Adventure SchoolInspiration

Adventure School: Drones 101

An Introduction to Drones.

I’ve been a competitive tri-athlete, mountain biker and cyclist solidly for the last decade so it comes as no surprise that I’m a tech-head.

With the influx of drones into the marketplace, 2 years ago I jumped on board and haven’t looked back. Now running a successful online store and an aerial photography business I get asked questions on a regular basis, some of the ones relevant to Outdoor Adventures are below:

What drone should I buy?
This must be the most common question out there.
The best drone is the one you have with you at the time!
Seriously, the DJI Mavic Pro is the most advanced compact drone that is on the market today. It folds down to size of a 600ml bottle of Coke and takes amazing 4k video (H83mm x W83mm x L198mm).

Are they easy to fly?
In most cases, we are talking about Quadcopters when we say drones. These have 4x propellers and at least one GPS which allows the craft to hover steadily and not get blown around by the wind…. if it has GPS lock.
Therefore, flight is rather easy. It is ensuring that you can see it to keep the orientation correct so you don’t crash into things…

What are the first steps in flying?
I break this down into 5 easy steps for people. These steps allow you to understand the orientation of the craft along with depth perception and finger control.

Setup: You will need 4x markers setup in a square with 8-10m between each one.

Movement #1: Forward Square
Take off and hover at 3-4m above ground then fly over to the first marker. Now fly slowly (at walking pace) to the marker straight ahead, once on top of it hover.
Now fly right at the same pace and hover over the next marker keeping the camera facing the same forward direction.
Fly backwards towards the next marker and hover. Lastly fly left to the beginning marker. Return to the take off point and land.
Repeat the process in the opposite direction.

Movement #2: Yaw Square
As in Movement 1m you will take off and hover over the first marker. Now fly forward to the next marker and hover. Now you will YAW the craft 90° so the camera is now facing the 3rd marker.
Fly to this marker and hover, then YAW 90°again and face the 4th marker.
Fly forward to this marker. Lastly, YAW 90°to face the 1st marker and fly forward and hover over the beginning marker.
Return to the take off point and land.
Repeat the process in the opposite direction.

Movement #3: Curved Square
Take off and hover at 3-4m above ground then fly over to the first marker.
Fly forward to the second marker and before you reach this marker begin to YAW so you turn in a curve.
You will need to practice this at different YAW speeds and forward pace to get a tight turn.
Continue throughout the course.
Return to the take off point and land.
Repeat the process in the opposite direction.

Movement #4: Figure 8
As it sounds, combining all previous skills into one maneuverer.
Take off and hover at 3-4m above ground then fly over to the first marker. Picture a Figure 8 in your head using the diagonal marker as the crossover point.
This will use both Forward and Left/Right YAW to keep a smooth accurate path.
Continue practicing until the turns are roughly the same size and you cross over the intersecting point.

Movement #5: Emergency Decent
This one needs plenty of height. Make sure you are in a large open area with no people, trees or obstacles and you can easily get your aircraft safely to 80-120m.
A helicopter or quadcopter can’t descend quickly straight down. This exercise is about getting your aircraft down quickly away from trouble.
At 80-120m up, push FORWARD 100% and at the same time DOWN 100% + YAW 15-20%.
Adjust the YAW as you need so it’s not a tight circle.
Bring it down 40-50m quickly then slowly ease it back. Practice this a few times.

How do I take good pictures?
Once you have your drone in the air, you will be awestruck with how different the world looks. Remember that there is now my light from the sun and this can affect how bright your images turn out.
– Turn on the Grid pattern in the camera settings. This will allow you to keep the ‘Rule of Thirds’ in mind
– Rule of Thirds – instead of reinventing the wheel, check out…….
– Filters – Neutral Density (ND) and Polarizing (PL) reduce the amount of light/glare that comes in through the lens. I generally fly with a ND filter on all the time.
– Remember it is digital – adjust the settings and take another shot.

What is the best settings for a video?
Video settings are a little different to still images as you now must think about ‘film speed’ or frames per second (fps). The Hollywood pros tend to use a 2x factor for film speed compared to shutter speed.
Let’s say you are taking a video of a mountain bike run down the side of a wicked decent, the Mavic Pro shoots in 4K @ 24fps, 1080p @ 60fps and 720p @ 120fps.

If you were to shoot in 4K @ 24fps, you would need to select a shutter speed of 1/50sec as 2 x 24 = 48.
On a bright sunny day, this might not be achievable and your shots will be too bright. This is when you would use a Neutral Density (ND) filter as discussed earlier. The ND filter is a piece of grey glass that reduces the amount of light but does NOT alter the colour of the images at all. Therefore, adding this filter will allow you to keep the film speed to shutter speed factor at 2x.

4K @ 24fps – this is for super crisp videos of everything.
1080p @ 60fps – this is better for some slow-motion.
720p @ 120fps – again this is super slow-motion.

Why is the 2x factor important?
If you search through Google you will find hundreds of people complaining about a black line that appears in their drone videos (called ‘flicker’). Many explain this to be from shadows of the propellers, in 98% of cases this is false. It is a mismatch of film speed and shutter speed.

Using ND filters, you can be certain that you will not find this through your videos.

Other than buying your first, second or fifth drone…. the only way to ensure you know all the above, like it’s the back of your hand, is to get out there and fly.

Remember, understand your local laws (as there will be some) and fly safely.

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