You have questions. I know this because you ask me things all the time when I’m out flying, or airwheeling.
I’ve got answers, and here they are, to the most commonly asked questions so far.
1. What is this blog for ?
My amusement and your education if you’re interested enough to read it.
2. Some of your posts don’t have any aerial video in them. Why is that ?
Because this blog is about ALL the technology I discover, learn and use, I make videos about whatever is going on now.
Sometimes now involves gear reviews, airwheeling, general rants and ramblings and photo galleries. Occasionally you might get a bit of music I’ve written. But worry not – I love flying, so there will be more of that, and eventually I aim to combine AirWheel and aerial footage to make more interesting videos, and transport the flyers more flexibly and into places it would be unrealistic to walk or drive to. Update Aug 2018 – I’m back, and aerial video is all you’re gonna get for some time !! :)
All the following FAQ’s refer to my current hex-rotor, AC5 – The Yuneec Typhoon H
1. Did you build it yourself ?
Unlike all my previous kit builds, no, not this time. I have left DJI, and we are placing our trust in something hopefully more reliable.
2. Is it difficult to fly?
On some levels no, on rather more levels yes. Whilst there are specialist GPS – assisted flight modes that certainly make it easier, it still needs quite a fast brain and a lot of practice.
Of course without a flight controller doing the mixing between rotors, you wouldn’t be able to fly it at all, so even ‘Manual mode’, without auto-levelling, isn’t strictly that.
3. What is it for ? / Is that a camera on there ?
Yes it is. They are what it’s for. It’s mainly about the aerial photography, but also about the challenge and joy of flying it.
4. Why does it light up ?
Some lights are navigational so that I can fly it at night and dusk, and so I know which way it is pointed (important). Others flash at certain colours and rates to tell me what it’s doing. It’s flight controller morse code essentially.
5. How fast does it go ?
Faster than you can run. About 50 mph. More with the wind behind it.
6. What is its range ?
Control-wise, around 1-2 miles depending on what is between me and it. Although real-time video will usually die before that, thanks to restrictive UK laws about how (un)powerful transmitters can be.
7. What powers it ?
Invisibility and portal jump. Sorry, I thought you asked what powers it had.
It is powered by 16.8v (4S) 60C Lithium-Polymer battery packs.
8. How long do the batteries last ?
My biggest ones (6400 maH) give around 16 mins of active flight-time and up to 20 minutes hover. But they re-charge in 2 hours, and I can do several at once.
9. How fast do the rotors go ?
Very. Up to 10,000 RPM/V (revolutions per minute per volt ). At full throttle that is 168,000 RPM. The key is not to be in their way when they are doing this.
10. Is it expensive ?
Yes. But not so much as it was as drone use becomes more mainstream, and more models are released / the technology is refined. My Typhoon H is roughly a Generation 6 Hexacopter,
with 3 axis continuous gimbal, several automation modes, Return To Home, auto-landing, and several safety features that make it a great choice for my current flyings. Although it is not excatly a small machine, it all packs down into 1 box, so I am carrying around far less than I used to…
11. Can I have a go ?
Not really. Everyone that has ‘had a go’ so far has crashed it immediately or come worryingly close to doing so. Flying it is harder than it looks, without minute-by-minute instructions, and to do it successfully your brain needs to do a lot of things at once, sometimes very fast and without any panic or overreaction. These skills take time to learn, and it is unlikely you will master them in the 2 seconds you have to do so once the craft leaves the ground under your control.
12. Can I see what the hexacopter sees as it flies ?
Yes. You can watch the live view from the craft over my shoulder if you are around when I am flying, or afterwards once landed. And then the better bits on Youtube later.
13. Is it dangerous ?
If its blades touch you, very much so. Contact between multi-rotors in flight and living things never turns out well for either. Do not ever try and touch the craft or go close to it whilst its motors are powered.
It is my job as pilot to prevent accidents from happening, so all the time I am piloting the craft, it is not dangerous to be around except in the event of mechanical faliure, which is rare but not impossible.
You should be aware of its position at all times, and move away if it gets too close to you.
Safety first, all the time. In the event that the machine is falling from high, both pilot and craft will give loud, audible warnings to look up and clear the area.
In the event of the craft causing injury or death I have £25 million public liability insurance arranged through the BMFA.
14. Is it legal to fly one ?
Oh I wouldn’t have thought so. Only joking. Yes it definitely is legal, and it is allowed to fly in common parkland around the UK and private areas with permission, within certain rules.
Those rules primarily involve flying within Visual Line of Sight, and not going above 400ft above take-off altitude.
15. Where can I see the videos it has recorded ?
Right here on the blog.
16. Have you ever crashed it ?
Yes, about 15 times now in 4 years of flying. But that’s only because I fly loads. The proportion of air-time to crash time isn’t too bad.
These days my crashes are hardly ever the result of pilot error, usually mechanical failure of a part, or some other unforeseen circumstance leads to an unplanned dive from the sky and an instant repair bill, which might be small, or massive, depending on what you fall on and what you break. It’s an arcade game with one life, and it’s going to be expensive to have another go.
I have never dropped it in the sea, although I did come very close once.
17. Is it fun to fly ?
Enormously so. Also slightly terrifying. When FPVing especially, you could almost be a bird in flight – it really feels very close to that, and it is easy to get lost in wonder with the view and become disoriented and suddenly not know where the hell you are. Even that’s fun in a way.
18. Is it weatherproof ?
Unlike all my previous crafts, the Typhoon H is not waterproof at all, and even heavy mist or flying in cloud risks problems becaus the main PDB board and ESC array is right under the open vents at the top of the aircraft. Some multirotors are weatherproof to a better degree, and some are even designed to land on water and submerge, then recover, but this is not one of them. I need to never fly in the rain !
19. Is it noisy ?
On the ground, being electric powered, it is far quieter than both petrol and nitro-fuelled RC machines. It sounds a bit like an exceptionally well engineered strimmer (quieter, smoother) when on the ground, and when high in the sky you’ve really got to listen hard to hear it at all. This means it can be flown at events and in public and causes minimal disturbance to the public and wildlife.
However it is not quiet enough to do any reconnaissance work or spying-type missions, so there is no need to worry that it could be used to invade your home privacy – you would definitely know it was there !
20. What happens if the battery dies or you fly out of range while it’s in the air ?
It’s very clever. Mostly, it will know about either in time, climb to 120 ft, fly back to me, put down its landing gear, land and turn itself off.
21. Where do I get one ?
Any tech shop these days, or the internet. DJI have all but saturated the market, and their UAV’s have improved since my days with them, but they are still not immune to ‘flyaways’. Some competition to DJI is slowly making its way through and you should consider that competition. Yuneec are one company that DJI can’t kill, and they have tried ! ;) I’m going to place my trust in them and their superior customer service from now on, having been let down my multiple DJI products in the past, and found their customer service to be somewhere been unconcerned and entirely absent. Get on the multirotor forums, take your time, do your research, and make an informed choice about the UAV you get, and how you fly it so you remain safe and legal and aware of all the new laws concerning drones in the UK. Drone Registration is coming in Nov 2019.
22. Why are you wearing sunglasses all the time ? Are you a spy ?
I am not a spy, or using my hex-rotor to do spying missions; I am primarily interested in beautiful views of nature and historic buildings from above, and if I’m honest, the less people or modern life that is in my videos the better :) Also, when flying I need to look at the sky quite a lot, and would prefer not to be blinded by the sun whilst doing so. Also, to go from FPV Pilot camera view to normal ‘eyes-on’ view is less disorienting if you have readily available shades. These days, with the H I am flying almost entirely VLoS, with only occasional glances down at the screen to set up shots. I am investigating a new style of FPV goggles that would mean I could use them whilst flying on my own legally in the UK – your eyes never leave the craft, yet you see a projected overlay of your control screen – that would be the next major leap forward in standard drone tech. Until then, no FPV for me !
23. I’ve got something I could use your help with. How can I contact you ?
You can contact me by going here and filling in a nice easy form. I am a hobby pilot at the end of the day, and I don’t ever charge for this, but if you have interesting things to film, contact me, and if I’d like to see it too, it’s not that far away, and you don’t mind me sharing it on my channel, then the chances are I’ll do it if I can…
24. What if me or my house / kids / dog etc has turned up in one of your vids, and I would rather it wasn’t there ?
Just tell me and I can make that video unlisted, or in extreme cases re-edit to exclude you / it / them.
25. Can I advertise on your site ?
No. This web site is a bastion of quality web-surfing, and I will never ruin this by blasting annoying adverts out of it. Unless you really are offering silly money.
26. Can I steal / use your pictures / video ?
If you are going to make any money out of them, or sell them on as part of something else then no, I’d rather you didn’t, but have made no effort to stop you. For pretty much any other reason, yes, that’s fine – you don’t even have to ask, though it’s nice if you do.
I’ve made no effort to secure any of my media files and I don’t watermark anything. I am in this mostly to create interesting content to share with anyone interested, so this is the sharing part – help yourself…
27. Are you on Facebook ?
No. But I am on twitter. But probably won’t follow you back. But you will get early access to all pics and videos from the flights, usually just hours after they happen.
28. Why don’t you have comments on the blog ?
Mainly because I can’t be bothered to administrate them or enter into the battle with comment robots – life is too short, and if you really want to comment, do it on my youtube channel or send me a mail or something.
I will be compiling my own Airwheel FAQ as time goes on, but for now, go here for all your wheely important questions.