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Posted by on Feb 22, 2013 in Blog

Scouting the Trundle

Scouting the Trundle

The best laid plans…

Oh dear – this, my 250th hour of flying was not quite the jubilant ascent into gloried cinematography I had hoped it might be.

In the beginning…

3 days ago I had found the Trundle on Google Earth, and decided it was well worth a visit, could make an excellent fly site, and knowing my 250th hour in the air was impending, I resolved to do something a bit special and go on a dawn film mission. There are lots of interesting things to see on top of that hill – 2 transmitter masts and an iron horse sculpture, Goodwood Racetrack right the other side of the hill, the beautiful grounds of West Dean College on another side, and generally amazing views all the way to the coast in at least 2 directions.

I was resolved to take Special Assistant M with me, not entirely because of the heaviness of battery packs and the massive hill between the car park and where I wanted to fly from. No, I wanted her on spotting duties as we’re only 2 miles from an airfield (1/2 mile further away than we legally could be), and there will be stuff in the sky. Not only that, but I wanted to do some proper goggles-on FPVing which requires someone doing LoS / spotting while I’m occupied with my view screen.

Abort, abort…

On the first night we tried the weather ruined all my plans, and then promptly sorted itself out once I’d made the call not to go. There was cloud everywhere, which very much precludes the visual joy of a sunrise, and silly winds which I knew would make getting decent footage very hard. OK, I’ll try again, I thought.

British Weather

Lots of looking at weather charts and standing outside at 1 am, 3 am, then 5 am, 6am, and 7 am in my dressing gown trying to see if the clouds are moving, and it becomes apparent that the sunrise idea is out for the second night running, and this time it stays grey and horrible all day, as is the tradition. I’m going anyway; my battery packs need a discharge, but I have to defer until 10 am so at least I have some light to play with. It is snowing, but not in any sort of serious way. The wind, on the other hand, is very much more serious, even at ground level.

Location Location

So, after 2 days of trying, we finally get there, only to see crews of workmen up on the hill, and really quite ridiculous winds that I estimate to be a constant blustery 20 mph with additional severe gusts <50mph at anything higher than 20 ft off the ground.

Now that's a big bit of grass... useful for range tests etc

Now that’s a big bit of grass… useful for range tests etc

The ground is amazing, in that it is variously undulating, and has a variety of interesting things in it (trees, plants, sheep, paths, grass, racetrack, masts, big iron horse) and also vast swathes of open space. There were really quite a lot of planes in the sky, and a lot lower than I thought they’d be. Most of them turn away well before they reach the hill, I noted…

The views on a still Summer day from the top of the hill will be amazing. Today they were not to be mine. Reasoning that the wind would be even more silly up the peak of the hill I only stayed quite close to the car park in the vaguely more sheltered area, and did some very limited flights – really just a quick look-round before the biting wind and freezing temperatures not only removed all feeling in my fingers, but also gave me brain-freeze in which I suddenly became very much more interested in going somewhere warm than I was in aerial footage.

So much was this the case that I completely forgot about the iron horse sculpture, about all the things I was going to do with the GoPro Field of view, and even that I was going to try some FPVing.

Trees - tick. Hills - tick, Wind - too much if anything.

Trees – tick. Hills – tick, Wind – too much if anything.

We didn’t even climb to the top of the hill, largely because I didn’t want any workmen to tell me ‘No’, didn’t want them in shot even if they said ‘yes’, and of course I wasn’t going to fly anywhere near those transmitters in winds like that.

I’ve had enough, and I’m going home.

Whilst once again, the Naza and T-motors gave me amazing control in exceptionally adverse conditions, I was very much let down by the battery department. The cold conditions were really shortening my flight times, and fighting the wind constantly drained things even more quickly. Even my trusty Turnigy 5000’s were lasting no longer than 3 mins. Perhaps it was a mistake turning Voltage Protection back on, but both my Zippy Flitemax 5800s did red-light L1 battery warning immediately after take-off, reaffirming my suspicion that they might be rubbish. So with all that, and the wind, and the cold, after just 5 short flights I very much thought ‘bugger this’ and went home.

It’s not a total fail. We might not have production video, but I didn’t crash (always a bonus), and I’ve got a few reference photos and some brief video I can use to plan future flights, so we’ll call that a scouting mission, write off today as hilariously awful, and go back there when there’s not a typhoon going on to do it all properly. Look forward to that then :) Here’s some pics from the flights…

I may yet do a flight commentary if I can find anything to say that isn’t whining on about the bloody weather.

An aesthetically pleasing hill. Less pleasing on the legs.

An aesthetically pleasing hill. Less pleasing on the legs.

Sun struggling through clouds. The clouds were definitely winning.

Sun struggling through clouds. The clouds were definitely winning.

Is that Goodwood Race Track over there ? (Yes it is).

Is that Goodwood Race Track over there ? (Yes it is).

If it looks like this from 150 ft up, what does it look like from 400 ?

If it looks like this from 150 ft up, what does it look like from 400 ?