The Basics of Onboard Drone Flying

DJI Inspire with camera

Have you ever looked through binoculars at the masthead to see why a halyard is fouled or to see what has chafed? If you have, you will know how difficult it is to see anything clearly and have probably had to get the bosun’s chair out to check the fittings. But now there’s a better way. Simply bring your drone on deck and fly it around the masthead to check on the rig. No climbing the mast, no risking life and limb.

 

The Splash Drone For Fishing

If you are a sport fisherman, the Splash Drone can fly far ahead of the boat to see if there are fish in the water or around the boat. The Splash Drone (around $1,599) can also land on water and look down underwater (as long as the water is clear) to spot fish lurking under the surface. The drone can also carry a payload of up to one pound so if you want to send bait ahead of the boat, this drone can do it. http://urbandrones.com 

 

The Splash Drone can land in the water and take off again, although you do need the watertight housing for the GoPro camera.
The Splash Drone can land in the water and take off again, although you do need the watertight housing for the GoPro camera.

 

DJI Phantom 4 For Mast Viewing

One of the most popular drones is the Chinese made DJI. These machines come in a variety of flavors with the most sophisticated hobby drone being the DJI Phantom 4. This unique drone can fly up to your masthead and at the touch of a few buttons fly a complete circle around the top of your mast while taking pictures or streaming video. DJI drones are not waterproof and if they land in the water should be rescued promptly or you may be looking for it on the sea bed.

 

Phantom 4 in flight. Photo: OceanMedia/Gary Brown
Phantom 4 in flight. Photo: OceanMedia/Gary Brown

 

DJI Phantom 3 and 4 drones ($599 to $1,399) can stream video, take hi-resolution pictures, have a 22 to 28 minute flight time and have GPS connections that allow the drone to fly back to its starting point. The Phantom 4 can also sense objects in front of it and will simply stop and hover if it encounters them. It should be noted, however, that the sensor is in the front of the machine and it is still possible to fly into an object going backwards.

If you want to take more sophisticated video, the DJI Inspire series of drones can be fitted to carry DJI’s newest zoom camera but their cost is higher, from $1500 to over $5,000. www.dji.com

 

Yuneec Typhoon

Another drone worth looking at is the six rotor Yuneec Typhoon. This drone comes with its own screen mounted on the controller. (With the DJI drones, you need a cell phone or iPad mini with the DJI app.) The Yuneec ST16 ground controller is an integrated transmitter, receiver, and Android platform that allows you to fly and watch the images or have a friend watch the video while you concentrate on flying the drone, called ‘team flying’. Yuneec drones range in price from $599 to $1299. www.yuneec.com

Editor’s note: Prices are for guidance only and vary greatly depending on the model. 

 

DRONE REGULATIONS:

In America you need to be registered with FAA in order to fly a drone. It takes ten minutes and costs $5 online. To register your drone, go to: www.faa.gov/uas/registration/

Drones should not be flown higher than 400 feet, should stay within visual line of sight of the operator, cannot interfere with the operation of a manned aircraft and may not be operated within five miles of an airport. If a drone is to be flown within five miles of an airport from a permanent location, the operator and the airport authorities should establish a mutually agreed upon operating procedure.

The drone must be flown for hobby or recreational use. If you wish to fly your drone commercially, you will operate under a different set of rules and will need an FAA pilot’s license. You can find out more about drone rules and regulations at the FAA web site: https://www.faa.gov/uas/regulations_policies/media/FAA_UAS-PO_LEA_Guidance.pdf

The regulations are similar in other countries, but check your local government listings to be sure you are operating within the law.

 

The media team using a DJH Phantom 4 during filming at the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. Thick leather gloves are a good idea when recovering the drone from a pitching boat. Photo: OceanMedia/Gary Brown
The media team using a DJH Phantom 4 during filming at the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. Thick leather gloves are a good idea when recovering the drone from a pitching boat. Photo: OceanMedia/Gary Brown

 

IF YOUR DRONE GETS WET:

If your drone (not a Splash drone) gets wet, remove the battery, rinse it thoroughly in fresh water and use a hairdryer to blow as much water out as possible especially around the processing unit and the motors. Pack it in rice and leave for a few days to thoroughly dry. After it is dry, take the props off and run the motors. Hopefully they will all work, if not you may have to replace them. Give the drone a thorough test flight to get it warmed up and be sure it is thoroughly dry.

 

The Splash Drone is designed to take a bath
The Splash Drone is designed to take a bath

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2 comments

  1. Something you might write about is the serious potential for invasion of private these aircraft represent, as well as the noise pollution issue.
    Since we left Maine aboard our 32′ ketch Sionna in August, we have been targeted for intrusive drone observation three times. We occasionally shower or bathe in the cockpit (that being the location of our shower). Why do you suppose a drone chose to hover at 75′ above our vessel? And why did it vanish when we looked up and spotted it?
    If I had an effective means to bring one of those damn things down, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
    And what is one of the singular joys of cruising! Finding a quiet, out of the way corner to escape, relax, watch the sunset and hear the sounds of bird and surf…
    Until the drones start flying back and forth and around your boat…
    Hate them. Hate them. Hate them.
    How about a follow-up article on drone ethics?

  2. I note that the Phantom 4 returns to its start point, which on a moving boat is not that useful. Is there a drone that can be programmed to return to the pilot rather that to where is set off?

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