E.T. Drone Home - Part 1
Penned by Joshua McGowan
Freelance writer and self-appointed philosopher
I will preface the following by invoking the time tested adage that true hallmark of skill is
making any genuinely difficult look easy and fluid.
Not long ago I came upon this website droneabove.com, and quickly found myself
marveling at the amazing aerial videography of the site’s owner, Justin Edwards. So
much so that I was inspired enough to drop Justin a note and express my admiration of
his work and his website.
In turn, Justin read the following tale of woe that I had published under my own blog
blackeireman.wordpress.com – and asked if I wouldn’t mind having it published on
droneabove.com I was flattered to contribute.
I hope everyone will enjoy an anecdotal read of trials and travails of drone ownership, or
to put it another way, for those of you who have loved and lost (said drone of your
choosing), so hopefully this is worth a ponder.
By the end, the tears that you’ll find streaming down your cheeks will have been evoked
by one of two things: laughing your ass off at what an uncoordinated doofus I am… or
tears of sympathy and the company of misery. Enjoy.
I would love to tell you about the lead up to the decision to spend my last 5 grand on a
high end Drone (aka UAV / UAS) – but since this editorial is geared more towards being
a tutorial, I’m going to stick to the facts, Ma’am.
Under the calm guidance of my friend, Robert Luscumb of Desert Sky Photography, I
made the lofty (so to speak) decision to purchase the latest and spankiest drone on the
market with the most sophisticated and state-of- the-art 4D lens which invariably has to
be of German sounding origin such as Zeiss, Leica, and AGFA. Only this smashing new
lens is called: Zenmuse X5. Sounds precision enough to me; the flying Porsche of new
Oh, incidentally, when I say smashing new lens, that little double entendre will follow
shortly as part of my cautionary parable for new drone owners.
Several months ago, I took the plunge and purchased the DJI Inspire 1 Pro with the
Zenmuse X5 Lens. I have to admit, I haven’t felt this giddy about something so shiny
and new since my five speed banana chopper from when I was ten years old.
I’m not going to tell you about all the nuanced, ‘nerd patience’ gadgetry my sparkling
new drone possesses or how to use it. Why? Because I really still don’t know myself.
I’m still learning.
This is more of a course like: Zen and the Art of Droning and how NOT to be
traumatized by Your New Purchase.
You see, owning a fancy-schmancy drone like the one that I gave up my second born
for, and the fear factor equated with it - is in direct proportion to how much disposable
income you have. If your pockets are comfortably deep, you can run your DJI Inspire 1
Pro right into the side of a barn, and sit down and calmly chew on your granola bar
whilst reviewing why you turned left instead of right.
On the other hand, if you’re the sort of individual who glances furtively towards
panhandlers stalking traffic medians, secretly projecting their reality onto your possible
future, then acquiring said drone and operating it can be a perilously nerve racking
So my experience with my new drone is as follows; brief as I can bloviate.
It arrives in a beautiful, black zipper case. The case itself is well padded and sturdy
enough for travel, yet the zippers are a bit tight around the corners. A little KY jelly on a
cloth usually eases the tightness (doesn’t it always), on the turns.
You can fully rely on the prestigious U of Y (otherwise known as the University of
YouTube) for many nuggets of precious knowledge, including on how to unpack and
assemble your components. And in this day and age, if you want a users’ manual, you
ol’ fuddy, download it.
Depending on what you wish to use your bouncing baby DJI Inspire 1 Pro for exactly,
you may wish to consider purchasing the following accessories at the same time you
actually order your drone, or very shortly thereafter:
Once you’ve assembled everything together and in the same location, it’s time to
charge everything: batteries, controller, iPad Mini (or equiv.) Get everything all up to full
Again, the University of YouTube will “edjumacate” you on getting your firmware
updated. Everything is there for you see, mimic, and paint by numbers correctly.
Once you’ve downloaded the DJI Go Application and registered your new drone, I
highly recommend delving into the simulator section of your app. It’s definitely worth a
few trial flights before hitting the pavement. Which in the literal sense, is something you
want to avoid at all cost.
Okay, so now you’re ready to finally get out to a nice open clearing for your maiden
I preface the following by saying that I was fortunate to have Robert Luscumb of Desert
Sky Photography, pave a few paths for me from concept to flight. Robert was able to
assist me in muddling through some the initial stages of the complicated basics. Take
my word for it when I say ‘complicated basics’, it’s not an oxymoron.
But then I was on my own. A mere babe in the woods of drone piloting.
And this is where it gets interesting.
My first and second flights were out in my own parking lot: I turn on the iPad Mini, fire up
the controller and to connect to the DJI Inspire 1 Pro – then I walk over to my drone
taunting me quietly with its “Aliens” shaped contour. I press the top of the battery with
one long tap followed by a shorter tap, and she buzzes to life. The gimble begins to turn
and orient itself like there are tiny little pilots in there saying “check” and “all systems”
Time for takeoff.
There is an unsettling ferocious whirring sound when all four propellers start fire up
loudly in unison, rendering a sense of the operator not being in control. It’s an illusion
and the equipment was designed to be properly controlled, it just doesn’t feel like it right
away. I cautiously press the toggle forward, and take it directly up for about ten feet,
then take my thumbs completely off of the controls so as to marvel at how this machine
simply hovers in one spot while it pulls up its own landing gear. Mind you, this is the DJI
Inspire 1 Pro that I’m speaking of; I’ve never attempted to fly any other species.
I toggle to rotate my drone in one spot. Raise her up and down a little bit. At this point,
I’m still looking only at the drone and not the image she’s capturing on the IPad. Next, I
take my drone up to about 100 ft. and finally admire the surrounding view through the
iPad Mini. I move the drone around in concentric little circles paying more attention to
the motion of the flight than capturing images. After about fifteen minutes of cautious
flight, I take my drone slowly back down to the asphalt.
It is imperative to let the landing gear bring itself down before touching the ground,
otherwise you might knock the delicate mechanisms of the camera.
It is also highly recommended to hover the drone low off of the ground until the battery
level is less than 5% - which preserves the longevity of the battery.
First successful flight, hair raising though enough for one venture out.
My second flight was very similar to my first one, and in relatively the same location. I
live in a townhome complex with patios and backyards as well as adequate tree cover.
This time I’ve become increasingly bold, using my iPad to monitor my location, and I
move my bird in much broader circles around “mah hood”. Confidence slightly
increased, I even lose visual contact of my drone for entire seconds at a time. When I’m
finally ready to bring her home for a land in the parking lot, a new aspect of droning
comes charging at me in the form an irate lady neighbor. As I’m trying to calmly set my
DJI Inspire 1 Pro down, this woman gets up in my face and caws on about how she was
taking a nap on her patio and how my drone was looking right at her, yadda and etc.
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she was the last thing in the world my drone was
focusing in on. Wasn’t necessary to poke further holes in her sense of tremendous
So whether they’re conspiracy theorists or people who aren’t paid enough attention in
life, there’s always going to be someone to level a grievance if they even think you’re
encroaching in any way. They’re out there, trust me. Use your best judgement.
Okay, so here goes. I conducted my third flight at an empty baseball field. My Home
Point was approximately 20 to 25 ft. from the chain link fence that bordered the field.
Fired everything up and sent my Inspire 1 Pro aloft. This time she flew high and my
confidence had truly elevated. I rotated her and captured video and photographs from
an altitude of close to 200 ft. Then I moved my drone beyond the field and over the
nearby arroyo and took more photographs.