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So, you want to learn how to fly.

I found myself right where you are not long ago. I have a little travel site online and wanted to spice up the videos I was doing. I got fascinated at the current state of quad, hex and octo copters and aerial photography that I was seeing and I knew I had to add it to my skills set and workflow. Now I don't know about you but I am the type that loves to jump right in with both feet. However with the current state of the economy my main business has been somewhat slow and the funds are not what we would like for a new pricey investment. My wife is the practical one and she suggested before I spend too much money I should buy a small copter and learn to fly.

learn to fly 1

Click on picture to see the video.

So that is what I did. I purchased a small single prop remote controlled helicopter with a small hd camera. I do not even remember what make it was but it cost less than 100 dollars. As you will see by the video it was tough to get it into the air and fly it. I never had in the air more than a minute but it was enough to further my interest. It also made me realize how tricky it is to fly a single prop remote controlled helicopter. I still had that hunger to learn more and as I researched it, the next step would be a quadcopter. Again I did not want to spend a fortune on it and I found a nice little quad that cost around $300.00. The AR Parrot Drone is what I decided on.

The AR Parrot drone is a great little quad to learn to fly. One of the things that appealed to me was the fact that it had its own wi-fi and you controlled it with your smart phone or a tablet. Not only that, the hd camera actually sent what the camera was seeing directly to your tablet for what is called First Person View. The only drawbacks I saw was that the wi-fi is weak and only has about a 50 meter range. Also when you get out close to the limits of that range the video would get glitchy and sometimes freeze. It is not a problem if you are in a wide open field, just release the controls and it will hover until the signal catches up. However once you get comfortable with flying it, you tend to start taking chances as your skills improve, so it becomes a problem when you are looking out and starting to make a bank turn close to the trees and the video freezes, it is easy to crash into that tree. It is a great mid level drone to learn how to fly though. As you can see from the video the first time I flew it outside it was easy to use and while the video is a little jumpy you can see it is fun right out of the box and you will develop your skills quickly.

parrot drone

Click on picture to see the video.

Within days you will have skills that you will start to be happy with and in spite of limitations with the wi-fi and tablet controls you will have a blast flying it. You will outgrow it quickly. At this point I was hooked and was chomping at the bit for the next copter.

 

You can play this video right from here.

crash1

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Before I show where I went from the parrot, I think I should point out that in learning to fly and in spite of how easy they are to fly, you are going to crash. Hopefully they will not be serious, but they will happen. Here is a collection of some of the crashes I had in my learning to fly.

I ended up damaging my first parrot bad enough that I bought a second one in order to use the first as parts. Crashes do happen. Fortunetly these copters are fairly easy to fix.

Now in hindsight I probably should have bought another mid level drone like the DJI Phantom, but I wanted to start doing some spectacular photography so I instead bought a Turbo Ace x830, and I had it customized with an advanced flight controller and autopilot functions.

I purchased my Custom made Turbo Ace X830 from wowhobbies.com in Orange California. They did a great job and their entire staff has been great. Special thanks to Jeff, Kyle and Tony. Their willingness to think outside the box has provided me with a great little drone. Learn more at www.wowhobbies.com

roaddog1

 

From here on out I will take you for a day by day look at how I have developed as a pilot since. This little video diary is presented to show my evolution as a pilot, mistakes and all. Click on any of the pictures to see the videos.

 

rd1-maiden

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June 26, 2013

Here is the first Video with my new custom made Turbo Ace X830 with the wookong flight controller. My first two flights did not go as smooth as I would have liked. Crashed it twice. Luckily the crashes were not too serious. But as much as this thing cost, I am going to have to be careful.

June 27, 2013

Fixed the Drone and I am ready to Fly once again. This video came out quite nice. It is amazing how smooth this thing flies. The minor shakes and imperfections still left in the video show I still have some adjustments to the Gimbal and camera balance. As soon as that is accomplished we will have some real nice video.

This flight went well enough I think I will go to the top of the mountains on the other side of the valley. That should yield some nice clips.

success

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mountain top

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June 29, 2013

I promised after that last training mission I was going to look for somewhere spectacular to film and was heading into the mountains of the north San Fernando Valley, I had a good spot but as you will see things went woncky fast. I have a feeling that the major broadcasting equipment on top of this mountain caused some control interference with the copter. Because it was as if the whole gps went down. It did not crash this time but did land harder than I would have liked and flipped over, damaging another skid and messing up the already damaged gimbal.
You know the old saying, Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing. Having a blast learning to fly this thing but I can tell my initial investment is not over yet.

June 30, 2013 Waypoint Test 1

I took the drone out for the first waypoint test. It flew great except during the flight I once again had the gps glitch. It is something I am going to need to get resolved. Here in this picture it hovers at the last waypoint. I should have been able to get control from the ground station and get a automatic landing button. But for some reason the ground station had no gps connection so I could not get any control and had to wait until the batteries wore out and then it came in for another hard landing, this time it does not look like the gimbal is a simple fix. I still have some bugs to work out and I am getting a real education on working on a gimbal. Sorry I do not have any video of the flight I forgot to turn on the camera, however if you click the picture to the right, Miss Lynn caught a few stills from the ground. And I am going to do another test this evening, without the gimbal, low altitude, gopro hardmounted so the video might be a bit shaky. That is as long as I remember to turn it on.

wtf

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July 2, 2013

When we last left off I had told you I was going to do another waypoint test. I took it yesterday to accomplish that but really screwed up. It was all my fault and it cost me big. It was so bad I really do not want to talk about it. I spent all day rebuilding the drone. arms, landing gear, battery attachment. I was not in a good mood having to make such a major rebuild in the first week of operating it. It did however give me a real education on how these things are built.

Sorry about the shaky video but I have not yet rebuilt the gimbal. I guess we are going to have to live with some shakes until that happens. If I cannot do it today our flight down at UCLA tommorrow will just have to live with some shaky video. But we are determined to get all of these things dialed in and then we will rule the skies.

back in the air

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UCLA

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July 3, 2013

A long time friend of mine invited me down to UCLA"s football training field to fly. His name is Ken Norris and he is in charge of all the game films for UCLa's athletic department. What a great place to fly and work out some of the bugs I am still having. Mainly I just need some flying time and get used to this somewhat top heavy bird. I love flying it But at times it is tricky. Now that I have a decent feel for it I see where it could use some redesign. Maybe I will design my own quad copter and start my own line. I tried another camera mount for this flight but it appears to not be as good as the one I used yesterday, sorry once again for the shaky video but until I get the complete feel for flying it I will not be repairing the gimbal.

July 9, 2013

I have not posted anything in a few days, not because I have not flown but because I have been practicing in the same old places and this site will get stale fast if that is all I am posting. So for today's offering, a short flight at Lake Hollywood Park below the hollywood sign in Los Angeles. Not a whole lot of actual flying, had a loose dog barking and a young man wanting to talk while I was flying, well intentioned and friendly chat but the distraction had this rookie pilot a little rattled, so when a slight rain started to fall I called it a day.

Lake Hollywood Park

Click on picture to see the video.

8-11-13-flights

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August 11, 2013

Sometimes the real world will get in the way and you will not be able to fly. Stay at it though you do not want your skills to get rusty. While I have flown since the last post it was in the same old parks as my earlier videos so I have not posted them. I also have not put the new gimbal on yet I just want some air time before I try that one again. For todays offering I returned to a couple of the places I filmed with my Parrot drone. Vasquez Rocks and Castaic Lake, nothing fancy about the flying but each and every time you fly the confidence builds.

September 7, 2013

I have been real busy and have not been in the air in a while so Lynn and I decided to take a little drive and go somewhere interesting. Corral canyon in Malibu, California provided this nice little clip. It is the first time I have flown with the new gimbal and while it needs some balancing it is a nice little video. It has taken a little over 2 months of flying this drone to feel like I am starting to get the feel for it in the air but it is finally coming together. My whole adventure from the first copter has been about 6 months so far and well worth it.

training flights 9-7-13

 

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