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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 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

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 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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Posted by on Jun 15, 2015

Petersfield Heath Summer 2015

Petersfield Heath Summer 2015

Rain stops, let’s go Hello archaeologists ! And Summer. Join me for an aerial view of some of Petersfield Heath, replete with burial mound dig sites, and a bit of lake action. There’s also a golf course over there somewhere. I say Summer, but not sun, as it had been raining all day (despite being the hottest day of the year) and this somewhat lucky flight is the result of me checking the weather every 10 minutes, and then running out with my RC gear to grab a skyfull in the single half hour in which rain had ceased. Eye on the sky… I can fly in rain, but choose not to on the whole, as it’s not much fun flying in the wet, and it also makes battery pack connections more sparky and unpredictable. But dry sky was mine for the whole session, despite rather impending clouds, and I had 3 pretty much perfect flights, of around 9-10 mins each on my Turnigy 5 amp power packs. Kept the...

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Posted by on May 21, 2015

Golden Heights

Golden Heights

Drive-by-flyings Today I was out looking for the few rapeseed fields that haven’t yet been harvested, and I must have driven for a good 40 minutes without finding a single suitable one, but as I turned back on to the A3, I wondered if there were any on the way up towards Butser Hill, which I would shortly be passing. A worthwhile digression as it turns out, because there’s at least 3 of them nearly at the crest of the hill, and one of the fields had helpful unrestricted access (yep, I could get through that gap). As it was the middle of a working day, there was almost nobody about, but I was resolved to be especially vigilant about other things in the sky (although I didn’t see a single flying thing other than the one I put there in the entire session) and having a clear view in all directions from my launch site, I felt confident to gain a bit of height, and have a pan round the...

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Posted by on May 11, 2015

2015 Test Flights 2 and 3

2015 Test Flights 2 and 3

Higher, Faster, Longer Yep, it’s a double entry for test flights 2 and 3, which went on last week in the gaps between all that mental wind. The Naza-M V1 (v2.12 software) continues to fly perfectly, and film beautifully, and my ongoing battery tests are re-familiarising me with what keeps me in the air and for how long, so I am gaining confidence that I still have a pretty much perfectly optimized aerial rig I can start to set on some decent photo missions without worry. The GoPro4 Black Edition does OK, but if I’m honest, not as well in some respects as its predecessor the 3+ which seems to give a better average light setting, and records arguably higher quality footage than the 4 does at high frame rates. It’s battery also does better, although with only 4 power packs, giving around 25 mins of flight, camera power isn’t a problem. We do have a cable that’s gone intermittent – the flyout cable that connects to the GoPro from...

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Posted by on Apr 24, 2015

Spring Rise

Spring Rise

Long Time, no Fly… It has been a fair few months since my Airwheel arrived and almost completely subsumed my aerial photography / flying adventures, but now Spring has sprung it would be most remiss not to wind up the flying gear, and head out into all this beautiful evening sunshine. I’ve renewed my BMFA membership, completed the various tests and tightenings to make sure I still have a viable flying machine, and today is the first of 2015 that I’ve been able to head out and start the seasons outdoor test flights, before attempting more cinematic missions. Safety First And so to the local cricket ground, where I have permission to fly, and can safely complete my low level flight tests and ascertain which of my battery packs have survived the year. The good news was that 3 out of the 4 I tried still gave me a good 7-9 mins of flight time, but I had to bin one which had a dodgy cell that alarmed pretty much from...

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Posted by on Apr 30, 2014

Spring Heath

Spring Heath

After the rain… There has been a lot of rain recently, and this has very much disrupted the flyings, but today it stopped for the early evening, so pre-loaded up and ready to take advantage of any such break in the cloud, I drove down to the local heath to have a quick few flights as the sun went down. Still on the rubber isolation mounts, but taking the time to carefully balance the craft every time a new battery pack went on, I was pretty pleased with the footage I got, which was mainly free of annoying vibrations you can get with an unbalanced craft, GPS mode, and any amount of wind. Frustratingly, I packed up after flight 4, just before the ground mist really kicked in, but not to worry, I’ll be back here again before Spring is out, I’m sure; it’s one of the few places I’ve definitely got permission to fly ! In the meantime, we’ve got some nice relaxing sail-planing around the common, and...

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Posted by on Apr 5, 2014

Drive-By Flyings, Chalfont

Drive-By Flyings, Chalfont

  The Lure of Gold… There’s something really quite good about the particular flaxen yellows of a massive field of flowering rapeseed. And they’re not doing the flowering for very long, so as soon as I see one, I know it’s time to go drive-by flying, and see if I can find a field of it that has parking and isn’t locked. Today’s field was a chance find on the hill-top road out through Clanfield, then through to Chalton and beyond, nearly all the way down to Denmead. Having passed up about 30 alternative fields as having one thing or other wrong with them on the way here and the sun was not far off setting, I stopped here mainly because there was lots of parking space, it was adjacent to a public footpath, didn’t have a 300 ft electricity pylon in it, and because I didn’t think I’d find a better one before the sun disappeared. Swings and Roundabouts Once in the air, it transpired that I’d picked...

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Posted by on Apr 2, 2014

Heath Greens

Heath Greens

Test Day 2 – Petersfield Cricket Ground …Everything was better in today’s tests – by adjusting some bolts on the isolation mount, and making sure each flight was properly balanced, I was able to mostly get rid of the shakes that were plaguing me yesterday, but for some reason chose to video at 30 FPS, so my turns didn’t come out as smooth as they were. Balancing the craft appears to make all the difference. Had I filmed at 60 FPS I would have produced some really solid footage. Power Lines Took 4 batteries, but discovered a fault with the power connection on one Zippy 5800, so retired that before take-off. Gains are now on Aux 5 rotary, and this was useful in that I was able to turn them down when my newly raised settings (P/R/A centered round 150) proved a little twitchy. GPS lock was flawless except once when it drifted a good 5 m before sorting itself out. There did seem to be a list to...

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Posted by on Apr 2, 2014

Silence Breaks

Silence Breaks

Quiet Skies Ok, well that’s more about the headline – the skies round here are never quiet – there’s usually 1 or more Police helicopters, private planes or Chinooks at 2000 ft, so they’re rarely quiet. But today, it was a little bit noisier because me and Aerocam were back in it after really quite a long time away. So that was nice. Or was it ? Testing ++ Having been sitting in my workshop for nearly a year, there is lots of testing to be done on the AC5 Hexacopter, cleaning up, and making sure every component still works. A lot of that was done indoors, just checking wiring and power, and how my variously storaged (or not) LiPos would do on flight time after so long without any activity. I estimate I’ve lost about 10%, or 30 secs of flight time per battery, so not too bad. I’ve got some new 8000’s I’ll wire up if flyings go well. I needed to get a new FPV-cam, and new...

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Posted by on Jul 20, 2013

The Morning After…

The Morning After…

…that horrible crash, all night re-builds have been done, a day of testing has already taken place, and AC1 is back in the air, now at version 5.3… So it’s not the morning, nor is it the day after. It’s sunset, and 2 days later, but that’s not a phrase is it ? Round 2 – Open Field Today’s open field should have excellent GPS reception, has only 1 big important building I’m 99% certain I can stay away from, even if my craft goes batshit on me, and for that reason, I am launching far far away from it nearer the other end of the field. Not too close though. There are cows in the field beyond, though I know from experience they really couldn’t care less about the presence of my multirotor. They can barely be bothered to even look up, though of course this is probably partly because I was always at reasonable height when directionally near them… So – 3 flights, and 1 of them...

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Posted by on Jul 16, 2013

Chalk Pit Wind Chasing

Chalk Pit Wind Chasing

A Whiter shade of shale… Sorry about that. But what I lack in punning excellence I hopefully make up for in brave(ish) piloting, and today I am being tested to the max by everything nature and engineering have to throw at me, as I manfully take to the skies over Portsdown Chalk Pits, just over a bit from Portsmouth. I’ve got my friend Tudor with me, who is both spotting (and heroically keeping the dogs away) and floating about on the ground with my GoPro 2 and his own muchly superior Nex 5, the footage from which hasn’t quite made it over to me in time for this video, but will be very interesting to see as I’m planning to mount one of those on my flyer at some point, and it’ll be nice to see the quality first-hand before I do. Location, Location Ray, the plane guy I met up at Butser last week had kindly sent me the link to this place, and cliffs, and chalk quarries...

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Posted by on Jul 13, 2013

Tower View – Mini Scout Flight

Tower View – Mini Scout Flight

Into the Blue, briefly. It was lovely sunny afternoon, and I was down the South Coast with a flyer in the boot, Special Assistant M in the passenger seat, and not much wind on the anemometer. Right, I thought, let’s do an experimental fly of the very Southern-most bit of land I can reasonably get to. And that turns out to be the official end of the A3, where we have a large circular stone seating area in front of one of those Ye Olde Sailors-style pubs. To the South, away from that my launch area, is the sea, where I will spend most of this flight out of all harms way (except to my craft, should it all go horribly wrong). Sky Towers And in the distance, though closer than I have ever flown to it, is my old adversary the Spinnaker Tower, whose looks and height virtually demand that I try and film it from as close as possible whilst making the minimum amount of people cross...

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Posted by on Jul 12, 2013

King of the Hills XL

King of the Hills XL

At last, we meet again… That’s right folks – I’m up as high as I can reasonably go, at the grand daddy of local viewpoints, Butser, off the A3 in Hampshire (UK). That’s why there’s 3 videos. There might be less than that when you see this, but the others will be coming soon. I’m slightly to the west side of the main run up to the mast, and I’m focusing my aerial efforts into getting the awesome array of valleys to the South and West. The mast deserves a separate flight session all to itself, and this isn’t it. That’s not far off. But you won’t be disappointed in today’s efforts. It’s all pretty epic up the top of the highest hill in Hampshire. Weather Report It had been quite windy earlier, but as the afternoon set in, it died right off, and as soon as that happens I immediately think of places to go on calm days that might not work so well on more windy ones…...

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Posted by on Jul 8, 2013

Field Lines & Forest Hills

Field Lines & Forest Hills

Starting out low Remember my last visit to Stoner Hill, in Froxfield, particularly the part 1 video, which mainly focused on the North Face ? It’s a very difficult fly from the top, but the view is so epic I am duty bound to try and find other ways to commit it to film. And today, mainly by chance, I found one – fly from the bottom of the hangars instead ! Yes, I get the same scenery, but from another angle, and flying from here I replace the difficult, restricted-viewing-window, woodland-based launches of previously with nice, easy, big, wide-open, spacious ones here. Launch Control But still, it took quite a bit of driving to locate a suitable take-off site on the lower edge of Stoner Hill. In the end, I found 2 fields separated by a helpful public footpath, and so was able to launch from that. In the danger department, we’re not up for much fun if we go down in the trees, but if anything goes...

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Posted by on Jul 6, 2013

Town Rise – Petersfield

Town Rise – Petersfield

To a small field in the middle… …of Petersfield, the home town of me, and a fair few of you reading this, I’d bet. I don’t often venture right into the center of town, but this is the closest I’m safely going to get, and it’s an almost windless night, so let’s get in the air and see what’s what. All About the Sky. And the Ground. And the Lake. The sky is very much what’s what. I arrived with my good friend Rich just as golden hour kicked in, and wasted no time in strapping on an 8000 pack, and pushing some sky past that lens. The sky was ablaze with high cirrus and various other noctilucent cloudforms, which only got better as the sun went down, until it was finally just a blazing orangey red on the horizon. Beautiful. Rich and I sat entranced. Rich more than me – I was trying to make sure the gimbal was aimed mostly at the right thing at the right...

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