• Category Archives drone
  • Cold drone

    They are using drones to measure seals in Antarctica. Thats pretty cool.


    The higher you go up the food chain, the more you can learn about the ecosystem as a whole. That thinking is behind a project that has seen marine researchers use drones to collect biological samples from whales, and it’s now underpinning similar efforts on land in Antarctica.

    Scientists from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Southwest Fisheries Science Center are using drones to gather data on the predator that best reflects the health of local fish stocks: leopard seals.

    So in short, they place the drone at a fixed height off the ground, and place a known marker, photographing the marker, gives them an accurate scale, and then they simply fly over the seals and take photos.
    Long and short of it, they can ascertain the length and weight of the seal within 2% and 4%.
    Very cool.

    Speaking of cool… I had a chance to fly my drone in the morning a week or so back, everything powered up, I waited for GPS lock and all systems to come on-line. The DJI app gave me the approval to take off, I sent the usual signal and the app reported – ‘Takeoff aborted, battery too cold’.
    First time for that message…. The drone had been in the car all night and was cool, so I popped the battery under my armpit for about 5 minutes and took off as usual… But of course, by then, the sunrise light had changed.
    So, no harm done, lesson learned. (Or something…. There might have been some swearing at DJI).

  • Drone antenna upgrade

    I have had some issues with the DJI Phantom 3 Pro dropping the video feed to the ‘monitor’ ie, my phone.
    It is very very very very very very very very disconcerting when it drops as all the data goes with it (things like battery voltage, flight time remaining and so on). Sure, you just look up and keep flying from where it is, but eh, it sure would be nice if it hung about a bit more than both a few minutes and a few feet.

    Did some reading and everyone agrees, the bulk of the issue is Android.
    DJI just have not given the Android version of the app as much love as iOS.
    I could not justify or afford to buy a dedicated iOS device just to fly, so after talking to Freddy, she agreed to let me use her iPad whenever I needed. (It’s not like I make a living from flying and so don’t fly that often, and usually its when I drive, and she is usually still asleep at those times).
    We did some test flights and sure enough, the app itself was more stable, it did not crash, but the video did break up in the usual digital green distortion.
    Back to the Internet, seems the antennas DJI use are, shall we say, less than optimal.
    So, I jumped on Amazon and made my selection.

    The DJI ones are hard wired in, so the upgrade consists of two parts, pulling out the original and replacing the coax cable with a lower loss version and a threaded mount to screw new/different antennas on.

    It was a bit of tight fit, and we had to pad a few washers around the antenna mount point as the previous drone owner had damaged the case around the antenna base when he closed the case lid on them at some stage.
    But, bottom line, I was able to get the new mount in nice and firm and gripping onto enough of the case to be solid.

    The nice thing about having a standard mount (RPA) is that I can run a few different antenna types.
    Here we have a tall omni directional and a small square patch directional antenna.
    The patch will have more gain, distance, but requires that I turn and always point the remote at the drone.
    Depending on the flight requirements, this may or may not be a big deal.
    Honestly, I suspect that most of the time, I will run the tall rabbit ears.

    Of course I did a few before and after test flights. Before the drone would get to about 100 feet and the video would break up.
    After, with the long omni’s, I went to my legal limit of 400 feet and the video feed was rock solid. So, I’m going to call that a win and stop messing with the tech and just fly more.

  • DJI vs every owner of their drones

    I am caught up in this, and as a result it is really hard for me to be impartial and unemotional about all this.

    DJI is one of the worlds largest drone manufactures, they make a vast array of drones of various sizes, intelligence and price.
    Honestly, they crank them out faster than they can support them.
    Not only that, but because they sell more of them than any one else, more people are going to use them, the more people use them, the more people you will get that abuse them.
    So, whats a drone maker to do?
    In sort, lock people out of their drones.

    It sort of all started with ‘no fly zones’.
    If you tried to fire up your drone near an airport or stadium or some other location deemed by ‘the government’ as being illegal to fly a drone in that air space, then DJI would simply not let you turn the motors on.
    As you can imagine, this upset very many people. There was a very vocal backlash on DJI, so they tweaked the system and rather than lock your drone out, they allowed you to fly, only after you entered your credit card details at the time of flight. Not to charge you, but if anything happen, they would have the location (GPS) and identity (CC) of who and what went down.
    It was simply a case of them letting you fly your drone, but still be accountable to the government.

    As you can imagine, this did not go down well with very many people. Mostly the Russians.
    They hacked DJI’s firmware (software) to spoof the GPS into thinking that the drone was in fact in another part of the city and thus in an ‘Ok to fly zone’.
    As you can imagine, this did not go down well with DJI or the government.
    So, DJI rushed out a firmware update. So the Russians hacked that one as well.
    So, DJI rushed out another firmware update. Apparently, that one was a bit more tricky and has slowed down a lot of people…. They are now saying that you should not go to the latest firmware version.
    So, DJI pushed out yet another update that forces drone owners to update….If you don’t, your drone wont turn on no matter where you are located.

    This is where I come in.
    Went to prep my drone for a sunrise flight many weekends back, and it said I cant fly till I update, so I updated as per their directions and it glitched or something, but the end result was that my drone transmitter would not talk to anything, the drone or the smartphone it connects to.
    As per the directions, I redid the update several times and got the same result.
    Hit the interwebs and found a whole bunch of people screaming at DJI for rushing these updates and locking people out of their drones totally. Keep in mind that most of these drones start at 1000 bucks.
    On top of the price, you have people that are (trying to) make a living flying drones, they cant fly till they do the update and now they cant fly because the update bricked their drones.
    They have jobs booked, they have back up DJI drones, and they are in the exact same position. They cant fly any of them.

    Its another whole blog, but enough to say DJI support is beyond appalling. Just so bad as to be useless unless you are a drone business owner and have to muddle through it.
    As soon as my drone came up dead, I knew that I would just write it off, I would not be trying to get DJI support to help me, or send it to them to get it fixed – thats how bad it is.

    Here is a very short read with a very telling ending.

    Effectively, DJI has full control over whether or not your drone works. The company isn’t likely to abuse that power (it has strong incentives to keep you flying), but it gives the impression that you don’t really own your drone — you’re just paying for permission to fly it.

    Freddy and I have talked about getting another drone, would it be a DJI or not.
    Bottom line, I managed, after spending about 4 hours on it, to get my drone back up and running. I have not flown it yet, but to say that my confidence in DJI drones is totally shot.
    So unsettled by all this (some of the horror story’s on the web – if they can be believed – some I don’t, many I do) that I am honestly a bit scared to fly it.
    I am looking at the rescue drone I got off Gary and Craiglist a little more, need to get some air time on them and get some confidence in my repair skills.
    Long story short, I love flying, really want to take more photos with them, but am at a bit of a loss how to get the reliability and quality I want.

  • Tilt drone

    Interesting to see the way people are pushing drone tech in different ways.

    Since they are not (yet) pushing this onto consumers, I really don’t mind seeing a solution to a very tiny problem (fitting a drone through a doorway like slit in a building).

    This sucker can fly parallel to the wall. Why? Because it can, and we need software and engineers to push stuff like this so that when the time is right, when there is a problem to be solved, we have some data on the solution.

    Also, major points if you spotted the Raspberry Pi in the video.
    (My names thebaldgeek and I’m a geek).

  • Using a human brain to teach a robot how to shoot better

    We (the humans) are teaching them (the robots) how to shoot better by uploading our brains into theirs…. What could possibly go wrong?


    Modern sensors can see farther than humans. Electronic circuits can shoot faster than nerves and muscles can pull a trigger. Humans still outperform armed robots in knowing what to shoot at — but new research funded in part by the Army may soon narrow that gap.

    See, I don’t make this stuff up! I really don’t… mostly because I have better things to do, and mostly because I don’t have to!!
    (I just have to sit still for a brief moment and this crazy real stuff just shows up on my RSS feed – in real time).

    Researchers from DCS Corp and the Army Research Lab fed datasets of human brain waves into a neural network — a type of artificial intelligence — which learned to recognize when a human is making a targeting decision.

    The goal, one day, is a neural net that can learn instantaneously, continuously, and in real-time, by observing the brainwaves and eye movement of highly trained soldiers doing their jobs.

    So yeah, that’s about the guts of it.
    We have people working on making neural nets and we have others working on making them faster.

    Just yesterday I may have Googled how to build my first neural net on a Raspberry Pi…… I have to dip a toe into this stuff, super curious what it’s all about and how I can start training one with some of the data floating around in my house…. My thinking is, we may as well give up now and invite this stuff in through the front door, least then I know where the kill switch is for when it becomes self aware.