Updated: Oct 5
Last week I was filming with the team for a local golf center. The set-up was 18 holes and the brief, a short video clip for each run. The idea being that potential customers and existing members too can get an aerial perspective of each run. They sure do look different 60 meters high in the sky. Drone media is a superb investment for set-ups of this nature.
The first day of filming was a massive success. Time flies when UAV operating and midday soon approached. The weather had turned grey, we, therefore agreed a second day of sunshine was needed to film the remaining holes. During the slow process of packing away our equipment, we were approached by a golf club member. It's always an intriguing wait to see which question awaits one of us. It's never normally technical, or a so-called test question, like a part of our PCFO guidelines, this was no different. Simple it was, but still always interesting. "I bet that drone requires a fair amount of skill to keep stable and safe in the air", he politely shouted.
Now there is a lot of variables to consider with this question. The main being, flight modes. Drones have three, consisting of 'S' for Sport, 'P' for Normal, and 'A' for ATTI.
Let us start with the most difficult, ATTI-Mode, this is a fully manual mode with no GPS or braking sensors inactivation. The hardest mode to master! Sport-Mode comes in at second, full GPS activation and maximum motor performance, so a higher straight-line speed. The only downside, no breaking sensors. P-Mode, the safest of the three, full GPS, breaking sensors on but a limited top speed, still fully acceptable for most media projects though. The mode we use most? Yes, you guessed right, it's 'P'. Maximum safety with little compromise. It's an easy system to operate within and with full GPS the UAV will work tirelessly to maintain its position in the air, no issues! With full activation of the sensors, a collision is near impossible too. Some projects do however require the use of sport. For example, when filming at higher speeds is necessary for the brief. The only pitfall to this mode is the collision sensors remain off. However, with a good set of spotters on-site, there is no major concern here. Now the difficult one, ATTI-Mode, no GPS, no sensors, the drone will simply drift side to side, the wind choosing its direction. Lots of practice is required to safely use this option, really the only time our team uses ATTI is indoors when GPS is simply not available.
Let us revert to the all-important question, I do believe the answer is mostly clear, is it safe to keep a drone stable in flight, generally speaking with a CAA approved Pilot on the ground controls, yes. In ATTI-Mode, I'd lean towards a no. With assistance off and the unpredictability the weather always brings, the situation can soon become dangerous.