One of the running gags in Amazon's new motoring show, The Grand Tour, is a camera drone that is shot down or crashes at the beginning of each episode. Drones are shot down more often than you think. Just ask the folks from Digital Smoke Signals, who are monitoring the protests at Standing Rock. And they crash. All. The. Bloody. Time.
At least mine do.
After rebuilding the drone following the last mishap, and FINALLY getting the landing gear to automatically retract, I mounted a Walkera G-2D camera gimbal on it and flew along a section of the Rideau River in Ottawa, Canada. What I didn't think to calculate was the impact of wind over the river as it doggedly stuck to a rather convoluted flight plan I'd programmed into it earlier. This meant it was running out of charge long before completing the flight. I'd configured a failsafe for just such an event, setting the drone to return to launch if it got below a certain level of battery reserve.
The trouble was, I didn't set the default altitude for RTL. Consequently, the drone went streaking back towards the launch point at about 10 metres over the water and straight into an ancient and very large oak. That, as they say, was that. Thankfully, it landed on a thin sliver of shoreline and not in the water. But it's as broken as the Paris Climate Agreement, post-Trump.
I was able to salvage the memory card from the camera. It's not 360 degree video, as you will plainly see. I'd resurrected a Xiaomi Yi action camera from my Brahma Duo 360 rig, hoping to compliment my 360-degree photos and video with some more conventional multimedia.
Miraculously, the Cheerson CX-20's electronic innards have survived, so all I need to do is fit them into a new plastic shell. Since I've got the thing dismantled, I've decided to modify the flight controller with a 3DR 500mw radio telemetry kit. This will add another useful feature, allowing me to send updated flight plans from my phone in the field using an open source Android app called 'Tower'. Previously, I'd have to connect my laptop to the Cheerson with a USB cable do the same thing. Aside from the obvious convenience, the real benefit comes from the 'follow me' function of the app.
I'll also move the GPS receiver from inside the body and relocate it up into the puck where the compass is usually housed. I'm told this configuration should improve GPS accuracy by reducing interference from other components. Let's hope so. As these items usually ship on a slow boat from China, I won't be completing the rebuild anytime soon. In the meantime, I'm planning a few outings with the Gear 360, which I'll be sure to share on this blog.