AR Drone 2.0 Test Flight (Splash & Crash)

Yesterday weather was terrific! Blue sky, good sunny day! I decided to take my AR Drone 2.0 out for a test flight. The last 2 test flights weren’t ideal as I had only 1 battery (which lasted about 12 minutes). This time, I armed myself with 4 batteries. This will give me at least 45 minutes of good fun.

It is challenging to find an ideal space to fly the drone in Hong Kong. There isn’t much open space in the city. Too many people. Too many buildings. I have thought of going up to the Peak but was worried about the strong wind condition. Also, it will be almost impossible to recover my drone if it falls over the hill. There were at least 2 times when I am so tempted to fly the drone out of my balcony. My common sense stopped me. It is too early to retire my new toy.

There is a new waterfront promenade near where I stay. The new Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park (opened June 2011) is just located beside the Central Fire Station, facing Victoria Harbor. Lots of big space. Perfect for my test flight.

The waterfront promenade is awesome! It is very beautiful and quiet. There were people suntanning on the green,  couples jogging round the park, families angling by the sea and photographers waiting for the golden sunset. The place was pretty peaceful until I came along with my noisy drone. It was like a big irritating buzzing mechanical bee flying above them.

I certainly attracted a lot of unwanted attention. (I don’t really like such attention cos’ I suck in piloting this toy.) There was a small group of people surrounded me when the drone took off. I tried to be as discreet as possible – just in case my drone landed on some poor man’s head, I can disappear easily. Anyway, it was pretty easy to spot the “pilot”. Who in the world will look at the sky while playing the iphone in his hand?

The AR Drone is amazing. It makes flying so simple (via an iPhone or Android app)! Elkan mastered it within 2 minutes! It comes with auto-stabling sensors that balance the drone in mid-air. Landing the drone is no-brainer. The auto-landing function slows the drone down for a smooth landing. The AR Drone comes with 2 cameras (HD front-facing camera and normal VGA underbody camera) which transmit realtime video to the phone screen and record the flight footage into the phone memory. Depending on the WIFI range, it can fly up to 100m high and 50m radius. In the event when the drone loses the WIFI signals, it will hover in midair until it reconnects with the controller’s signals. WIFI signals are pretty unstable out here in the city. My advice is to keep to 50m range (in public places) as there are quite a lot of unexpected interference.

I was flying good with my drone. There were a couple of times when I flew the drone 30m out in the sea. It was pretty difficult to record a smooth aerial video due to the strong wind condition. The drone was swaying side to side and I have to pilot it back.

Yes, accidents do happen. I crashed my drone into the water fountain. Guess the sensors went wild near choppy waters and I lost total control of the drone. Thanks to the foam-body, it floated back to me. (Did it survive the crash? Watch the video below.)

For those who are thinking to get the AR Drone.
 It is a little costly (SGD380) but I say “Buy it! It is worth the fun!” And it gets addictive along the way. Now, I am buying more parts for my night flights. And yes, more juices (batteries) and no more reckless water stunt. Till my drone lasts.

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