Quadcopters, drones, and other RC fun


DJI announced a few more things to make you consider emptying your wallet.


[quote=“Tin_Wisdom, post:101, topic:76797”]
That sounds great, and I’m completely on-board but… that money would come from the fund I had set aside for a VR headset. And I really want a VR headset… but do I want it more than a drone with a HD camera? I’m no longer sure.[/quote]
Well, I have an Oculus Rift and a Mavic. I use the Rift slightly more, but that wouldn’t be true if I wasn’t a flight simulator addict. If I had to give up one, well, I’d be sad, but I’d probably keep the drone. (But I love photography.)

You can download this app for you phone an see where you can fly and not:

You actually can fly within 5 miles of most airports; you just have to call the tower first and alert them of your location, and you may have to fly lower to be safe. It’s 1.5 miles that’s the hardcore no-fly zone. DJI lets you acknowledge you’re in a restricted zone and you’ve taken the required precautions/notifications and fly anywhere for areas where it’s not illegal. The just-recalled GoPro Karma, on the other hand, was ridiculously inflexible and wouldn’t let people fly near even no-longer-used airports, and it had no overrides.

The restrictions from 15-30 miles from DC are pretty much the FAA’s “recommendations” anyway, they just go from “recommended” to hard and fast rules:

Flying a UAS for recreational or non-recreational use between 15 and 30 miles from Washington, D.C. is allowed under these operating conditions:
Aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. (including any attachments such as a camera)
Aircraft must be registered and marked
Fly below 400 ft.
Fly within visual line-of-sight
Fly in clear weather conditions
Never fly near other aircraft

Nice stuff. That Phantom 4 Pro is going to take some awesome photos and video, because that’s the same sensor that’s in my Sony RX100 M3, which is as good as my DSLR in good lighting conditions. (IE: Outdoors.) Like the all-around collision sensors too; I wish the Mavic had been able to fit those.

No regrets on the Mavic – the portability is key – but cool to know they’ll probably have Phantom 4 Pro capabilities in a Mavic-size package in a year or so.


I probably won’t buy a drone until next year, but yeah, portability is a major deal. I’m one of those masochists who carries a DSLR around a lot when many others prefer to have smaller and lighter cameras. However, with drones I’m probably at the point where I’m fine with the Mavic’s constraints and the Phantom’s technical edge. A drone that easily fits into your average bag is a drone I’ll use far more often.


Yeah, I’ve been to Hawaii three times since I first got a Phantom and have never taken the drone, because it was always a choice between the DSLR backpack or the drone backpack. Now I can fit the Mavic, charger, and controller in the accessories section of my DSLR backpack.

I love that the Fly More Combo came with an adapter that turns the Mavic battery into a USB battery. One less thing to bring on the plane.


I see now why @sharaleo timed out his Chaos Reborn moves!

Mavic still not available in Australia. Pity, was hoping to use one for our croc work in December.

Might end up going the sharaleo route and getting something interim. :)


Another video for you guys:


Hey, I’m still dirty about that!


Can any of these things follow you around out of the box, autonomously? I want to play with a drone but I don’t want to fly it. I want it to follow me around or go to a location I tell it via GPS app.

Are we there yet OTS or is that all stuff you have to hack in yourself?


The follow functionality is there in a few different ways (Mavic uses visual recognition, I think Karma tracks the controller), but it’s very v1.0 right now. IE: Mavic can lose you if you’re moving fast. Karma has no obstacle avoidance so it might fly into a tree following you. Guessing it’ll be a lot more solid in about a year.

The GPS functionality is there, though. With the Mavic or Phantom 3/4 you can download a third-party app called Litchi that lets you fully plot out a course, with altitude and camera commands, and send the drone to do it all automatically.

I have Litchi but haven’t used it yet. It uses the official DJI API, but I’m always nervous about automatic modes. I haven’t even tried Return to Home on the Mavic yet – I prefer to manually fly when everything’s working.


Oh man how can you have a feature called “Return To Home” and not try it! That’d be the first button I pushed.

Let me research the Mavic a bit. I’ve always wanted one of these things.


Oh and don’t take my stories as an indication of what it is like to fly something like the DJI camera platforms - completely different thing. The little jobbies I am learning on lack the fruit like GPS and altitude hold precisely because you want them to be acrobatic. You will still have a little practising to do, but I think it will be markedly easier with access to those features.

Do you camera drone folk also tend to fly much in headless mode? I presume it might be a handy mode, depending on what you are filming (ie yourself).


“Look, here it comes. It’s going to avoid that tree, right? Right? Wait… NO! NOT THE TREE… Shit.”


So it doesn’t have object avoidance then, which is … bad. But still, pretty cool.


I honestly don’t know if it does, but that would be my fear! With the older Phantom drones, it would return to the launch position if it lost contact with the controller, but it would always take a direct line there. I know a couple of people who’ve had “accidents” as a result of that. The other one was someone flying from a boat, when the drone tried to return to the launch spot the boat had drifted, but I think they managed to grab it in time!

If you want something simple that follows you, the Lily drone is supposed to be easy; you literally chuck it into the air, it starts to fly, then follows you (a transmitter on your body). They had some wildly successful Kickstarter ages ago, not sure how it’s going but its original release date was Winter 2016.


Return to Home on the Mavic does in fact have object avoidance. You can also set an altitude to rise up to before heading to your (2D) GPS position. It’ll attempt to fly over obstacles in its path, though, too.


That’s cool, although I await the YouTube videos of it not quite working properly with some anticipation. I jest though, it’s certainly better peace of mind.

Still waiting for one to become available in Australia.


It’s vaporware. They stopped taking orders in October but still haven’t shown any sign of actually shipping.

And the basic design is flawed because it’s a “follow me” drone with zero obstacle avoidance. So unless you need a follow-me drone for the beach or wide-open fields…

Yep. Though I’ve seen one YouTube video (with pre-release firmware, so maybe this has gotten better?) where one didn’t see a small branch with spread-apart leaves and flew into it. So that dropped my decision to trust object avoidance as a solution!

Yeah, here’s a Phantom 4 (same technology) not noticing a tree. Obstacle avoidance is still v1.0.


Thanks @sharaleo, now I’ve gone out and bought one (off ebay)… ;)

I used to fly a little Blade Micro chopper a while back, I think it’s time to try out a quad.


My (small, tech consulting) company gives all the employees a tech-related gift each year. In years past they’ve given out iPads, XBoxes, GoPro cameras, etc. This year’s gift was the Hubsan X4 drone.

It seems to be a decent little entry-level drone, priced at about $300 (I’m sure my company got a bulk deal for much less). It’s got an HD camera that seems to shoot reasonable movies and take pics – not a 4K camera like the Mavic or DJI Phantom, but a GoPro-level 1080p.

After a single test flight and ten minutes of playing around with it it seems to be a little iffy. Although it’s easy to control and steer, the GPS station-keeping seemed to be fairly off… it seemed to drift one way or the other a great deal. This MIGHT be because I was keeping it below a 100 feet or so (I live next to an airport and didn’t want to run afoul of the law), and with all the houses and trees it might never have gotten a good “lock” on the six or so satellites it says that it saw. Likewise the “return home” feature that theoretically sends it back to the same spot that it was originally took off from was spotty – the first time it seemed to get within a couple feet, but the second time (with what seemed like clearer lines-of-sight), it was off by a good 20 feet, which is terrible even for a car-mounted GPS. I’m REASONABLY certain that these flaws might be correctable with some fine-tuning; I probably need to read the manual a bit more.

Also, the “follow me” feature where the drone is supposed to lock on to the controller and follow you around while pointing the camera at you at all times did not seem to work. I’m willing to put that down to “user error” right now; I’ll probably do some research on it.

The main points against it are the lack of a gyroscope and (most significantly) the lack of a gimbal for the camera - this means that you’ll never really get the drone to look “down” at you or even to center a camera target if you’re looking to properly frame a shot. The camera angle is fixed, which limits its ability to be used as a good video-capture device.

On the other hand, it was VERY easy to control. I was never in any danger of flying into the (many) trees, houses, cars and whatnot around us and the RC device was pretty intuitive in terms of taking pictures and setting the controls.

So anyway, it seems pretty decent for a high-level toy or low-level hobby drone. It should scratch the itch that I described in the above: a lightweight device that I can take with us hiking or kayaking or snorkeling off the beach in Florida this summer. If I get a huge amount of use out of it, then perhaps I will look to upgrade to a better model like the Mavic or Phantom next year.


Very nice! I’ve flown a few RTF helis and they weren’t really my bag, I am now dying to get a Mavic Pro:

You still digging yours Vesper?