Category Archives for "Quadcopters"

UAV Pilots – What to Do When Confronted by Angry Bystanders

There are an increasing number of reports of UAV pilots being attacked by angry members of the public. Some are verbally harassed, others lose their vehicles to shotgun blasts, and still others are outright assaulted. Unfortunately, it’s not much of a surprise that the public opinion of UAVs is negative. The media spotlight seems to shine exclusively on the small number of pilots who misuse their craft — and feeds into the growing paranoia that UAVs exist for the sole purpose of spying.

If you’re unlucky enough to be cornered by an irate bystander while flying, here are some steps you can take to defuse the situation.

Keep Calm

Start by asking the person to wait a moment while you land your craft. If they give you push back on landing, let them know that if the UAV were to collide with a person it could do serious harm. Once you’ve landed your vehicle, take time to listen to their concerns. Avoid escalating the situation by responding in a calm and collected manner. If you are being yelled at, you can gently make the person aware of how confrontational they’re being by stating, “You seem really angry about this.” This can help to calm them down as many people get lost in the moment and don’t realize they are being aggressive.

Explain what you’re doing and why you’re there. If you’re there for professional reasons, tell them. If you’re there as a hobbyist, explain why you fly UAVs and why you chose that area to fly.

Protect Yourself

Know the law. The FAA has a few important guidelines for hobby pilots, and it’s extremely important to follow them. You won’t be doing yourself or anyone else any favors by breaking the rules. While we don’t have definitive word when it will be put into action, the FAA is currently working on implementing a registration system for UAVs. Once the system is in place, it’s important to register all of your craft. This registration is expected to be simple and free, so there’s no need to pay a third party company to do it for you.

but those will rarely come up when confronted by the public. People are far more likely to reference privacy laws that simply don’t exist. The cold hard fact is that there is no expectation of privacy in public places. If you’re filming in a public place, you’re safe. Furthermore, as much as people would like to consider their fenced yards private areas, they are not. If they were, services like Google Earth wouldn’t exist. Like it or not, it is perfectly legal to fly a UAV over someone’s back yard.

However, whatever the law may be, people are bound to get riled up if they think their privacy is being infringed upon. That’s why it’s a good idea to wear a head-mounted GoPro and keep it recording as you fly. You never know when situations might turn violent, and having footage of the altercation as evidence will help when pressing charges.

Be Courteous

While there isn’t any expectation of privacy in public places, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a considerate member of the community. If the noise of your UAV is disrupting someone’s peace and quiet, consider flying it elsewhere. If you’re looking to get stunning aerial views of beaches or hiking trails, try to do it when such areas are the least crowded. And if someone doesn’t want to be filmed, don’t film them.

Be an Ambassador

There’s no doubt about it, UAVs are cool. If you’ve defused the situation to the point of civil conversation, offer to show the person how UAVs work — what they can and can’t do, flight paths, etc. Since so much of the controversy around UAVs has to do with perceived spying ability, explain how the cameras on even the highest end UAVs are only equipped with an ultra wide angle lens and have no ability to zoom. This makes them a poor choice for spying — a DSLR camera with a telephoto lens would be far better (and cheaper).

Since many fear what they don’t understand, educating people about what is and isn’t possible is key. Most people who find out what UAVs are really capable of find a new appreciation for these fantastic little pieces of technology. By explaining the why and how behind your craft, you may help create another fan — and the more UAV enthusiasts there are, the more innovation we’ll see in their future development.

It’s not pleasant being constantly on guard when flying in public, but until the average Joe knows more about UAVs, it’s just going to be a way of life. As long as you’re prepared to handle each situation in a calm and collected manner, things should (hopefully) go swimmingly.

July 18, 2015

Syma X5C Explorers Review

Syma X5C Eplorers [easyazon_infoblock align=”left” identifier=”B00L54Y4X4″ key=”image” locale=”UK” tag=”droneuav-21″]If you’re already a fully fledged DJI Phantom or Walkera pilot then small quadcopters like the Syma X5C may seem a little tame by comparison, but these little drones can provide a lot of fun while developing basic skills. They are very affordable and make ideal presents for anyone who enjoys flying remote controlled drones equipped with cameras. This Syma X5C Explorers review lists its key features and advantages over its rivals.

Syma Toys Industrial Company Ltd, to give it its full title, is another Chinese company that designs, manufactures, and trades its RC toys throughout the world.  It’s product range includes about fourteen helicopters and fifteen quadcopters.  They have obviously targeted the less expensive price bracket and many of their models can be bought for under £100.  Syma toys are about having fun with flying and basic aerial filming.

The [easyazon_link identifier=”B00L54Y4X4″ locale=”UK” tag=”droneuav-21″]Syma x5C[/easyazon_link] ships with the following:

  • 1 x SYMA X5C Quadcopter with 2MP HD Camera
  • 1 x Transmitter
  • 1 x 3.7V 500mAh Li-poly Battery
  • 4 x Blades
  • 1 x Screwdriver
  • 1 x USB Charger

So you’ll have everything you need to get started.  However, with a battery life of only about seven minutes you’re probably going to want to buy some spare batteries right from the start.  Seven minutes can pass quickly and although the battery can be recharged using the supplied charger plugged into any USB port, it will 100 minutes to do so.  1.75 hours between flights of just seven minutes?  Best buy some [easyazon_link identifier=”B00L81UFJQ” locale=”UK” tag=”droneuav-21″]spare batteries[/easyazon_link]!

Syma X5C Review – Flight Time

The first thing you may notice about this quadcopter is that it is very light, barely 100gms with every accessory fitted.  While this may extend the flight time it does mean that it is not very flight efficient in anything stronger than a gentle breeze.  In fact, totally still air is preferable.

You can fly the [easyazon_link identifier=”B00L54Y4X4″ locale=”UK” tag=”droneuav-21″]Syma x5C[/easyazon_link] in two configurations:

  • Without accessories fitted – for more sport flying, maneuverability and slightly longer flight time.  This will give you the maximum flight time depending on how you fly and the conditions at the time.
  • With accessories fitted – for amateur aerial filming and capturing still images onto a 2GB memory card (supplied)

The accessories are the prop guards, landing gear, and camera.  Adding all of these adds to the overall weight, affects the flight characteristics, and reduces flight time, but they all have their obvious advantages when fitted.

Syma X5C Remote Controller

Syma X5C LCD

The LCD display provides telemetry data from your aircraft.

The 2.4Ghz controller, providing control through six axes, is easy to use with a little practice. The button on the top right is used to capture single images with one push, or to start filming with push & hold.  When the camera is removed this same button is used to flip the quadcopter through 360 degrees.  The left hand button is the high/low speed switch.

The controller also includes trim buttons for fine tuning and more accurate flying, and it will give you a control range of up to about 30 metres.

Tip:  For your first flight, test stability indoors.  Fit the prop guards, landing gear, and camera first and fly some gentle manoeuvres to see how it performs in zero wind. You can also test the effectiveness of the prop guards against solid objects, but be gentle!  There’s no need to fly at speed in a confined space.

Syma X5C Camera

The camera is fixed to the body of the drone and is easily detached.  It’s a 2MP camera that can record 720fps video.  It’s not the best camera by any means, but for the price it’s a fair compromise.  You don’t buy the Syma X5C for professional grade photography.  This quadcopter is designed for fun, practice, and as an entry level drone for those who might want to eventually graduate to something like a DJI Phantom.

Conclusion

The [easyazon_link identifier=”B00L54Y4X4″ locale=”UK” tag=”droneuav-21″]Syma x5C[/easyazon_link] is a fun, affordable, light quadcopter that would suit anyone who wants to play, develop skills, practice basic aerial photography, and otherwise enjoy flying drones.  It’s a good choice at a fair price.

Syma X5C Explorers

[easyazon_cta align=”left” identifier=”B00L54Y4X4″ key=”wide-orange” locale=”UK” tag=”droneuav-21″] [easyazon_cta align=”none” identifier=”B00L54Y4X4″ key=”wide-light” locale=”US” tag=”droneuav-20″]

 

Drone Near Misses and Air Safety

air safety

It is an unfortunate fact that as the number of quadcopters and other drones in our skies continues to increase so do incidents of drone near misses.  The Sunday Times (19th April, 2015) contained an article by James Gillespie which lists three such incidents currently being investigated.  The article quotes the UKAB (UK Airprox Board) which warns that since drones/UAV are so easily acquired and given that too many flyers either ignore or are unaware of the rules, the chances of a serious incident are increased.

To put it bluntly there are too many drones being flown by people who have no respect for the rules or who are ignorant of them, and they are taking alarming risks.

The list of incidents so far include:

  • A paraglider ridge soaring in the Peak District.  A drone came within 25ft and appeared to be following and filming (October 2014).
  • An A320 pilot who saw a drone while on final approach into Heathrow (December 2014)
  • The pilot of a helicopter on approach to Norwich airport saw a quadcopter 160ft in front and on this flight path.  It was reported that the drone was being flown by a worker from a nearby industrial estate while on his lunch break. (September 2014)
  • A gyrocopter on a training flight near Rochester when a UAV was spotted at 1,000ft and flying towards the pilot and instructor.
  • Flights to and from one of Manchester Airport’s runways were suspended for 20 minutes after a drone was spotted nearby (April 2015)

Needless to say, the consequences of a catastrophe caused by a UAV are many and far reaching.  Aside from a risk of an immediate loss of life to those in the air, and death or injury to those on the ground, the loss of one or more aircraft, and the damage to property on the ground, there are also the risks of tougher restrictions and outright bans of UAV flying for all but the most strictly licensed operators.  Nobody wins and many have a lot to lose.

Ignorance of the Law is no protection from it.  If the CAA come knocking at your door you won’t get much sympathy if your only defense is to say you weren’t aware of the rules and regulations.  If you’re going to fly an aircraft, manned or unmanned, then it’s your responsibility to take all the necessary precautions, to plan the flight, and to ensure that it is safe and legal to fly.

The chances are that anyone reading this post is already aware of the rules and regulations, but as well as conducting our own flights safely and legally we must also be ready to tackle those who are contemptuous of the rules and who threaten our hobby and profession.  Don’t be afraid to challenge those you see flying illegally.  Sometimes all it takes is a quiet word and they will resolve to educate themselves.  You might even be thanked for helping them!

On the other hand your approach might be met with a rebuff of one degree or another.  In such cases, if the person is unwilling to accept that there are standards to be kept when flying UAV, then perhaps the only course of action is to draw the attention of the CAA to their activities.

Without listing all the pre flight planning that is advisable before you launch your multirotor into the air, it’s always worth reviewing your situational awareness of the airspace around your intended launch site:

  • In what airspace is your take-off site?
  • What airspace is above you e.g. beginning at 2,500ft?
  • Where is the nearest airfield/airport?
  • Where is the nearest farm airstrip or private airfield? (see Lockyears Farm ‘Strips’ Guide)
  • Where is the nearest helicopter landing site? (it could be a hotel nearby)
  • How far and in what direction would your UAV fly if you loss control?

Even if you’ve carried out all these checks it’s your responsibility as the pilot of an (unmanned) aircraft to keep a good look out and take necessary avoiding action if you consider there is a risk of your aircraft conflicting with other airspace users.  Remember that your drone is hard to spot and other aircraft (balloons, for example) are less maneouverable.  An assistant or spotter is often a sensible choice if you are preoccupied with filming or whatever else the UAV is doing.

drone near misses

You’re unlikely to win the argument if you fly your UAV in the flight path of other aircraft

 

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