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How to fly a drone over a volcano - My Phantom 3 Pro over Vanuatu
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8992 47 2016-1-31
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groovy100
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I just got back from a holiday around Vanuatu and thought I'd share some info about flying the Phantom 3 Pro over volcanic craters.

This isn't something most people are likely to have to do but since I couldn't find any relevant information on the internet before I set off for the trip, I thought I'd share my own experience in case anyone else finds it useful.

Here are my top 10 tips on flying a drone over active volcanic craters and lava lakes:

1) Getting the drone there
You will usually have to hike a considerable distance to get to an active volcanic crater and almost certainly uphill. Aim for the lightest backpack and ensure it's got a hard shell to protect the drone from drops. Make sure you buy a rain cover for it. Even if it doesn't rain, it will make it harder for volcanic ash and sulphuric acid gases to enter the case.

2) Batteries
Get as many as you can, a minimum of three (third-time-lucky rule applies when shooting volcanoes). Conditions vary constantly and in most cases, the drone will be fighting thermals and gusts so your battery will go fast.

3) Battery alarm
Set your battery voltage alarm to 30% and start landing the moment you hear it. Regardless of whether you're close to the crater or at a safe distance from it, this is one place where searching for an auto-landed drone is not advised and can be catastrophic for the drone as well as for yourself. Do not risk it by trying to land at single-digit battery percentages.

4) Hand-launch and land
The ground around you will most likely be a combination of volcanic ash, glass particles and grit. Exactly the sorts of things you don't want to kick up a dust cloud from!
Also, due to ever-changing wind conditions, landing on target takes several attempts and most ground around you will be very inclined and uneven.

5) Mind the wind
Observe surrounding conditions especially above the crater's rim. Some volcanic craters are accessible from the inside which provides shelter for strong winds coming from the outside of the rim but once your drone exceeds the rim's elevation, it will be exposed to them.
When flying near or above an active crater, the drone will usually drift considerably due to ever changing wind conditions, strong gusts produced by hot and cold winds mixing and sudden excessive thermals coming out of the vents. Maintain visual contact with the drone at all times and avoid flying near rim edges or too close to other objects as any considerable drift could cause a crash.

6) Avoid flying into gas clouds
They don't just contain hot steam which on its own is not a drone's friend, they carry ash and glass particles as well as acid which will start corroding anything metallic immediately. Observe the wind direction and plan your flight accordingly

7) Remember Icarus
Get too close and your drone is toast. The temperatures over active volcanic craters even at a height of 100 meters can reach well over 400 degrees Celsius.
If your drone can shoot 2K or 4K, simply zoom the video itself afterwards in post-production instead of trying to get too close to the action.
If the crater is exploding you'll have to dodge fiery bits of lava, some of which are the size of small cars. Is it worth the risk of getting close? You decide.

8) Enable the video cache on your device or hook up an HDMI recorder to your controller (if possible)
Video cache is a standard feature on all DJI drones and HDMI recording is possible with an external recorder and a supported remote. Either of these methods will allow you to save a copy of whatever the drone is shooting in real time on your phone or tablet. That way if the drone does meet its untimely end, you will at least have a copy of its footage (albeit at 720p resolution in the case of the video cache)

9) Use a UV lens filter
This will have no effect on your image quality and it will protect the lens from any acid rain staining. You can throw it away if it gets damaged. DJI sell their own but they are a hassle to screw on and remove so something easier that you can take on and off on location like the Snake River Prototyping filters would be preferable.

10) Carry a can of compressed air
Regardless of how careful you were with taking off, landing and avoiding gas clouds, volcanic ash is everywhere and it's nasty. It contains glass, grit and all sorts of nasties that will gradually destroy any moving parts such as the prop motors or the gimbal.
As soon as you get back and between flights, hand-rotate all props and try to hear noises that would suggest dirt rubbing up against the moving parts. Blast everything with the strongest compressed-air can and when you get back home, go to a gas station and use a compressed-air pump to fully blast any remaining particles out of the way. Bear in mind that these pumps can be extremely powerful and could rip small cables out of their circuits or spurt oil along with air. Try to contain any unwanted substances and limit the air pressure where necessary by putting a soft cloth over the nozzle.

As an aside, it goes without saying that if you can get your drone insured for any reasonable cost, make sure you do that. Read the fine print to make sure you are covered in case of such losses (if you are covered from loss in water, then I guess a volcano mishap should be covered too).

For any questions, just ask and enjoy my video :-)



or this Vimeo link if YouTube blocks this video in your country because of the background music








2016-1-31
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gil
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DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!  DANGER!

Wow, that is some crazy cool video.  Nice editing and choice of music.  Really like the way you included the explosion audio.

Heck, the only thing missing was a virgin sacrifice at the end (but yeah, I'd pee in the volcano too)
2016-1-31
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retired dog
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Truly Awesome, well done.
2016-1-31
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aopisa
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How great. I want to go!
2016-1-31
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gherd
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That was amazing.  I love how you used footage from drones and other cameras.   How did you manage the underwater video with the drone?  J/K   
2016-1-31
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Northofthe49th
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Awesome does not describe that video and likely not your experience, i can only imagine...Unforgettable!
I had to forward this link to my daughter who is in her 3rd year of University and her focus of interest is Volcanology...!

Thanks for sharing....It was feakinominal!
2016-1-31
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NotARubicon
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DUDE!  I've done some life-risking adventurous stuff, but that..is...insane!!!  
Great video.
2016-1-31
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groovy100
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Thanks everyone!

Gherd, the underwater shots were filmed with a handheld Contour +2 GPS action camera in an underwater case.
Until they make a waterproof Phantom, this will have to do :-(
2016-1-31
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DJI-Tim
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Wow amazing video!  I recognize the music from GoPro 4 commercial...
2016-2-1
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-=RaM=-
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Truly amazing in every way
2016-2-1
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LordNeo
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I can't thank you enought for this tips.
I'm doing an ascension to a volcano in about a month and despite not being as active, I'm afraid of the winds up there. 2800mts change a little the wind conditions.
2016-2-1
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mcscott.formsto
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That was great!  We are going there in two years as part of the World Arc 2018 and are so excited.  We have the P3P and a P2V+ we plan to take ( though we may upgrade the P2V+) and your video just adds to our excitement.
2016-2-1
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rodger
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No thanks, I kinda like my Phantom and Inspire the way they are. I don't need a melt down.
2016-2-1
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groovy100
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LordNeo Posted at 2016-2-1 13:32
I can't thank you enought for this tips.
I'm doing an ascension to a volcano in about a month and de ...

LordNeo, yes, mountains have their own mind when it comes to climate conditions :-) If you are flying that high up and it gets cold, remember to keep your batteries warm or warm them up prior to flight using hand warmers or something similar (your own socks? :-) ).
2016-2-1
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LordNeo
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groovy100 Posted at 2016-2-1 13:41
LordNeo, yes, mountains have their own mind when it comes to climate conditions :-) If you are fly ...

I already had the warmers and the case in place but I'm more afraid of thermals and head wind.
2016-2-1
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groovy100
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It was pretty windy (around 7 m/s inside the cone) and the thermals weren't making it any easier but I never lost control of the drone or felt that it had difficulty moving in the direction I intended it to move towards. It's just that it had difficulty maintaining its position on hover (it drifted gently) and any movement in the direction of the wind was amplified by the push of the wind itself, so I had to be gentle with the sticks.
2016-2-1
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LordNeo
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7m/s is 25km/h, P3 can fly "up to 50km/h" in atti mode, but from the trekking guides i heard the winds can rush up to 80km/h. That's what i'm afraid of.
And despite of living like 5 minutes from the volcano, the climb up there isn't something you can do anyday without preparation (to get the feeling of the wind). Last time i went was about a year ago and i didn't even cared about the wind.
2016-2-1
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groovy100
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LordNeo Posted at 2016-2-2 00:17
7m/s is 25km/h, P3 can fly "up to 50km/h" in atti mode, but from the trekking guides i heard the win ...

I see what you mean. That is a tad windier than what I had to deal with.
That being said, winds outside the cone were well over 12 m/s. No idea if you can descend into the caldera itself in your case?

Out of curiosity, which volcano is it? I have been meaning to travel to Chile for a while now and the nature there looks stunning. Definitely a place to take a drone to :-)
2016-2-2
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LordNeo
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groovy100 Posted at 2016-2-2 06:46
I see what you mean. That is a tad windier than  what I had to deal with.
That being said, winds ou ...


I live in Pucon, so there is like 3 volcanos in a pretty close range. I'm trying to get into Villarrica Volcano because it has an active lava pool in the top, it's restricted access due to the latest eruption a year ago (and I got permissions so the footage will worth more) but if the wind conditions doesn't really fit i'll have to stick to Lonquimay or Llaima.
If you come we should def go drone on!
There is plenty to film, it's a tourism intensive area: Lake (water ski, sailing, standup paddle), Mountain (downhill-bikes, snowboard/ski), Rivers (Rafting, Kayak) and Forest (waterfalls, 2 national parks in a 20minutes from the city).

Villarrica Volcano:
https://www.google.cl/maps/place/Volc%C3%A1n+Villarrica,+Panguipulli,+Regi%C3%B3n+de+los+R%C3%ADos/@-39.4338332,-71.9462541,11z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x961389c7dc586fa3:0x37939735bfdb0d4b?hl=es-419
2016-2-2
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groovy100
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LordNeo Posted at 2016-2-2 13:18
I live in Pucon, so there is like 3 volcanos in a pretty close range. I'm trying to get into Vill ...

Other than the fact that you're living close to a ticking time bomb, you are one lucky guy.

I've done quite a bit of research into what's worth seeing in Chile and that entire area near you is one big mark on my map :-)

I'll be looking forward to your posts. If you have a YouTube channel, please post or PM me the URL and I'll keep up with your progress. I'll also be sure to get in touch as soon as I finally sort the trip out. 2 pairs of eyes make all the difference when flying in such conditions!
2016-2-2
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mana.ram.1974
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Holy Cow!!!!!
2016-2-2
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m.friedl
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Very cool Instruction Thread

Congratulation for this Video.
Only one more - use an OSMO when you walk

Mike
2016-2-3
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nigelbrinkmann
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Cool video, some hot rock flying around there, so any damage done to the drone?
2016-2-3
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Jorgehlopezc
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Amazing. But You really do not appreciate your lives
2016-2-3
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JimTheDJ65
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absolutely brilliant video... I can't wait to start my filming of the Philippines...
2016-2-3
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LordNeo
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groovy100 Posted at 2016-2-2 18:22
Other than the fact that you're living close to a ticking time bomb, you are one lucky guy.

I've  ...

I can't make to add you as friend, so just keep in touch.
BTW, I don't upload stuff to youtube regulary, just some pictures to facebook (Puconino) and keep a tons of footage to edit.
2016-2-3
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rivest266
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Remember, Eric Chang lost an Inspire 1 "in the name of science" at Iceland.
2016-2-3
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groovy100
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m.friedl@a1.net Posted at 2016-2-3 12:55
Very cool Instruction Thread

Congratulation for this Video.

Thanks Mike!

I thought of buying an Osmo but opted for the Beholder DS1 instead for a couple of reasons:
a) The Osmo needs an external mic for good audio capture. I have no idea why that is the case but if you do a search on YouTube for Osmo videos, you'll see (hear) what I mean.

b) I have a DSLR and a series of lenses I really love and of course, together they produce a far better video result than the Osmo ever will. So I was looking for something that would offer Osmo's image stabilising with big SLR setups. The Beholder DS1 was that kind of product although unfortunately it arrived after I left to go on that holiday :-)
2016-2-4
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wellsi
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Outstanding mix of drone, go-pro and dslr footage guys.... great choice of music too.  You should be getting sponsorship!  Sure DJI,  Red Bull and Go Pro would all be interested

The lava shots are really, really amazing; that is a truly unique result from using a drone.

Cheers
Ian
2016-2-4
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groovy100
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nigelbrinkmann Posted at 2016-2-3 13:13
Cool video, some hot rock flying around there, so any damage done to the drone?

Luckily, no damage done nigelbrinkmann, although I did have a couple of close calls when I attempted to fly right across the centre of the crater at what I thought was a "safe" height. Just as I was moving right over the lava vents, it decided to produce one of the loudest lava eruptions, sending debris 200m high.
From a distance it looked like the drone was at the edge of the line of fire but luckily it survived completely unscathed.
I've found videos on YouTube of other lunatics who fly directly into the erupting debris and somehow survive. All I can say is that these projectiles are fast, hot and heavy so if you are hit, you're going down :-)
A bit of a gruesome story... a woman and her guide got killed there a couple of years ago after getting hit by debris. She lost half her face and the guide got shot in the stomach. I won't go into details but it wasn't pretty.

The second near-miss was at Mount Benbow crater (where you can see the lava lake bubbling away). I was running low on battery and was trying to control the drone as it was auto-landing. A sudden gust sent it further away from its landing target, where the ground was at a steep angle. The drone tilted to the side as it touched the ground but luckily the prop-guards prevented any damage to the props and motors.

Either way, I had to blow compressed air to every moving part of the drone and gimbal afterwards as the presence of volcanic ash was audible. Now I know why airplanes aren't allowed to fly when volcanoes erupt. Volcanic ash is not the benign stuff we see in ashtrays and fireplaces :-)
2016-2-4
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groovy100
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JimTheDJ65 Posted at 2016-2-3 19:21
absolutely brilliant video... I can't wait to start my filming of the Philippines...

Jim, I was on Mount Bulusan in the Philippines in 2014. Absolutely amazing site and the crater is well worth filming. I didn't have a drone back then unfortunately. You live in an incredibly beautiful country!
2016-2-4
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groovy100
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LordNeo Posted at 2016-2-3 21:49
I can't make to add you as friend, so just keep in touch.
BTW, I don't upload stuff to youtube reg ...

Just managed to add you as a friend LordNeo, so all good :-)
2016-2-4
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artworksmetal
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Beautiful. Been to Iceland. Looks like that's going on my bucket list.
2016-2-4
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Starry
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You guys are just AMAZING!!! SO COOOOOOOOL!!!!!!!!!
2016-2-4
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SVTRay
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You sir are a MAD man...I like it!

I honestly wasn't sure what to except having never seen your work before and almost decided not to watch thinking it would be some poorly edited touristy type footage. I'm certainly glad i decided to watch. That is some amazing footage and very well edited! One of my childhood dreams was to be a volcanologist but life had other plans. The only volcanoes I've seen have been extinct for many years. So an active volcano is on my bucket list for sure.

Anyhow, Thanks for sharing!
2016-2-5
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GTDrone
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Amazing Video !
2016-2-5
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CaveDrone
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What a  EPIC ADVENTURE!    I envy you guys!  Excellent Job, sharing this everywhere!
2016-2-5
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bengalboy69
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Fantastic!! I'm taking my drone to Bali and plan to climb Mount Agung for a sunrise shoot!!  Great information and Awesome Travel Video!!  What an Epic Experience!!
2016-2-6
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noaches232
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That was amazing. It was beautiful!
2016-2-8
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ArtistFirst
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Great stuff!!!!

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2016-2-10
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