Back in December 1976 I flew with three friends on a 4-seat Mooney aircraft from College Station TX to Tyler and then over to Memphis TN. That was my first airplane flight. I’m not sure I ever removed my face from the window.
Then, my first (real) job out of college in 1977 allowed me to do a lot of flying. I lived and worked in Houston but had the opportunity to fly to Dallas, New Orleans, Miami, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Chicago, New York…… It was so much fun. By the time I moved to San Diego in 1993, I had been to 38 of the 50 states.
I sat out of the work force for 11 months after arriving in San Diego, considering myself retired. Retirement’s not all it’s cracked up to be, especially if you’re used to being around lots of people all the time. So I went back into the work force and got a job that involved a significant amount of traveling–San Diego, Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Columbus, Philadelphia, Tampa, Miami, New Orleans………. The list goes on and on and on.
Every time I flew, regardless of where I was flying to or from, my face was always glued to the window. I loved being up above everything looking down on it–mountains, buildings, highways, forests, lakes…… Anything and everything.
I cut back significant on flying after 9/11, especially after the Detroit Shoe Bomber. I just don’t like long lines, don’t like undressing at an airport, and don’t like people touching my junk unless I ask them to.
I missed being above, looking down.
So on March 18, 2017, I bought a drone. The biggest, baddest drone I could find. With lots of bells, whistles, vibrations, and alarms. A Typhoon H Pro with RealSense Technology. It cost $1,899 at Fry’s Electronics but on that day Fry’s paid the $147.17 sales tax for me.
This thing is so big and expensive that it took me three weeks before I was brave enough to try to fly it. Been through several crashes but since I’m only flying six feet above ground, the crashes didn’t do any significant damage. Just three plastic rotors which cost about $7 each.
Then I joined the San Diego Drone Club. A little six-year-old boy set me straight: “Just do it” I think he said. So I set out to find a place where I could practice without being a hazard to people or animals. Collier Park across the street was pretty good but I never know how busy it’s going to get on any morning. I might be able to fly for two hours or two minutes. It’s also less than an acre, so if the children or dogs show up early, I’m outta there.
Today I discovered Eucalyptus County Park. It’s almost 6½ acres, and is rather isolated out in Spring Valley, about three miles from me. I arrived at 6:10 this morning and left 1½ hours later. During that time I saw only one other person. So I got a lot of practice in, especially with landing, and learning how to make the drone move in the direction I want it to move. I also got eight still pictures and two videos.
Here are my favorite two pictures from this morning at Eucalyptus Park:
Grove of palm trees from up above
Bancroft Drive with Mount San Miguel at upper left
And here’s my best video out of four total, two today, taken using the drone’s spinaround mode:
This drone is pretty awesome because of its Intel RealSense Technology. It will communicate with up to 18 satellites to give you GPS, and once it has a lock on GPS, it can pretty much fly itself.
The ST16 Controller has more apps on it than a smart phone and allows you to set so many functions that you will need a margarita by the time you finsh:
The Typhoon H also comes with a remote-control called a Wizard:
The Wizard is what you will use if you get tired of holding the Controller or it starts getting heavy hanging on the lanyard around your neck. With the Wizard, you can set the Controller down, or give it to a friend to hold, and go walking around. If you put the drone in “Follow me” mode, it will follow you at whatever height you set it for. You can also use “Point to fly” mode and just point the Wizard somewhere and the Typhoon H will fly to that spot. There’s also a “Home” mode which helps the drone get back home if it gets lost. It has an Obstacle Avoidance mode so that it can automatically go around trees and such, and you can create a virtual fence so that, regardless of what you do, you can’t go beyond that fence. Useful for if you lose GPS out in the boondocks and your drone starts to “fly away.” Pictures and videos can be taken using just the Wizard. It truly is a wizard at doing what it does.
The battery provides about 25 minutes of flying time, takes 1½ hours to recharge, and costs $139.99 (less if you go to eBay). You get two with the drone. I bought two more, so I’ll be taking four batteries with me into the mountains. I’ll be able to recharge one battery using the in-car charger while driving, so it should be rare that I’ll run out of battery juice or flight time.
My only complaint with the Typhoon H at this point is that the videos in mp4 format are huge and crappy. The video in this blog post was 621 MB straight out of the drone and so crappy that I would be embarrassed to show it to anyone. So I took it to Wondershare Filmora, my video editing program, and simply saved it with a different name. Now it looks awesome and is only 81 MB. Can’t explain that one. Apparently the Chinese have a different mp4 format.
I have more on my mind with the Typhoon H than just playing with it, though. I want to get pictures of abandoned railroad tracks for my railroad research in areas that are somewhat inaccessible out in the East San Diego County mountains. My hiking days are behind me, especially if the hike involves going down into a rocky canyon and up the other side. The canyons are steep but are rarely more than a mile across, and if they are, there are roads to get me closer. With this drone, if I can get within a mile, I can get it the rest of the way.
Eventually I’ll get an FAA 107 commercial drone license so I can do real estate photography and figure out other ways to use this drone to make money.
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