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Old 31-03-2019, 06:19   #1
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Drone Use While Underway

Wondering about the realistic feasibility of carrying and using a drone while underway. I have no experience with them but the footage I've seen is amazing. Anyone have experience?



Seems like the hard parts would be 1) keeping it out of the water, and 2) retrieving it as I think you would have to physically grab it, not try to land it on the moving boat?


Maybe this is just a drone suicide mission...
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Old 31-03-2019, 07:16   #2
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Re: Drone Use While Underway

You need to be able to grab it. Modern drones are very precise, but a moving boat take off and landing platform doesn't seem to have been in the mind of consumer drone designers! I've got a mavic air and it would be near impossible to grab on a moving boat because it's a) got nothing to grab onto and B) it has collision avoidance sensors that make it shy away from your hand. Besides that, it's a great drone. The mavic pro would have similar issues.

Dji 3 and 4's are supposedly easier to grab because they're bigger and have a convenient grab handle in the landing skids. The Dji spark is designed to land in the hand, so may work if it can handle a pitching deck. And it's the pitching deck that's the issue in regard to piloting. In calm waters it may prove easier!
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Old 31-03-2019, 07:33   #3
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Re: Drone Use While Underway

Search “waterproof drones”. There are quite a few now.
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Old 31-03-2019, 07:43   #4
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Re: Drone Use While Underway

I use the DJI spark. Works well enough. Taking off isn't too hard, just make sure you drive the done forward quickly to clear the boat. Landing I take some sailing gloves (to protect fingers from props). Take your time. I use only 30% of battery for flight/filming, leaving 70% for landing. For collision sensors the spark only has forward facing, so I just reverse the drone towards me. I've had no problem grabbing the spark from below.
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Old 31-03-2019, 08:30   #5
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Re: Drone Use While Underway

Not to hijack the thread, but I believe this ties right in. What kind of learning curve are we looking at to pilot a drone eccectively under sail, for someone who is coordinated but has never touched a drone before?
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Old 31-03-2019, 08:34   #6
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Re: Drone Use While Underway

I fly my phantom 4 all the time while sailing. You have to turn off collision avoidance sensor and turn off return to home gps tracking. Because when you launch it remembers where it left from but your boat will no longer be in that position. It's very easy to do. These drones basicly handle themselves. All you need is a little piloting practice easy peasy. I dont know if I ever landed mine on the ground. Always someone catching it if not for nothing else bit the fun of it ☺
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Old 31-03-2019, 08:38   #7
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Re: Drone Use While Underway

I got a Swell Pro 3+ and it is water proof so I just land it in the water and scoop it up with a large fishing dip net ! Splash it out in front of the boat, steer onto it, and scoop it up ! It's that easy and you get to use more of your battery life for actual flight time ! I wouldn't say that it is DJI quality but it is pretty damned good ! Also it has a 2 axis 4K camera which isn't DJI movie quality but it too is pretty damned good !

P.S. Also recovering the drone makes for some gr888 practice for potential man overboard recovery drills ! The drone is bright orange and it floats , so there ya have it !
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Old 31-03-2019, 08:39   #8
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Re: Drone Use While Underway

Check out the SwellPro Splash Drone 3 or Spry. I've seen a Splash Drone in action, and was very impressed. Totally waterproof, can land in the water, very cool unit. A bit more expensive, but cheaper than replacing a waterlogged DJI...
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Old 31-03-2019, 08:46   #9
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Re: Drone Use While Underway

Quote:
Originally Posted by Reefmagnet View Post
You need to be able to grab it. Modern drones are very precise, but a moving boat take off and landing platform doesn't seem to have been in the mind of consumer drone designers! I've got a mavic air and it would be near impossible to grab on a moving boat because it's a) got nothing to grab onto and B) it has collision avoidance sensors that make it shy away from your hand. Besides that, it's a great drone. The mavic pro would have similar issues.

Dji 3 and 4's are supposedly easier to grab because they're bigger and have a convenient grab handle in the landing skids. The Dji spark is designed to land in the hand, so may work if it can handle a pitching deck. And it's the pitching deck that's the issue in regard to piloting. In calm waters it may prove easier!
I have a Mavic Pro, which I bought after returning a Mavic Air. The MA doesn't have enough flight time or speed to be good for keeping up with a sailing boat. The MP has 50% more speed and 40% more flight time. (I figure you need to leave at least half of your flight time for landing, because it can be challenging while moving and surrounded by rigging.) These drones can be set to Return To Home using the GPS position of the controller, but neither the MA or MP can be counted on to auto-land on a moving platform (not even a drifting one) and if you lose communication the RTH is the last known controller position.
For all of these reasons and risks, I have yet to fly my drone while under sail. Would welcome tips or tricks from other fliers.
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Old 31-03-2019, 08:59   #10
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Re: Drone Use While Underway

I got myself a DJI spark. Great fun to learn to fly, untill i got to my 40ft catamaran and ready to make some awsome videos if me under sail. Wind speed between 12 and 15 knots. Rapidly it became clear that the spark was not able to fly with these ( relatively low) wind speeds. Frustrated with this i sold the equipement. Then i saw the crews on the ultimate Volvo Ocean Race making awesome vids rounding Cape Horn with wind speeds of 40+ knots using DJI phantom 4... so i am saving money to upgrade...however those waterproof drones look very promissing.
Fair winds
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Old 31-03-2019, 09:19   #11
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Re: Drone Use While Underway

The drone-specific forums are probably the best source of tips.
I have the Mavic Air - some people add a weighted lanyard to grab it by, but I haven’t tried it. Notably, in any kind of wind the battery drains very quickly, leading to very short flight times.
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Old 31-03-2019, 09:23   #12
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Re: Drone Use While Underway

We have a DJI 3. I second the previous poster’s comments on the phantom series. If you are going to hand catch under way, it’s the only way I would do it.
I looked at the waterproof drones and there are compromises. I personally would not scoop from the water while under way as it takes way to long to perform the man overboard drill if you miss the first time ...
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Old 31-03-2019, 09:37   #13
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Re: Drone Use While Underway

It's good to see a couple of good reviews of the Splash Drone. One of the sailors I follow on YouTube, "How to Sail Oceans," has had a very bad experience with that very drone:


https://youtu.be/WMGeKx7GL8U


He had to replace the camera at his own expense because of water intrusion and then one of the rotors failed and again, the vendor wouldn't cover the issue. The YouTube video describes and replicates the issue and Kevin describes his interactions with the vendor (not the manufacturer of the drone) in detail. Ultimately, he appears to be out $1700.



Caveat emptor.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Imagineou812 View Post
I got a Swell Pro 3+ and it is water proof so I just land it in the water and scoop it up with a large fishing dip net ! Splash it out in front of the boat, steer onto it, and scoop it up ! It's that easy and you get to use more of your battery life for actual flight time ! I wouldn't say that it is DJI quality but it is pretty damned good ! Also it has a 2 axis 4K camera which isn't DJI movie quality but it too is pretty damned good !

Quote:
Originally Posted by Davidhoy View Post
Check out the SwellPro Splash Drone 3 or Spry. I've seen a Splash Drone in action, and was very impressed. Totally waterproof, can land in the water, very cool unit. A bit more expensive, but cheaper than replacing a waterlogged DJI...
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Old 31-03-2019, 10:42   #14
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Re: Drone Use While Underway

One cautionary event I have heard about is that with many high-end drones, if they lose signal for whatever reason, they will automatically fly back and land at their take-off location using GPS. Great idea on land. Problematic when sailing. This reason alone is why I think a water-proof unit is the way to go if on a boat.
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Old 31-03-2019, 16:55   #15
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Re: Drone Use While Underway

Great discussion gang! So it seems like a couple possibilities:
  • A waterproof drone, after a search it does look like there are some quality, feature and cost compromises vs. DJI drones
  • A DJI drone, perhaps a used Phantom 4. One thought I had is putting floats on the struts, such as this: https://www.amazon.com/STARTRC-Prote...ustomerReviews There are downsides with shorter battery life and substantial increase in windage, not to mention being able to retrieve it before it capsizes, so not sure this is practical.
Seems inevitable with either solution you will end up $1500 poorer.


Ah, but the memories!



Any more thoughts here?
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