No Fly Zone

Wimg_9981ith eager anticipation, I set off early with Rio and my newly arrived drone, the Mavic Pro, heading for one of my regular haunts to give it it’s maiden flight.

The setting up was as quick as I hoped; straight out of the carry bag, unfurl the arms, fire up the remote control and connect my mobile phone and then it was ready to fly. Perfect. Rio did his usual barking as it took off but soon quietened down once it was airborne.

And then I got the first inkling of a problem; a visual sensing error on the RC and red lights flashing from the drone. Hmm better land it and give it a re-calibration. After bringing ‘Mavis’ back to the ground (yes, I called it Mavis the Mavic after Tina’s mum) I tried and failed to re-calibrate the VPS, following the instructions on my iPhone screen. This required moving the drone in square movements, pointing the sensors downwards in order to reset the internal gubbins. But to no avail and after thirty minutes of trying I gave up and headed back home to calibrate the drone using the DJI Assistant app instead.

With the aircraft all nicely re-calibrated, the next morning I took it out for another attempt and this time experienced a different problem; and one that was probably more serious than the first. After taking off the drone started to hover then gain altitude despite not touching the RC controls. Hmm that wasn’t right. And then of more concern I started getting a message on the iPhone stating ‘Landing’ and despite trying to cancel the decent it proceeded to land in a field adjacent to the path Rio and I were on.

Bloody hell, it looks like I had been sent a duff drone. Bugger!

After lots of Googling and checking the DJI Forum site I came to the conclusion that it was the vision sensors that were causing the problem and after posting the problem on the official DJI site and uploading the flight records, the support team seemed to come to the same conclusion and issue an RMA number for it’s return to their repair centre in the Netherlands.

So after a eight week delivery wait, a week of waiting for the weather to improve and two days flying I packed up Mavis and off she went to be fixed. Today I heard she had arrived and being assessed for signs of damage before confirming the next steps in the repair process.

I am hopeful they will fix her soon and she’ll be back before Xmas as I was intending to make use of the time off work over Christmas for some flying. If not it looks like I’ll reverting back to my old drone, which I kept as a back up for just this type of occasion but didn’t think it would be this soon!

Drone #3

It just had to be done.

As soon as I saw the DJI promotional video showing off their latest offering I knew it would be the one for me. The compact design, the convenience of size and the apparent ease of flying was just too tempting to ignore.

But I’ve already got a drone I hear you say!

Well yes, the upgrade from my first drone to the DJI Phantom 3 Standard was a fantastic step up and sparked an interest in aerial photography and also revitalised me back into video creation. But I soon realised the entry-level drone was exactly that…aimed at beginners and I was getting frustrated with its limitations. As the cheapest model DJI made, it lacked features and I often found that it would lose connection and instigate the ‘return to home’ function even if the drone was close by.

So I had been considering upgrading anyhow, probably to the P3P (professional) which had a better camera, improved WiFi connectivity and more advanced flying features. It also meant I could keep the existing spare battery I bought for the P3S, saving a few quid too.

But there was always the disadvantage with the Phantom series…their size. In order to safely carry the drone around it needed a backpack, and a large one at that. Walking along the street got me some strange looks, with one guy even asking whether I was training to go into the army! I would have loved to have taken the quadcopter on our holiday to Turkey but the size of the bag was just too big and would have certainly raised interest from the security guys.

mavic-proSo when DJI announced the release of the Mavic Pro, I knew it was just what I was looking for. It is such a clever design, the size was small enough fit into a coat pocket and the features were so advanced for something so compact.

The only thing was the price; almost three times the amount I paid for the PS3.

So I hesitated…for a day!

And then bit the bullet and preordered, paying the full price up front.

DJI gave an expected shipping date of mid-October but it was soon apparent they had wildly miscalculated the popularity of their latest offering and soon social media was muttering that there was going to be delays. To be fair to DJI they did state early on that orders would be on a first-come-first-served basis but I really didn’t expect it would have a dramatic impact on delivery times. Of course, mid-October turned into November and with no news on the impending shipping I was resigned to the fact that I would have to stick with the Phantom for the foreseeable future. I had been tracking other customers deliveries on a socially-shared spreadsheet but the shipments were erratic and difficult to judge when mine would be ready to send out.

And then on Saturday I received the mail I had been waiting for; notice that the Mavic had been shipped. Yeah!

I was given tracking information and an expected delivery date of Wednesday and so logged on to the DHL website and followed the parcel from China, through Hong Kong and Belgium, arriving into the UK via East Midlands airport on Sunday night before being shipped to Birmingham, ready for delivery. And on Monday morning I got a ‘parcel out for delivery’ notice, less than 48 hours from leaving Shenzhen. Incredible.

And so last night I savoured the unboxing and managed maiden flight, albeit in the living room for just a minute. And I am so impressed!

Unfortunately the rotten weather and shortness of the daylight hours meant no chance of flying properly today but hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to get out and do some flying on Friday as I have the day off. And then next weekend we’re off to Jersey for a few days to see Abby and I’m definitely including my little drone in my carry on bag.