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TreyB

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 #1 
For a few years I have been intrigued with the idea of using a drone to help find crashes in rough, mountainous terrain, as well as wanting to document these wrecks with aerial photography. Recently, I purchased the DJI Mavic Pro and am so impressed with it I wanted to give a short review for anyone else who has been considering purchasing a drone.

The DJI Mavic Pro is a gem of a drone, and for me the big selling point are the collapsible wings that fold into the body making it compact and perfect for throwing in your backpack; especially for those crashes that require hiking to. Additionally, the camera is mounted on a 3-axis gimbal which provides stabilization for the 4K video and 12 megapixel photos. Playing the clear videos on my computer is amazing as it shows no signs of vibration and you feel as if it was shot from a piloted aircraft.

Ready for flight, the drone measures 21" from propeller blade tip to blade tip. With the wings and propellers folded, it measures a compact 8" x 3" x 3"! DJI has a travel pack that measure 9" x 6" x 5" that holds the drone, the remote, a spare battery and propeller blades.

The Mavic has a ceiling of 1,650 feet and a range of just over 4 miles. It has a GPS feature that tracks where it took off from so once you hit the 'Return to Home' button, it will automatically fly back and land itself.  Additionally, it has sensors on the front and bottom and will stop the drone from moving forward or down if it detects an object is in its path.

The remote connects via micro-USB cord to your phone so you can see the streaming video as you fly. I will likely upgrade to a pair of headset goggles or use my iPad for a better/ larger view. Also, I strongly recommend purchasing a second or third battery as each charge lasts for 25 minutes. If you are going to drive and hike a fair distance you'll want more air-time.  

Below are some photos of: the Mavic ready for flight & next to my GPS for size comparison; folded up; a photo while flying at 400 feet; hovering over a crash on a steep mountainside; and the travel case. 

Hope this was helpful, if you have any questions feel free to reach out to me.

Trey
http://www.aircraftarchaeology.com

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DJI_4.jpg  DJI_38.jpg

djordan

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 #2 
I have  been flying the DJI Phantom 3 Pro on my wreck chasing hunts for a year now.  I can fly out to more than 2 miles, (the book says 3 miles) all the while watching the terrain unfold below by a video down link.  Yesterday, I went out 1 full mile, and then dropped down to 3 feet above the ground to have a closer look at an old World War II tank buried out there.  I can actually land, and then restart the engines at about 1,700 feet distance.  At  least I have not tried landing it farther away than that.  I will fly a search pattern, which is recorded in data and video.  Then I open the data in Google Earth and plot coordinates for interesting areas I see.  The battery lasts about 20 minutes, depending on how much maneuvering I do, and how high I go.  The FAA altitude limit is 400 feet AGL.  But the Drone is capable of going much higher.

I also use the drone to locate old camp sites to search with my metal detector.  I have a lot of drone videos on YouTube if anyone want to see this thing in action.  The Mavic is the newest Drone by DJI.  The only problem with it is that you can not get a bigger screen.  I can watch my video with a 8 or 10 inch tablet monitor.  But the Mavic does have some feature that I don't have.



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Don Jordan
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 #3 
Trey,  Are you familiar with the Drone web site Healthydrones.com?
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Don Jordan
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 #4 
Here is one of my videos: 

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Don Jordan
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 #5 
Here is a drone shot of an osprey nest we were trying to get up the nerve to land on from the roadway 300 feet away.Ospreys are snowbirds so nobody is home until spring. We thought the better of it as none of us has pole climbing gear.
dlAttach-7.php.jpeg 
I have a 3 Pro also. It might log some plane hunting time this summer. 


TreyB

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 #6 
Don- Nice find with the tank. Makes you wonder how many more are out there buried. I have not been on the healthydrones.com website but will have to check it out. Still pretty new to the drone world only having mine for 2 weeks.

My next purchase is a longer micro-USB cord and a pair of goggles so I can see clearer and to block out the sunlight.

Trey
djordan

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 #7 
I'm going on a wreck chasing mission with the drone this coming weekend.  A friend, not in the area, has spotted a couple of anomalies in the desert not far my me.  He has asked me to investigate with the Drone.  It is not possible to drive to the site, so the drone is the only way for me.  The distance is just under two miles away.  They appear to be impact craters.  I'll be recording the trip with the onboard camera and with my GoPro camera.  Should be fun.  The location is private for the moment.

By the way, there are many more tanks buried out there.  I know where some are, but have no intentions of digging them up. I wish I could have had the drone in the air when we detonated that World War II 100 pound bomb last year.  They made us stay back 1 mile. But I did get it on video if you or anybody else is  interested.

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Don Jordan
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 #8 
Farthest I have flown away from me was 5562.5 feet. At that point I lost video feed. Are you using a windsurfer or other antenna mod? I will be very interested in how your mission shakes out.
djordan

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 #9 
I do have a Windsurfer antenna mod for my P3Pro, but so far I haven't used it.  There just doesn't seem to be a need so far.  I have gone out 10,250 feet on one flight and the video feed was still perfectly clear.  Even thought the P3P is capable of going much farther out, the pucker factor goes to the extreme level at those distances.  My eyes stay glued to the altitude, speed, video feed, and directional readouts when I'm out that far.

The distance you can go is very much depended on the Battery power remaining, and the wind direction.  Never go to the full outbound range while flying downwind.  You may not get back before "Critical Battery" kicks in.  The "Return To Home" feature does not take into account wind direction and strength.  The wind is blowing a little here today.  I may not be able to go on this mission if it picks up much more.

I'm considering adding a Mavic to my collection.  I like the portability of that platform.

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Don Jordan
TreyB

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 #10 
Matt/ Don-

If you have not already, I highly recommend buying headset goggles- what a game-changer they are. Previously, I was flying the drone while trying to shield the sun with my body to have some level of shade to view the iPhone screen on, but the reflection of the sky always made it difficult to see good.

I purchased a set of Blitzwolf VR goggles on Amazon and now it feels like you are in a dark theatre watching a movie. A USB connects the remote to your phone. The goggles are similar to binoculars in the sense that you can adjust the distance between your eyes, and each lens can be focused.

One thing that DJI does not have (yet) is an app that allows for split screen viewing on your phone to use in the VR headset. However, there is another app that drone pilots use called 'Litchi' that does have split-screen. It is about $24.

Don, the portability of the Mavic is incredibly compact- I have a travel case that holds the drone, remote and spare battery and props that is half the size of a shoe box. This makes it very convenient if you want to hike in some place, or throw it in a pouch on the ATV.

Another item I would recommend is to have a cardboard or plywood pad for take-off and landings. This way you reduce the blowing dust from getting in the engines and camera electronics.

Trey
IMG_1502low.jpg 

djordan

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 #11 
Yes indeed, I have been researching the Litchi program.  I just don't know enough about it yet.  I went out on that mission today.  Being able to insert Waypoints before the flight would be wonderful.  I had trouble finding my spot.  I actually turned the wrong way at the end of my flight.  I have a video I made of the flight if you, or anybody else, is interested.  I won't post it here unless I am asked to do so.  It's about 7 minutes long. Below is the aerial shot I took of the spot in question.  We thought it was an impact crater.  It was not!
spot.jpg

I will also email the link to anyone interested.   The altitude in this photo is about 75 feet. 


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Don Jordan
canyonair

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 #12 
Last weekend I met someone flying a DJI MavicPro just on the outskirts of Las Vegas. What a neat machine and it folds down into a compact easy to carry unit. Looks like I might have to finally get one for backpacking trips.

Watching the video, I would add that flying a drone outside of visual range is not the safest practice and is operating a UAS contrary to Part 107. Aside from the possibility of completely loosing contact with your drone in a fly-away situation, you stand the risk of having the machine collide with another low-level manned aircraft. A review of Part 107 should be made before operating these unmanned aerial systems.

Anyway, that's my PSA for the evening. Happy flying.

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djordan

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 #13 
You are right about FAA Part 107.  You should not fly out of sight.  But you should not drive a car above the posted speed limit, or talk on a cellphone while driving either.  You should not fly above 400 feet.  Real aircraft should not go below 500 feet.  Except when landing or taking off.  There are drone pilots who fly relentlessly. They are giving us drone pilots a bad rap.  You should not fly over groups of people, like stadiums.  You should not violate anyone's privacy by flying over private property too low, or hovering over their property without permission.  Part 107 didn't go into affect until few months ago.  Before that it was basically common sense flying and obeying local laws.

As far as losing contact with the drone.  You have a monitoring device (i.e., an iPhone or Tablet)  that shows you what the onboard camera sees.  It's like being in the cockpit of an airplane.  You have instruments that tell you the altitude, speed, vertical speed, and location of the drone at all times.  You can select a map view, or a satellite view.  The aircraft is controlled by GPS, and is flown by  fly-by-wire technology.  You get warnings if you are about to  fly into a restricted area.  And the best part is, that if you lose connection or control of the drone, you simply push one button on the controller.  The drone will then go into an autopilot condition and return to where it took off unassisted. It will go up to a safe altitude and fly a straight line directly back to the "Home Point" and actually land and shut off the engines automatically.  Some drones, I think the Mavic included, has collision avoidance technology. Mine does not! If the sensors see something in its flight path, it will maneuver around it by climbing or turning away.  The Mavic is more advanced than my P3Pro, but the Mavic was not available when I purchased the Pro.

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Don Jordan
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 #14 
By the way, the FAA considers Drones to be real aircraft.  They are treated as such in the FARs.  You must actually have a commercial drone pilot certificate to sell video footage or use your drone for commercial purposes.  It is considered a "type" rating.  You go to school, or take an online course, than pass an FAA written test to obtain the license.

And since the FAA considers drones as aircraft, it is illegal to shoot down a drone.

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Don Jordan
canyonair

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 #15 
The only hard limit on manned fixed-wing aircraft in regards to 500' AGL involves commercial operations (Part 135). Part 91, a guy in his Cessna or Piper could be as low as he wants out in the "sticks". Helicopters, regardless of 91 or 135 have virtually no altitude limits. These considerations are why the drone operator is required to maintain visual contact with his aircraft at all times. The camera visual is nice, but you cannot see the surrounding area to avoid a collision as well as being on the ground as the operator/observer.
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Research of historical civil and commercial aviation accidents and sites (1920s-1990s). http://www.lostflights.com
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