FPV Smart Modes?

Is it imaginable where everyone can, with a tap of a few buttons and settings?

All argument of it being not real FPV flying aside, just not too long ago, soldering, selecting the right ESC to go with the right RPM motors were part and parcel of building a drone. DJI has disrupted the whole market making it easier and objectively safer than ever to fly a drone.

It has been easier to get the shots you want automatically. During commercial shoot, we have encountered Directors who do not care how you get the shots, they just envision the shots in their head and want us to “do it”. Smart modes were used sparsely but at times, it is one of the easiest to get repeated shots without having to pull our hair out.

Smart modes are easy to use one tap, set and go modes that are predefined flight paths and/ or gimbal movement(s) like the following:

Vision sensors already exists on a few drones. It can easily be used to measure the facade of the building distance to the drone, making sure the distance is enough for say…a vertical dive.

Or a power loop.

It can and will happen, waiting for innovations like these soon.

DJI in Singapore – give up already please.

There seem to be a new Repair Center in Singapore.

Saw this when i was about to send in the Smart Controller for the mavic 2 but I refuse to use ANY Singapore based repair center.

After so many past experiences with Singapore authorised centers. I’ll be damn stupid to keep falling for it. The DJI shop in Funan was asking me to get a brand new Mavic 2 controller when the side USB charging port was faulty. it was out of warranty so heck, I gave a 3rd party repair shop a try. It was $30.00. A brand new Mavic 2 controller was about $500 SGD when he told me to get a new one.

And yeah, I totally don’t believe any shit DJI Support tells me about my feedback that will be cascaded to the relevant department. Trust me, nothing is done.

Just get my case logged, let me send it back to Hong Kong and you just do your job of repairing it and STFU.

 

 

 

We flew the DJI Mavic Mini

Mavic Mini is here. We took it out. Our thoughts…

Once again, the provided bag can’t seem to fit everything in nicely. It’s too tight a fit but could be due to our type of plug/ british type. Don’t get me wrong, it’s one of the best designed in the world and i love it too. It’s just a little big at times.

Charger

The charger that charges the batteries comes with a single port USB plug. The charging block houses a USB port and a android type B cable is provided for you to charge your remote viat his port. However, if the batteries are charging, you will not be able to utilise that USB port. Batts need to be full or removed for that port to be active. it can however, also be used as a power bank to charge the remote, your handphones/ ipads when on the road with the batts inserted.

Batteries

You no longer can tell how much batt is left in the battery unless you have the charger with you.

Smart Modes/ Obstacles Avoidance

You do not get any smart modes with this drone. You only get GPS and Sports mode, Cinesmooth/ tripod mode. No orbiting, no follow me, no hyperlapse and no obstacles avoidance. Nothing else.

There’s a little feature to let you know where your drone is at all times. Kind of useless but well, it’s there.

Range

The range seemed better than the Spark flying at the usual field. One negative thing is, the signal do not gradually get bad. It just cuts off suddenly and if you stubbornly do not stop immediately, when the video does return, you’ll find yourself at a totally different location. We did a good 300 meters which is plenty but practically, stay within 100 to 150 meters is ideal. Flying through tight space is useful for the Mavic Mini.

Camera/ Samples

Conclude

Its a useful little drone, great for first timers but could grow out of it really quickly. It does not have a lot of features at this price point which is expected.

The DJI Mavic Air, Mavic Pro, Mavic 2 Pro, Spark, Mavic Mini, Phantom 4 and Phantom 4 Pro are available from Camera Rental Centre at a great rental price. Check them out.

Why you must not use Singapore Hobby for any DJI repairs.

Rant/ Complain post. Scroll all the way down for TLDR version.

4 April – Logged case to DJI
5 April – DJI revert to contact Singapore Hobby
19 April 2018 – We send in the Mavic Pro to Singapore Hobby and got a qutation on 19 April.

Repair cost $593.60 paid to via paypal [email protected] Replacement/Repair :
Damping Board:$20
Back Right Leg $101
Front Right Leg $110
Back left leg:$101
Top shell $14.30
middle shell $28.70
front sensor $138.60
Camera Ribbon:$80.00
$120 labour charges

27 April 2018 – Told Singapore hobby to cancel after they told us that have to collect $150 AFTER the repair. The upfront $150 is for “diagnostics and evaluation” only. WTF?!
28 April 2018 – Singapore Hobby called that the $150 AFTER repair is wrong. Will not be collected. Inform them to go ahead….#BMOML – biggest mistake of my life.
29 April 2018 – Car Free Sunday, Singapore Hobby was involved. If too busy shouldn’t accept our mavic for repairs!
8 May 2018 – Asked for update
9 May 2018 – Replied, still repairing…end of the week should be done. To wait.
21 May 2018 – Ask for update again…no reply.
23 May 2018 – Ask for update to the previous update if any.
25 May 2018 – Singapore Hobby replied informing high voloume of repairs.
31 May 2018 – Ask for update again, got a reply that it is ready for collection soon as they are doing test flight. ***Note they mention they did test flight.***
1 June 2018 – The repair completed.. That’s 6 weeks.
6 June 2018 – Collected from Singapore Hobby. When we receive it, the transmitter has no sound and the Mavic Pro has a forward right sensor error. Emailed immedaitely to Singapore Hobby with screenshots.
12 June 2018. – send it back
21 June 2018 – Send a chaser email on and giving up hope that i’ll be getting it back anytime soon.
25 June 2018 – Took the initial request to DJI and continue the original request requesting them to look into their Singapore partner, Singapore Hobby. It’s really bad and DJI took over.
3 July 2018 – Singahobby send the mavic pro to DJI, below screenshot shows it is showing up. Case logged and accepted as CAS-1972819-N6Q2S0

10 July 2018 – Received at DJI, same day quoted. Quote sent to Singapore Hobby. oh god…more waiting.

13 July 2018 – Asked DJI why quote delayed for 3 days and still not paid.
14 July 2018 – DJI replied “We hope that your dealer can provide the latest update of the repair case as they are in contact of our facility with this.” My dealer is useless…I can only lan lan siao siao wait.
16 July 2018 – Singapore Hobby sent a quotation on the repair charges. This is DJI quoted plus maybe or maybe not, their markup. Funny how DJI still found things to repair after Singapore Hobby has “repaired” it? Shouldn’t their repair certification be revoked? Replied them the same, that if there’s still things to repair, what did you do? I paid you for?

18 July 2018 – Emailed DJI on update.
19 July 2018 – Singapore Hobby reply that they need to inform me the charges BEFORE DJI can proceed with repair. Whatever that means. Replied asking if DJI is proceeding or not.
19 July 2018 – James Russell from DJI revert with a copy and paste reply “We regret to inform you that we are not able to provide more details regarding the case you checked. Because it was reported by the dealer.

We only can provide case information to the original reporter in consideration of safety and privacy protection.”

…send the whole above to DJI repeating the whole case form beginning till now ALL OVER AGAIN. Case original reported was ME and me all along. Wtf are you talking about?! CAS-1972819-N6Q2S0 is the new case ID, it is tied to Singapore Hobby because they send it to you! Your system has tied it to them, while we paid them, they didnt fix, DJI takes over and I’m still screwed.

23 July 2018 – Ronald Yong from Singapore Hobby replied to DJI’s logged case that he happen to be in DJI China as well, for training. Asked to meet up with the support James from DJI to resolve this.

25 July 2018 – Replied Singapore Hobby to sort it out with DJI.

26 July 2018 – Nothing is done, no update. Open a case with Paypal trying to get back the original money paid on 19 April 2018.

30 July 2018 – Singapore replied PayPal resolution saying the repair is for…(we direct quote) transmitter only! So the quoted $310.30 is for repairing the transmitter? Then why did they send the whole mavic pro back? Or did they send the whole mavic back since one of the front vision sensor has error.

1 Aug 2018 – Singapore Hobby replied the 25 July email that he “may” be able to check with his manager on the status. Well done, 1 week read 1 email and ok, you slowly may check…we have given up anyway.

3 Aug 2018 – Ronald from Singapore Hobby replied in Paypal Resolution Centre. We called and spoke to him and agree to pay 50% of the 2nd quote of $105.15, well, since we do not ask for a on the spot demo, we see how it may seem that we took it out the shop, to be fair, anything could have happened to it. It’s been 4 months to the day, we just want this over and done with Singapore Hobby.

6 Aug 2018 – Payment received by DJI and repair in progress. Another few days wasted.

13 Aug 2018 – Repaired and was returned to Singapore Hobby today. We waited.

17 Aug 2018 – No fucking response as usual. Send chaser email and waited again. Slow response. Receive but can’t call or email to tell me after all the big fucking hoo-ha with them. This should have been put on piority. That’s the way bussiness is done at Singapore Hobby. Fucked-UP!

20 Aug 2018 – Received call from Singapore Hobby. Meet tomorrow 12.30pm Hong Lim Park to test.

21 Aug 2018 – Met, Tested. Collected. Left.

Dji took only 8 days once payment is received. If not for wasting a few months at Singapore Hobby. We won’t be tangled in this garbage.

Comparing a similar case we log concurrently with DJI.

Smiliar case we log ( CAS-1830023-xxxx)

23 May 2018 – case logged via email.
24 May 2018 – Case accepted with case log number received from DJI Nicole.
7 June 2018 – DJI Received with email acknowledgement.
28 June 2018 – Delay by us on sending out due to newborn at home. Sent via SF Express
29 June 2018 – At DJI
7 June 2018 – Quotation for repaired received,
8 June 2018 – Payment made.
13 June 2018 – Informed it is repaired and on the way back
15 June 2018 – Informed by Roly Fang that there is a slight delay due to updating of shipping system and the Dragon Boat Festival.
22 June 2018 – Received the DJI Mavic Pro.

The above is delayed and yet it is still faster than what we have sent to Singapore Hobby!

Their contacts, they have some other domain names but if you see this address and contact, be afraid…be very afraid:

150 South Bridge Road
#B1-23 Fook Hai Building
Singapore 058727

Opening hours:
10:30am to 7:00pm Mondays to Fridays
10:30am to 6:00pm Saturdays
CLOSED on Sundays and Public Holidays

Call us at (65) 6532 1993
Email us at [email protected]
Fax us at (65) 6535 7866
DJI themselves are a mess. When you log a case, whenever you spread out your response and then carry on the replies, it’s as if it’s a brand new case. Having to repeat and their standard reply “We understand your frustration and hope to resolved it.” Oh stupid. Solve it already! Then we go round and round all over again! Paypal resolution is the fastest and easiest way to make vendors wake up since behind the scene, I believe it will cause issues on payment and receiving of funds. They will surely reply.
We need alternatives in Singapore. Old school hobby shops need to die.

TLDR version

TLDR – Singapore Hobby took 2 months to repair our mavic pro. Complained to dji who took over the case. Don’t use Singapore hobby. Go direct to DJI.

We took the DJI Mavic Air out

After unboxing, we really didn’t like the charger… nor the battery. Since the Phantom 3 to Phantom 4, the Inspire 1 to Inspire 2 and maybe the Mavic Pro to the Maciv Pro 2, the batteries have always been redesigned. Nothing is usable after an upgrade. Upgrading your DSLR from a Canon 60D to 70D or upwards to a 6D, 7D or 5DMK2 or MK3 do not require you to change the battery. It all uses the same LP-E6.

Come on DJI. It’s something that’s adding costs to users who upgrade. Reasons of profit or trying to squeeze it into a newly designed body of the drone are simply too expensive for end-users.

We didn’t like the charger either. It has to unfold, batteies stand vertical. The cube charger for the Mavic was better.


the mavic cube charger.
The new mavic air charger where the battery have to stand.

Option of the transmitter stick to be removed is good for those longer haul transport/ trip. Careful of dropping them onto grass in the field. A pair of spare is provided but we’ve installed it and has never removed it since.

Wind

It doesn’t handle wind well. Simple as that. We saw it drifting as we were flying near waters and usually what the Mavic Pro can handle, the Air could not. It wasn’t even huge gust of wind to begin with but we have trouble bring it back, lowered it to behind some trees and flew back behind trees.

Asteroid Mode

It is cool but if you were to get the Mavic Air to do one thing, this is about it.

Can you do car chase with it?

In 1 word. Yes, albeit a slow car.

Conclude

It’s small, it’s compact so you have to know the battery life is affected. The Mavic Pro seems to still have hit the balance better of weight vs flight time.

The build quality isn’t fantastic but you pay for what you get. It feels plastic and not as sturdy. We don’t think it’s meant to replace the Mavic Pro. It sits squarely between the Spark and Mavic Pro. Distance wasn’t great but we hit 1.8km easily before getting video signal lost but when back at our regaulr flying field, we can’t manage anything more than 400 meters.

We did some slow 8 to 12 meters/ Sec, car chases shots at 4K. Front and back obstacle avoidance is a great feature. If you don’t own one yet, get a Mavic Air, if not go for the Mavic Pro. By real commercial work, don’t get Mavic anything, look at the Phantom 4 or the Phantom 4 Pro.

The DJI Mavic Air, Mavic Pro, Phantom 4 and Phantom 4 Pro are available from Camera Rental Centre at a limit rental price. Check them out.

This is another DJI Spark post

The DJI Spark has been covered quite a bit by many many reviewers. Here’s our favourite ones. Here and here.

But of course, nothing beats trying it out ourselves.

Intro
While flying the Spark, you must first and foremost understand, this is not a photography or videography drone like the DJI Phantom or even the DJI Mavic. The Spark is in the selfie range of drones. It can’t do shots like:

Or fly out to sea and take this:

Or video chases like

Or “Fly Away Shots”:

 

Camera

Image and video at full resolution are: 12 megapixel/3968 x 2976/, 1080p/ 30 fps videos.

Photography and videography with the Spark is so-so. You’re better off finding a high point, climb it and take a pic with your handphone. You’ll save more time. Gentle breeze causes it to moves around quite a bit. It’s very hard to track subjects when using the transmitter, if that’s what you are taking videos of.

Can you get shots like the above? yes you can. It won’t be easy considering battery life, it’s size that it moves around in gentle breeze… and it may not have the range needed to go where you want it to.

Resolution

  • Note the resolution is already quite low and it’s lower if you do not have a SD card, the photos will be saved to your phone at 1024 x 768 and videos will be 1280 x 720
  • The resolution drops to 1440 x 1080 or 1.5 Megapixel, no not a typo it is 1.5 (instead of 12 megapixel/3968 x 2976) when you are in Gesture Mode.

Compare –

Spark Image | EXIF Only

Phantom 4 Image

Sports Mode
Kinda useless when the camera can’t keep up. You get tilted videos the second you need to change directions. Useful for getting back to landing point, quicker. Normal non sports mode is slow.

Range
The spark transmitter connects to your phone via wifi and the usual RC channels 2.4ghz or 5.8ghz to the Spark. We used 5.8ghz, we managed to fly 300 meters and it’s really pushing it. It keep dropping video while we have full control of the Spark but if you can’t compose shots, it’s as good as useless to us.

On the way back to land from 300 meters, at 105 meters, we tried flying over trees to take some shots, RC link lost, video feed lost. Only trees and leaves made us lost connection.

GESTURES
TL;DR version – DO NOT USE IT.

But we’re very sure, people won’t listen till they try it. So try it in a big field with no obstacles.

It worked half the time. We get 50/50 success rates. First don’t do this indoors, it’s so unpredictable but of course, we had to try.  We thought it’s the lighting, so a sunny bright day, we went flying the Spark and tested it again.

During 1 take-off indoors, the spark refuses to land on our palm and keep moving around ever so slightly. We had the transmitter on at all times so we took over using the transmitter and landed in manually.

Sometimes it takes off after double tapping the battery button, the camera scans up and down for a face, most times it does not and goes back to waiting. When it works, gesture controls will make your arm ache trying to get it to obey your palm. Waving at it worked once from the 5 times we tried it. Y arms to bring it back and land worked when waving worked. At all times, the transmitter can be used to take over the Spark to manual flying. You’ll have to land the sparky with the transmitter once you fly it around for a while.

Battery/ Flight Time
15 mins. A mixture of sports mode and normal flying but mostly, we get around 10 mins playing with gesture mode and a little manual flying. Landing and taking off again and again tends to drain battery quicker.

The transmitter now connects to your phone via wifi and not cable, then the transmitter to the drone with the 2.4 or 5.8ghz RC connection. So your phone batt is constantly drained.

Conclude
As a selfie drone, this is quite fun to have. Small and dandy, easy to bring around. For shots like the below, 30 to 50 meters, it’s not bad to remember a holiday, a trip.

Taking selfie from a height of 5 to 10 meters showing the surrounding with you and your loved ones, not too bad but could be easier to setup a tripod or place your camera on a ledge or in a tree.

Filename – DJI_0005.JPG – Exif here.

Low altitude flying on grass fields is quite fun, we can imagine using this on a calm day flying over padi or tea leaves fields. See video below.

BUT, If you want to take some shots of a building from 50 meters height, do not use this.

The DJI Spark is available for rental at Camera Rental Centre Singapore. Check them out.

 

State of the hobby

It is end June 2016. A round up of what is the current status of multicoptors to us.

We’ve always love folding quads. Just look at our fleet. 30 builts later, we’ve partnered up and now flying Phantoms and Inspires do make us ponder and wonder.

The neatness of these ready to flys. Less hassle of packing things. We primarily fly for aerial videos and photos. Seldom fpv racing/ mini quads. We have a few (See our fleet) but its just for speed and fun mostly. It also means less things to be messing around with. Gains, programming knobs, it’s great knowledge but the hassle with so many China based made with crude documentations, don’t get us wrong, even leaders like DJI has manuals that seems written by school students but they’re getting there…slowly but surely.  

 

 

Being able to push out products in a lot shorter time frame and putting in technologies that they heard feedback from is critical. We all don’t need that new iPad or iPhone, that new Android tablet or new graphic card or cpu,it however makes your competitors play catch up.

Gimbal
Even powering up our good old Phantom 2 with a Hero 4, on a H43D seems a hassle now. You power up the Phantom 2, the Hero 4, connect your antennas to the Black pearl monitor, turn it on….

With the Inspire 1 or Phantom 4. Power up, connect iPad/ your phone, wait for GPS, fly, enjoy the scenery.

Auto Modes/ follow me, circle/ polar
It’s ridiculously easy with the DJI Go app for the POI or follow me.

We love to DIY. The smell of solder get us going and the ability to mix and match motors and ESC and learning the different Flight Controllers can be both fun and frustrating at the same time. If you’re the casual flyer, do not hope to purchase one but hope to have an aerial shot of your holiday or a one off shot of your loved ones having fun flying a kite or spending a day skating, consider renting as even buying one has some maintenance to be done. The least is the firmware updates for your drone and at times, all the bits that come with it, the batteries, gimbal, camera etc etc may all require update(s).

Another important point is, on tiny Singapore and with strict DJI No Fly zone implementation, we weren’t able to take on some past assignment with the church sitting on the edge but inside the no fly zone. On Google Map, go to 1.373587, 103.898441. From the church, you have to fly past 5 blocks of more than 12 storeys high buildings, cross a river and then a forested area of about 500 meters even then, you’re only at the edge of the airport. We needed the church tower video-ed and it’s no more than 20 meters tall…the solution? A DIY hexacopter.

There’s even guys who are certified circumventing this by disconnecting their GPS from their Inspire 1 and fly it in ATTI mode. Go google…

We hope one day, DJI will release what is in the DJI Go app to any Naza DIY-ers that they can build and making the geo-fencing a little more flexible.

Till the day comes and for all commerical jobs we received, seems like mostly, Inspire 1 and Phantoms prevail…for now.

How a crash looks like in Flytrex

 

Flytrex is a great, cheap and lightweight tool to help, to a certain extend see what may have gone wrong. It doesn’t however include input from your transmitter.

An example below from a crash, speed and altitude has a sudden drop within 2 secs. It’s regardless there is no other logging as the crash was caused by a broken propeller mid flight after reviewing the onboard video footage.

crash

Comparing, a normal flight does not have erratic lines or a sudden fall in speed and altitude.

normal

Simple analyzing of these cannot really help in determining if it was pilot input error but does help somewhat.

Lithium based batteries on planes

Created 2 March 2016
Reviewed – 28 Dec 2017
Updated 2 Feb 2018

In what was problem that was actually caused by the manufacturers, passengers are actually penalised on how much watt hours worth of batteries you can hand carry on board planes.

Watt hours is what airlines uses. We are lucky there’s the Internet. It’s actually not much, for example, we use the popular 5200mAh and 5000mAh 4S lipos.

Converted, they are 76.96 and 74 watt hour respectively.

Convert using this or use

(mAh)*(V)/1000 = (Wh)

Other popular batteries (values are per battery) –

DJI Mavic – 43.66 Wh
DJI Phantom 3 – 68 Wh
DJI Phantom 4 – 81.3 Wh
DJI Inspire 1 – 129 Wh

***Do Not Check in Any Batteries in luggage. Always hand carry.***

Singapore – Cargo shipments of lithium-ion batteries will be banned from passenger aircraft from April 1 to reduce the risk of onboard fires.

Gist of it:

index

Jetstar Asia – carry on only, two lithium-ion batteries under 101 (6824.32 mAh 4S Lipo) watt-hours each that are part of electronic equipment.

– Only one other spare battery under 101 watt-hours may be carried on board,

  • There are no restrictions for batteries under 101Wh (eg found in mobile phones, laptops)
  • All spare batteries must travel as carry-on baggage.
  • Batteries in checked baggage must have the ON/OFF switch protected to prevent accidental activation.
  • Batteries between 101Wh and 160Wh (eg in medical equipment) require airline approval, which you can request by emailing [email protected].
  • Any batteries over 160Wh must be sent by Qantas Freight (except motorised mobility aids, see below).

(Source)

taindex

Tigerair – board personal devices with a capacity of up to 160 watt-hours (10810.81 mAh 4S Lipo).
(Source)

unnamed

Singapore Airlines allows laptops and mobile phones with less than 100 watt-hours (6756.75 mAh 4S Lipo) and a lithium content of less than 2g as onboard items.

But the move will not apply to personal devices that are carried on board, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) said yesterday.

The United Nations aviation agency’s precautionary step comes after years of industry concerns that lithium-ion batteries could fuel undetected fires in the cargo hold of planes.

Most airlines now do not allow passengers to check in lithium-ion batteries unless they are contained within personal devices such as laptop computers and mobile phones.

While there have been no serious incidents so far, lithium battery-powered equipment is suspected to have caused a fire in an empty aircraft parked at London’s Heathrow Airport in 2013.

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said ICAO’s latest restriction will be conveyed to airlines and other relevant industry players.

“Currently, passengers are permitted to carry portable electronic devices containing lithium batteries in checked-in or carry-on bags,” she said.

“However, spare batteries, including power banks, are not permitted to be carried in check-in bags. They are permitted in hand- carry bags only.”

Singapore carriers also have their own guidelines, on top of what is now required by the regulator.

On Jetstar Asia flights, those who wish to carry the items onboard are allowed two lithium-ion batteries under 101 watt-hours each that are part of electronic equipment.

Only one other spare battery under 101 watt-hours may be carried on board, said a spokesman.

On Tigerair, passengers may carry on board personal devices with a capacity of up to 160 watt-hours.

Singapore Airlines allows laptops and mobile phones with less than 100 watt-hours and a lithium content of less than 2g as onboard items. A mobile phone typically uses a battery that is less than 10 watt-hours.

CAAS conducts regular audits and inspections to ensure guidelines are adhered to, said a spokesman.

ICAO president Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu said: “Safety is always our most fundamental priority in international civil aviation.”

The prohibition, coming after extensive reviews, is an interim measure until a new lithium battery packaging performance standard is introduced, possibly by 2018, he said.

The latest move has been eagerly awaited by aircraft manufacturer and pilots associations, which have been the most vocal advocates for the new safety measure, he said.

160Wh per battery. You are permitted 2 pieces. Total 320Wh. (That’s 8 x Mavic batteries per passenger.)

“Maximum of two spare batteries in carry-on baggage only”

(Source)

Smart baggage are allowed as checked baggage provided it meets the following requirement:
  • The battery must be removed
  • The battery must be kept in a protective pouch
  • WH (Watt Hour) of the battery must not exceed 160Wh
  • Ensure the Wifi/Bluetooth/GPS is switched off
  • A maximum of 2 spare batteries in the cabin baggage is allowed*
    160Wh per battery. You are permitted 2 pieces. Total 320Wh. (That’s 8 x Mavic batteries OR 4 x Phantom 4 batteries per passenger.)

(Source)

Cathay

160Wh

(Source)