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Posted by on Aug 28, 2018

Guildford Hill Glides

Guildford Hill Glides

Urban Sprawl Guildford was long overdue a visit from me, so pleased to be back on a sunny, windy afternoon to fly old aerial haunt The Mount, to the West of the town, and new fly site Pewley Down on the East, where we can get some pretty cool views of the town from way high, at a good safe distance, and do it all nice and legally. Not that this meant I was entirely safe, as it transpired… Location Location The first of today’s fly sites was an unknown quantity, but I had done my pre-flight research well, and had a very good idea of what was what before I arrived. There is already aerial video for this site, but only from a fixed wing model FPV feed, so thought I could do a bit better with a multirotor, 1080P and some bright sun. With hindsight, this would have been an extra good place to start doing 4K, but 1080 doesn’t look too awful as it goes –...

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Posted by on Aug 28, 2018

Hampshire High Rise

Hampshire High Rise

The Road to the Top I wasn’t planning on doing this flight, but my target fly site for this afternoon (a deserted building site) wasn’t looking very possible when I got there, so I found myself driving out of town and into the high hills of Hampshire looking somewhat opportunistically for somewhere new to fly… tried loads of places, but each location I explored had something about it that dissuaded me. Pylons, livestock, tree cover, access, rules etc, so on I went, again and again for about an hour and a half ! Scout Mode… Pretty much random chance intervened, and on the way generally back in a homeward direction I eventually I found myself near the top of the highest hill in Hampshire. Not wanting to fly the summit yet (conditions not perfect) I did think this evening would be a good chance to see how the Typhoon H gets on in far proximity to the mast on the hill, and in the rather high winds we can...

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Posted by on Aug 28, 2018

Rogate Green

Rogate Green

New Fly Site Always on the look out for new and interesting places to fly, I’m always up for a little local exploration on Google Maps, and today’s searching found a small little recreation field on the outskirts of Rogate, Hampshire. It looked good on the map, so I went off to scout the location, taking my flyer with me rather speculatively, but hopeful it wouldn’t be too busy when I got there on a late Saturday afternoon. To my surprise it was deserted, and on arrival I had the whole area, land and sky to myself ! All about the Topography… So what have we got ? A nice little flat green, with various interesting trees, equipment sheds and bits of garden machinery on the ground. A tennis court and bowling green. A neat little church and graveyard backing on to it. And excellent views of the village from on high. So got straight on with that, and had 2 very rewarding flights here… Video and Light This...

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Posted by on Aug 28, 2018

Sky Light

Sky Light

Power Down There has been a lot of rain recently, but I had battery packs that needed running down to storage charge, so I was very much looking for the gaps in it. Not brilliantly, as it turns out, as seen in this quick video, where I arrived at Iping / Elsted Common with a relatively bright sky, but by the time I had set up, a heavy cloud bank had moved in, was heading very much my way, and the quality of the light was quite muted and eerie. I decided to do my first flight while I thought the impending rain would hold off, and it did, until right as I was coming in to land. Got her down without problems, and just had time to shelter the craft under the landing pad before the heavens opened, and we had the lengthy shower the cloud was threatening… To fly or not to fly ? On another day I might have given up and gone home in the...

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Posted by on Aug 3, 2018

Canopy Glide

Canopy Glide

Up, up and away… I did that, and filmed it, but the bit I liked most was the journey ‘down, down, and back home’, where I had some battery pack to spare, so took a leisurely parade above the tree tops as I made my descent from a 400 ft pan, which the H handled flawlessly despite a constant stiff headwind. Nailed to the sky again, which is always nice. That Old Cricket Ground… As regular readers will know, Petersfield Heath Cricket Ground is my default practice ground, where I have town council permission to fly, except during matches, and the topography of the land makes it ideal for all sorts of multirotor tests. But although I did use the wide open space for some exciting auto-missions and orbit tests, today I wanted to explore the tree-line a bit more – not too close, but just a gentle forward tracking glide and a fairly steep angle down for the camera… as this is only flight 42 on the H...

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Posted by on Aug 1, 2018

Halls Hill

Halls Hill

Drive-By Flyings Today, me and today’s spotter, Special Assistant Andy were off to fly secret hidden towers, but our plans were thwarted because there were loads of sheep in the field we didn’t want to worry. So back in the car we got, and drove about a bit, mainly around the Buriton area, until we found ourselves at the Halls Hill Car Park, one of the many entrances to the South Downs Way. Handy car park next to a lot of public fields that we had entirely to ourselves for the whole session. Site Assessment Even though it’s mostly open fields and whatnot, there are enough hazards about, and the contour of the landscape itself makes this a Level 2 fly-site. So, careful not to directly overfly the one minor road, or the houses at the end of the field, and ever aware of the low-level power lines, and the slope of the land, we were good to go for two 15 minute flights. Could have gone longer on...

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Posted by on Jul 27, 2018

Harting Heights

Harting Heights

Freewheeling over Harting Down Another one of the places I am very pleased to have revisited is Harting Down, a very pleasant fly site, a largely unobstructed wide open field, only made Level 3 by the often turbulent and prodigious wind, and by the difficulty of recovery should things go wrong while you are over the edge into the valley beyond. But the careful pilot who goes on the right day, when the wind isn’t too bad gets rewarded by some epic views of the Hampshire countryside in the afternoon sun. Afternoon Artefacts I am beginning to see the wisdom of getting a neutral density filter set. As I venture out on flying missions in the day, as opposed to golden hour / sunsets, then I find myself having to set exposures very low (shutter speeds of up to 1/1000 needed today), which, given that I was filming at 60 FPS, is a long way from ideal. 1/120 would be the perfect setting for ultra smooth video there, and...

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Posted by on Jul 26, 2018

High Gold

High Gold

Return to Elsted I’ve missed this place in my time of no-flyings, so it’s nice to be back. I didn’t get here sooner only because I was working my way back up to it, after all this is what I’d call a level 3 fly-site – massive wide space, but lots of obstacles at a range of heights, and massive body of water nearby to not fall into. Also a minor road to avoid overflying, sometimes there is low air traffic, and usually walkers / dogs on the common, although unusually I didn’t see a single one today ! I was utterly alone with my Typhoon H and we had the skies to ourselves ! Technically Speaking I wouldn’t call today’s flights flawless – they started off that way, and kept going for a whole 20 minutes of flight. But during the last part of the second flight, I was hearing a rare but familiar short unusual motor buzz from the craft on reaction to input, there was a...

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Posted by on Jul 24, 2018

Water Works

Water Works

New Fly Site Alert Ever since curiosity got the better of me and I airwheeled my way down that lane down by Penns Place I have admired the view from the field that waits at the end of the road. We have a clear view all the way to Butser, but I couldn’t help noticing how perfect it would be for flying too. But I wasn’t flying at the time, so that plan was shelved for a while. But I am flying now :) There are a couple of houses there, but they are perfectly hidden by tree banks, so their privacy shouldn’t be affected by my presence. It is good in terms of space – there is certainly more than enough of that, very few obstacles (some powerlines, positions / heights noted), but it’s less ideal in terms of openness, being SO open that a fairly colossal amount of wind comes off the hills and sweeping into that field on most days. That keeps me away from here...

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Posted by on Jul 23, 2018

Petersfield Pans

Petersfield Pans

It’s not a good idea (or legal) to film in town centers, where there are a lot of people, but for a long time I have been looking into other ways to get decent shots of my home town without breaking any rules. It all comes down to finding launch sites that are in exactly the right place – right on the edge of town, and I have been looking for those a lot recently. As you’ll see, I found 2 suitable sites, where I could launch in green fields with good tree protection, and more than 50 m away from any building, and 150 m away from any building with people in. Hospital Recreation Field Not alot of room to play here, but we do meet the minimum requirements for distance from buildings at launch, and if we go pretty much straight up and down in a single line we are doing considerate flying, not overflying any building or structure, and generally keeping out of the way, and...

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Posted by on Jul 23, 2018

Turning Circles

Turning Circles

We’re down at Penns Place, today having a little fun on the ground before heading up high for the sunset… Finding Form Now that I am happy that the craft is relatively safe and stable in the air I can turn my attention more towards filming techniques, especially the unique and unusual perspectives offered by having total gimbal independence from the craft. So I start this video exploring the travelling pan, where our camera rotates at a constant rate while the craft moves in a straight line, and then later a much more variant flight path. This produces really nice, slightly dizzying epic sweeps of the surroundings, and the effect becomes much more pronounced if you add altitude change and reverse direction into the mix as well. Loving the results of that so far, I imagine I’ll do quite a lot of it wherever flying circumstances allow (can only happen where you have clear VLoS for the entire path, because you obviously can’t rely on a screen that isn’t...

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Posted by on Jul 23, 2018

New Fly Site – Rake Lane

New Fly Site – Rake Lane

The Lay of the Land… Special Assistant Andy told me about a cool little field he passes on the way from Milland to Petersfield, and having pre-flighted on google maps it did look ideal, in that it was vast, safe, miles from anywhere, and the landscape was very attractive, and contoured interestingly, and today it was particularly good because of all the black-wrapped hay bales everywhere. But we did get there quite late, so light was fading fast, and there wasn’t as much time as I would have liked to really use the space to our advantage, but the sunset was great, a nice ethereal spooky pink and purple one that made a nice end to the fun flyings in the field below. Can we fly here ? My main concern with any fly site is ‘Is it safe to fly?’, but there are other considerations too. It is very difficult to seek permission to fly at these sorts of places because it is almost never clear who owns...

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Posted by on Jul 20, 2018

Lake Panoramas

Lake Panoramas

Test Flights Complete With 20 problem-free flights between us (all in wide open fields in the middle of nowhere) there is now a good a level of trust building between me and my new flyer, so I am more  confident taking it where there are (a few more) people. Gotta watch out for defensive birds too, who can take a multirotor down if they take exception to it and attack. Fortunately today’s birds were quite chilled out and I wasn’t worried, having established in my pre-flight scout that there were no big raptors, or swallows about (the 2 main avian UAV aggressors). There is a lot to love about that machine, and today’s performance was one of its best. Whether it was gracefully side-swiping the tree line, or remaining nailed to the sky at any height for my various slow pans, the Typhoon H proved itself more than adequate to the task, although to be fair it was a particularly calm evening and even at 400 ft winds were...

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Posted by on Jul 10, 2018

Testing the Typhoon H

Testing the Typhoon H

Here are my thoughts on the first sessions with the Typhoon H. Hopefully not only is this a record of the flights for me but might be useful to other pilots about to fly the H for the first time. Large open space with nobody in it… (OK, 2 people and a dog in it, but even so…) When you get a new flying machine, and have done all its updates and hardware checks, the only thing remaining to be done is to get out there, fly it and learn its systems and responses. Being a pilot of some reasonable experience I know that this is best done far away from other people, so I have a selection of local ‘test grounds’, where I have permission to fly, and if I go early or late enough in the day the chances of encountering other people is very slim. All those are cricket pitches in my case, which are very good flying environments (when there isn’t a match on!) because...

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Posted by on Jul 7, 2018

Back from the Brink…

Back from the Brink…

Long time no fly ! Aerocam has been grounded for the last 3 years, mainly because of ‘trust issues’. After the 3rd crash caused by DJI flight controllers and no pilot error, I was at the point where I simply could not and would not trust that company again. Their lack of concern or willingness to admit to or address a problem that has plagued their flight controllers since the first one they ever built has left DJI’s reputation in tatters for me. They might be the biggest in the world, but they are flawed and have let me down 3 times too many. Discovery Pro I loved that machine, and in the year I had it before DJI trashed it was one the happiest and most rewarding periods of flying I’ve ever had, and the first time I had ever achieved proper broadcast-smooth footage, with that amazing gimbal and My GoPro 3+. Very keen to differentiate between the excellent Team Black Sheep, who have designed a brilliant system...

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Posted by on Aug 31, 2015

Airwheel 600 – A Year-in Review

Airwheel 600 – A Year-in Review

Who’s counting the hours ? I am. Thought it was about time I did another Airwheel blog as I have finally crossed the ‘600 hours on it’ mark, a relatively landmark moment, because it means that my time on the machine has cost just £1 an hour and every hour I spend on it now just makes that even cheaper and better value for money. It has to be said I am truly impressed with the reliability and the lack of ongoing costs in the year and a bit since I’ve had mine. Indeed, my Airwheel X5 has moved me over 3500 miles, saved me an incredible amount on petrol, and made all my journeys much more enjoyable than walking or driving into the bargain. She looks a bit worn round the edges now, but she’s still motoring along… The Joy of the Ride You can train yourself to do some pretty amazing things on an Airwheel, but I have found all my efforts focused on practical riding skills rather than...

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Posted by on Aug 17, 2015

A New Era of Flight Control

A New Era of Flight Control

Goodbye DJI Having had my second flyaway, and as usual no response from DJI, my trust in them and their flight controllers is just not there anymore. So I won’t be using anything made by them again. Ok, maybe their high density plastic multirotor arms but nothing else. But what else is there, Flight Controller-wise ? Quite a bit of choice, as it goes… After some exhaustively lengthy research, I have narrowed my choice of flight controller for my TBS Discovery Pro rebuild to either a 3DRobotics Pixhawk, or an Eagletree Vector. I also looked at the APM 2.6, CC3D, Naze32, Hobbyking’s KK2.0,The Unmanned Tech All-in-One and a few more besides, but decided that the cheaper acro boards were not really for me, given that my main focus is smooth, slow, sail-plane style aerial video, not screaming it round a forest with high-speed mini-quad action, to which the smaller, cheaper boards, without GPS seem more suited. The Semi-final Eagletree Vector I really like the Vector, and Eagletree in general, and the Vector’s in-built...

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Posted by on Jul 13, 2015

Flyaway Disco

Flyaway Disco

The classic DJI flyaway Despite doing everything reasonable to avoid it, I am already a member of the esteemed DJI Flyaway club, but today I reconfirmed my membership by being the victim of a new mystery flyaway, which happened for no appreciable reason and without any sort of warning, following 2 minutes of perfectly normal flight control. Location is everything Ever since my first DJI flyaway, I have been extra cautious about where I fly, so as to minimize as much as possible the risk to people, animals and property if the worst should happen. Today I was up on the high hills of Ditcham, Hampshire in the setting sun, trying to get some stunning high aerial views of the interesting clouds and sweeping landscape. If we are going to crash, this is at least the perfect place to do it, miles away from anything that isn’t fields or trees. All systems ready ? This was the first flight of the day, and I had completed all the normal ground checks...

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Posted by on Jun 28, 2015

Treyford Rise

Treyford Rise

Summer Solstice, almost… OK, 2 days late for the solstice, and 3 days short of the longest day of the year, but thought it was about time I went and got some sunset action while the daylight hours are so long. So as 9 pm approached the sun was heading behind some fairly epic clouds, and the skies were turning golden just as I was rolling along the road between Treyford and Didling (really ?) hoping to find somewhere good to launch from, ideally next to a fairly impressive bit of the South Downs. Luckily, half way along it I found a convenient layby, and a newly sown field with an open gate, and perfect launch spaces, so resolved to do 3 quick flights here in what I had been led to believe by the BBC was fairly light wind. Up, up and away… No craft in the air around me at first launch, so I went for ‘cams-pointed-at-the-sky’, and a fair bit of height. And the height was where it was...

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Posted by on Jun 17, 2015

150 Tiny Gardens

150 Tiny Gardens

Interesting Things on the Ground… Constantly on the look-out for new places to explore from the air, my various wanderings took me just up the road from home, where I discovered a vast empty field neighbouring a pretty large set of allotments. Intrigued to see what they would look like from above, I set about planning this flight session extremely carefully. No, I haven’t counted them. But there’s loads. It is my hope that the individual allotment owners (I couldn’t ask them all) won’t mind my brief sailplane around their growing efforts, and  might appreciate an unusual view of their produce. Safety first… There is more need for safety and risk assessment at this fly-site than at almost any other I have flown before, entirely due to its proximity to the railway track that passes behind the allotments. Although a lot of it is protected by tall trees, not all of it is, and I needed to be able to guarantee that I would not overfly the track, or...

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