Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Maiden Flight of the Phantom

Yesterday saw the maiden flight of Jim's new dji Phantom quadcopter.  It would have been at Sanna but the wind which, along with the rain, has kept it grounded for what were, for Jim, six agonising weeks, rose during the afternoon to about force 4, so the first flight took place at the sheltered end of the football pitch by the Community Centre, much to the dismay of the small flock of sheep which are there to keep the grass down through the winter.

Jim has had a couple of smaller machines on which to learn his flying skills.  Even so, his control of the new machine was near-perfect and, in retrospect, the wind at Sanna wouldn't have been too daunting.  He put the quadcopter through its full paces, including suddenly turning off the control unit during a flight and watching as the Phantom, after a moment or two's thought, suddenly rose to 100ft, flew back to where we were standing, and landed neatly on the grass in front of us.

The quadcopter is flown using a control unit (left) while the on-board camera is operated via an iPad app.  The camera takes both video and still pictures.  While it's possible for one person to work both, for the maiden flight the Diary had the privilege of acting as co-pilot, operating the iPad.

Here are the first results.  This one might be captioned 'eye-to-eye'.

The speed with which the Phantom rises and the distances it can travel are quite remarkable.  A single charged battery allows a fifteen-minute flight, and the maximum range before the signal is lost is about 1,000m.  In this picture, the Community Centre is at bottom left, Pier Road curves away into the distance, and Ben Hiant is at top left.

Flying it on the football pitch was fun, but the Phantom has some serious applications.  Jim, as a mainstay of the Ardnamurchan Community Archaeology group, has promised to take aerial pictures recording some of West Ardnamurchan's heritage, and here is a first try, a bronze or iron age stone circle, probably the foundations for a large communal hut, with a diameter for about 12m.

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