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Lessons from Waterfall Flying
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5085 70 2018-5-24
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Loki's Eyes
First Officer
United States
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Howdy Y'all,

My first drone movie here and admittedly I'm a novice pilot.  I hope the footage keeps you watching through the end- there is an outtake included after the credits that shows a near miss.  You veteran pilots out there - I'd love to hear your perspective on what led to my almost fatal accident and help me harvest the lessons learned.

Here's how it (almost) went down:

Launching the drone (Mavic Air) at the base of waterfalls meant there was a dense canopy that blocked most gps signal.  I launched with 4 satellites, which I know isn't really adequate.  The drone didn't hover precisely, but was pretty stable and I felt in control with the sticks so I proceeded to fly cautiously.  Although APS was off, obstacle detection/avoidance was on, and I think this is what nearly caused my crash.  Once the drone was close to the waterfall, it seemed to back away of its own accord into the canopy of a tree.  Though I do occasionally make errors with the sticks, I am pretty sure it did this without my input - probably "avoiding" the waterfall.  Once in the canopy, it was resistant to my corrective measures at first.  After what seemed like a short lifetime where I was sure the drone was going to catch a prop on a stick and come crashing down into the creek, it finally accepted my left stick input (after not reacting to this input for a short time) and escaped the branches with only chopping a few leaves.  Drone saved, heartbeat racing.

Questions for discussion:  

- Was this all caused by my bad decision to fly with poor satellite reception?  Could the poor gps signal have led to the sort of erratic flying I described?
- Did obstacle avoidance work against me here, backing me into the falls and then keeping me in the canopy, and should I actually turn this feature OFF when flying in close quarters, and trust myself and my line of sight more than the drone's sensors?
- Is the beautiful waterfall footage risking an 800 dollar drone?

I love flying this thing and the images I'm able to get.  Thanks for your advice and perspectives!

2018-5-24
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Mountain Mike
lvl.1
Flight distance : 14754 ft
United States
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Wonderful footage. I live in Asheville and have been to all of those waterfalls. I love how you shot the falls and would love some advise.
2018-5-24
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Mountain Mike
lvl.1
Flight distance : 14754 ft
United States
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Was also wondering what your video settings are? Thanks, Mike
2018-5-24
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MaineMavick
Second Officer
Flight distance : 169524 ft
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Beautiful footage!
2018-5-24
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GDL
First Officer
Flight distance : 1498789 ft
United States
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The water vapour from the waterfall may affect the sensor. Looks like you already got some water drops on the camera. The moving water also may confuse the sensor. The moving water also bring the air down with it means causing wind on there. Get too close to the waterfall is dangerous.
2018-5-24
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Hurley1718
Captain
Flight distance : 549295 ft
United States
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Great footage for just beginning. Nice work.

Your Yikes moment at the end could have been from the lack of satellites. Did you get a Weak signal alert when it happened? As far as the obstacle avoidance feature this is a very hit and miss function around thin branches and leaves. If it sensed the rock face it would come to a stop and not backup. It almost looked like you were flying backwards and the leaves showed up all of a sudden. Turning it off is a tricky thing and I would wait till you get really good before doing that. Plus you might want to practice about 8ft off the ground over grass and not water.

Otherwise great job and keep flying.
2018-5-24
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davidmartingraf
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That is a good demonstration and excellent video.
2018-5-24
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Woe
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Nicely done.
2018-5-24
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Montfrooij
Captain
Flight distance : 1915335 ft
Netherlands
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Superb footage.
Indeed the sensors will have a hard time here.
Maybe try and turn them off. (Not sure if that is possible with the Air btw)
2018-5-24
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A CW
Captain
Flight distance : 13660256 ft
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United Kingdom
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Stunning work!     
2018-5-25
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sky6105
First Officer
Flight distance : 345653 ft
United States
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Awesome footage the music and the video keep me wanting more. I stayed to the end great job.
2018-5-25
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mickongen
Captain
Flight distance : 1349816 ft
Denmark
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Nice movie..
2018-5-25
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Gregbella
Captain
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Beautiful video great place for flying
2018-5-25
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dj_dread
Captain
Flight distance : 648389 ft
Romania
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excellent video!
2018-5-25
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paulbeumer
First Officer
Flight distance : 383481 ft
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nice images, great footage.... yes i think these images are worth the risk...
in my opinion movement isn't always necessary when filming... didi you ever tried to keep oneshoot for a longer period of time... or a slow very subtle shift ...

btw i do recognise the yikes moment.. been in such a situation a several times... flying in small spaces, no gps, uncontrollable wind circulation, tree canopees....it chalanges your flight skills..
I fly backward quit a lot when filming alpine rivers and yes i do mis some proximity sensors in the back that keep my out of troublesome trees hanging over the water...
Reversing the pootage isn´t  an option when filming water :-)

looking forward to see more :-)
2018-5-25
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Mountaindrone
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nice movie !
2018-5-25
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Blériot53
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A nice job and some tricky flying. Thanks for the share.
2018-5-25
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Neliusspies
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Nauru
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Great compilation there mate well done
2018-5-25
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Loki's Eyes
First Officer
United States
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paulbeumer Posted at 2018-5-25 02:47
nice images, great footage.... yes i think these images are worth the risk...
in my opinion movement isn't always necessary when filming... didi you ever tried to keep oneshoot for a longer period of time... or a slow very subtle shift ...

Thanks Paul,
I agree - in my perspective, the drone is only worth the money I paid when I'm using it for its purpose, flying, and not worth a nickel sitting in the house.  
I also like the thought of not always flying the drone for movement shots, especially when there is plenty of movement in the frame already, like moving water.  Sometimes the viewer may want to just be still and appreciate the scene.
While I like what it looks like to reverse footage with flowing water, it certainly has to be done "for effect."  What I find really unappealing is speeding up footage with moving water- very distracting.
The more I think about my close call, the more I think it was probably a slight combination of gps instability and my own controller error.  You are right, the obstacle avoidance would only stop the drone, not reverse it.  It's possible I gave a back stick movement when I needed a left movement.  More practice in safe spaces is what I need.
Thanks for the feedback!  Good to hear from more pilots.
2018-5-25
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BHProductions
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United States
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Nice video of the falls! Maybe the branches were not large enough to be picked up by the sensors. I've done something similar and I backed into and trimmed some pine needles, but it left my drone smelling pinesol fresh.
2018-5-25
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Loki's Eyes
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Hurley1718 Posted at 2018-5-24 19:47
Great footage for just beginning. Nice work.

Your Yikes moment at the end could have been from the lack of satellites. Did you get a Weak signal alert when it happened? As far as the obstacle avoidance feature this is a very hit and miss function around thin branches and leaves. If it sensed the rock face it would come to a stop and not backup. It almost looked like you were flying backwards and the leaves showed up all of a sudden. Turning it off is a tricky thing and I would wait till you get really good before doing that. Plus you might want to practice about 8ft off the ground over grass and not water.

Are you sure obstacle avoidance won't back the drone up?  I have sometimes found that when I step in front of the drone while hovering, it backs up on its own.  This is why my suspicion is that it was "avoiding" the obstacle in front of it when it backed into the obstacle behind it.
Totally agree that I need more (safe) practice flying the drone.  I am thinking about setting up an obstacle course somewhere soft and grassy and flying with the propguards on to dial in my movements.  Due to my inexperience, I know it's very possible this near miss was simple pilot error and a bad stick movement on my part.  Thanks for the feedback!
2018-5-25
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BKahuna
Second Officer
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United States
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Beautiful footage.  I'm a fairly new pilot myself (about 12 hours flight time with MA).  I experienced a somewhat similar problem where I ended up in a tree but still aloft.  I kind of panicked and began trying to wiggle my way out.  I could not see my drone so all I had was the FPV on my cell phone.  I got out of the tree but did a full post-mortem afterward and decided I got really lucky and did almost everything wrong.  I'll post my experience as a separate thread here in a minute.
2018-5-25
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chiplifter
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Netherlands
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Very nice footage, well shot. I guess the yikes-moment was nerve wrecking. Luckily your drone survived. Probably lack of satellites caused the drift.
2018-5-25
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Hurley1718
Captain
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Loki's Eyes Posted at 2018-5-25 06:18
Are you sure obstacle avoidance won't back the drone up?  I have sometimes found that when I step in front of the drone while hovering, it backs up on its own.  This is why my suspicion is that it was "avoiding" the obstacle in front of it when it backed into the obstacle behind it.
Totally agree that I need more (safe) practice flying the drone.  I am thinking about setting up an obstacle course somewhere soft and grassy and flying with the propguards on to dial in my movements.  Due to my inexperience, I know it's very possible this near miss was simple pilot error and a bad stick movement on my part.  Thanks for the feedback!

I did some early tests with my drone when I first got it where I would fly it toward my house to see when it would stop and what it would do and it would never back up just come to a stop but maybe back up slightly. Maybe being around all those objects (rocks and trees) it kept moving around because all the sensors were going off and it was truing to figure out what to do.

As far as a flying course I go to a park that has some trees spread out enough to practice going around the trunks and flying by the branches just to get a good feel about distance around objects.
2018-5-25
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HedgeTrimmer
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I launched with 4 satellites, which I know isn't really adequate.

Did you ever get more than 4-sats during flight?

Not most open area, but still open enough I would expect double that number of Satellites.

2018-5-25
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Loki's Eyes
First Officer
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HedgeTrimmer Posted at 2018-5-25 08:48
I launched with 4 satellites, which I know isn't really adequate.

Did you ever get more than 4-sats during flight?

The canopy is pretty thick, and I would only get more satellites (8+) if I flew it higher, out of the canopy, which wasn't an option at a some of these locations.  Once descending back below the canopy, it would lose the satellites again.  
To others: yes, it gives a warning when launching with only 4 satellites, something to the effect of "flight stability may be comprised, fly with caution" - which is accurate and true!
2018-5-25
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mixchief
First Officer
Flight distance : 160646 ft
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YIKES INDEED !!! LOL great job dude! Were you using prop guards? I think in that enviroment they are indispensible.
2018-5-25
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djiuser_C7a4RvzfHhpt
lvl.1

India
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Great place to visit and waterfall is amazing. apart of this if you need any help for office 365 just contact Microsoft 365 support team.
2018-5-25
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HedgeTrimmer
Captain
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Loki's Eyes Posted at 2018-5-25 09:17
The canopy is pretty thick, and I would only get more satellites (8+) if I flew it higher, out of the canopy, which wasn't an option at a some of these locations.  Once descending back below the canopy, it would lose the satellites again.  
To others: yes, it gives a warning when launching with only 4 satellites, something to the effect of "flight stability may be comprised, fly with caution" - which is accurate and true!

Idea for future drones and DJI to sell as accessories.

DJI could add capability on future drones to use positional augmentation transmitters.

As accessory, a set of transmitters that can be placed at different locations and heights and used by an equipped drone to determine it's position and change in position.  Would allow precision flying when there were insufficient Sats or no Sats (as inside building).  Transmitters would likley need to communicate between themselves to establish distances between each other and setup a sync time for transmitting their signals for drone to receive.
2018-5-25
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Picanoc Jack
Captain
Flight distance : 6211614 ft
Canada
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very nice video, and yes yikes for sure.
2018-5-25
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Loki's Eyes
First Officer
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mixchief Posted at 2018-5-25 11:08
YIKES INDEED !!! LOL great job dude! Were you using prop guards? I think in that enviroment they are indispensible.

No prop guards, but I think you're right- they would have been helpful here.
2018-5-25
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Pr1sh
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damn what a view man! That first scene though!
2018-5-25
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BagoDJIoperator84
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South Korea
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Just beautiful
2018-5-25
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Mountain Mike
lvl.1
Flight distance : 14754 ft
United States
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If you live near Asheville would you mind responding and letting me know. I'd love to fly with you and learn. Mike
2018-5-25
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Rodger8
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Great video of a very interesting subject.
2018-5-26
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AlexVideoShark 5
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Italy
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really beautiful video, great work Thank you for sharing your so interesting and particular experience
2018-5-26
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fans1eb3413f
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2018-5-26
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fans1eb3413f
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fans1eb3413f Posted at 2018-5-26 07:05
https://youtu.be/CShntZtIz1Q

we have all done this. you just have to be safe and konw your surroundings in the air. when i flew here, my drone kept getting wet from the waterfall mist and it was kinda scaring me because i did nit want to loose my drone.
2018-5-26
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John Mclaughlin 7
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Flight distance : 489446 ft
United States
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good stuff, I know exactly what you're talking about, just finished some shooting in Oregon and had similar issues luckily without disaster. I think you need nerves of steel flying in bowls surrounded by trees and rock, not to mention the waterfall as well.
2018-5-26
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RGMGFitness
Captain
Flight distance : 233757 ft
United States
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Realy enjoyed the video.  You got some great shots in there!  I personally enjoy that type of footage.  I was just out shooting some water falls out in Oregon about a month ago.  It can be  a little tricky but tons of fun to shoot.  As far as answering your questions.

You had asked:
YOUR QUESTION:

Was this all caused by my bad decision to fly with poor satellite reception?  Could the poor gps signal have led to the sort of erratic flying I described?

ANSWER: In short, 'yes' if you had poor satellite signaling this could certainly have been part of the issue.  That being said, I've done the same thing where I had traveled across the country to shoot some footage and when I finally got to the destination a little poor satellite coverage wasn't going to stop my from shooting.  I had 'okay' coverage but it wasn't an ideal setting.  So, it comes down to a choice to take the risk or not.  I would have done the same thing.  But again, it's a personal choice and up to each individual to make that call.  Your the boss of your shoot.

YOUR QUESTION:
Did obstacle avoidance work against me here, backing me into the falls and then keeping me in the canopy, and should I actually turn this feature OFF when flying in close quarters, and trust myself and my line of sight more than the drone's sensors?

ANSWER:  

YES, in this case I think the obstacle avoidance did work against you.  Again, case-by-case situation and I think turning OFF the object avoidance when in close quarters can assist.  The trick here is really having a 'REALLY GOOD' line of site on your subject matter.  If you can't see EXACTLY where your flying obviously there is risk there.   Let me give you an example.  I was shooting on the 24th floor of a building with a balcony and the launch  was perfect (hand launch with  no issue).  I made the shots I wanted and was trying to bring in my Mavic Air (again, I'm on the balcony of a high-rise).  When I tried to bring the drone in close to catch it, we'll..it kept backing away from the building.  Just an example.


Your Question:

Is the beautiful waterfall footage risking an 800 dollar drone?

ANSWER:  

100% YES!   (for me) - Can't say that's true for others   
2018-5-26
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