Now: DRONES ON MARS!

If there’s one thing that everyone on Earth can clearly agree on, it’s that there can never be such a thing as too many drones.

And it seems that NASA are now planning to start the drone craze on Mars as well with a new helicopter device:

The US space agency said Friday it plans to launch the first-ever helicopter to Mars in 2020, a miniature, unmanned drone-like chopper that could boost our understanding of the Red Planet.

I’m not sure how they plan to get a GPS lock, given that there are no S’s around Mars, but this is NASA, and if they faked the moon landings, well, then they can do most anything. And that likely includes coming up with a superb name for this craft, just like they did with ApolloChallengerDiscovery and Titan.

And that name is… [drum roll]…

The Mars Helicopter

[sad trombone] Oh.

And they’re starting small:

Its first flight calls for a brief vertical climb of 10 feet (three meters), followed by hovering for a half minute.

Wow. 10 feet. 30 seconds. Hold the front pages.
Don’t push yourselves, NASA.

I clearly need to get my Mavic out there, stat. I’d be buzzing Olympus Mons, shooting high quality 4K video and doing dronies on Curiosity while NASA’s rookies were still putting the paperwork and requisition forms together, wondering if they could maybe risk trying a gentle turn to the right.

If you’re reading this, NASA, I am available for this kind of thing (in between my lab antics with TB). I’ve flown over the Northern Cape: I know what desolation looks like.

But I don’t think I need to be in Texas or Florida or California or wherever you’re running your circus from at the moment. If you can control a drone on a planet 55 million kilometres away, I really don’t think it matters if I’m across a bit of sea from your place.

And I’m certainly not going to Mars.

Have drone, won’t travel.

Two panos

I’m not a huge fan of panorama photos.
Well, I like the idea, but all too often, the actual product never really matches up to what I was hoping for (or even expecting).

Unless you’re going to plan ahead and take your own individual photos and stitch them in lightroom, it’s not going to be a great result.
That said, if you’re willing to acknowledge that you are using a mobile phone and not a DSLR, then your pano app can be fun for sharing a scene on whatsapp (or… er… a blog).

I popped the Mavic up above the early morning mist at home this morning and got this. It’s 21 images stitched together by the DJI software, but then you only get a 0.6MB image.
Still, what a shot (though I say it myself)…

One of those occasions where you really wonder if anyone would notice if you sent it up another 80m.

I didn’t. Obviously.

And then this, from Camps Bay this lunchtime. We had a spare half hour and so we grabbed a quick ice cream and a walk on the beach.

Full size here (10928 x 3520 nogal).

We’d forgotten how amazing Camps Bay can be out of season.
It was nice to be reminded.

 

UPDATE: I went back the next day and took a real panorama. You… well, you can see the difference. 🙂

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.

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