The Mavic Air Panorama Modes

One of the most useful features of the Mavic Air are the built in panorama modes. These are pre-programmed maneuvers, like the quick-shots, that take a series of exposures to stitch into a single frame.

Mauna Kea above the Morning Fog
Mauna Kea seen above morning fog, a Mavic wide panorama of nine frames
The panorama feature was offered in earlier models like the Mavic Pro, the difference in the Air is that the stitching is done on-board, ready to download from the SD card as a finished product at the end of the flight, no need to process in the DJI software.

There are two panorama modes I find myself using regularly. The spherical and horizontal modes both offer a view from the drone that overcomes the limitations of the camera.

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Fixing the Boat

There is always something broken. It is just a rule on boats. Usually is is more than one thing, you have a list. Just so long as nothing on the list is truly critical.

Battery circuits on the forward engine room bulkhead of a Nordic Tug ‘42
Battery circuits on the forward engine room bulkhead of a Nordic Tug ‘42
Our journey south along the Inside Passage has been documented by adding things to the list, and crossing a few off as they get fixed. Washdown pump not working? Bad crimp in the power connection. The defrost vents on the bridge… Fixed. The anchor light atop the mast? Fixed… That took some work and dismantling half the ceiling. Door latch on a galley cabinet… Fixed.

Still, the list does not seem to get any shorter.

Nothing really critical… Until we noticed the batteries were not charging.

Hmmm… That might be a problem.

I spend a few minutes poking about in the engine room. The battery circuits are fairly simple, everything is just bolted to the forward bulkhead and fairly easy to get at. There is some complication in that we also have a battery charger that runs off AC power, that adds a few more wires, circuit breakers, and other electrical boxes to the setup.

Yeah… The alternator is dead. It is putting out 2.9 volts, not 12 to 13 volts..

Hmmm… That is a problem.

Fortunately we can charge our batteries. We have to run the generator and use the battery charger. We can keep cruising, with no redundancy. Lose the gen-set or the battery charger and we will soon be dead in the water when the batteries give out.

Of course this happens in the middle of a rather large bit of wilderness, a long ways from any substantial port that would have the needed parts.

So we run the gen-set for a few hours each morning, and a few hours each evening charging the batteries. The nights are punctuated by getting up to check the battery voltages, on the panel just outside my cabin door.

Those few days of cruising allow us to get to Shearwater. This little port serves the cruisers coming up from Vancouver and transiting the Inside Passage. Shearwater offers a fairly good marine supply house and a small boatyard.

Alternator on the Cummins diesel engine of the Nordic Quest
Alternator on the Cummins diesel engine of the Nordic Quest
Of course they do not have an alternator for a Cummins diesel in stock. They can however fly one in the next day from Vancouver. Just $400 for the alternator and another $90 to have it couriered to the airport. The final bill is $515… Ouch. Only somewhat softened by the conversion rate to $US.

We spend the night in a very pretty little cove a few miles from Shearwater. In no hurry to run back to dock I take a couple hours to kayak around a saltwater lagoon playing tag with a family of otters. One nice result of the breakdown.

At 1:30pm the water taxi arrives from Bella-Bella with our alternator aboard. Good, this will take 20 minutes… Not.

A broken 1/2″ ratchet… Run up to the marine supply for a 1/2″ breaker bar. $20 later we can get the serpentine belt off.

We do not have a socket big enough to get the pulley off the old alternator. Run up to the boatyard where the mechanic quickly swaps the pulleys with an air ratchet. We slide him enough loonies for a round of beer.

Done. The batteries are now charging! We head south towards Queen Charlotte and a open ocean crossing with all systems good to go. Everything critical at least.

Flying a Drone in Canadian Airspace

OK, I have the FAA rules for operating a drone figured out. What about Canada? As I will be voyaging along the Inside Passage this month I intend to fly in Canadian airspace. The scenery of the wild British Columbia coastline is just too fantastic to pass up, particularly from the air.

Flying the Drone
Flying the Mavic Air along the R1 road on the side of Mauna Kea
Yes, again I am writing a blog post so I can research and remember a subject for myself. A good way to study a subject I need to know, in this case it is Canadian drone rules.

Rules for drones in Canada are the responsibility of Transport Canada, the equivalent of the US Federal Aviation Administration. TC maintains a very nice set of web pages covering drone rules and regulations. There is even a nice PDF page that summarizes the rules.

In general Canadian drone rules are much more restrictive than the FAA drone rules. For example the range limits are 90 meters above ground, notably lower than the US 400ft rule. Operation must be at a maximum range of 500m, where the US allows up to visual line-of-sight, potentially several miles.

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Another Hop Across the Pond

Trips from the islands always start the same way, that little five hour hop across the Pacific Ocean to the west coast. Five hours of sitting a seat two sizes too small, of watching videos or playing games on the pad.

Moonrise over the Pacific on Alaska 879 from Kona to Seattle
Moonrise over the Pacific on Alaska 879 from Kona to Seattle

I peruse the offerings of the aircraft’s entertainment system, starting a movie I have not seen. I order a box of cheese, fruit, and crackers as the cart comes down the isle. I complete the usual rituals of flying.

As usual I had reserved a window seat. I enjoy the view, even if that view is endless clouds and ocean. The shade of blue of the tropical Pacific always amazes me. Under the scattered puffy clouds white specks of whitecaps on the water dot the sheet of blue.

Something about that endless seeming expanse triggers the imagination. I consider those who have travelled this way before… From Spanish galleons, whaling ships seeking fortunes, warships sailing to battle in WWII, the liners that sailed before the age of jet aircraft.

Considering those previous voyagers five hours in a seat seems trivial.

I will be voyaging myself soon enough, sitting at the helm of a 42′ cruiser for the seven hundred mile journey along the Inside Passage from Juneau to Bellingham. I expect to steer the boat around whales and icebergs. I expect to anchor in quite coves and to moor in busy fishing harbors.

I look forward to a few weeks of a different life, a life that progresses at eight knots. A far slower pace than the usual breakneck velocity of the modern world. I look forward to peaceful days of water, rain, and ocean swell.

B4UFly and AirMap

Learning where you can, and cannot fly is a basic part of learning to pilot a drone. To aid this there are several mobile applications that a pilot can use to check the airspace status of a potential flying site. Just scroll that map and select a site to see the warnings.

Flying the Drone
Flying the Mavic Air on Mauna Kea
First there is the official FAA app B4UFly available for both iOS and Android. There is also a notable alternative in AirMap, a third party application that uses the FAA database to accomplish the same task.

I have downloaded and used both for flight planning applications around the island. The island of Hawaiʻi offers some spectacular scenery that has made learning to fly the drone quite enjoyable.

Basically the official FAA B4UFly application sucks. A blunt expression, but appropriate, it truly does.

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