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Posted by on Mar 4, 2013 in Blog, Video

The Two Towers

Surfing the Trundle…

Well, the last time I tried filming here, nothing went well, and I was forced to pack up and go home within about 20 mins of arriving. That was a fairly horrible day, I remember.

But it was enough to scout the area, and plan a return trip, so this time I’m back, with an enhanced flight crew, an amazing skyscape, and surprise surprise, a hell of a lot of wind. Well – if you will keep going to the top of hills…

No races at Goodwood today...

No races at Goodwood today…

Danger ! Danger !

This would be merely a level 2 fly site if it was just the ground I was taking into consideration – apart from the two rather inferior aerial mast stations on the top of the hill, there is nothing to hit and almost no obstacles for hundreds of meters in any direction. In the unlikely event of a crash, chances of recovery are very high unless it goes down in the tree bank off the South face.

However,we are right next to Goodwood Race Track, so we don’t want to over-fly that, and of course 2.1 miles to the South is Chichester Airport. That alone makes this a Level 4 fly-site, as being a Saturday, there are aircraft taking off and landing almost constantly, and some of them are passing overhead really very low indeed. Possibly illegally low in some cases. Not only that, but our old friend the wind is ever-present, and in her most devious form – only 15 mph in sheltered areas, but then sudden fierce gusts of 50 mph + when you get out over the South side or go higher than 100 ft.

I am not allowed to fly within 1.5 miles of an airfield, so being at least 2 miles away, I am comfortably within the law myself flying from the top of the hill, where I have excellent all-round visibility, and I had Special Assistant M on dedicated spotting duties throughout, even though I didn’t do any FPV flying on this occasion. No, I wanted line-of-sight contact with my flyer from the second it took off to the moment it landed safely again.

Also to contend with were a reasonably constant trickle of hill-walkers, most of them with their dogs, and a few families out enjoying the epic views from the South Downs. I made sure my crew were ready to deal with them all.

God-rays ? Figuratively speaking, very much so...

God-rays ? Figuratively speaking, very much so…

Spotting, in practice…

I was very glad to have my flight crew with me – Capt McT was dealing with ground-cameras, SA-M was doing spotting, leaving me free to concentrate on flying. Not filming, note; just flying safely and getting back in one piece without getting in anybody’s way. We spent some time before the flights watching the flight-paths of the full-size aircraft as they departed from and arrived at Chichester’s runway. It was helpful that visibility was good enough that we could actually see the runway, so could be aware of what was about to take-off.

My own flights were planned to avoid these flightpaths, and I only did one high-ish flight (384 ft), when we encountered a gap with nothing landing or taking off from the airport. For the rest of the time I was mainly under 200 ft.

Many times my crew alerted me to the presence of planes, helicopters, air balloons, all in good time, and I enjoyed practising my escape strategies when these situations arose, which mainly involve dropping hard, and going full tilt at 90 degrees away from the incoming object’s flight trajectory. I am pleased to report that because of this, there wasn’t even a close call.

There was, however, one small-ish private plane that passed less than 250ft (in my estimation) directly over the pinnacle of the hill, but I wasn’t in the air at the time. Every other plane went around the masts, and much higher – only he directly over-flew them and was a lot lower than he should have been.

Although of course I can’t be sure, a helicopter was dispatched from the airport that appeared to hover around a lot, possibly checking out what we were doing. I didn’t have access to a scanner, which would have allowed me to monitor their communications. I may well get one of those, as it could be useful in future flights near (but not in) controlled airspace. The police didn’t arrive, so I’ll assume we were not considered a problem.

GoPro3 doing a stunning job in its ideal conditions - lots of sun !

GoPro3 doing a stunning job in its ideal conditions – lots of sun !

Field Photography

There might be lots of lovely sun, and I’m flying with my new GoPro 3 Black Edition on-board, but there the ideal filming conditions end.

The bloody wind, as usual, plays merry hell with my ability to get smooth video (despite the heroic efforts of my XAircraft gimbal), so we might find I end up giving Google de-shake a go on this footage to see if we can smooth out the bumpy ride. My friend Gamendings on Youtube doesn’t like de-shake, and I know what she means – we all know how it ruins the low and ground shots and reduces the overall quality of everything, but I really like what it does with high passes and panoramas, so it’s in this time, unless it completely ruins everything :)

Update: Google de-shake did ruin everything, so it’s gone again…leaving us with the original shaky video. Not happy with that – gotta find a way to make my craft behave more smoothly in epic wind, otherwise I’d only produce 2 videos a year on the days where the wind is under 3 mph. I suspect my dodgy CoG isn’t helping, and I remained in GPS mode all the way through (safety over film considerations), so perhaps I should expect these sorts of problems. I have a solution on the way…

On the ground, Capt. McT is wearing my GoPro2 on a head-mount, and is valiantly tracking the hex as it moves through the sky. At last – ground footage in 1080 HD ! Shame I couldn’t get more of that into this video.

No, overall I ended up with over 2 hours of footage, about 32 minutes of which I considered ‘usable’, and it was a real challenge to choose which shots made it into the final edit. It took 7 hours just to go through it all !

But I got there in the end, and now we have a record that flight, and the beautiful landscape, preserved for posterity, so that’s all good. I may have called this one ‘The Two Towers’, but really the towers are not the focus of my filmings – they’re just not good enough or tall enough – certainly no competition for the uber-mast at Butser ! nope – I’m in it for all that amazing greenery and rolling hills stretching for miles…

Here is my first ever still pic taken on the GoPro 3, and reduced from 4000 x 3000 to normal HD size. Very pleased with the lens on that bit of kit.

An epic sky on a Saturday afternoon. Click for embiggening...

An epic sky on a Saturday afternoon. Click for embiggening…


Music by me today, so no tedious and unnecessary copyright problems, and this one will be viewable in Germany for a change. Genießen Sie diese, meine Deutschen Freunde !