Playing the Odds
Drones are just like any other piece of gear; at instances, they can and do fail. Similarly, pilots are identical to any other crew; at instances, they can and do fail. The key to drone safety is to play the chances in favor of security always. With that in mind, these simple philosophies and steps can and will help you maintain the odds in your favor in order that when something goes not based on plan, you’ve one of the best chance at avoiding accidents or property damage.
P.E.G.: Your Key Checklist Acronym to Remember
P.E.G. stands for Pilot, Environment & Gear. Before connecting any batteries, you should get within the habit of saying the word “PEG” in your head. Some pilots even have gotten in the habit of calling their batteries pegs — square peg in a square gap — as a memory tool. It sounds silly, but it’s a great memory software that can help you rapidly go through your guidelines earlier than flying. And that’s really the most important part of drone safety: remembering your security procedures.
Pilot: The “P” in P.E.G.
Owning a drone doesn’t make you an aerial cinematographer any more than owning a digital camera makes you George Lucas. Think of it this manner: Ever ask someone if they’ll edit something they usually say “Sure — I’ve obtained Avid Media Composer.” Then, you get the finished edit and it’s absolutely horrible? There is not any talent swap on the controller for a drone. It takes follow — lots of practice — to fly a drone safely and reliably in a professional setting. So how do you practice without endangering yourself, your gear, or other people? The answer is simple: simulators.
The Society of Aerial Cinematography suggests “neXt” simulator. In it you’ll find professional drones, and it flies very nicely. It’s additionally obtainable for PC, Linux and Mac OS. You’ll nonetheless need to determine a controller in on your computer but when you’re tech savvy, neXt is a great simulator. The neXt simulator even allows for a second controller to handle digital camera operations, so you’ll find a way to practice as a group.
Real Flight is one other great one with drones. It’s obtainable at your local hobby store and usually comes with a controller within the box. Real Flight is PC only. Plan on spending just under $200 on a simulator.
A simulator is essential gear for everyone from beginners to extremely experienced professionals. Why? Because you must put in a minimal of an hour of flight time each week. Sometimes flying your drone isn’t practical due to commitments, climate and even simply put on and tear on your gear. You can fly your simulator at any time. For instance, I typically fly while I’m rendering video.
While we’re on simulators, you also needs to fly in your simulator the evening earlier than your shoot — right earlier than bed. It’s identical to finding out. If you follow right earlier than bed, your mind is engaged on its drone-piloting skills whilst you sleep. The subsequent morning your muscle memory will be better, and your expertise will be the best they can be.
On shoot day, irrespective of your experience, you’ll be nervous for that first flight. Don’t exacerbate the situation with caffeine. Shaky palms imply shaky controls. You need to do every little thing you’ll be able to to keep your heart fee down, calm, and get rid of the shakes. The day you don’t feel a bit nervous about flying your first flight, cease flying! You’ve misplaced your respect for the risks of drone flight.
A tiny little bit of fear and nervousness will assist hold you alert, and your consideration to detail high. Complacence is a drone pilot’s worst enemy.
We all know a shoot day is a complete lot of hurry up and wait. To hold your expertise up and your shakes down, we advise bringing a tiny drone to practice with off on the side while you wait. The absolute good drone for this is the Blade mQX. It’s sufficiently small to slot in the smallest Pelican case, however flies very much like the larger drones. Best of all, it’s super tough and low cost to switch.
Most necessary — don’t ever strive a shot on set you’re not comfy with. If you’re feeling uncomfortable in any respect, inform the Director “no,” however all the time supply an various to achieve their vision. If in mid-shot you are feeling uncomfortable, don’t push a foul situation. Wave off, and verify out again if you really feel as a lot as it. If not, talk with the director about options.
Environment: The “E” in P.E.G.
I swear, if I ever see another drone pilot lick their finger and hold it as a lot as test wind I will not be held responsible for the tongue lashing about to ensue. You must show as a lot as your shoot early to walk by way of the surroundings. A good drone pilot takes notes, attracts maps, and does whatever they should do to have the ability to observe obstacles similar to power strains, bushes with no leaves, buildings, outcroppings or anything that they could not see on the monitor or from their piloting location.
An anemometer is a required gear item for a drone pilot. Not solely do you should know if there’s wind, but how robust the wind is and the gusts which may be current. A beginner shouldn’t even think about flying in wind larger than 5mph +- 5mph gusts. As an advanced pilot, I’ve flown in 30mph winds, however I would never advise it. The pictures you get simply aren’t value it — too floaty or even shaky due to the gimbal vibrating within the wind. Try to remain beneath 15mph +- 5mph gusts.
Wind isn’t the only factor. If it’s a sizzling day, enable further time between flights in your motors to chill since sizzling motors fail much sooner. Account for decreased battery effectivity on sizzling days. Rather than 12 minutes of safe flight time, drop it to ten. Dew factors are necessary on colder days. Remember, electronics don’t like water. It goes without saying, however we’ll say it anyway: Don’t ever fly within the rain!
> It goes with out saying, however we’ll say it anyway: Don’t ever fly in the rain!
Check out the wildlife, too. Be conscious of indigenous birds, animals and even insects. Large bugs may cause rotor blades to chip, so convey additional props if there are giant bugs within the space, as nicely as lens-cleaning provides.
I’ve been attacked by eagles, osprey, falcons, crows, pigeons and even a squirrel doing a suicide plunge at my drone to protect its nut-stash. You need to concentrate on how to deal with these situations to keep away from collisions. For instance, with a chook of prey, you’ll need to show submission by instantly dropping in altitude, but for a scavenger like a pigeon, you’ll must climb quickly to show aggressiveness.
Creatures like squirrels can easily be prevented by altering your vector in any course as as quickly as they jump — they can’t change theirs. Hitting wildlife can’t solely be tragic and damaging to your drone; however it can cause authorized issues as properly. In California, hitting a Condor may result in prison time as it’s an endangered species, so be careful!
All of these items are the rationale that having a spotter is essential. You should educate your spotter on what to look for, when to inform you, and tips on how to inform you. Some grip screaming “look out” isn’t a lot help in any respect. A spotter may even be more necessary than the pilot themselves. Drone pilots make one of the best spotters, but when that’s not sensible, take the time to go over greatest practices together with your spotter. They should be outfitted with a radio, so you can ship them closer to the place you’re flying, and binoculars.
Come up with your own methodology. As an example, I have a spotter continually talking in my ear with notes like “heading towards power traces: 30 meters away, and 1 meter down… 25 meters… 10 meters… begin moving up… ok you’re good, you’ll clear it,” or “hawk nest 50 meters at your 2 o’clock… taking flight… drop drop drop.”
In one drone video posted to YouTube, you’ll be able to really see an eagle nest within the distance. If a spotter were present, they could have warned the pilot about this problem. Furthermore, the pilot realizes too late and tries to rise above — a sign of aggressiveness that galvanized a fowl of prey’s instinct to assault. The end result just isn’t fairly for the drone and I can think about the eagle didn’t fair too well both.
Gear: The “G” in P.E.G.
The evening earlier than a shoot, cost all your batteries. You should invest in some lipo bags, as properly. These are luggage meant to comprise a fire within the event of a catastrophic failure during charging. Lipo batteries (Lithium Polymer) are unstable, and must be charged on a fire-resistant floor like concrete or stone inside a lipo bag. Never charge swollen batteries. If a battery is swollen, get rid of it correctly. We’ve really known people who’ve burned down their house charging swollen lipos on wood workbenches of their garage. This video exhibits simply how dangerous lipo batteries can be.
During your night-before verify, manually spin each motor. They ought to spin simply, and constantly. No one motor should have extra resistance than the others. A resistant motor might point out burnt-out bearings or magnets which have slipped. This indicates a motor that’s about to burn out. Replace any motors like this immediately, and do not fly till you might have done so.
Any firmware upgrade needs to occur a minimal of a week before your shoot-day with lots of test flights earlier than shoot day. Never use firmware on a shoot you haven’t personally tested. Where firmware is anxious, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Also, before upgrading firmware, remember to examine with the group to see if anyone is having any issues. RCgroups.com or TheSOAC.com are nice resources for finding out if persons are having issues. In one actual life instance, a video shows what occurred to one pilot who upgraded his firmware on an Inspire 1 and went out to shoot a real estate video. The drone took off as normal, however then nearly instantly crashes into the storage, demonstrating why you will need to check any adjustments you make to your drone in a safe environment:
Let’s transfer into your preflight inspection. This inspection also needs to be performed the night time earlier than. But more essential, before you put in a battery – and every time you put in a battery, even between each flight — comply with these steps:
Check all spars and the center hub in your airframe for cracks and bends: Even though the footage you get may be easy as silk, there are a lot of HFV (high frequency vibration) dampeners in place to offer you that smooth footage. The precise airframe is under HUGE quantities of stress, and there’s a ton of vibration. This could cause every kind of issues over time, together with cracking carbon fiber and bending aluminum. Firmly tug and put stress on every structural piece to see if it provides. This can point out a stress fracture. Examine any metal elements for bends. If any problems are detected, immediately substitute these components or ground your aircraft.
Go through every screw and joint and verify for loosening: We counsel placing a small mark on the aspect of each screw and a corresponding mark next to it. This can present you if any screws have backed out as a outcome of vibration throughout your flight. If replacing a lacking or damaged screw, at all times use some Loctite or another threadlocking adhesive to maintain the new screw in place.
Calibrate your compass between each flight: The compass on these plane isn’t a magnetized needle. It’s a crystalline construction that detects minor fluctuations within the Earth’s magnetosphere. It can routinely modify for fluctuations as a outcome of factors like solar spots or photo voltaic flares while powered on, but what occurs when you take away the battery, a photo voltaic flare happens, and you then put in a model new battery? The compass is no longer calibrated. This could cause points from “toilet bowling” (where when attempting to hover, the drone swirls in a circle) to “dog-running” (flying sideways), to more catastrophic incidents resulting in shedding the drone or injuries on set. To be safe, calibrate every time you place in a battery.
Achieve GPS lock: The commonest mistake we’ve seen in drone crashes is a pilot who slaps in a battery, and takes right off. You must await a GPS lock (gps on no much less than 6 or 7 satellite tv for pc signals) before taking off in GPS mode. Not doing so may find yourself in a sudden and catastrophic crash once lock is achieved while within the air. If flying in ATT mode (no gps), this isn’t necessary.
Technicians Using Laptop By Tripod And Drone
Stay calm. Stay methodical. Your attention to detail isn’t only essential, however crucial for preflight inspections. No matter how a lot a hurry the director is in, a drone crash is much more devastating to a production than a quantity of further minutes between every flight to examine your gear.
Additional Safety Procedures
A security meeting with other crew and the solid is always a good suggestion earlier than a day of shooting. Let them know a number of the risks without fully freaking them out, and provides them a protected word. If they know to hit the deck if you say to, no one will run into your drone by accident.
We advocate never flying an occasion shoot. First of all, no person wants to hear what seems like a swarm of offended bees at a marriage. Also, what occurs if your drone fails over an unsuspecting crowd? Injuries and law-suits, that’s what. Here’s an instance of what can occur.
Ok, to begin with, this should never be tried by a newbie. Flying indoors is an train in excessive precision, persistence, attention to detail and mental stress. If you’re excited about studying to fly indoors, begin by marking closed-quarters programs in a simulator, subject, or forest. Never do an indoor flight on set until you’re extraordinarily practiced and ready. Remember, an unprepared pilot destroying a house, injuring a person, or inflicting a shoot delay won’t keep in business long.
On that matter, why is it we see so many YouTube movies of newbies getting their first drone and making an attempt it out of their lounge the night time it arrives? It never ends properly. With all of that in thoughts, listed here are some issues to bear in mind for indoor flight.
Blade guards do not make you invincible. They can typically trigger extra problems than they remedy. However, if you’re new to flying indoors, you could want to spend money on some blade guards to save your walls when training. They won’t save your pets, children, nor your marriage should you crash into your wife’s heirloom Victorian doll assortment, but they can help with minor-grazes, and give you a very tiny probability to get well if you touch a wall. They do add weight, and cut back prop-efficiency though, so once you’re feeling up to it, flying with out them isn’t the worst idea. Never use them outdoors although. They alter your flight traits, and a few pilots call them “wind socks” because breezes catch them.
Don’t ever use GPS mode indoors. GPS is a comparative sensor, which means it’s constantly evaluating your present location to your last-known. Even when you handle to get a GPS lock indoors, you’re more doubtless to lose it at some point. Reacquiring your GPS lock can then send you flying right into a wall. For example, if you are hovering in a single location with GPS lock, the lose lock and move to a different location on the opposite side of an obstacle and re-gain GPS lock. This sequence can ship your drone back to the unique location as a end result of it thinks it inexplicably moved and needs to go back. On a Phantom you want to plug in a computer and alter your guidance system to “NAZA mode” to activate your “ATT mode” change in your controller. ATT is “attitude only” mode.
With GPS mode off, you’ll encounter an entire new set of piloting points. In GPS mode, you don’t truly fly the drone. You wrangle it. You tell it which course to move, and it goes there. When you let go of the sticks, it stops. Not true in ATT mode. Once you start the drone moving, it retains shifting until you counter its vector with opposing thrust. In different words, if you’re shifting ahead, you should pull back on the persist with stop it. For this purpose, you should move very slowly indoors. For any movement, you’ll should counter it excellent or danger over-correcting and sending it rushing into the other way. This is the essential cause lots of practice is required to fly indoors.
One video reveals what occurs when a pilot flies indoors. One of those newbies we talked about above crashes into the hearth, and gets a well-deserved tongue lashing of epic proportions from his spouse.
Drones are superb for production. They’re comparatively cheap, cinematic high quality cameras at the second are out there for them and also comparatively inexpensive and they can be discovered virtually all over the place. But with the benefit of use and cheap price tag comes a systemic lack of respect for maintenance, risks and ability needed to function them. Remember, these items are flying Cuisinarts — actually, 4 or more of them depending on how many blades are spinning. Just take a look at what occurred to Enrique Iglesias when he underestimated the dangers.
If you preserve your security procedures, maintenance and greatest practices we’re not saying you’ll never have an incident, however you’re undoubtedly minimizing your risk, and getting much better odds. Happy flying, and “may the odds be ever in your favor.”
Ty Audronis is an expert drone pilot, creator of the presently highest rated guide on constructing multicopters, and a member of the Society of Aerial Cinematography’s Advisory Committee. He’s flown for major networks, movie and commercials.