Drone homework

I’ve been planning ahead for our trip to Europe later in the year. Part of that planning is working out where I can safely and legally fly my Mavic.

It’s reasonable to say that there are differences in the approach to drone rules and regulations between differing countries.

Take, for example, the Isle of Man:

Basically, with a few provisos here and there, together with a dollop of common sense and a healthy respect for other people, you can fly your drone up to 120m high anywhere outside that red circle.

You need to employ those same provisos, that common sense and respect in France too. But it’s a bit more complex than the IOM.
Here’s a map of the bit of France we’re going to:

Right.

Easy stuff first: no flying in the red bits; but yes flying (up to 150m, nogal) in the uncoloured bits. No problem.
From there though, it gets complicated. Pink areas allow flight to 30m altitude. You can fly up to 50m up in the orange (or is it peach?) areas. Even better, in the peach (or is it orange?) areas, you’re permitted to fly at 60m up from your takeoff spot. I’m not sure why they have this 10m difference. Presumably, something important happens (or is likely to happen) in this narrow strip of airspace in orange areas that doesn’t happen in the peach areas. Oh, and then in the yellow areas, you can fly up to a height of 100m.

I’m happy to comply with all of this, of course. It’s just that it’s massively complicated given that we go through a constantly changing kaleidoscope of colour as we wend our way downstream, so I’m going to have to keep a digital, zoomable copy of this map to hand.

The other thing is that for a lot of these restricted areas, it’s not very clear why there are restrictions. That doesn’t matter, of course – if it says not to fly, you don’t fly. It would just be nice to know what that bizarre mirror image of a question mark is bottom right. And why there’s that huge, weirdly shaped peach (orange?) swathe right across the middle of the map.

Obviously, I’m going to follow all the rules and regulations. There’s more than enough opportunity to get some decent shots and video in between all the bureaucracy.

But it’s going to be much more simple to chuck Florence the Mavic up once we get over to the Isle of Man.

Crosspool view

Just because I stumbled across it on my Flickr and felt like posting it.

The light was awful, the editing is equally bad; it’s far, far from being a great photo. But I was struck by the fact that despite living here for 17 years, walking these same streets day in, day out, one quick flight with the Mavic and I saw a view of the place that I had never ever seen before.

I love that it gives the impression that the A57 is some near-Parisian tree-lined boulevard, and that my childhood suburb is perched on a cliff overlooking the City Centre. Neither of these things are true, of course, but looking at this here, they could be.

There are currently no plans for a return visit to Sheffield in the foreseeable future, so any vernal version of this shot will have to wait.

If you want to see more aerial views of suburbia (and more) from our visit last September, you can find them in my Sheffield 2017 Flickr album.

Displacing Bob. Neighbourhood Service.

It’s the last day of the school holidays today. That means that from tomorrow, all hell will break loose on the roads of the Southern Suburbs and (more importantly for the purposes of this post) I will have to get up an hour earlier than I have been for the past couple of weeks.

Ugh.

This is significant, because it means that I will no longer have to displace Bob.

Bob is our local Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus). He’s bloody annoying.

Egyptian Geese mate for life, but it would appear that within the last 12 months, something awful has befallen Mrs Bob. She is no longer with Bob. It could have been that she has chosen to fly off with a more handsome Egyptian Goose, but that does rather flutter in the face of that ‘one partner for life’ promise. So I think that it’s entirely more likely that she’s thrown a seven at some point recently.

RIP Mrs Bob.

Bob is either distraught or he’s too thick to have noticed anything except that suddenly, there’s no-one on his wing to do the rumpy-pumpy dance with.

Either way, he lets us know his feelings of sadness and/or frustration by honking very loudly early in the morning from his chosen roosting position on one of the local neighbourhood chimneys.

Bob is bloody annoying.

Tomorrow, Bob won’t wake me up. The combination of the later Autumnal sunrise and my enforced earlier alarm time means that his honks will be drowned out by the sound of the kettle and the kids getting ready for school.

It also means that this evening, I won’t have to take Florence the drone on a spin around our vicinity at dusk in order to locate Bob and then displace him, gently convincing him to select a more distant roost by using an advanced technique known as “flying relatively close to him”.
It takes a couple of minutes to locate him and then literally 20 seconds to get him to sling his metaphorical hook. Easy.

I’m fully aware that this might be classified as “disturbing wildlife”, but in my defence there are two important mitigating factors at play here:

Firstly, he has premeditated plans to disturb me in about 12 hours time, and:
Secondly, if I wasn’t gently moving him on with the drone, I would be throwing stones at him until he left the area. Dangerous to him, local residents and their windows.

This is a quick, easy, painless method of ensuring that everyone locally can get a extra hour in bed each morning. It’s a neighbourhood service that I’m more than happy to provide.

Persistence

“Never give up!”

So goes the oft-quoted, dangerously positive and hugely misplaced piece of advice. It’s nonsense, of course. Giving up is always an option – often a very sensible one. And yet we’re taught from an early age – and bombarded by  examples like Wiley Coyote and Tom the cat – that it’s tantamount to failure.

No. There are many times when giving up is a perfectly acceptable choice to make.

I wish Lily would understand that. They’ve been back in touch again (using yet another different email address to avoid my filters), this time offering me essentially free* shares in their company if I buy a Lily drone, under the tempting subject heading:

got Lily Drone yet?

No. No, I haven’t. And the “yet” is wholly redundant.

Looks cute, sure but it’s rather expensive and it’s not actually very good in comparison to the drone I do have.

You have been one of the original supporters of Lily. As part of your support, we believe you should own a piece of the company that is bringing the vision of Lily into the future. We have successfully launched the Lily Next-Gen™, and we’re planning many more exciting products. That’s why we are providing you with this unique offer.

I have been, yes. But then, over a year ago I realised my error and moved on. Just like you should now.

There’s no shame in giving up on this lost cause, Lily. I promise.

 

* terms and conditions apply, obvs

Fire Pano

One of the sadly inevitable consequences of the cape Town drought is the exacerbation of our fire season. With no recent rain, the local veld and fynbos is a veritable tinder box ready to go up at the slightest provocation. The Overberg FPA recently documented the huge number (40) of major wildfires they have had to deal with so far this year.

Yesterday afternoon, it was the turn of Cape Town once again, as firefighters, 3 helicopters and a spotter plane worked hard for several hours to contain a fire in Cecilia Forest. We couldn’t actually see the fire from our garden or our house, but I popped the Mavic up and suddenly, all became clear (Well, as clear as it could be with all the smoke drifting around). And so I did what any sensible fellow would have done, and banged the pano button. 21 separate photos, taken automatically by the drone and stitched in the app gave me this:

Those are Wynberg School fields in the foreground (Junior on the left, High School on the right), with the fire clearly visible on the on the mountain beyond, and smoke drifting everywhere, but mainly southwards on the light breeze through the Constantia Valley and down towards False Bay.

This is a great example of how the Mavic can give you a different point of view on things. I knew there was a fire somewhere close: I could smell it, and the air was hazy with smoke. But I literally couldn’t see anything from ground level. I’m in no way suggesting that this a great image (it’s not – shooting straight into the sun is never a good idea), but at least I could see what was going on, and could document it. (And without getting in the way of any helicopters.)
Last time I saw a wildfire, I had to drive to get there.

It would be nice, however, if there weren’t too many more wildfires to ‘tog in this way (or any other).

 

UPDATE: Sullivan Photography at Ground Zero