The Royal Heffernans

Quite possibly the best family ever

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lookout for DRONES!!!

So the FAA and Obama administration made news this week with new guidelines for commercial drone usage as well as defining their role more clearly in military use. That on the heels of announcements that driver-less cars are now being tested in England, Amazon wants to use drones to deliver packages, and Tesla now has an autopilot mode for it's cars.

Yes, the day that we are subservient to our computer overlords (Colossus, Terminator, Wargames, Matrix, Transcendence...) is fast approaching. So what is a person to do as this inevitability approaches? EMBRACE IT WITH A SMILE!!!

Ali bought me a Parrot MiniDrone Rolling Spider as a Valentine's Day gift this year. Totally awesome gift. We exchanged gifts on Thursday night (we had a charity dinner Friday and I was on-call all weekend), so I didn't get a chance to play with it until Saturday afternoon. Saturday, I opened it and charged it up. While charging, I went online and watched all the video tutorials on flight controls. I downloaded the FreeFlight3 control software (you use your mobile or tablet as your controller) and then gave it a spin. The cool thing about this little guy is that it has protective wheels that can attach for indoor flight, so you don't damage it too much in a crash. Great for indoor practice. So I took it for a few spins around the house. I actually got quite good, and started taking some overhead pics with it's built-in camera (see above).

But I was really savoring the chance to get this bad boy outside, without concern for crashing into walls and lamps. Sunday afternoon was my chance. We had beautiful, sunny weather with almost no wind. Granted it was 35 degrees, but as good as it's been for a month here! So I put on a hat and took my MiniDrone outside for it's first test flight in the backyard. Here's what happened:

First, I set the flight ceiling at 9m. That can be controlled on the remote software settings. It only has a 20m range, so I thought that allowed for a good height from which to snap a few overhead yard pics. Next, I laid it down on the pool deck flat with enough room around for maneuvering. Then I hit the Takeoff button on the controller. The MiniDrone took flight and hovered at eye level. That's a nice feature for taking off, as it gets you flying very easily. Next, I used the altitude control pad (left control area on the software) to raise it up. Unlike indoors, the drone literally took off like a ROCKET straight up at a bit of an angle away from the house. Literally in 2 seconds, I lost sight of it. In 5 seconds, I couldn't hear it anymore. In 7 seconds, my iPhone reported that connection had been lost. Obviously, it had flown farther than the 20m range. All the while, I am frantically trying to lower the altitude. It happened so fast, I never had a chance to hit the Landing or Emergency buttons to bring it right down.

After that, I took Ava and Molly with me and we walked a grid along the last known heading. No drone in the field behind us. Beyond that, the lake was frozen solid. No drone on the ice. Beyond that, the woods. It was gone.

Dejected, I went back inside. I admitted to Ali my awful news. She took it well. I wrote a long email to the Parrot customer service department explaining what happened. I cannot figure out why it would ascend uncontrollably, beyond the max height I had set. They suggested it may have been interference with the controller or the altitude sensor in the MiniDrone. They offered to replace it. Good on them. I will take them up on that offer.

As for my lost MiniDrone, I like to think it's in a better place now. It has flown off to join his friends as they prepare for our annihilation.

1 comment:

Liz said...

So weird, I thought I heard the faint whisper of a drone flying my way recently...