DJI Phantom Christmas? Awesome! Now READ THIS!

I posted this last year…but there’s still a lot of good information in there and so I thought I would post again. I have learned a HUGE amount since the original post so please feel free to comment if you have questions that you would like answered.

Houldsworth's Random Ramblings

fc40If you received a DJI Phantom for Christmas, then you are a lucky man…or woman, but I’m betting you’re a man.  

The Phantom’s are amazing machines.  They are great fun, produce really cool video footage and are super easy to fly as long as you have a good GPS signal.

But, before you fly, there are a few things you need to do, and a few things you need to know.  

Not following this advice is, in the opinion of many, the #1 cause of “flyaways”, which is when the thing takes off and is never seen again.  This is usually followed by people blasting DJI on Facebook and then deleting their post when people ask them about home lock.

Most of the details below are from my experience with an FC40.  You may be lucky enough to have a more advanced unit, but the information should be mostly the same.

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Drones: One year on

On January 2nd this year I took a flight over my neighbors house using a store bought drone (Phantom FC40) and a GoPro camera that arrived as a Christmas present.  I was very happy with the quadcopter and the footage I took.  Then, about a week later, I sunk the whole kit into a lake never to be seen again.

At the time I was pretty upset with myself – I made a rookie mistake and paid for it badly.  But I also reasoned that since I had enjoyed modifying the FC40 I should try my hand at building drones instead of buying them.

One year later and I’ve come a long way learning everything from soldering to PID tuning (don’t ask).

I eventually built two different copters, a quadcopter and then a hexacopter, although it feels much more than that because each of those has been built, rebuilt and upgraded numerous times.  Here’s a quick comparison:

 

DJI Phantom FC40 F450 Quadcopter F550 Hexacopter
 IMG_1482.JPG  _MG_4923.jpg  20151122_093203.jpg
Transmitter Range  800m 2,000m
 Flight Modes
  • GPS Hold
  • Altitude Hold
  • RTL
  •  GPS Hold (slow and fast)
  • Altitude hold
  • RTL
  • Automatic (programmed)
  • Land
  • Guided (click on moving map)
  • Manual
  • Acrobatic
  • Follow me
  • Circle
  • Mapping
Speed 22mph ~35mph ~55mph
Size 330mm 450mm 550mm
Real Time Telemetry No Yes Yes
Moving map No Yes Yes
Gimbal 2D 2D 3D
Camera Control Manual Manual or Fully Automated Point Of Interest Lock
Flight Time 9 Minutes 18 Minutes 15 Minutes

 

But probably the best way to show the difference is to compare two videos taken one year apart.  The video on the bottom was from a year ago with the Phantom. It took two separate 9 minutes flights and was then edited to keep only the best parts.  The video on the top was taken in one shot, no editing and took less than 3 minutes to complete from take off to the fully automatic landing.

In fact this year’s video even made it into the local news, and you can find the full version here.

I’ve learned a huge amount that past year, gained some great friends and had a blast doing this, particularly as my #1 son and daughter were very involved in the build of both machines.

Where do we go from here?  

The drone market is in a phase now where digital cameras were 10 years ago.  Their capabilities are increasing exponentially while prices are plummeting.  Even with how far I have come even the cheapest DJI Phantom 3 would outperform my hex in almost every way and these can now be had starting at under $700.  Just a year ago something with that capability would have cost nearly three times that amount!

For me to build the equivalent of a Phantom 3 Standard would cost around $450 in parts alone, and that is if I use cheap parts sourced from China that would need a lot of time to set up properly.  

Will I still build?  I think the days of building from scratch are over, it just doesn’t make economic sense anymore.  But I will continue to improve the ones I have as a way to learn and experiment.  There’s also talk of teaching kids how to build them as part of a maker space project and that is something I would really enjoy doing.

In the meantime, if you are thinking of getting someone a drone for Christmas, or have one and need questions answered…fire away!

 

 

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Motorcycles I’ve Owned

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December 5, 2015 · 9:35 am

Cars I’ve Owned

I’ve owned quite a few cars (and motorcycles) in my time. Some, like the 911, were incredible machines. Others, like the Marina, were turds. I loved them all!

I’m sure I missed one or two here, and I don’t count cars that belonged to my wife

Click on a picture for a short commentary of each car

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Management F-Laws

Anyone that sees my Goodreads feed will see that I regularly post updates of books that I am reading / have read.

This year I’ve read 20 books so far, and yet one book has been on my “currently reading” list for several years.  This is all the more surprising when you consider that the book in question is only 162 pages of relatively large print.  

Am I that slow a reader?

Well…yes is the answer to that question.  But there’s more to it than that.

mflThe book is called Management F-Laws by Russell Ackoff and is described as “A full collection of more than 80 of Russell Ackoff’s management f-laws: the uncomfortable truths about how organizations really work, what’s wrong with the way we design and manage businesses, what makes managers tick… and how we can make things work better.” and therein lies the problem.

Every time I pick up this book I read just two pages and ideas pop into my head sending me off writing a new blog post, updating some piece of work or just discussing the idea with anyone who happens wander nearby…often my long suffering children.

So, after several years, I’m about half way through the book which, in a very strange way, is the about the best recommendation I can give for it!

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Could Drone Registration Actually Increase Incidents?

 

Tiny hex

Register it?

This week the Department of Transportation announced the formation of a task force to create a drone registration process with registration to begin as soon as the holiday season.

Setting aside my skepticism that any government body can design and implement a robust registration system in just two months, it occurs to me that this registration system might actually increase the number of drone related incidents.

How?

Up to now the legality of drones has been a bit of a fuzzy area with almost no regulations in place that cover this new field. This means that while they are not illegal, they have not really been approved by any official body either.

Under this setup enthusiasts (such as myself) are understandably wary when other people are about. I have literally set up to fly at a wide open space only to pack everything up before getting off the ground because a jogger showed up.

There are also quite a few people that want to buy a drone but have held back convinced that the Government was about to ban them outright.

By providing drone registration the government, at a stroke, legitimizes drones.  A situation similar to what six day-care centers discovered when they accidentally legitimized late pickups of kids by implementing fines.

Once my drones are registered I guarantee I won’t be packing things up when Mrs. Smith shows up to walk her dog.  I’ll still be safe and courteous but I will no longer be invisible, happy in the knowledge that if challenged I can whip out my registration card and show that I’m legit.  

Similarly people that have been waiting to see if drones will be banned will suddenly be given the green light just in time for Christmas.  DJI and 3DR may well be rubbing their hands in glee at the moment.

More people flying  +  less inhibition = more incidents

One would hope that the anticipated increased education that comes with registration would help keep incidents to a minimum but that, of course, assumes the buyers actually read the instructions.

You know what they say about unintended consequences…they are still consequences!

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Filed under Building Multirotors, The Human Condition

Did I Hear That Right?

Mandatory training in America is usually there to protect the company rather than teach you something new.  But a number of years ago I attended a class that taught a life lesson I have tried to pay attention to every day since.

This particular class was entitled “Diversity Training” and I expected the usual loss of an hour of my life while someone explained things that were (or should be) patently obvious to anyone with an IQ above that of a hammer.

flipWe knew something was up when we arrived to find a room with no tables or chairs, just flip charts and some pens in each corner.

The instructor got down to business by dividing us into groups and giving each group a piece of paper.  Our instructions were simple: Read the paper, listen to the scenarios that she would read out and then write down our thoughts on the flip chart we had.  

After several scenarios were read and thoughts written we compared the results.

The first scenario she read was as follows:

“The person on your sheet has just brought in the biggest account the company has ever had.”

The flip charts were arranged such that the groups could not see each others answers so imagine our surprise when we found the following results:

Group 1

Group 2

  • Fantastic!
  • What a guy!
  • We should take him out for a drink to celebrate
  • Give him a big bonus!
  • Give him a promotion!
  • I’d like to shake his hand
  • He got lucky
  • Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while
  • Probably stole the account from someone else and didn’t give credit
  • If he can do it then anyone can

Huh?  Same question, read by the same person at the same time.  What happened?

The difference was what was on the piece of paper.  

Group 1 had a paper that read “The person you are about to hear about is well liked, hard working, intelligent and expected to go places.  Everyone expects that he is on the fast track to senior management.

Group 2, by contrast, had a paper that read “The person you are about to hear about is lazy, not particularly intelligent, never helps anyone out and is fully expected to be let go in the near future.

There were more scenarios such as the person losing the biggest account (Group 1 commiserated while Group 2 wanted him fired) but I think you get the picture.  The message was the same, but what people heard was completely altered by what they personally brought to the table.

This is human nature and it is very hard, if not impossible, to avoid infecting what you hear with your own biases, but I still try.  More importantly I try hard to keep my thoughts about someones faults to myself to avoid infecting others.  I can’t say I am always successful, but at least I try.

So the next time you hear something that you feel negative about take a moment to think about it.  Are you getting the real message, or the message you wanted to hear?  

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Filed under Career, Education, The Human Condition