Archive for the ‘ Learning to fly ’ Category

10 things that could save your drone

10 things that could save your drone

Click here for a German translation of this post.

If you’re interested in drones you will have no doubt seen all the spectacular crashes on YouTube and heard about drones flying away by themselves. Drones like the DJI Inspire 1 or Phantom 3 are highly complex devices that rely on various systems to perform properly. While there’s no way to guarantee against a hardware or software problem there are a few things you can do to minimise the chances of crashing. Here are my top tips that could save your DJI drone.

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1. Know when and when NOT to calibrate the compass

A lot of people recommend calibrating the drones compass each time it’s flown at a different location. While this seems to work for some I think it introduces unnecessary risk. Let me explain why…

When you perform a compass calibration you’re letting your drone test its surroundings for magnetic force and once the calibration is complete it stores that data and assumes that those forces are normal for the current location and will be consistent throughout the flight. But what if there’s a large electrical cable or metal pipework buried below the paving you’re standing on? If that were the case then the calibration you’ve just performed will have taken those effects into account and the moment the drone takes off it will be flying with incorrect compass data.

Unless you’ve travelled a long way (hundreds of miles) since your last flight there’s no real need to re-calibrate the compass if you already have a good calibration locked in. If you find yourself in a nice open undeveloped area then it’s a good time to grab a clean compass calibration, otherwise why replace a clean calibration with one from an area where you have no idea what unknown forces are at play.

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DJI Phantom 3 vs Inspire 1 – Which should I buy?

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I’ve owned my Inspire 1 for over a month now and with over 70 flights under my belt I feel like I’m starting to know it well, both from an operational and flight characteristics point of view.  Before i purchased the Inspire I spent a lot of time deciding between it and DJI’s other popular offering, the Phantom 3 Professional as both have 4K cameras and a lot of features in common. I wasn’t able to test either system so I based my purchasing decision on a few factors that could potentially make a difference. The things that really swayed me towards the Inspire was it’s ability to rotate the camera, the removable gimbal allowing for future upgrades and the ability to operate in higher winds.

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Recently I’ve had the chance to spend a few weeks flying the Phantom 3 Professional so I thought I’d share my findings about whether I made the right choice and try to give some advice to anybody trying to decide between  these two platforms. Firstly I’ll describe some differences in the aircraft and then I’ll go on to talk about my findings.

Size, weight & build.
By far the biggest difference between these two drones is the size and weight of each design. Although I’d seen a few Phantoms in the past I’d never actually used one before and after using the Inspire for a few weeks I was quite surprised how much smaller and lighter the Phantom is. The Inspire weights in at 2.93 KG whereas the Phantom 3 is less than half that at a mere 1.28 KG.

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Inspiring Panorama’s – Shooting panoramas with a drone

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The great thing about shooting pano’s with the Inspire 1 is that due to it’s ability to lock position using GPS it pretty much works like a tripod in the sky allowing you to rotate through horizontal pans at various pitches without the camera slipping position too much. The Inspire is especially good at this job because it’s props lift out of view enough to get a 30 degree up angle on the camera and still not see the props or the landing gear in the shots.

After some experimentation I settled on shooting 4:3 Raw stills and in order to provide plenty of overlap for stitching them together I shot around 16 images per 360 degree rotation. I found I could cover from 30 degrees up to 90 degrees straight down using four rotations so ended up with around 70 stills per pano location.

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Click here to view the interactive Panorama I created.

In order to stitch the images together I used an application called AutoPano Pro from Kolor Software. AutoPano does an amazing job of taking all the individual images and then combining them together in to one seamless pano file. AutoPano handled the Inspires Raw DNG files perfectly although it is quite a CPU intensive process.

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Once the images have been stitched together there are multiple tools allowing you to tweak various aspects of the pano. I found the only tools I really had to use were the crop tool to remove some black space at the top of the pano and the automatic horizon tool to straighten the horizon. Both tools worked perfectly.

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I wanted to create an interactive pano so I opened the exported file using another application from Kolor called Panotour which magically turns the pano file in to an interactive html experience allowing the pano to be controlled and viewed on both the web and on mobile devices.

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One of the great things about Panotour is that you can also link multiple pano’s together creating a virtual tour for the viewer. In my example I simply linked together two pano’s allowing the viewer to jump between them.

Let me know what you think in the comments below, and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.

 


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Which DJI Inspire 1 hard case?

One of the best things you can do to maintain any piece of gear is to keep it in a decent case. This is especially true with something like the DJI Inspire 1 as it’s an inherently fragile device.   The case that’s supplied with the Inspire 1 is actually a really clever design, it’s very lightweight and supports the Inspire and it’s essential accessories well.

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The downside to the supplied case however is that it’s not very durable, I managed to break a zip on mine within a week, it’s just not a professional grade case. If all you need is somewhere to store the Inspire while it’s at home or in the car then you’ll probably be fine as long as you treat the case gently and don’t expect too much of it, I certainly wouldn’t ever think of checking it in the baggage hold of a plane though.

If you need to check your inspire 1 in to baggage holds or you just want a case that’s going to last then it’s worth looking at something a bit more professional. When choosing a case for the Inspire you first have to make a decision about how you want to store the aircraft.

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The Inspire 1’s standard case is what’s referred to as a “travel mode case”. Before the Inspire can be placed in such a case it needs to have the camera gimbal removed and then be placed in travel mode, essentially making it as flat as possible.  Some case manufacturers are also producing “landing mode cases”, these allow the Inspire to be placed in the case without changing to travel mode and some cases also allow the option of leaving the camera and gimbal attached to the Inspire as well.

Below are a selection of Inspire 1 cases that I’ve reviewed, I’ve created a separate post for each review as there are many photo’s and lot of thoughts posted for each case. To view the full reviews just click the images or the links below.


HPRC 2730WINS Wheeled Hard Case for the Inspire 1

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Type: Travel Mode
Weight: 20.7 lb / 9.4 kg
Ext Dimensions: 24.4 x 20.5 x 13.8″ / 620 x 520 x 350 mm
Price: $323 from B&H Photo

Read the Full Review


 

Go Professional GPC-INSPIRE-1T Travel Mode Case

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Type: Travel Mode
Weight: 26.9 lb / 12.2 kg
Ext Dimensions: 31.5 x 20.8 x 12.5″ / 80.1 x 52.9 x 31.8 cm
Price: $429 from B&H Photo

Read the Full Review


Multirotor Axessories Landing Mode Case

martin spencer case

Type: Landing Mode
Weight: TBC
Ext Dimensions: 26.5 x 20.5 x 14.4″ / 67 x 52 x 39 cm
Price: £340 (Available in UK & Europe only)

Read the Full Review

 


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HPRC 2730WINS DJI Inspire 1 Case Review

HPRC 2730WINS Wheeled Hard Case for the Inspire 1

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Type: Travel Mode
Weight: 20.7 lb / 9.4 kg
Ext Dimensions: 24.4 x 20.5 x 13.8″ / 620 x 520 x 350 mm
Price: $323 from B&H Photo

The HPRC2730WINS  is a watertight wheeled hard case with a retractable handle that contains a custom designed two level foam interior for the Inspire and accessories. The hardshell case is reported to be impact and drop resistant, corrosion resistant, and features a neoprene seal that when properly closed is designed to keep the case watertight if submerged in shallow water.

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The case feels suitably sturdy, it’s quite heavy at 9.4KG but compared to some other cases I’ve seen it’s actually fairly compact. The materials used are not the most rigid I’ve seen, the plastics feel a little softer than say a pelican case or similar but it still feels like it will offer plenty of protection.

The HPRC case is around the same size as the standard Inspire 1 case in terms of width and length although it’s quite a lot deeper.

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There’s two latches on the front and one on each side of the case, these use a dual action lever design where you engage the catch on to the lid and then secure it by pressing down the bottom part of the latch. The system seems to work well and the latches are protected against knocks by ribs running the full height of the case. The case also has locking points for a padlock.

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The handles and fittings feel comfortable, I like the use of rubberised sections on the handles offering a bit more grip than just the plastic alone. I’m not so keen on the way the rolling handle makes contact with the ground when the case is upright though.

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The pull out handle mechanism on the base is designed in a way where it’s possible to pull out and then re-insert the handle with just one hand. I often find myself walking through airport pulling two roll along cases with me and when you’re walking in big queues of people it can be a hassle having to use two hands to perform that simple task. The handle itself feels suitably strong and man enough for the task.

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The wheels are a good size and are made from a material that thankfully seems to have some give allowing for a bit cushioning on rough surfaces. Although these may not be quite as effective as rubber inline skate type wheels they certainly feel better than the solid plastic ones on some of my pelican cases. The case also features a pressure release valve, essential for pressure changes at altitude. Unlike some cases on the market the hinges do not run the full length of the case, although they do seem up to the task.

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Opening the case revels a common annoyance as the foam isn’t attached to the lid, nothing a bit of spray glue wouldn’t fix though. The case features a dual layer foam design, the top part holds the Inspire, two controllers, camera case, two batteries, battery charger and props. The bottom layer has three cutouts for additional accessories.

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I found my iPad mini fitted nicely in to the front cutout although it’s not the most practical design as then other items have to be stacked on top of it. The same is true of all of these cutouts really, although it’s possible to put quite a few items in there the contents are going to be rattling around and potentially getting scratched or damaged. If I were travelling with this case I’d want to pack these items in with additional foam or bubblewrap.

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The upper layer of foam is much better, the batteries, controller and camera case fit in to their respective slots perfectly with just enough grip to stop them moving around. The slot for the controller is especially impressive, it really is cut to perfection.

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The same is true when the Inspire itself is slid in to the case, the small carbon support rods slip in to the pre-cut slots and the main arms then rest on the top surface of the foam. The inspire feels nicely supported in this design.

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The enclosed area for props doesn’t work quite so well however, the props knock against the nose of the inspire which projects in to the pocket slightly. Also, while the cutout for the charger does hold it well it does leave the cables lose move around inside the case.

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This brings me to what I feel is the weakest part in the design of this case. With everything packed the top of the Inspire is protruding well in to the lid area of the case and with the foam removed it’s actually quite easy to push down on the lid and feel it hit the top of the Inspire, there’s only around 1cm of clearance. Even with the foam installed I wouldn’t feel comfortable having something heavy like another case dropped on top of this one as I’m sure it could apply pressure on to the Inspire and cause damage.

This seems a shame really, especially as it’s tall for a travel mode case and there’s more than enough vertical space in the case to allow the Inspire to sit a little further down inside it. If choosing this case I’d be tempted to remove some of the bottom layer of foam and allow the top to drop down a little further inside, just half an inch would probably be enough to put it out of harms way.

I’m really not a fan of cases that allow items to interact with each other. With the lid closed there’s an air gap around the contents and if any items become dislodged there’s a chance they could knocking against the inspire. This can be addressed with bubblewrap or soft foam on a longer journey though so it depends how much you plan to put the case in the hands of others.

Conclusion
Given how the Inspire is susceptible to pressure through the lid and there’s room for items to move around I wouldn’t recommend this case for air travel unless additional protection was added and the inspire was lowered inside the case.

I do however like the precision cutting of the foam and that the case is fairly compact. The price is also competitive so if you’re looking for a better case than the standard one and you don’t plan on trusting it to baggage handlers this could still be a good choice.

Find out more about the HPRC 2730 at B&H Photo.

Click here for more Inspire 1 Case Reviews.
Inspire 1 Cases – Overview

 

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