaerialproductions.com with any question or concerns about my post or the Mavic in general. Happy flying!

Baltimore Drone Blog- Drones VS The Public

Baltimore Drone Blog- Drones VS The Public

Drones are good! Some people are bad...

Recently there has been a lot of fear-mongering by the mass media and small networks across the United States. Sometimes I wonder if it's just business or is it to inform and then potentially scare the public. For those that have minimal knowledge about sUAS (drones), I do understand why some are upset, frustrated, or even scared by this technology. I believe the mainstream media has played a very large part in this drone witch hunt. It's amazing to me sometimes because the same news outlets spreading the fake news about "a possible drone strike" are also the networks using drones to capture b-roll for their telecast. For those residing in the UK, I'm sorry, but you have it the worst. With headlines such as "Drone Strike at Heathrow Airport" one can realize how quickly the perception of drones can change. And change quickly! Sadly, this headline is published before the CAA (UK's version of US' FAA) complete's their investigation. Below is a list of articles describing "drone scares" or "drone near misses" but none of them have actual facts to back their content.

None of the above articles include any facts, which hurts my feelings because it's like blaming the car for driving drunk. The outlets who reported the incident include The Guardian, The BBC, and Daily Mail UK. Each outlet reported the incident on April 17, 2016, and by April 28th, 2016 most outlets reported this was not a drone-related incident. Approximately two weeks had gone by, this allowed viewers to develop a new or different perception of drones and their operators. Remember, the drones don't move themselves a user needs to provide inputs for flight path manipulation.

In the United States, we have our own issues, it seems a war has been declared on drones. The image below was posted near a college campus in Seattle, WA on or about April 7th, 2017. Interestingly enough this flyer doesn't explain why the person that posted is so upset. Not to mention how official the Gmail account is to "report" drones. All this is doing frustrating people that operate responsibly and professionally. I feel this person had a bad experience with a drone, potentially just a hater. Either way, this person(s) is butt hurt and the drone community responded. Below is an image of the original flyer posted:

 The original copy of the flyer

The original copy of the flyer

The above flyer is not accomplishing much as the FAA controls and regulates airspace. Maybe it's a local police officer or a concerned citizen. BUT WHY!? If someone is going to write "drones are a direct threat" please explain why. Your words have no meaning in my opinion. 

However, the drone community has responded, notice the difference in Chris Vo's revised copy:

With social media and other forms of digital mass communication I am nearly positive this flyer has backfired on the owner. Check out my Instagram post concerning the flyer. There are far more people that now have seen this that own drones and either operate as a hobbyist or commercially. Personally, I operate under Part 107(commercial) rules and Part 101 (hobbyist) depending on the goal of the operation. We've all sent emails to the address asking "why?" or "are you mad bro?", we just would like to know why. I will keep up with what happens next so stay tuned for an update. 

Baltimore Drone Blog- Click Bait: LAM TM136 Update

Baltimore Drone Blog- Click Bait: LAM TM136 Update

Drone is found not guilty in recent airline incident due to the aircraft's own structure failure

Turns out LAM Flight didn't hit a drone; the "drone strike" was actually a structural failure within the aircraft's nose. I get frustrated with these types of incidents because the media states a plane hit a drone in a breaking news headline. Without any actual proof, the media uses "drone" as a buzzword in the same sentence with "airline" and "collision", etc. This type of journalism is just scary. You're increasing public paranoia for no reason. Imagine the amount of people that saw headlines stating the drone did hit the plane versus headlines. If you're a drone enthusiast ask yourself which version did you see more while scrolling on Facebook.  Here are some sources that we're sure a drone made contact with a commercial airliner LOL.

 When in fact, the Aviation Herald didn't say this. They said LAM thought it could be, not that it was. There are UAS that conduct surveys within close proximity to the airport currently but a robot wasn't at fault here. Maybe if a robot put the now of the LAM aircraft together? IDK? 

When in fact, the Aviation Herald didn't say this. They said LAM thought it could be, not that it was. There are UAS that conduct surveys within close proximity to the airport currently but a robot wasn't at fault here. Maybe if a robot put the now of the LAM aircraft together? IDK? 

 When in fact, the Aviation Herald didn't say this. They said LAM thought it could be, not that it was. There are UAS that conduct surveys within close proximity to the airport currently but a robot wasn't at fault here. Maybe if a robot put the now of the LAM aircraft together? IDK? 

When in fact, the Aviation Herald didn't say this. They said LAM thought it could be, not that it was. There are UAS that conduct surveys within close proximity to the airport currently but a robot wasn't at fault here. Maybe if a robot put the now of the LAM aircraft together? IDK? 

I'm not sure what to make of all this. It's very frustrating when this type of incident occurs. Drones to blame, well, actually it's the user. Yes, there are catastrophic disasters with drones that are out of our control such as a bird diving into the UAS, a battery malfunction, or a shotgun blast. 

Baltimore Drone Blog- LAM Flight TM-136

Baltimore Drone Blog- LAM Flight TM-136

 Photo credit: LAM

Photo credit: LAM

Has anyone heard about the LAM flight that collided a "drone" during final approach? There's been a lot of discussion on Facebook groups since January 6th. Although the incident took place in Tete, Mozambique news spread quickly on social media. LAM posted about the incident on Facebook

Immediately, the opinions being posted stacked up quickly. Some brought up the drones that are used in mining areas not far from the airport. A screenshot using Google Earth shows the proximity of the airport and the mines (red arrows). There's no doubt the two are close but that must've been one rogue drone. Is the mining company missing a drone?

Others have commented about how they've seen drones produce major damage when colliding with another aircraft. However, these were large military drones that weigh a couple hundred pounds. Yes, if a motorcycle sized drone had a collision with a commercial aircraft there would be significant damage. I have no idea what to believe, there's simply no proof. I look forward to hearing more about the investigation when more details have been shared. For now, here are a couple posts from Aviation Herald

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