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Today I Flew A Drone



I think most of us here enjoy aviation in all its aspects, not just limited to simulated flight on a computer. I have a friend who has developed an interest in hobby drones and he found a friend who already owned one, so he invited me along to get a demonstration.


This appears to be one of the most popular models available, the DJI Phantom III




This is not a toy and it's not cheap, at over $1000 for the model we saw.


Anyone familiar with R/C aircraft would be right at home with the controller. The twin sticks work just like those for a radio controlled airplane or helicopter. But the addition of a tablet and app make things more interesting. The app shows a real-time picture as taken by the drone's onboard camera and also includes a variety of controls and readings...it's kind of like a cockpit for the aircraft.


You can actually take off using the app. Select takeoff, swip to confirm and the drone lifts off and hovers about three feet off the ground. From there, take over with the joysticks and fly it. After getting a demonstration and letting my friend fly it I got a chance to fly it too. It's amazingly easy. The left joystick is used to select an altitude. Fly it to the altitude you want and it just stays at that altitude, even if you use the other controls to move it around. The left stick also controls yaw, for pointing the camera.


The right stick is your horizontal movement control...forward/back, left/right or a a combination. Again, really easy to control even when you get it moving right along...it goes something like 25 mph.


Using the tablet, you position and aim the camera, including a little wheel that lets you tilt it up/down. You sort of forget you're flying something while watching the screen but then you look up and see the drone buzzing around to your commands.


The picture is amazingly stable. If you don't touch the controls it looks like a snapshot, at least until you see someone move. Flying around even if you're rough on the controls and see the aircraft bouncing around, the picture is still steady. It's pretty amazing.


It's really quite an amazing piece of technology. Though I don't really see many people getting one simply for the joy of flying. The fact is, flying it is just too easy! With no training I was able to fly it around the field, point the camera where I wanted and at the end bring it back for a nice gentle landing.


So what this is, is really a camera that happens to fly rather than an aircraft that happens to be carrying a camera. It's the camera that's the primary function and once you understand that, the rest makes sense.


So, an interesting flying experience that I'm glad I got to try. There are of course other types of drones out there...the racing drones sound pretty interesting!


Anyone else have drone experience? Share it in the comments.

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From your description it is easy to see how someone can forget they are "flying" instead of shooting a movie and wander into prohibited airspace.
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