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Flying in woods

jlehet

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So in the other recent thread we see I crashed my drone on its second flight and hurt myself trying to get it back, and the crash was because the propeller nicked a hemlock branch trying to get back into a wooded area from an open area.

I understand that ideally you'd fly in the open with clear sky above the drone. And ideally I'll get to do some of that. But a certain amount of what I want the drone for is to be basically a "floating tripod" that can get a different vantage point from my earthbound self. And a certain amount of that is in the woods. (I live in Vermont, which was much much more open 40 or 50 years ago. Lots of trees have grown up in my lifetime.) Like often I don't want to walk on a sketchy frozen stream cross an icy gully, etc.

So if I fly in the woods (short flights to get a better vantage point) a bit I guess a few things would help:

* Keep LOS and really keep it close, go slow.
* return home with plenty of battery left so I can do that carefully and with consideration
*Set RTH altitude for something not too high?
*propeller guards to protect from leaves and twigs?

Any other advice?
 
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herein2021

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So in the other recent thread we see I crashed my drone on its second flight and hurt myself trying to get it back, and the crash was because the propeller nicked a hemlock branch trying to get back into a wooded area from an open area.

I understand that ideally you'd fly in the open with clear sky above the drone. And ideally I'll get to do some of that. But a certain amount of what I want the drone for is to be basically a "floating tripod" that can get a different vantage point from my earthbound self. And a certain amount of that is in the woods. (I live in Vermont, which was much much more open 40 or 50 years ago. Lots of trees have grown up in my lifetime.) Like often I don't want to walk on a sketchy frozen stream cross an icy gully, etc.

So if I fly in the woods (short flights to get a better vantage point) a bit I guess a few things would help:

* Keep LOS and really keep it close, go slow.
* return home with plenty of battery left so I can do that carefully and with consideration
*Set RTH altitude for something not too high?
*propeller guards to protect from leaves and twigs?

Any other advice?

I get that you want to fly in the woods but there's only one way you are going to have any drone for long.....by not flying in the woods. There are things that drones are ok, good, and great at....flying in the woods does not fall into any of those categories. I have been flying various things for over 20yrs and only flew a drone in the woods once....and it was the most danger I have ever put my drone in.

All of the OA in the world will simply not detect thin branches, certain obstacles above the craft, account for gusts of wind blowing the drone into a branch, etc. Its great to try to use drone cameras for everything, but at the end of the day you have to realize that the platform has its limitations.

But IF I were you and chose to ignore this advice, at a minimum there's no way I would use the EVO II for this type of work. For something like what you want to do I would at least use the smallest drone possible such as the DJI Mini 2 or the Autel Nano with the blade guards attached. The DJI Mini 2 with blade guards attached is what I use for indoor drone video work.

The rest of the points you pretty much covered...LOS at all times, RTH doesn't even matter in this scenario, there's no way it will be able to RTH when flying in a thick forest, one thing you did not mention was identify a landing location. I have been in many situations where taking off is easy but landing is very difficult due to dirt and debris on the ground or due to uneven ground; so for forest flights I would identify how and where I am going to land before even taking off. IMO the amount of effort and risk to the drone is simply not worth whatever footage you are trying to get.
 

jlehet

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Thank you very much. I am hopefully usually smart enough to listen to people with more experience than me, and I will try to listen to this! I won't promise I won't ever do it at all, but I will take this warning very seriously.
 

herein2021

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Thank you very much. I am hopefully usually smart enough to listen to people with more experience than me, and I will try to listen to this! I won't promise I won't ever do it at all, but I will take this warning very seriously.

Yes I thought the same thing once.....that flying through the trees right below the tree tops would make for some great footage; instead all I got was a lot of footage of the drone twitching and jerking as I tried to avoid all of the branches...and forget about right below the tree tops, the drone never made it more than about 20' off the ground before the branches got too dangerous. Another thing that is really hard to account for in a forest is the prop downdraft......the wind from the props reflecting off of branches makes the craft even more unstable; add a GPS signal loss to that due to the tree's proximity and you've lost the drone.

My approach now if I want that right below the tree tops look is to simply fly along side a road with the forest on the edges of the road and the camera pointed at the trees while flying safely above the median; that solves all of the problems with actually flying in the forest and you still get the forest look. If you time it right and manage to get a low hanging sun on the other side of the trees you can get some really good forest footage without risking the drone. You will also quickly learn that all trees look the same after a few seconds of filming so the side of the road will look exactly like the middle of the forest if you compose the shot properly, you could also use the edge of a clearing, etc for the same effect.

Of course there is an exception to every rule and for me that exception is waterfalls. Waterfalls tend to fix a lot of the problems I listed above; you usually have a takeoff and landing location on the rocks around the falls, there is usually enough cleared space to fly the drone with care near the waterfall, and waterfalls are a lot more interesting than trees so different angles will actually look different. They do come with their own challenges such as the mist from the waterfall, but you can usually find ways to avoid that as well.

Here is a waterfall video that was quite technically challenging to navigate into and out of the trees but I was able to takeoff and land at the base of the waterfall with the Mavic Pro at the time.

 
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Waldo Pepper

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So in the other recent thread we see I crashed my drone on its second flight and hurt myself trying to get it back, and the crash was because the propeller nicked a hemlock branch trying to get back into a wooded area from an open area.

I understand that ideally you'd fly in the open with clear sky above the drone. And ideally I'll get to do some of that. But a certain amount of what I want the drone for is to be basically a "floating tripod" that can get a different vantage point from my earthbound self. And a certain amount of that is in the woods. (I live in Vermont, which was much much more open 40 or 50 years ago. Lots of trees have grown up in my lifetime.) Like often I don't want to walk on a sketchy frozen stream cross an icy gully, etc.

So if I fly in the woods (short flights to get a better vantage point) a bit I guess a few things would help:

* Keep LOS and really keep it close, go slow.
* return home with plenty of battery left so I can do that carefully and with consideration
*Set RTH altitude for something not too high?
*propeller guards to protect from leaves and twigs?

Any other advice?
Hello jlehet,

Probably the best drone out there for manuvering around trees, obstacles, etc is Skydio 2. They just released its newest model Skydio 2+, check it out If you haven’t done so.

I placed an ordered for the new Skydio 2+ with Pro upgrade kit. Should be here today, or early next week if delivery is on schedule.

Good luck, stay safe I know your recent fall was very painful.

Paul
 
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Waldo Pepper

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Yes I thought the same thing once.....that flying through the trees right below the tree tops would make for some great footage; instead all I got was a lot of footage of the drone twitching and jerking as I tried to avoid all of the branches...and forget about right below the tree tops, the drone never made it more than about 20' off the ground before the branches got too dangerous. Another thing that is really hard to account for in a forest is the prop downdraft......the wind from the props reflecting off of branches makes the craft even more unstable; add a GPS signal loss to that due to the tree's proximity and you've lost the drone.

My approach now if I want that right below the tree tops look is to simply fly along side a road with the forest on the edges of the road and the camera pointed at the trees while flying safely above the median; that solves all of the problems with actually flying in the forest and you still get the forest look. If you time it right and manage to get a low hanging sun on the other side of the trees you can get some really good forest footage without risking the drone. You will also quickly learn that all trees look the same after a few seconds of filming so the side of the road will look exactly like the middle of the forest if you compose the shot properly, you could also use the edge of a clearing, etc for the same effect.

Of course there is an exception to every rule and for me that exception is waterfalls. Waterfalls tend to fix a lot of the problems I listed above; you usually have a takeoff and landing location on the rocks around the falls, there is usually enough cleared space to fly the drone with care near the waterfall, and waterfalls are a lot more interesting than trees so different angles will actually look different. They do come with their own challenges such as the mist from the waterfall, but you can usually find ways to avoid that as well.

Here is a waterfall video that was quite technically challenging to navigate into and out of the trees but I was able to takeoff and land at the base of the waterfall with the Mavic Pro at the time.

Nice, reminds me of the start of (The Last of the Mohicans) movie.

Very nice !
 
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gschulzuio

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So if I fly in the woods (short flights to get a better vantage point) a bit I guess a few things would help:

* Keep LOS and really keep it close, go slow.
* return home with plenty of battery left so I can do that carefully and with consideration
*Set RTH altitude for something not too high?
*propeller guards to protect from leaves and twigs?

Any other advice?
Having flown under trees in the past not a fan of doing so, and if not experienced as an operator or comfortable with aircraft and how it handles, would avoid. However, with safety and other considerations in mind, if you do need to fly in obstacle rich environments, in addition to your list of things to consider, add:

0. Walk the area, note branches, snow or leaves on branches or other obstacles from above and below. If flying low, watch out for updrafts from prop downwash.

1. Prop cage vs prop guards, E2P from what have seen only has prop guards. I use them for indoors projects, and now and then for outdoors, they work good in case you bump something from front or sides, not good to protect from above or below.

2. In addition to VLOS, keep an eye on the aircraft, minimize looking at app/screen. Something I like about the evo controller is my phone mounts on top vs in the handles like DJI (assuming no mod). As I fly its easier to hold controller up higher closer to your line of sight where you can watch aircraft and quick glances at screen safer.

3. Set in case of signal loss to hover vs rth, autel rth has a rather high minimum RTH altitude that unless you are in very tall trees, its better to avoid it.

4. Enable the bottom light to be on 2s flash to help watch the aircraft.

5. Note the wx, is there a breeze or wind or are things calm.

6. You might want to turn volume of OA / Radar indicator alerts off, or down, or wear ear plugs.

7. If you have something like a mavic mini with a prop cage, use that, or, use that to scout area and practice with before sending in something like an E2P.

8. Bring some 1/8" or 1/16" string and a weight that you can use as a throw line to get your aircraft out of a tree should it end up there ;)...
 
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AlaskaEvo

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Yes I thought the same thing once.....that flying through the trees right below the tree tops would make for some great footage; instead all I got was a lot of footage of the drone twitching and jerking as I tried to avoid all of the branches...and forget about right below the tree tops, the drone never made it more than about 20' off the ground before the branches got too dangerous. Another thing that is really hard to account for in a forest is the prop downdraft......the wind from the props reflecting off of branches makes the craft even more unstable; add a GPS signal loss to that due to the tree's proximity and you've lost the drone.

My approach now if I want that right below the tree tops look is to simply fly along side a road with the forest on the edges of the road and the camera pointed at the trees while flying safely above the median; that solves all of the problems with actually flying in the forest and you still get the forest look. If you time it right and manage to get a low hanging sun on the other side of the trees you can get some really good forest footage without risking the drone. You will also quickly learn that all trees look the same after a few seconds of filming so the side of the road will look exactly like the middle of the forest if you compose the shot properly, you could also use the edge of a clearing, etc for the same effect.

Of course there is an exception to every rule and for me that exception is waterfalls. Waterfalls tend to fix a lot of the problems I listed above; you usually have a takeoff and landing location on the rocks around the falls, there is usually enough cleared space to fly the drone with care near the waterfall, and waterfalls are a lot more interesting than trees so different angles will actually look different. They do come with their own challenges such as the mist from the waterfall, but you can usually find ways to avoid that as well.

Here is a waterfall video that was quite technically challenging to navigate into and out of the trees but I was able to takeoff and land at the base of the waterfall with the Mavic Pro at the time.

Awesome video. Thanks for sharing.
 

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