Monday 6 January 2020

How NOT To Use A Drone

The Iron Age Fort at Jebel Buhais, imaged by an ex-drone

I have posted previously about my acquisition of a DJI Mavic Pro drone and my subsequent attempts to kill it. Pal Jane asked me the other day, from her new Italian fastness, to recommend a drone and I wholeheartedly endorsed the DJI drones (a friend has just bought the amazing DJI Mavic Mini and is astounded by its stellar performance) even as I confessed to her that I had finally managed to terminally, utterly, destroy my own Mavic that very morning.

This, she said, was her concern. To spend so much money and break the thing. I pointed out how very, very hard I had tried. I am dumb, the drone is smart. Time and again, it eluded death at my hand with a cautionary 'I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.'

The Mavic returns home if you fly it out of battery. It returns home if you fly it out of range. It refuses to fly too far or too high. It detects objects and refuses to fly into them even if you aim it straight at them at full speed. If you fly it behind a mountain so that it loses contact with the controller, it returns home automatically. If it's hit by bursts of military grade RF, it comes home. If you fly it in high winds, it warns you and asks to come home. If you try to fly it illegally, it warns you. I know, I have done all these things. And the drone has survived time after time.

And then I managed it. Peak feckwit.

There's something magical about the moment when you realise you have trashed nigh on a thousand pounds' worth of perfectly integrated, smart, highly autonomous technology. It's a nasty, deep-in-the-guts ache, a tingling that refuses to go away. Your mouth dries and your heart-rate flies through stratospheric. The first thing you do is denial. No way, no way that happened. I mean, that's bats. I flew it under a bridge, over a plunging waterfall, imaging the roiling torrent below.

How could it have crashed? I lined it up beautifully for the flight over the waterfall. It sailed under the spans above, danced above the mad white water below. It was a perfect trajectory.

It was, indeed - straight into the overhanging branches of a tree. The first rotor chopped off a branch, ripped into the green wood. The drone struggled briefly to right itself then other rotors snapped twigs and it dropped into the rushing white waters.

Drone to stone in less than a second. Game over.

The only (very slight, I can tell you) good news is that I had already taken the drone shots I needed to illustrate Children of the Seven Sands.

The rest is just bitter, salty tears...

1 comment:

Rupert Neil Bumfrey said...

Funnily enough I saw this yesterday:

From The Dungeons

Book Marketing And McNabb's Theory Of Multitouch

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