This morning Mark and I got up early and drove to Santa Cruz. Our goal was to get the DJI S800 with the GH2 camera up in the air and get some sunrise footage of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. 

When we fly the S800 we fly it as a two-person job. One pilots the multi-rotor while the other person works the camera control (Zenmuse gimbal, not only keeping the footage steady, but lets you rotate 360 degrees and tilt up and down). We both use a monitor; the person on the camera controls uses a live-video feed from the camera to align the shot, the pilot uses a ground-station.

We use the DJI’s Ground Station software on a Panasonic CF31 Toughbook in the field. The CF31 has a touch screen that is viewable in daylight, making is a really good choice.
The Ground Station software has two instrument panel options as well as its primary display of the aircraft location superimposed on top of a Google Earth background. It is a very valuable tool. And here is why. 

Sometimes Mark and I simulate an occurrence and run a training session. Today we simulated the outage of the video-down link from the camera to the monitor. This means we cannot see what the camera sees, making us fly "blind". 

Yes, you can still see and orient the position of the flying machine by looking up in the sky. However, it is not always easy to figure out its true orientation. Also, if you are 500 feet away, it starts to get more and more difficult to make out the front and the back. 
Here comes the true advantage of using a DJI Groundstation; the red triangle is the location of, in this case, our S800. That indicator is pointing in the direction which is the front of the machine. The icon also provides a readout of the craft's altitude at all times (in the image the S800 has landed so the altitude is 0 meters). 
As you can also see, the background is a map of the location as seen from above (Google Earth). This helps the pilot to orient him or herself. In addition there are additional instrument panels on the screen providing further flight telemetry data, which is essential to safe and successful flying. 

So this morning we got the S800 airborne, while running video, but not viewing any live-video feed. This was to simulate a transmitter failure, or camera battery depletion. 

I quickly moved over to the ground station and started calling out telemetry information to Mark. Doing that gave Mark, who was piloting the S800, a quick overview of the current situation on the orientation of its aircraft. The multi-rotor was far enough away that it was impossible for Mark to accurately determine the craft's heading. By watching the ground station screen I was able to instruct Mark to yaw left or right and thereby keep the heading

Once we both got situational awareness back, I started lining up the shots by zooming in on the ground station, getting a close look at the Boardwalk and directing Mark with simple commands. By not working the camera control, the camera is now only pointing forward. So the subject you want to film has to be always in front of the multi-rotor. 

To make things easier, Mark and I use directional commands as they apply to the transmitter stick-inputs. "Yaw right" always means moving the left (rudder) yaw stick to the right, "Slightly moving left" always means using the right stick (aileron) to the left. 

Here is a short clip demonstrating how precise one can fly via only the ground station and by working as a tight-knitten team. 



04/05/2014 8:40am

Great video, and a great exercise, it's my feeling that way too few RC pilots consider emergencies enough.


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