Today (March 6 2014) I went to Ho'okipa to film because the waves finally were getting good again after being so huge they were closing out and rendering Ho'okipa unsurfable (but very incredible to wave watch). I was fortunate enough to have Ekolu Kalama as my subject again. His style on the stand up board is just unreal. I am getting better at filming surfers, but you can tell that I am still learning because a wave almost ate my Phantom and one time I could not keep up with Ekolu because he was just ripping all over this wave - left, right, up, down - hard to follow in the fatshark video goggles on shore. I trust the Phantom 2 platform enough to get within a few feet of the waves and this is surely going to cost me a drone eventually. The footage is so cool that I am willing to risk it, it is why I own this cool toy isn't it?
I got a chance to film SUP world champion Ekolu Kalama at Ho'okipa and I was lucky enough to capture this clip. I have watched this over and over and just can't get over the level of style this guy has. World class.
If you need some inspiration, just watch this a few times.
This was filmed from a DJI Phantom 2 with theGoPro Black set on 720p 120fps.
We had another fun day learning about and observing whales from my tiny remote control helicopter, the DJI Phantom 2. It carries a GoPro camera and I filmed everything in 720p at 120fps. I normally don't like to make videos that are longer than a minute or two but I had a ton of great footage and thought it justified a longer video! I hope you love it and appreciate that observing from a drone is a very safe and no impact way to study and research these amazing animals.
While we were getting used to swimming around in the ocean, we noticed a turtle! He got to see a turtle swimming around underwater and he went nuts.
This was such a special trip for my family. Not only did we get to see some amazing whales from my aerial drone, my sun also got to go snorkeling for the first time. He got to see some yellow fish and he just went nuts (again!) There is nothing better than being in the warm Maui waters with my family!
I love seeing how far down I can go. In Maui, when you swim down deep and just go limp, the whale songs are so beautiful. The deeper you go, the more pronounced they get. While I was 45 feet down, I couldn't help but wonder what sounds the whales make when they are engaged in the behaviors we witnessed from the drone.
Everywhere is beautiful in Maui and my little dudes love it here.
Who doesn't want to sleep on a boat? Captain Ian in the back is guiding us to the Navy Corsair that is in 60 feet of water. Unfortunately, we couldn't locate it. Next time!
Filming surfing from a drone is something I have wanted to do for awhile. This is the first time I got a chance to get some practice flying around Ho'okipa. I happened to run into a guy named Ekolu Kalama and I filmed him doing some awesome nose riding on his SUP board. This was really just to get some practice filming, and I learned a bunch about how to set up shots and chase surfers around. You can expect to see many more surf videos from my Phantom in the next few months.
Anyone in and around Maui that wants to collaborate on cool projects, please contact me here.
This happened on February 14th 2014 off the coast of Maui near Kihei. I love filming from my drone and I am always looking for things to film so whales seemed like a great subject. I also wanted to show my two young boys what a whale was like because they would normally only see them blowing air from a long way away - Now they know how big and majestic these creatures are! This shoot would not have been possible without Marty and Ian for providing the boat and drone support. I would also like to give credit to my wife and my two boys Dylan and Hudson for helping us spot the whales and guide the drone.
I filmed this using a DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter with a gimbal called the Zenmuse. This little camera drone is very tiny and quiet and the whales obviously did not even notice or care it was there. Using an aerial photography platform like the Phantom is a great way to raise awareness about whales and encourage people to operate motor vehicles safely in the warm waters around Maui because there are baby whales out there frolicking with their mothers!
Taking off from the boat was a bit challenging, but I never had any problems. I just rapidly blasted up into the air. There was a very tiny launch spot on the boat, so you had to get up into the air quickly. I made sure I did not have the Phantom in GPS mode because the boat was rocking in the waves and it might try and stabilize itself right into the side of the boat while taking off.
Ian and I are getting some awesome footage! Ian is very into RC and FPV and I expect to see some great things from him soon.
Marty executes a perfect drone catch! This was the best way to retrieve the drone because the boat was moving around in the waves. This might look easy, but it was tricky because the phantom is so stable and the boat was moving around underneath it.
I tried to go get some underwater footage, but they were faster than me. I also get a little spooked about big fish when I cant see the bottom (it was about 250 feet here). We also did some swimming around - it was incredible to hear the whale songs underwater. Kihei is such a cool place because the ocean is so calm and clear off the coast there.
Team Drone & Whale Nerds.
Someone recently contacted me about the laws and regulations around whales and figured I would post this response:
I have become aware of the MMPA recently because of this video and I want to stress my intentions were to observe with zero impact. I think the big question is if the little Phantom 2 is considered an aircraft or not. We certainly kept the boat far away from the whales! The whole point was to not disturb them. In my opinion, this is an excellent way to observe whales up close because there is practically no impact or chance of doing damage. The whales did not notice, or care, about this tiny thing hovering above them. Even if the drone crashed or malfunctioned, it is hard to imagine this hurting the whales or even disturbing them because it is so small relative to the whale. If someone contacts me about this, I will certainly stress that this is way safer for the whales than a boat. This is a very useful tool to whale research as well.
I would absolutly love to volunteer my time and drones to help with whale research or whale non-profits! Please contact me here to set something up. I am based in Maui.
If you want to get a video downlink or use video goggles like the FatSharks for some immersive FPV flying, you will need to make some simple modifications to your Phantom 2. It is much simpler to do than on the original Phantom and has obviously been built with us FPV guys in mind. There are a number of awesome changes and updates in this version of the Phantom that you can read about in this blog post about my first impressions and flight testing.
I have seen other people selling ready made cords that plug directly into the board of the phantom, but I didn't want to go that way because it is so easy to just solder a few wires and be ready to go!
The first thing I did was to confirm the wire layout of the FPV cable that sticks out of the bottom. The yellow video wire and the VCC/GND are the ones you need.
Splice the wires and pre solder them.
I am pretty sure you only need to do the yellow wire because I noticed that I actually soldered the video ground to the audio input on my immersion video tx.
Next step is to solder on a male JST connector or the immersion RC power plug. The red wire is positive while the brown is ground.
Dont forget to put your heat shrink tubing on before you solder everything together - electrical tape makes your install look pretty crappy and is not as reliable
Now plug everything in before you heat shrink your tubing and do a test to make sure everything is working. This is my 100mw Immersion TX I am going to use until my new one gets here.
My installs are never super clean or neat, you could easily clean this up. I like to get flying as fast as possible. I plugged it in, tested it, and was flying in no time. The total time to install the gimbal and convert to an FPV rig is easily under 2 hours if you take your time. There are also other even simpler ways to install an FPV video transmitter, but this is the way I did it. If you have any questions, please post in the comments below. If you are considering purchasing a Phantom 2 with the Zenmuse gimbal, you can buy one here from Amazon for $869 with free shipping. I also like UAVProducts.com.
The Phantom 2 comes in its own box with a smaller box that the Zenmuse comes in. They ship in a larger brown box - made me wonder why they didn't just put the gimbal into the white box.
I have opened lots of RC stuff over the years and I am always just a little bit impressed with the packaging when I open DJI stuff. It makes you think, "if they put this much thought into the packaging..."
I laid everything out just to give a shot at all the different stuff. The battery and battery charger are much different than anything else I have seen in any other RC equipment. I was puzzling over the strange battery connector on the new battery and wondering if they just switched everything to this new connector to keep the margins up (New batteries are EXPENSIVE for this bird).
After plugging in the battery and marveling at actually having an on / off button that is part of the battery, I noticed the crude 4 bar battery guage built into the back. This allows you to get a reading of capacity remaining during flight and see charge status while charging. These batteries are pretty cool and I am curious to see if we are going to start seeing copy cats of this because it works well and locks out other manufacturers from selling Phantom batteries. Maybe someone over at DJI just finished the Steve Jobs biography and learned how powerful closed systems can be to a business.
The Zenmuse cable and prewired FPV connector sticking out of the bottom. I immediately noticed the flat underbelly which makes it so much easier to attach your video transmitter. This little drone is obviously designed for FPV - Awesome. Make sure you read my post about how to FPV your Phantom 2 if you want to see how I did it or need some help.
On the original phantom with gimbal installed and the s800, backing up your gimbal by using zip ties was ugly and crude but very necessary to prevent the loss of the gimbal if one of those rubber vibration dampers failed. For the phantom 2, they designed some very slick "zip tie bolts." This was already the 2nd amazing fix from the original phantom, things are looking good!
I did not at first like the centered throttle stick and immediately opened it up to look for the springs to remove. Here they are and at this point I just decided to try it how it was designed in case they had a reason for this change because putting those little springs back on did not look fun.
Turns out this centered throttle stick is an amazing feature for an aerial photography rig and doesn't just floor the motors when the stick returns to the center after arming your motors.
The Zenmuse is shifted forward to counterbalance the weight of the bigger battery - excellent. Balance is an important thing on quadcopters and they have you covered here.
Here my co-pilot tries to decide if he likes the centered throttle stick.
Next I wired up my FPV transmitter to make this an official FPV camera drone. You can read this post I wrote about How to Fpv your phantom 2 if you want to see how I did this.
Time to test out those claims of 20-25 minutes. I flew very aggressively, fast forward flight, figure 8's, rapid ascents and descents, and general flight abuse tests in some very windy conditions.
I was very impressed with the sound of the motors and the new propellers (that counter rotate from the direction of the spin to lock into place). There was a very smooth sounding spool up when arming the motors - certainly not the rapid acceleration to mid point that I was expecting. They have obviously thought this process out and written code in the flight controller to do this, another excellent sign of ingenuity and design.
It didn't really take any time to get used to the centered throttle stick, it felt really intuitive and didn't feel like it flew any different. I loved that I always knew where mid stick was, a feature I always thought would be great (however, I envisioned a beep every time it crossed midpoint instead of the spring, but this works really well too). Another HUGE benefit to anyone shooting aerial photography in general, the focus on mid stick means that it is now very easy to keep the same altitude. When I am in the goggles doing an FPV flight, I always tend to just creep higher than I want too because I can't get a sense for where the middle is. This centered point is also really good for people who will be flying line of site because you now don't have to manage the altitude at all, you just send it up or down and then it centers and just hovers. What an awesome way to shoot aerial photography, its like a flying crane!
This is the timer when it finally forcibly made me land. It made it through the first voltage warning and flew for another 4 minutes or so. I sometimes like to fly over the ocean so I want to make sure im heading back in about 13 minutes. Leaves plently of time to find my way home, even if I get lost like I did during my fpv adventure at Jaws. If I was flying gently in a safe area, I would feel safe keeping this in the air for 15 minutes before a must land. This very well might approach 20 mintutes of flight time without the gimbal and FPV transmitter. A simple GPS hover probably will do 25 minutes with no wind under perfect conditions.
This battery boost essentially doubles the flight times I have become accustomed to on my old phantom, QAV400, QAV500 and even the S800.
All around a very impressive update. This makes the original phantom feel like a beta version because there are so many thoughtful additions and features that could only come about through tons of testing and thought. If you enjoyed this post, you should check out the DJI Phantom 2 with Zenmuse for sale at Amazon.
As always, if you have questions or comments, please comment below!
Update 2/21/2014 - You can now pre order these from http://getfpv.com
I cant wait. These look so awesome and they will have 1.3ghz support - excellent if Immersion plans on making a badass video TX in that range. It looks like the eye cups are still going to fall off and you will have to tape the battery in using electrical tape. The integrated DVR will be nice to have as a backup in case you get lost or lose signal and want to retrieve your drone. I will be buying these the first day they become available.
Presenting DominatorHD and DominatorV2. Available April 2014.
- integrated DVR
- HDMI in
- large FOV 45/35 (HD/V2)
- support 3D (HD version only)
- 43 channel support over 6 bands (1.3, 2.4, 5.8 Ghz)
This thing looks like an amazing competitor to the DJI Phantom and has a few features that really stand out. First of all, it comes with its own detachable GoPro like camera. If they pull this off and create an awesome FPV camera and HD onboard recording, this will quickly replace the GoPro as the go to camera for RC and drone applications. It has a good square form factor as well that makes it simple to mount on flying stuff. There is more information about the included C-Go 1 Camera below. I have bolded and italicized the things that really stand out as important or cool. I will keep this page updated as we get closer to May. A complete and ready to go package for $999 sounds awesome - and you get to use the awesome Spektrum radios that so many people already have.
Following our passion for innovating convenient ways to fly, we have taken the Blade 350 QX to the next level. Introducing the 350 QX AP Combo RTF, a fully integrated aerial photography solution. We’ve listened to the customer and built that feedback into the next generation of the 350 QX.
This model includes a plethora of new features including:
• 2-axis brushless gimbal with optional pitch control
• 1080/30 camera with 720/30 video downlink to mobile devices
• 3S 3000 mAh flight battery for extended shoots
• New DX4 Transmitter
The 350 QX AP Combo also takes on a host of upgrades to the existing system including:
• New RF chipset with external antenna
• Improved GPS performance and accuracy
• Visual compass error detection to alert the user for calibration
• Simplified radio solution for ease of use
• Included AC/DC charging solution
• White battery hatch for improved orientation
The 350 QX AP Combo captures incredible aerial footage without any of the hassle of buying several components and is backed by the best support in the industry should you ever need it. Feel free to stop looking, you’ve found the perfect AP solution for your fleet!
Smart Mode: GPS/Altitude Hold, SAFE™ Circle feature and Stick Relativity
AP Mode: Limited flight envelope, self-leveling and GPS/Altitude Hold. Damped, self-leveling for improved video quality.
Stability Mode: Limited flight envelope, self-leveling and GPS hold.
Return Home and Land: Returns the 350 QX to the home position and lands at the pilots command.
Features• Included 2-Axis Brushless Gimbal
• Included C-Go 1 Camera 1080P/30
• 5.8Ghz Wi-Fi Video Downlink to Supported Devices
• Large 3S 3000mAh Flight Battery
• Improved Receiver with External Antenna
• Improved GPS
• Visual Compass Error Detection
• Compatible with All Spektrum Radios
Kit / ARF / RTF: RTF
Gross Weight: 35.5 oz. (1006 g)
Type: Brushless mutli-rotor aircraft
Rotor Diameter: 22.8 in (580mm)
Rotor Blade Length: 8.27 in (210mm)
C-Go 1 Action Camera
Introducing the perfect Action camera for your RC needs! Whether you are looking for a lightweight FPV camera with streaming capabilities that won't interfere with your 2.4 radio or just looking for a high quality action camera, the E-Flite C-GO1 is destined to be the # 1 choice of modelers everywhere.
Not to mention, it's the camera included with the Blade 350 QX AP Combo!
Features• 5.8Ghz downlink to support mobile devices with included antenna
• 1080P/30 recording or 720P/30 when streaming
• Lightweight and small form factor
• Low latency and long range Wi-Fi
SpecificationsLength: 2.52 in (64.10mm)
Width: 1.76 in (44.60mm)
Weight: 2.65 oz (75 g)
Height: 1.72 in (43.80mm)