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PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 4:18 pm 
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Location: South Florida
Rio Grande, West of Taos, NM

It seems that the chances to get spectacular photos and videos with my quadcopter drone are endless in the mountain and desserts of the west. Today, I went to the Rio Grande Gorge about 10 miles west of Taos, NM. The Gorge was carved out, literally, by the Rio Grande. The Rio Grande and the Colorado River are the two major rivers of the Southwest. While I have done whitewater kayaking on this river, this is the first time I’ve flown my Mavic Pro quadcopter drone over it.

Here is my launch site with my drone and its controller.

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If you think that doesn’t look like a quadcopter, well, you’re right. Here is the drone set up.

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The drone and controller communicate continuously when operating. The drone has a high-quality camera, very small, mounted in front. Your cell or tablet with the proper software (DJI GO 4 for DJI drones) is attached by UBS cable to the controller and displays all important information. In addition, it displays FPV, i.e., “First Person View,” the view from the drone camera. Of course, when flying, you like to keep your drone in line of sight, but when my drone is out about 1500’ and/or moves into some shadows, I can’t see it. At that point, the FPV provided by the camera can tell you where your drone is. Perhaps more importantly, using the controller, you can turn the drone around until it is facing your location and bring it back. All very neat, and there is more to it which I will tell you about in another post.

Before setting up my drone, I took a few pictures with my cell (I forgot to bring an extra camera on this trip.) Here I stepped to the edge of the rock launch site and got an image of the Gorge to the northeast. The plateau below obscures most of the river. In this area, the Gorge is a bit over 500’ deep; the plateau is about 200’ down. My plan is to fly my drone over to the water in the upper left of the picture.

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To the right, southeast, you can see a basalt cliff close by and the river gorge running through the middle of the picture.

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Looking more to the east across the Gorge.

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Here is a Google Earth image of the area, the launch, and where I intend to fly the drone.

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According to telemetry info on my cell, I flew about 1500’ away and 200’ into the Gorge. Here is the image the drone took.

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Because the images are 12 MP, I could zoom in digitally on the rapids. Next time I do this run, I intend to fly my drone down much closer to those rapids.

Image


Keith

_________________
2015 AI 2, 2014 Tandem

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex ... It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." A. Einstein


Last edited by Chekika on Sat Jul 15, 2017 9:10 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 08, 2017 1:55 am 
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Location: Delnor Wiggins, Fl Peters Twp PA
THIS IS COOL!!

Please keep this coming, Keith. Very enjoyable.

Do you think that model would be suitable for taking on a TI ride? Would it be hard to land back on the boat or is the software such that it returns to you even if you're moving a wee bit?

Paying full retail is always a painful event for me, but I just might have to do it with with one of these....


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 08, 2017 7:19 am 
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Location: South Florida
Hi Bob,

You definitely could take it on a TI. With a couple extra batteries, it packs up very small. It flies for about 27 min/battery, but, of course, you can't drain the batteries too low for fear of crashing. I'm looking forward to getting out on Pavilion and flying it from the beach. It claims to have a range of several miles, but I haven't checked that out. Still, I could fly it off the beach and get pictures/video of pretty much anything I wanted including friends sailing/fishing, etc. Little Pavilion is a mile away. I figure I could fly it over there. Maybe even use it to spot fish on the flats???

You could fly it off from a TI, but ideally you would like to have a landing area of about 3' in diameter. And, of course, you would not want sea water splashing on it. Since we have so many beaches, it not necessary to fly it off from an Island. You could have it on a beach with you and the controller on your TI. Then fly it off the beach and over you until the battery ran low. With the controller, tell it to "Return to Home," and it will go back and land on the beach within a foot or so of where it took off. Neat. BTW, the drone considers home to be the GPS coordinates of where it took off, so it would not automatically land on an island that was moving. With the controller, you can manually land it anywhere you want.

Keith

_________________
2015 AI 2, 2014 Tandem

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex ... It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." A. Einstein


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2017 5:20 am 
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Location: South Florida
Lost!

My plan was to fly my Mavic Pro quadcopter into the Rio Grande Gorge again. On my previous post about the Gorge, I flew about half way down (approximately minus 200’ from launch on the rim. That flight is shown in this Google Earth image.

Image


This time I intended to go down to the river. Here is the flight plan. At the lowest point of my flight, I was 457’ into the Gorge.

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I did not pick a particularly attractive (lots of whitewater) target on the river, because I intended to make a video of the ascent up out of the Gorge. As has been said, “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.” Yes. After arriving about 50’ above the river, I pressed the video button on the Mavic Pro drone controller, and it immediately came up with a message that the “cache was full”—no video. That was just the beginning of my problems.

The drone did take a few pictures while it was above the water.

Close

Image


Closer

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Closest--the rock is known as "Kathy's Cleaver" to local boaters.

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Time to bring the drone back. I got a late start today. It was near noon and very hot. I kept getting a popup message on my cell display saying that the drone battery was too hot to charge. In any case, I started the Mavic Pro on its trip out of the Gorge and back to the launch. I do this manually. In this case, (1) fly it up out of the Gorge, (2) point it toward me, and (3) bring it in. The FPV and stats indicated its height was 100’ as it came out of the Gorge, but I could not see it. I flew it towards me according to the distance stat, but it never got closer than 267’ and then began to increase the distance. It was flying on a tangential line to me. All the time I couldn’t gain line-of-sight. For some reason, I apparently lowered its altitude to 50’. In the area, the rolling hills were no more than 20-30’ higher than the launch, so 50’ seemed safe. It wasn’t. As I watched my cell display and the FPV, the drone crashed! I had no idea where it was except about 300’ away. I searched on the highest hillside where it might have been without luck.

I headed home dejected. Nevertheless, I felt I would find my drone. Once home, I pulled up DJI GO 4, the software on my phone which had my flight logs. It was the first time I had looked at the flight logs. They are quite thorough and showed exactly where my drone went down. One view of the flight log is a Google Earth view. Here are some of my screen shots of my flight. The first shows most of the flight path. The second shows the flight of my Mavic Pro as it returns, probably when I could hear it faintly. In the last screen shot, it says the height was 50’. That was clearly in error. I think its height was 20-25’. It was a hot day and getting hotter which might have affected the on-board barometer/altimeter. “H” stands for the launch site.

Image

Image


I couldn’t get in my car fast enough to head back the 20 mi to the crash scene. The last screenshot shows the drone crossing an unused dirt road, before crashing. The parking area near the crash serves hikers who trek down into the Gorge.

Once in the parking lot, I headed toward the unused dirt road and immediately saw my drone. It was on the edge of the road, a little dusty,

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but no worse for the experience.

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Lessons learned: (1) In mountains at high altitude, I must be more careful. (2) When I can’t see my drone, I need to get it up higher than the surroundings, and, using the FPV, make sure that it is oriented to me and the launch site, (3) bring the drone to the launch site. (4) Maybe use the RTH (Return to Home) function. The RTH function is activated by a button on the controller. When activated, it directs the drone, on its own, to return to the launch. Normally, it will rise to 100’ above the launch, fly to the launch, and land within a foot or so of the launch site. Quite amazing really. Finally, I need to stay calm. I think I panicked a little when I couldn’t see the drone. All I needed to do, as it got closer, was get the drone higher, point it towards me via FPV, and bring it in. Simple!

Keith

_________________
2015 AI 2, 2014 Tandem

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex ... It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." A. Einstein


Last edited by Chekika on Fri Jul 28, 2017 4:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2017 12:33 pm 
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Even before you mentioned that crash, I had a concern whether a drone could handle seasonal convective turbulence there... basically invisible dust devils. Current weather balloon info from Albuquerque http://weather.rap.ucar.edu/upper/abq.gif seems to setup for almost explosive convection as the day heats up (that diagram will change every 12 hours).

I use those radiosonde charts to predict seabreezes for sailing... when the slope of the red line (sampled lapse rate) at lower altitudes comes near to the slope of dotted red (theoretical lapse rate) or at least doesn't lean much to the right of it. The WX service only reports this when such convection will form afternoon rainclouds, but in dry areas you still get the turbulent dust(less) devil like activity, or at least seabreeze. They can trigger off some of those sharp sunbaked valley features.

Here is an explanation with the false assumption that you have enough humidity to form rainclouds on the left, vs the more common stable situation on the right. New Mexico soaring pilots set world records riding the left-side dry instability this time of year.

Image Image

Sounds crazy? I had a disruptive hissy fit at a NASA presentation of how they were going to recover the 600lb Genesis solar wind sampler spacecraft. The first space samples recovered since the moon flights, and a launch window only once per 200 years. They were supposed to delicately recover it over Utah like the left picture below, but were too complacent about delaying it until the convective afternoon. I tried to get a professor with Utah summer gliding experience to warn them, but it smashed into splinters anyway in the right picture. Well, the post mortum included another contributing factor, so I return you to the regularly scheduled digressions.

Image Image

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 1:44 pm 
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Location: South Florida
Daft--you are going to have to sit down with me and explain that radiosonde chart in MUCH MORE DETAIL!!!

That day, when I flew deep into the Rio Grande Gorge, I did not notice any dustless dust devils, although they are certainly common in this area. I don't doubt there were strong convection currents rising out of the Gorge, but I never felt anything like that was affecting my flying. I was out again this morning over the Rio Grande watching the whitewater rafters. Although there was no comparison to the negative height today, minus 20-25' vs minus 457', the other day, it is still a little confusing, especially when the drone is 15-20' above the water, but minus 25' below the launch height. Today I panicked a little when I thought for a moment that my Mavic Pro was flying into the brush along the river shore. It was just a momentary scare and not a problem, but, still a little nerve wracking for a few seconds. Today, for the first time, I ran the drone battery down to 8% and, after a warning, the drone controller took over the flight and brought the drone back to the launch--all automatic without my intervention. Quite amazing, again.

Today's takeaway: position myself nearer the water level, so I can visually see the drone rather than depend solely on the FPV. Fly it visually in a situation like whitewater rafters. It is fine to launch it from higher along shore (a safer launch position), but fly it visually from closer to water level, while still having FPV on my cell to see what I am recording. A lot to keep track of when the rafters are also moving rapidly past you. As I think about it now, this may take some practice to master.

Thanks for your comments, Daft. I'll be posting some pictures and video in a day or so from this morning's flight.

Keith

_________________
2015 AI 2, 2014 Tandem

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex ... It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." A. Einstein


Last edited by Chekika on Wed Jul 12, 2017 3:06 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 2:30 pm 
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Location: Central Coast NSW Australia
Chekika wrote:
[b][size=200]Lost! ....

:shock:
Wow Keith!
What a great story and I'm glad it had a happy ending. It's remarkable that you were able to recover it so easily. Excellent detective work and a great advert for the Mavic software and product! 8)


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 8:24 pm 
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I build drones for fun and my experience is mostly around the dji flight controllers. I can tell you that the rth function can be your best friend - with a few caveats. My main recommendation in using it would be to (if possible) go ahead and get it well above 100' AND the surrounding obstacle line before activating. If below 100' (60' in my case), it will ascend to that level before rth; but won't descend if above that level. Getting well above will ensure that you don't have an obstacle in its return flight path. Also, if you have rth set as your failsafe, you never want to lose a signal under a bridge or other overhead (it will ascend up into the obstacle).

Otherwise, rtf is amazing. I have flown my drone using my fpv goggles until completely lost (I don't have the iPhone app for tracking) and then just flipped the switch on my transmitter and waited. In a few minutes here it comes like you rang a dinner bell.

Since I don't have all the tracking features of a Mavic, I zip-tied one of those "Tile" tracking devices to help me in locating mine if lost.

By the way - there are two kinds of drone flyers - those who have crashed and those who will. Was flying my quad a few weeks ago and it went haywire from about 200' and landed in pile on the concrete. All the parts still work so now I'm building a hexacopter.

Glad you got yours back, Keith. The iPhone tracking system really paid off.

I love the Mavic. Really awesome engineering - I wish I could build like that.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 7:31 am 
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Location: South Florida
stringy wrote:
Chekika wrote:
Lost! ....

:shock:
Wow Keith!
What a great story and I'm glad it had a happy ending. It's remarkable that you were able to recover it so easily. Excellent detective work and a great advert for the Mavic software and product! 8)

Thanks, Stringy. I was very happy about the ending too!

@Totch--Thanks for the great advice. We ought to get together sometime on Pavilion and do a little drone flying. BTW, I was using an Android Samsung S8 cell for the DJI GO 4 software--works great.

Here is the Rio Grand Gorge viewed from south of Taos, NM

Image


Keith

_________________
2015 AI 2, 2014 Tandem

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex ... It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." A. Einstein


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 8:22 pm 
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Those pictures are absolutely gorgeous (no pun intended). I am just so impressed with what dji was able to do with the Mavic.

I would love to get together and get some pics of the islands. I was down there camping in Jan and Apr but was scared to take my quadcopter. I'll be back down this coming winter and may get up the nerve to take it. I would love to get some shots of Dismal key and some of the others.

Enjoy the summer! Hopefully we'll finally get to meet this winter.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 5:06 pm 
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Location: South Florida
Big Rock Rapids and Baby Huey

The flow in the Rio Grande is closely monitored by the USGS. This past week it has been a measly 450 cu ft/min. I’ve run this section when it was at 1700 cu ft/min, and commercial rafts were not allowed on the water. In any case, it was a good opportunity to do some drone filming.

Two filming locations were used: the first was the Quartzite launch. This area of the Rio Grande is designated a “Wild and Scenic River” by the US Department of Interior.

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The second filming location was the Big Rock Rapid

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The difference between drone and land-bound filming is rather stark to say the least. Here is a picture at the launch from shore, for example.

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Here is a picture taken from my Mavic Pro

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And, another from the Mavic back towards Pilar, NM. The Rio Grande meanders rather peacefully here.

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Here is a land-based picture of me running the river about 8 years ago.

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And, here is a picture from the Mavic Pro

Image


BTW, that big rock in the middle of the picture is known as “Baby Huey” by the local boatmen. On a wet and rainy night in July 1991, that 360-ton boulder thundered down from the Pilar Cliffs at up to 50 mi/hour, gauged a hole (45x15x15 feet) out of the highway and imbedded itself on the opposite side of the river. Fortunately, no one was injured. In September 1988 people were not so lucky when a 11,600-lb boulder rolled down from the cliffs and struck a bus killing 5 people and injuring 14 others.

It is only about a 3 mile stretch from the launch to the Big Rock Rapid. At higher flow levels, it can be fun and a white knuckle experience. Today, with the low flow, it is fun with Big Rock Rapid being the most interesting. From my view point, i.e., the FPV from the drone, it was fun and interesting. Most of my filming was video. Here is the 7.5 min video. Almost every type of whitewater boat can be seen in the video. Another plus of the video: the controller takes over and returns the drone automatically to the launch site.




I'll bet, after seeing that video, you all could run the Big Rock Rapid like a pro!


Keith

_________________
2015 AI 2, 2014 Tandem

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex ... It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." A. Einstein


Last edited by Chekika on Sun Jul 23, 2017 1:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 6:52 am 
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Location: South Florida
Lost…Again!
Or
Live and Learn


Yes, lost my Mavic Pro again. This time right out of my back yard. I’m afraid this one was a no brainer. I was showing my drone to my brother-in-law George. He was flying it and was quite good at it. I then told him to fly it west over a 25’ high ridge. We had line of sight probably for 200’ but then the drone disappeared below the ridge. Long story short, out about 500’ the drone began to descend. I was able to raise it 20’ or so, but then it just descended attempting to land. Final height indicated -7’ below our launch location. My first thought, when I looked at the trip log landing location, was that the drone got out of sight below the ridge and lost signal. The telemetry signal was weak immediately before “landing,” but that was not the basic problem. I wasn’t paying attention to the drone battery levels. I think the drone had returned to the launch when the batteries were low, but I restarted the engines and flew it over the ridge and out 500’. It simply ran out of power. Careless!!!

George and I now had a rescue operation on our hands. The flight log showed where it went down, but the Google Earth view on my cell was dark. What was available on the flight log was the GPS coordinates of the landing site—if you can call it that. The telemetry signal was weak, but the drone still managed to send back the landing coordinates. Quite amazing, really.

Image


George and I had done a preliminary and somewhat dangerous search…there are lots of basalt rocks and sagebrush in the area. It was very hard to move around. We only had the poorly illuminated view on the cell, and we could not nail down the location although we were within 20’ of the drone at times.

Back home on my computer, I put the coordinates into Google Earth and got a much clearer picture of the location. It was uphill from a path along a barbed wire fence. There was a lone tree in the area, which helped pinpoint the location. Back we went with a better idea of where to look.

Image


George stayed on the path while I hiked up the hill to where I thought the drone was. As I was climbing, George exclaimed, “There it is! I see it.” He did indeed.

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As it attempted to land, it come down on the side of a sagebrush and flipped over on its back.

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Pretty simple lesson here: don’t run your drone battery dead.

The second lesson of the day is, rather than search from a less than desirable cell phone trip log view, simply input the final flight coordinates into Google Earth on your computer and get a good view of the downed drone location. Print the page to take with you on the search.

Third lesson: seeing that the drone was going to land, I should have flown it over to a more open spot (the path) and landed there. Now, that would have taken some quick thinking...I hadn't been in this specific location before...still, it seems I might have been able to find a decent landing location. The camera on the gimble starts with a level view, but it can, with the knurled knob on the left front corner of the DJI controller, be oriented straight down--you can see with FPV directly below the drone. In this case, if I had been quick enough, I would have oriented the camera straight down, and searched out a decent landing site...if I had been quick enough. Perhaps, a big if. I'm tempted to fly it over there again, with a full battery, and see if there might have been a chance to locate a good landing spot. It would be good practice, and there is no question that all drone fliers need to practice, practice, practice, etc.

Finally, I don’t know how George saw the drone. He said the sun was glinting off from it. In any case, with my propensity for losing my drone, I’ve decided to add a little color with some stick-on colored skins. Here is the link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B072L ... UTF8&psc=1

Keith

_________________
2015 AI 2, 2014 Tandem

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex ... It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." A. Einstein


Last edited by Chekika on Sun Jul 23, 2017 4:26 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 22, 2017 8:10 am 
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Keith - you may be onto something here. I think you have just combined drone flying with geocaching! Brilliant (if expensive) game!



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PostPosted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 6:58 am 
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Totch--I'm from a different generation and don't play games in general. Rather, I think of this as "life and death" for my Mavic Pro. Is there some game with that as the theme?

Keith

_________________
2015 AI 2, 2014 Tandem

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex ... It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." A. Einstein


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 7:23 am 
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Geocaching is where people hide things and then post coordinates on one of several sites (e.g, www.geocaching.com). I have actually incorporated this in with my TI trips as there are several scattered about in the 10k islands.

You have been basically geocaching for your Mavic.

You have a really great system there that helps you find it when lost.

I know what you mean about life or death for it. I have come close to losing mine a couple of times (without any way to track it) and it's terrifying. I would rather crash mine (so I can rebuild it) than lose it.

Also, I don't (yet) have a battery monitor. My only risk plan is to always start with a fresh battery and then come home at 10 min. Works great until my batteries started wearing out from too many charge cycles. I barely got it back once before it auto-landed.

I really need to get an OSD and telemetry added, but didn't want to spend the extra $200 on a good one (OSD = on screen display - transmits info back to my goggles). I'm building a hex now so I'll probably pony up.

Glad you have a system like the Mavic - it is top of the line.


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