At my request, my brother brought over his newest toy to take aerial photos of our property. Commonly called a drone, this amazing little device is actually a diminutive quadcopter outfitted with a swiveling HD camera. The drone arrived early on a Sunday morning. It came on its own motorcycle. Actually, it came in a large black case strapped to the back of my brother’s BMW cycle, but I’m sure it’s just a few techie turns away until that’s a reality.
We immediately faced challenges with wind since we live on one of the highest ridges in Litchfield and there are always two kinds of air movement: wind and terrible wind. Also, it turns out that a drone needs to lock onto a satellite to perform while hovering in place without control input, and satellite access here is sketchy. My brother uncased the equipment and set the drone down. Successful operational sequence is indicated by four continuously blinking green lights. We got intermittent green and red, half and half per helicopter blade, resembling a drunken Christmas tree decoration.
My brother shared a story about an early flight-gone-wrong where he grabbed the inflight drone and immediately realized — bad idea. No stitches were required, but there was a lot of bleeding on his deck. As he lightheartedly described that, the drone, sitting on my driveway, sprang to life. And I sprang into action, ducking behind the nearest tree.
Evidently 2,300 feet is the claimed distance for the Wi-Fi signal in all directions, but the FAA recommends keeping an altitude below 400 feet for safety’s sake and to maintain a visual. The drone also has a “Going Home” feature that is automatically engaged when the battery is low or the control signal is lost. The quadcopter will try to get back to where the first satellite lock was established. At the present moment, that would have been an indeterminate coordinate since it could mean literally, back to its home base — my brother’s house — or the last site it was sitting while activated — my driveway. I briefly shuddered, imagining looking out my kitchen window at breakfast and seeing a tiny lurking dervish on the asphalt.
My brother demonstrated how a controller is used by the pilot to fly and control the drone. This instrument uses radio signals to communicate with the drone and has four channels for directional control — yaw, pitch, roll and throttle — similar to the old hobby favorite of radio controlled airplanes. I was thinking, it’s all fun and games until that thing crashes into my picture window. I laughed that off. Then my brother said, “I’ve lost control of it. There’s no signal.” Thankfully, that was a brief wind-related lapse, and orderly flight was swiftly restored.
We avoided the front of the house, which presented a Bermuda Triangle of overhead wires, but ended up with several good quality photos of the house and backyard. I really didn’t appreciate that it took an unflattering picture of me when its mission was to photograph the property, though. Cheeky quadcopter!
The photos are saved on a tiny memory card, which is inserted into a larger memory card and easily saved on the computer as still photos or video. Since the house wasn’t going to be moving, it made sense to focus on still photos but I’m already envisioning a midair panorama of my beautiful stone church. Cue “Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor” and we’ve got a YouTube video!