Transporting a drone for mountain filming
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Transporting a drone for mountain filming

I got this email the other day and so thought I would post an article here in reply:

“Hi Rob,

– First of all: awesome images!!!
– I would love to do something similar for my ski alpinism trips (e.g., http://www.skitour.fr/sorties/lagginhorn,51173.html or http://www.skitour.fr/sorties/taschhorn,50829.html)
– I was wondering, how do you transport your drone, you have a Phantom, right? it seems to be pretty bulky, requiring a 2nd backpack?
– I have both an issue with the cold and the altitude 🙁 SO for teh cold as far as I understand you take several packs of battery. How much do they last?
– For the altitude, is 3000m the upper limit??? Really? Would be a no go for me (both of the above summits are above 4000m)
– If you had 4 battery packs for your climb I assume you had to land your drone during the climb? How do you do that in steep terrain?
Cheers,

Andras”

First off – thanks for the compliment on the images, thats always nice 🙂

I am currently doing the vast majority of my filming on my DJI Inspire Pro. I find it gives a much nicer final image than the Phantom for a whole host of reasons and its pretty much just as portable. I carry the drone using my ski touring rucksack that is made by Haglofs (I can’t remember the model name I’m sorry). I can put all of my climbing kit inside the pack with the transmitter, batteries, props and camera and then the drone itself gets strapped to the outside.

IMG_4409

A few top tips that I have learnt from experience:

  1. Don’t forget your props – I have done this twice now. I think it’s because the props are kept in the lid of the Inspire Case and so I just forget to pack them in my sack.
  2. Don’t carry with the props attached. I made this mistake whilst skiing between shots and the props span very fast in the wind that I generated and broke the props on the sack straps.
  3. Careful when it’s cold – I over tightened the straps holding the Inspire onto the sack on a very cold day and the metal bracket that holds the camera broke.
  4. Carry a waterproof bag – if/when it rains you will want to put the whole lot inside a waterproof roll bag, the type used by kayakers.

Altitude and the cold

On the newer Phantoms the altitude limit has increased. On the Phantom 4 it is 6000m whilst on the Inspire Pro it is 4500m. This is all down to the power to weight ratio as the air gets thinner as we get higher. Yes it really does make a difference as I nearly found out to my cost when I first flew over 4000m with a Phantom 2 in the Alps in 2013 – the drone is much less responsive, has less battery endurance and less performance in general.

The cold also has a big impact on battery performance and I would strongly recommend battery heaters for anyone flying in the mountains.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 12.12.30

Landing on Steep Ground

You need to learn how to “catch” your drone. This comes with a health warning! Get it wrong and it will hurt but if you want to film in steep, mountainous or just generally rocky terrain you will need to learn the catch landing. Check out the end of this video for a demo (this is an older film and so was done with the Phantom but I do the same now with my Inspire Pro):

Ben Nevis, Ledge Route – Aerial filming using a drone from Rob Johnson – Filmuphigh on Vimeo.

 

 

 

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