My First Drone

I  bought my first drone. Yes, I finally succumbed.

I’ve long been impressed with the amazing video and pictures people capture with these things, but as an amateur, I was put off by the expense of acquiring one. But  very capable drones have recently become affordable, so I decided to take the plunge.

I chose the DJI Mavic Mini. It costs about the same as a decent pocket camera, and it’s lightweight and very portable – which is important to me as I already have enough stuff to carry when I travel. Of course, the Mavic Mini’s very light weight is no accident. It’s been designed that way in order to be below the threshold of drone regulations in many countries. (Some countries now have fairly draconian drone regulations – even requiring a “pilot’s” license before you can fly one).

Although the Mavic Mini was engineered to weigh less than 250 grams, it’s no toy. It has a gimball stabilized camera capable of shooting HD video (and something of slightly better  called “2.3K”). It can also shoot 12 Megapixel photos as .jpegs.

But of course it’s not just a camera, but a flying camera.

You only need to look at the video above to understand the appeal of shooting aerials, but there are some caveats with these new drones.

Firstly, don’t underestimate the amount of practice you will need to become a confident flyer. Up, down, going around – you are controlling an object moving in 3-Dimensions. The Mavic Mini doesn’t have the obstacle avoidance sensors that come with more expensive drones, so it is very easy to crash – especially if you are not giving it your full attention.

The Mini is tiny, so it is very easy to lose sight of it when you are flying. Also, you can’t rely solely on the view from the onboard camera. The camera isn’t always looking in the direction the drone is flying, so if you are flying sideways or backwards you won’t see that tree you are about to hit. And sometimes, you’ll encounter a situation where you’ll completely lose the camera view – usually because of radio interference – especially in areas where lots of people are using Wi-Fi. If you lose signal, the drone will continue flying and hover, but unless you can see it, you’ll have no idea where!

Other times you’ll suddenly see a warning flash up that the drone is encountering wind speeds too high! (Even 50 metres above the ground wind speeds can be much higher than you expect)

My recommendation to anyone stepping into the drone world is to practice, practice, practice in safe open spaces before you attempt anything more difficult than very simple flying. And learn, learn, learn. And probably, for the sake of sanity, you should think of your drone as a “disposable camera”  – because sooner or later, you are going to lose it or crash it!

But in the meantime, these things are so much fun. The technology is almost magic!

There are heaps of YouTube sites offering very helpful advice for beginner flyers.

For Mavic Mini flyers I recommend :

DroneX factor – I love the videos from this vlogger. Very clear and practical advice from a professional drone pilot.

SkyHighFilms I like this vlog from Latvia because it has lots of very practical advice about how to better fly the Mavic Mini and how to shoot better aerials. A vlogger with a great sense of humour who is a cinematographer at heart.

FlytPath – I learnt a lot of practical stuff from here, such as why you shoud always take-off with your drone pointing away from you. Highly recommended as a place to start out.

Billy Kyle – Billy is a professional vlogger, but what I really like about his stuff is that he is engaging and his explanations are always very clear and simple.

Young360  – I like South Korea-based Young because she is fun. She is always entertaining – mostly because she genuinely enjoys playing with drones and consumer camera-tech and all of the possibilities they enable.

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