Aerial Photography From Along the Mystic River

This slightly edited image is from a recent shoot along the Mystic River, which is between Charlestown, Somerville, and Everett. While I won’t specify the client, if you’re familiar with this area, you’ll immediately see this is the proposed Wynn Casino site, in Everett, MA.Image

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Harrowing Weather Conditions and the DJI Phantom

We all know the ideal conditions for flying a Phantom, or any UAV for that matter. I want to share a story with you, from flying the DJI Phantom, that underscore exactly why I feel the Phantom is such an incredibly solid platform. There are times when for a varying reasons, there is time pressure around getting filming accomplished, or needing to fly a UAV for any utility purpose. The picture of the flag is from not far from the shoot location, and literally about to rip from it’s seams.

Weather Conditions at Shot Location:

  • Winds: 300 @ 22 knots, gusting 32 knots (25 mph, gusting 37 mph).
  • Temp: 22, with the windchill, “feels like” 6. Yep, 6.

From the minute of takeoff, I was fighting the winds. I was using GPS mode, in an attempt to fight the wind, and keep the Phantom in roughly the same location. That said, there were several times, where it took FULL CONTROL DEFLECTION to hold the Phantom in roughly the same position. Even with full control deflection, there was still drift. Just about the time I was feeling this was going to be unproductive, the winds relented for a couple minutes. During those few minutes, using the Go Pro Hero 3 Black, I managed to get 72 photos. I landed the Phantom smoothly, and with completely numb fingers, pulled the battery out, while being quite impressed; impressed enough to share this experience.

While I understand the Phantom has limitations, and in full disclosure, just ordered a DJI S800, there are some real strengths to it’s design. In high wind conditions, it seems to me, that the Phantom’s plastic body, reduces the parasitic and form drag. On a windy day like this, I would take have more confidence in flying a Phantom versus any other UAV. So, bravo zulu to the DJI team for a well engineered UAV.

Onwards and upwards.


Onward & Upward

The road by which one travels in life is an interesting path. On that road, one encounters every imaginable type of people and attitudes.

Passing through life and encountering those people, especially the negative ones, it’s easy, often tempting, to meet hostility with hostility, to change your focus away from your goals and vision. To do so is only to take focus off your path. I challenge you to rise above this, to meet hostility and negativity, and rise above it; not to validate it, or let it distract you from your goals.

There is a great quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that goes to the heart of my point:
“At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock at once at thy closet door and say,—’Come out unto us.’ But keep thy state; come not into their confusion. The power men possess to annoy me I give them by a weak curiosity. No man can come near me but through my act.”

If you come upon someone’s vision, or dreams, respect that. Bring something positive into the world.

Onward & Upward.

Amazing Aviation History – Udvar-Hazy Center / National Air and Space Museum

As someone who has been into aviation since I was a kid, few places are more exciting and moving to visiting than that Air and Space Annex at Dulles Airport, the Udvar-Hazy Center. 

It is truly America’s history in a hangar.

I’ll share a few of my favorite pictures.Image


Last image is of the right wing, engine intake on the Air France Concord on display.

A Better Roadmap to Incorporate UAV’s into the National Airspace System.

From thoughts stemming from a recent interview, I’d like to expand the discussion of the FAA’s Integration of Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System (NAS) Roadmap.

It is neither my intention or desire to sound like an arm-chair quarterback here. In addition to offering some observations, I’ll offer some suggestions and feel free to comment, add your own thoughts, and let’s propagate a discussion regarding the integration of UAV’s in the national airspace.

First and foremost, there are some assumptions and definitions within the FAA’s Roadmap that simply don’t measure up to the realities. The FAA suggests that 95% of all UAV’s operating will be small UAV’s, which they define as less than 10 lbs., but when you read the roadmap, almost all of the standards, processes, and procedures are clearly designed for large scale, satellite data-linked, big-budget operators.

Based on the Roadmap, it appears there is an exclusion for small UAV operators that ADS-B transponders won’t have to be integrated (& more importantly powered) into our UAV’s.Yes, I agree that the reality is that 95% of UAV operators will operate on-site, or within range (FPV) of their UAV. The overwhelming majority of UAV operators won’t be using a satellite uplink.

The reality, is that even under the 10 lb threshold (which I think is high), there needs to be another several subcategories:

  1. Private use, within LOS (your average recreational user)
  2. Commercial use, within LOS (Aerial Photographers & Videographers & a lot of other emerging uses)
  3. Commercial use with FPV capabities. There needs to be a demonstration of both the UAV and some level of training and certification for the operator.

One of the great things about UAV’s like the DJI Phantom, is you can find a dealer, assemble your UAV, charge the LiPo’s, and go flying. The problem with that, is with every mistake, with every crash into something or worse yet, someone, you damage the perception of an emerging industry, largely by either ignorance or carelessness. Not that government policy is every concerned with a balance of safety and barriers to entry, I want to advocate that the FAA search for just such a balance. I want people to have access to small UAV’s and be able to enjoy flying them. At the same time, I want there to be some basic procedural requirements for operating UAV’s and make sure there is proficiency among the users.

DJI has done a remarkably good job with what could be considered modern-age, computer-based training modules in the videos from DJI, led by their CEO, Colin Guinn. It gives user a basic understanding and step-by-step orientation for initial stages of flying. When I suggest training for small UAV operators, especially private use, something along these lines would be a great foundation. After watching the videos, which basically equate to ground school, I would suggest spending an hour with some sort of instructor, with sign-off capability, followed by a basic certification. This would effectively create a reduced version of the existing airman certification system. Building on top of that, additional training and demonstration of skills for Commercial Operators (both LOS & FPV). With those efforts toward base-lining training and proficiency in place, I believe there would be adequate safe guards in place to minimize risk to the non-participating public.

We are literally in the process of building a foundation for an entire industry as we prepare to integrate UAV’s into the National Airspace System. It is my sincere hope that can be done in a responsible and safe way, while being mindful of not excessively high barriers to entry.