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TOP 10 ADVICES FOR PILOTING DRONES ON OPEN OCEAN

Well, hi Folks! Let me give You some really good advises in piloting a drone on sea or ocean from boat.

Air operations over the sea or ocean are perhaps one of the most difficult tasks. The smaller the ship, the more difficult the flight. The ship is in constant motion, the waves unpredictably toss the smaller boats.

1.

Before flying, you should definitely find out about the weather that day (also directly before flying). Especially the wind speed and the possible rain (or thick fog), which is interesting. On the ocean, the drone can get under a rain cloud or in very humid airspace in no time.

The wind is an air pressure flowing parallel to the surface.

The wind gets stronger with the height, since there are not so many objects on the surface (roughness) and its direction turns to the right in the northern hemisphere, turns left in the southern one. The direction of the wind is determined according to where it is coming from. The westerly wind therefore blows from west to east, the south from south to north, and so on. For its strength, the Beaufort scale is used in meteorology, which is also related to navigation on sea. Drones should not be used above 5 degree of Beaufort scale, which means wind speed is 30-39 kilometer per hour.

On higher altitudes, in strong wind You’ll have a “strong wind” warning on the controller, and aircraft will unable to return to home automatically. In strong wind the drone will struggle with the wind, and its speed will reduced, parallelly the motors will suck much more energy from the accumulator. At the same time, the time available for the flight is also significantly reduced.

When taking off and landing, you must be fully aware of which way the wind is blowing. Whether you take off by hand or from some surface, the prevailing wind direction will push the drone. Therefore, the drone must not be taken off or landed against the wind, but in the direction of the wind, as it can even lead to serious injury if the drone is blown back into your face, for example.

In practice, stand in the direction of the wind, let the wind blow at your back.

Especially in windy conditions, use sport mode for more responsive and agile flight controls. This mode allows for quicker maneuvers and more power to struggle with the wind, but consums more energy.

2.

Never use a not fully charged accumulator above the ocean. Always take off with accumulator charged for 100 %. In my experiences, during flight, do not allow the battery to drop below 30% charge.

Take enough batteries with you every time you fly (this is at least 3 pieces) and also take a high-performance charger with you, which you can use to charge even the charging hub.

The salty-humid sea air or the splashing water itself is not good for any electronic device. Therefore, before take-off and after landing, the drone, its controller and batteries must be kept in a dry and airtight bag or box.

3.

On open water the critical point of the phisical equipment are two things.

First one is the solar shade on the controller. Whether you fly with a phone or a smart controller, you can be sure that the sunlight is much stronger than the brightness of the phone or controller display. 700 or even 1000 NIT will be low.

If you can’t see the screen, you don’t know what does your camera record, you can’t access the necessary flight data, and you can’t update the photo or video settings.

Another thing that is essential is having a controller neck strap, so that you don’t have to hold the controller all the time. This is especially critical when landing is about to take place. The boat rocks, you hold on with one hand and the drone lands in the other.

4.

On smallest boats, you do not have enough space to take off or landing. Use your own hand to take off and also for land. If the boat is big enough take a good care not to take off from any surface contains any metal parts. Metal surfaces drives the drone crazy. The metal objects affect the magnetometer (compass) of the aircraft and this interferes with the navigation system.

5.

Wait for at least 15 active satellite signs before take off. 15 signs is the minimum. The drone must positioned itselself as accurately as possible in space.

6.

VPS (Vision Positioning System). It was developed due to the possibility of interference with navigation systems. By image analysis of the image area under the drone, it helps to maintain its position. However, when flying over the water surface, the light reflected from the surface can affect VPS. It is therefore recommended to switch off the VPS above the water surface. If the operation is performed below the height specified by the drone manufacturer, the VPS must be switched off.

The smoother the water surface, the more it affects the navigation ability of the drone. Below a given height, the drone may automatically wants to land on the surface of the water in an extreme manner during the descent. You should not panic at this point, you must not allow the drone to land by pushing the left arm upwards. This anomaly may happens even two or three times even within one flight.

7.

Some birds can be aggressive towards drones. That is why it is worth avoiding places where large flocks of birds gather. The more birds there are, the greater the risk that one of them will attack the drone.

Attention anglers! When fishing with stick bait, the bait can reach a height of 10-15 meters during casting. At the same time, it also drags the damil. If the drone collides with the bait, or the damil crosses the path of the propellers, it is guaranteed to lead to the drone falling. Therefore, during this kind of fishing, it is worth not taking the shots from the front, but from one of the sides. Taking filmmaking aspects into account, from the side from which the sun is behind us, and not in front of us.

Keep a safe distance from people and avoid flying directly above them.

If it starts raining during a flight, it is a must to return and land the drone as soon as possible and wait until it is fully dry inside and out before using it again.

8.

Always fly at a minimum of 10 meters from above the ocean surface. By maintaining this height, you reduce the risk of water splashing onto the drone and damaging its electronic components. When taking off, the drone set its initial take off coordinates also its initial altitude. But todays technology does not ensure that the drone constantly measure its height form the open water surface level nor on mainland. When using the controller’s telemetry data, you can check your actual height from the surface. But this height is calculated from the initial taking of point, and not updated by the drone remote position, where the drone is currently staying. If this point is higher or lower than the taking off point, than the height calculation will be pretty false.

You may think that your drone is high enough off the surface that it won’t hit a landmark (buoy, cardinal, ship, any landmark) or fall into the water, but your data is wrong.

If you have ever been on the open ocean and another ship came into sight, you may have encountered the phenomenon that from one moment to the next the ship you had seen disappears for many, many minutes. The reason for this lies in the larger waves and the unevenness of the ocean floor. From where you just saw the other ship, reaching a deeper or higher section in its direction, the ship will be “below” or “towards you”. Since the drone is not able to update its height compared to its location, flying at a low altitude there is a risk that the drone may collide with the other ship. Always keep your drone at least 10 meters high, but 40-50 meters is recommended. Around your boat, when the drone is clearly visible and the recording requires it, it is possible to go below 10 meters, but it is not recommended.

9.

VLOS (Visual Line of Sight). On open ocean water the direct sun and the clouds make it especially difficult for a mini drone to be seen. Believe me, when you are 200-300 meters away from the ship, almost nothing is visible from the drone, especially in filtered light. You can’t even hear the drone because of the waves.

It is highly recommended to ask an external helper who keeps an eye on the drone, but at least knows which direction it is in. This role is almost mandatory if someone is flying BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight), i.e. operating the drone at a distance beyond the line of sight. In order for the drone to remain visible even in bright light, it is worth turning on the lower, additional auxiliary LED (where the manufacturer equips the drone with this function), or use an external, high-brightness, but extremely light drone LED. Always know in which direction is your drone.

10.

Home Point. If there is any flight anomaly, or if the drone loses contact with the controller, an automatic return to home process can even starts. In this case, the drone will try to return to its original take-off point. Yes, but at sea the position of the ship and the pilot in the ship is constantly changing. The sea currents and continuous waves move the ship, so the return to home function must be switched to the controller’s position immediately after take-off (which is also in continuous motion with the ship, especially if the ship moves through the water at a given speed and does not just rock in one place) and not to the take-off point. This is critical. However, you should not rely on this, because according to my experience there are 5-10 meter differences between the updated RTH position and the real controller position. In practice, this means that you have to be prepared for the fact that, in the event of a return, the drone will not necessarily return directly to the boat, but only to its surroundings. In such cases, the RTH process must be interrupted and the drone must be manually landed either in the ship or in hand.

RTH to controller must be used carefully, because if the connection between the remote controller and the UA is interrupted, the UA will return to the previously fixed home position (which in strong waves could be even 100 meters from the current controller position), so always maintain a visual line of sight.

The waves rock and jostle the boat, the wind pushes the drone. What a nice combo. The boat’s position is never the same, either the drone’s not. Eventually when filming from a little boat, timing for landing is crucial.

Since the wind is blowing and the boat is moving, it is mandatory to reserve extra battery time for landing, because especially on smaller boats, the stronger the wind and the bigger the waves, the better timing and skill are needed to land safely. In such cases, the prevailing wind direction must also be taken into account. From where the wind blows, it will push the drone exactly towards you. And you don’t want the propellers landing in your face. It is also worth involving the skipper (who drives the boat) in the landing process, who, for example, guides the boat in the direction of the wind or against the wind, what the landing process needs. In the direction of the wind, it is worth landing the drone from the back. The physical safety of all people in the boat must be taken care of, as well as the safety of the boat and the drone.

And the connclusion? It is worth gradually trying the possibilities and not immediately jumping into a filming with a dubious outcome, which takes place in unpracticed weather conditions.

By following these rules, you can create amazing videos and photos on the ocean that will amaze your audience.

I wish you beautiful shots and a safe flight on the open ocean!

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