New drones

Bad news. I no longer have the coolest drone on the market.

That’s because last week, DJI released two new Mavic 2 Pro drones: the Zoom and the Pro. There’s been a huge number of comments on these new offerings across the droning community for a while now, but no-one has actually had any hands-on experience with them, because… well.. obviously they weren’t available.

Now they are, and obviously, one of the first to have one (or two) was Casey Neistat – a guy whose opinions on these sort of things I value tremendously. I started to watch his review with my Mavic 1 sitting next to me and an understanding that, inevitably, these new drones would render Florence pretty much defunct as the flagship, cutting edge consumer unit.

Before I continue, here’s his review:

tl;dw: unsurprisingly, two great drones. He prefers the one with the optical zoom (the… er… M2 Zoom), the other one (M2 Pro) is also good, but falls down a little on value for money.

So yeah, my Mavic 1 is now old news.

Or is it?

Because first off, there’s every reason for these models to be better than Florence. They have the benefit of being released 20 months later than her, and in a marketplace which features such cutting edge technology – technology that still regularly astounds people that see my drone – that’s a massive, massive advantage. Not least in that DJI can look at their consumers’ wishlists and react accordingly.

They’re more expensive too. Sure, you’re getting a few more features, but aside from the improved cameras (and you can look at the video for direct side-by-side comparisons), there’s not really that much else added.

The M2 Pro FlyMore package (the direct equivalent of how I bought Florence) comes in a cool R10,000 more than I paid for my Mavic back in January last year. And because of that, Casey suggests that for the quality of picture vs value for money, Florence can still hold her own against the M2 Pro. Boom.

There are two other points to take into consideration as well, and these ones are personal, so I fully accept that they might not be the same for everyone.

Firstly, if you are buying your Mavic 2 drone next month when they get to SA, then enjoy it. You’re going to have an amazing time. But you will have already missed out on the 20 months of fun that I have had. Sure, I could have waited for the Mavic 2, in much the same way that you could have waited for the Mavic 3. But I have had such a good time all over the world with my drone: I have no regrets whatsoever.

And secondly, because money doesn’t grow on trees, my choice of which bits of technology I want to upgrade has to be tempered somewhat. Sure, if I won the lottery tomorrow I’d be at the DJI Store on Wednesday.
But that’s (probably) not going to happen.
A far more sensible approach is to wait until your technology begins to limit what you can – and what you want to – do with it. I’ve done that on a couple of occasions with cameras (indeed, I’m just beginning to get there with my current entry-level Canon DSLR).

I’m nowhere near that point with my drone. I haven’t even scratched the surface. The problem is that it’s just such fun to fly. You head out with the best of intentions to shoot some amazing video or some such, you pop it up into the air and just “warm up” with a few runs in and out over the beach or wherever, and you’re having such a good time that you do a few more.

And then suddenly:

Maybe that video thing can wait til tomorrow.

And guess what happens tomorrow?
I simply don’t have the discipline to overcome the amount of fun I have when I launch my drone.

So, while my Florence is now technologically aeons behind in this exciting, fast-paced field, I’m very happy to keep working playing with my Mavic 1.

It’s still amazing. It is.

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.