Monday, January 3, 2022

My Newest Holiday Toy - The DJI Mavic 3 Drone

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As a diehard tech guy, I've been flying drones for over a decade.  The drone ecosystem has been an amazing thing to be a part of.  My first drone was purchased as a "kit".  It was basically an airframe that I had to assemble and then get synchronized.  It was an incredible experience for a DIY personality like mine, but the hexacopter (six rotor blades) was at about 200 feet on a flight when one of the blades came off and it cork-screwed all the way to the ground as I screamed encouragement at the airframe on its way back to Earth.  That was an expensive little event.

Now, things are vastly different in the world of personal helicopters.  My latest toy is the DJI Mavic 3 and I've been having fun with it since I opened the box on Christmas Eve.

I would venture to say that in the world of personal drones, DJI is the industry leader.  I say that based on the number of DJI systems that are flying worldwide.  This post is not to convince anyone of their superiority, simply that a bunch of them are flying while you are reading this.

The company has done a tremendous job of simplifying the concept of flying your own little quadcopter.  In fact the Mavic 3 is so easy to use that I would venture a guess that even an inexperienced but determined user could probably watch one demonstration/teaching video and get one in the air.  

The Mavic line in general have really simplified things.  You do not even need to attach the props any more.  The rotor arms are designed to fold into the body and the props also fold so that the entire device becomes as easy one handed carry.

What that means to the user is to prepare the device for flight, all you have to do is unfold the arms and turn it on... it's truly that simple.

The craft utilizes tons of tech to make all of its features run properly.  Things like GPS, object avoidance, and even communication (constant) between the copter and the remote controller.

What if you don't know how to fly a drone?  What if you crash it?  Well, flying it is pretty simple if you can control 2 joysticks and as far as crashing?  Well, the device has sensors that are constantly on the lookout for objects you could collide with and it will not only warn you, it will actually navigate around them.  

Take off and landing are simple.  Once the drone and controller are powered on and find one another, you push the take off icon and the copter will leave the ground and then hover 1.2m above the ground.  Once the copter reaches this hover point, the pilot can then maneuver the craft wherever they would like.

To land, you basically repeat the takeoff procedure.  The copter is brought into roughly the geographic area where it took off.  During takeoff, the craft uses GPS to locate that takeoff point and the system remembers it.  To land, once you get "close" you tap the "return to home" icon on the screen or the same button on the remote controller and the device will fly over the launch point and then descend.  When it reaches the ground, it turns the rotors off.

For all intents and purposes, the hard parts of flight, takeoff and landing, are automated and happen when you tell the system to perform that function.

The drone also sports a phenomenal Hasselblad camera system.  If you are into cameras, you'll know the name Hasselblad, but if you aren't suffice it to say it is sort of the Ferrari of camera companies.  The camera shoots 5.1k video by utilizing a 4/3 CMOS sensor.  Still photos are effectively taken at 20MP resolution.  To put that in perspective, I've taken a few still photos and they are in the 15.1Mb range for file size.  That makes the pictures about as clear as anything you can imagine.

For those of you new to the idea of personal drones, I'm sure questions abound.  The one question I'm asked the most is "what if you lose sight of the drone or it loses contact with the remote control?"  

That's a great question.  I mentioned above the function called "Return To Home" (abbreviated RTH).  IF you lose orientation and cannot figure out how to get the drone back to you, pressing RTH initiates the "come back" feature.  The same thing happens if the device somehow loses contact with the remote.  In both of those instances, the drone will remember where its takeoff point was and will fly back to it and land.  What if there is a tree in the way, you ask?  The object avoidance system will navigate the drone *around any obstacles* and then continue on its way to the home point.  

If that sounds incredible, that's because it is.  However it does just that.

There is a lot more to this system than the few things I've mentioned here.  If you have greater interest, simply go to Google and type in "Mavic 3" or just follow this link.  What you will find out there are phenomenal articles with tons more detail than I can provide here.

I don't have a desire to become an actual pilot... however, flying has always held a certain fascination for me.  Flying drones has allowed me to see and do things I could not do otherwise.  If you've ever thought about getting into it, there is no better time than now.  I'm confident that the field and the technologies powering it will only continue to improve, but the industry is *way past* the point that owning & flying a device is risky.  It's actually almost too easy when I look back on my early days...

1 comment:

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