For as long as I can remember, I dreamed of flying to faraway places, and exploring the unknown. As the decades slipped by, I scaled my ambitions from astronaut to pilot. Commercial drone pilot that is. Passing the FAA’s exam was just the start. My interest in drones started when I built my first drone. I was in typical problem solving mode, I wanted to film some of the arts events I was producing, from a high vantage point. It was 2014, and the ready-made drones with cameras were still marketed for enterprise use.
So one afternoon, I hustled down to the local makers’ lab, and joined a group of men eager to build a drone. The hardware was relatively straightforward to assemble. I am almost embarrassed to admit that this was the first time I wielded a soldering iron. I learned over the years that anything involving flames or cooking was likely to end in some disaster, so I was fairly wary. By the end of the afternoon, we had all assembled our drones, and I was the last to finish that part of it. But none could fly, as it seemed the open-source software used to bind the receiver and the controls wasn’t working.
With years of software development lurking in my background, it didn’t take long for me to figure out the right mix of drivers and compiling, and to the astonishment of the men, my drone was the first to spin up. Granted, it had a calibration issue, but trivial to fix. My favorite part of this story then happened. There was a shout from the instructor, “the girl figured it out.” And I stood up to explain the fix, and within a few minutes off we went as a group went to a large high-ceilinged room to test fly the drones.
That drone was too heavy for the motors as it was, and my goal of hanging a GoPro off it were quickly discarded, not to mention the idea of image stabilization was entirely lacking. From then on, I focused on buying drones with built-in cameras, flying missions, and upgrading to the next drone that solved all the issues of early tech promises. Better batteries, better handling, better built-in cameras. For now, I fly either my Mavic Air 2, or Air 2S. GoPro, although the only American camera manufacturer, abandoned the drone business fairly quickly. The stabilization of the karma handle, though paved the way for the more recent incarnations of GoPros, coming with built-in stabilization plus software-augmented stabilization.
Autonomous flights with videography missions is the future. There are exciting players in this niche, and I hope to soon leverage my software skills on a project or two.
Meanwhile some drone shots.