To Fly

While humans are unequipped to fly naturally we have always envied other creatures the freedom of the air. The dream of flight has inspired men to create ways of overcoming gravity with ever more creative machines and technological tricks. We can fly, at least with a little help.

Mauna Kea above the Morning Fog
Mauna Kea seen above morning fog
A drone allows the operator to fly, if indirectly through the lens of the camera. The drone makes it quite easy, a nominal cost and a little practice allows a drone pilot to access the air so easily. A few moments preparation and the little aircraft is a able to loft hundreds of feet above and over a mile away.

Flying the little Mavic Air has opened this means of flight to me, and I admit I have been quite captivated by the experience. I am late to the game I suppose, but this also means I am learning on a very capable piece of mature technology. The Mavic Air is a superbly designed machine that is quite forgiving to a new pilot.

My interest in the drone is really as an extension of my existing interest in photography. My motivation is to allow photos to be taken from a new perspective. Even now, with drones becoming fairly common, a view from the air adds a sense of excitement to an image.

This new freedom of the air is important as I will be spending several weeks on a boat while cruising the entire Inside Passage. The boat allows access to incredible wilderness, but also restricts where you can go and where you can photograph from easily. Much of the time you find yourself stuck on the boat. The drone breaks some of those restrictions, allowing photography with far more freedom.

Flying the Mavic Air on the side of Mauna Kea
In preparation for this voyage I have been practicing with the drone, flying around the island and photographing the scenery of Hawaii. Operating from a boat will take another level of skill, one I am eager to reach. In the meantime I have access to a wonderful place to learn.

While my first flight was in a neighborhood park near the house, the next flights were in the Saddle. A beautiful region of lava flows and rugged ʻōhiʻa forest between looming volcanoes. Not a bad place to fly, particularly as I can do it while commuting to work.

Drones do face increasing restrictions on where and how one can fly. Learning the rules takes a bit of reading. Not near airport, no flying in a national park, or even a Hawaii state park. County parks are still allowed, as are much of state lands administered by the DLNR, though that may change.

Flying the Drone
Flying the Mavic Air along the R1 road on the side of Mauna Kea
I duly registered my drone with the FAA before flying, writing the registration number on the side as required. I downloaded the FAA iPhone application to allow me to check where I can fly.

Actually the B4UFly app from the FAA is pretty bad, slow and buggy software. I would recommend AirMap instead, it uses the same database and is far more user friendly and offers better features. I need to write more about that in a later post.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on Mauna Kea, Hawai'i.

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