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Flying in the Forest

Joined
Sep 21, 2018
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49
#1
I've been practicing in an open field this summer. Flying mostly in angle, going around the jogging track, keeping line of sight, etc. The few times I started getting video lag or loss of video I hit the home switch and it came back.

A couple of weeks ago I went into the mountains, planning to fly a ways along a river. I couldn't get GPS, and a message said that I would have to fly in manual mode (something along those lines.) I thought, well, heck, I know how to do that. To make a short story even shorter, right after take-off the drone started acting wonky. I let go of the controls but it still seemed to have a life of it's own. It did at one point get behind a tree, but it was just one tree! At the end of the day I spent a couple hours crab-walking/crawling up a pretty steep mountain through very uncooperative bush towards the general area where we saw it go down. Never would have found it if it was beeping.

Vertigo Drones has it, and hopefully soon I'll have it back, albeit $300 lighter due to a broken B Arm and landing strut.

I assume the first thing I did wrong was leave the ground without a GPS signal. That won't happen again.

What I want to know, though, is if I want to get flyover shots of densely treed woods (in North Idaho), what do I do? If I leave the ground in the woods (say I start in a meadow) and get above the trees and fly any distance over them, how badly are they going to be blocking my signals?

Thanks!
 
Joined
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aerocam.org.uk
#2
I let go of the controls but it still seemed to have a life of it's own.
Yep, never release the sticks when there is no GPS lock to be had !!! It is not strictly wrong to take off without it, but of course the craft cannot position lock so requires constant manual stick adjustment to keep it from drifting off in the prevailing wind. And of course with no GPS, calling RTH will land you in serious trouble and you'll probably get a full-on fly-away.

Trees do block signals, both video and control, but usually only if they are between you and your craft. But they don't normally block GPS if you are above the tree canopy.

If you need those dense forest shots from above I suggest you find the edge of a forest, and fly parallel to that edge, just far enough in so the camera sees only the trees, but crucially, high enough above the tree-line so that you always maintain a direct LoS between your controller and the craft.
 
Joined
Jul 4, 2017
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Central Florida
#3
If you get a GPS warning, amber blinking light, it may help to turn of the motors and restart. This happens to me from time to time.
Even though it's calibrated properly.
I also have been under a thick blanket of trees. It's very unnerving, and you must keep your eye on the H.
I agree with @AeroJ, find a n open area if you can.
 
Last edited:
Likes: dmchord
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#4
I agree with @AeroJ . There's nothing wrong with taking off without GPS assistance so long as you know that you will need to constantly input control to the aircraft to prevent drift, and that RTH won't work. However, Return to controller in the event of loss of control signal will work if you have took off with GPS assistance at the beginning of the flight and subsequently disabled GPS assist after take off since the aircraft will then 'know' where the controller was at the time that GPS assist was turned off.

If you were taking off with a mountain in close proximity to you, then that mountain would have acted as a GPS Mask and would have impacted on the number of GPS satellites that your aircraft was able to see...so much so that you may not have been able to acquire enough satellites for a GPS Assist flight. But that in itself shouldn't have caused your aircraft to start acting wonky and have a life of it's own. The aircraft should still have been controllable so that tells me that there was possibly an underlying issue with your aircraft. Taking your hands off your controller in that situation is the last thing you should do if flying without GPS assist...but the first thing you should do if you encounter difficulties if you do have GPS Assist and the GPS is working as it should.

Once repaired and the underlying problem (if any) has been rectified (maybe rectified by a simple re-calibration), there is no reason why you can't fly without GPS Assist so long as you have the experience for flying without GPS assistance. But do keep in mind that if anything comes between you and the aircraft you are likely to loose control signal and if the GPS has not been active from the beginning of the flight you are likely going to be going for a walk to pick up the pieces.
 

Steve Carr

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#6
It's possible after you launched the GPS picked up a few satellites and was trying to acquire more but without a good position fix. Did the ST16 show any satellites?
How were you able to launch if the H was still "Acquiring" satellites? Did you turn off the GPS?
 
Joined
Sep 21, 2018
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#9
Incidentally, If I go for my commercial certification, am I better off just studying the information on the FAA website, or should I shell out the money and take a class?
 
Joined
May 1, 2016
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#10
Everything you pay for in a class is what the FAA provides for free. The difference is the class stuff is more question/answer for memorization and all in one place while the FAA provides the books containing all the information the questions and answers are created from.

One way lets you memorize the answer to a few specific questions while the other teaches you how to make full use of the NAS. The path you take is dependent on how much of a hurry you are in to get a 107 versus how knowledgable you want to be.
 

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