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Filming mountain forests around Slovenia with a Phantom 3
880 2 2016-6-9
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groovy100
lvl.4
Flight distance : 1977986 ft
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Sweden
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A few weeks ago, I visited the beautiful country of Slovenia in central Europe.

A very mountainous country with plenty of stunning landscapes, it lends itself well to filming with a drone.

Further below, you will find some things to bear in mind when shooting in mountain forest locations.




Things to bear in mind when filming mountain forests

Always set your return-to-home altitude
Before takeoff, observe your surroundings and select a safe return-to-home altitude. Be aware of trees or tall boulders near you and estimate a safe height to allow the drone to fly over them if you lose signal.

Take-off and landing clearance
Find a spot that has a clear path ahead, between your takeoff point and the area over which you will be filming.
That is to say, do not take off behind a row of trees or rocks. Go instead somewhere where you have an uninterrupted view towards the area that you will be filming. It will make all the difference once your drone decides to auto-land or if you need to bring it back in an emergency since you will have much more space to maneuver it.
Same goes for trees above you.

Do not take off from below trees!
Even if the tree foliage you are standing below begins much further above and you think you have enough clearance for takeoff, think of what will happen should the drone decide to return to home automatically from a safe altitude that is higher than the tree. On its way down to you, it will hit the tree branches above you and crash.

Beware of gusts at higher levels
Mountain weather is unpredictable and varies greatly with differing altitude. Just because it's relatively windless where you are standing because you are perhaps sheltered by a massive cliff face, think of what happens once you ascend higher, where the rock no longer shelters the drone from gusts. Always observe the trees (if possible) at higher altitudes and try to estimate the wind conditions up there.

Be spartan with your battery usage. Start returning at 40%, aim to land at 30%
Landing on a sloped terrain with tall trees, wind gusts and rock all around you, can pose a challenge. It is easy to become disoriented, lose sight of the drone or underestimate your relative position to obstacles. Allow for plenty of battery to return and land. Unless you are flying over an empty valley, you will need to micro-maneuver the drone to land it exactly where you need to and safe from obstacles.
Remember that DJI limits battery output if your battery overheats due to external high temperatures (summer months) and/or high motor load (e.g. the drone is fighting gusts, very common on a mountain). Drop the drone immediately to lower altitudes and start returning it to you as the low motor output lessens its ability to fight strong winds or get back fast.

Prepare to fly ATTI and watch your home point
Tall mountains and trees are a GPS signal's worst enemy. It will not at all be uncommon to take off with no GPS signal, establish signal during flight and then lose it as you are approaching the landing spot. In such instances, it is best to switch to ATTI (attitude mode) to allow the drone to fly without relying on GPS. Be aware that this will cause your drone to drift so avoid flying it close to trees and other obstacles! On the other hand, ATTI mode ensures you won't have any erratic behaviour once the drone flies in the shadow of GPS signals.
Because you might take off with no GPS signal, the drone will update the home point only once it re-establishes connection to the satellites, which could be after you have taken off and once the drone is in mid-flight. This would then automatically update the homepoint to somewhere away from you and if the drone attempts to automatically return to home, it will land where the home point was last updated, not where it took off from! In such instances, always land the drone manually and try to regain control in the event of a return to home, as soon as possible (i.e. when the drone is close to you).

Always keep line of sight
Never fly the drone behind boulders, cliffs, mountain tops or rows of trees. You will lose signal and the drone will attempt to return to you with whatever consequences that may have

Invest in a LiPo beeper and radio tracker
Since you are flying in wild nature and the chances of accidents are higher, it is good to have a means of helping you find a crashed drone in a dense forest. Two such devices are indispensible in my view.
One is very cheap, a LiPo beeper (or buzzer). You can buy one on eBay for $10 with a small 3.7V LiPo battery. Connect them together before flight and let it beep away while the drone is flying. Its battery is independent of that of the drone and it's extremely lightweight so if your drone crashes, you'll at least be able to poinpoint the beeping sound if you have a general idea of where to look.
For a more elaborate solution, look for a Marco Polo dog tracker (you can buy those on eBay or elsewhere online). This emits a radio signal that can reach up to 2km and help you track a crashed drone with accuracy without relying on GPS or mobile network signals, both of which may be unavailable inside a forest in the middle of nowhere.

Consider using prop-guards and a gimbal guard
If you have less experience with steering your drone around terrain with lots of large obstacles such as boulders and trees or if you plan on landing on uneven terrain (as is the case with most mountainous landscapes), it may be worth investing in prop guards and a gimbal guard for rough landings.
A gimbal guard is a plate that gets installed below the camera gimbal and can help protect against rough landings on rocks where a pointy rock can rip out your camera from its base.
Prop guards can protect against low-speed bumps against tree trunks and boulders/cliffs, as well as if the drone tips while landing.
They tend to show up in camera when flying fast or against the wind with the camera fully tilted up and they do increase wind resistance, leading to reduced speed and maneuverability but their actual effect is negligible from my experience (I always have them on).



Please feel free to add tips that you may have yourselves and enjoy my video of Slovenia (Adobe Premiere's Auto Color feature seems to be playing up. Lesson learned for the future!)



2016-6-9
Use props
vandruten
lvl.4

Indonesia
Offline

Great tips, awesome footage and beautiful landscapes! Cheers!!
2016-6-9
Use props
DJI-Paladin
DJI team
Flight distance : 2408 ft
Hong Kong
Offline

Thanks for your sharing ,groovy100. Beautiful scenery and useful tips!
2016-6-9
Use props
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