Those of you who know me will know of my relatively recent obsession with quadcopters and FPV (First Person View) flying.
For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, it's basically flying remote controlled aircraft with cameras and a video transmitter on board. The video is beamed back to a set of goggles worn by the pilot, who can see what the aircraft sees in real time. At the same time the high definition video is recorded on board, so you can play it back later in high quality and share the footage.
It's basically as close to flying like a superhero as you can get, but without the risk of actually going splat when things go wrong. And oh so much fun, if a little expensive at times…
Anyway, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I've discovered a bunch of local people who are into the same thing, and we meet regularly to fly, build, design and swap ideas.
I've wanted to take my quadcopter out to a place called Bald Rock for ages. I visited it years ago (http://www.truffulatree.com.au/outbackNSW.php) and thought it would make a great spot for some spectacular footage.
A few of the other guys were interested as well, so we organised a camping trip. The original plan was to stay at the National Park, but as luck would have it one of the guys knew some people who lived very close to the park (like, basically next door) and were happy for us to come and camp on their land.
Unfortunately due to bad timing and illness only four of us made it down – three for the whole time.
Damien headed down before the rest of us on Thursday night to set up a tarp. What a life saver it was! As Jim and I headed down on Friday, a massive storm brewed up and we arrived in the middle of a downpour. All in all, the farm had 55mm of rain overnight.
Nonetheless we were mostly dry and settled in to the sound of the rain.
SaturdayOn Saturday morning it was still grey and overcast, but at least the rain had abated. Coptergeist from Warwick joined us for the day, and we got out the mini quads for some general tooling around. Having so much open space was great.
I had a good run with my mini (and its ridiculously overpowered new Blackout MT1308 motors), and a few spectacular stacks. Todd ran his QAV400 around for a while without incident, but then the gremlins struck and he had to stop for the day.
Damien tested his shiny big Scarab quad out, with the newly installed brushless gimbal – and it shot very nice footage!
After lunch the clouds closed in though, and another storm loomed, so Coptergeist headed off just as it hit and we bunkered down for the night.
SundaySunday morning started off fairly clear, but the clouds soon closed in so we three lazy bums slept in again.
After a leisurely morning of quad-wrangling, Damien got his mini working (at last!) so we headed off on a little exploration venture to Boonoo Boonoo (pronounced more like "bonna-boonoo") falls.
Bald Rock was of course the main reason we were there, but the wind was up and we agreed that it could wait. Flying off the top of a huge rock in high wind was nobody's idea of fun.
Of course we got distracted and ended up driving around the property for quite some time before even getting to the main road. Along the way we found a pair of old abandoned car bodies from the 50s or 60s in a paddock and I earmarked them for some footage later.
|The old cars (see below for video)|
Eventually we got to the main road, and after a few stops made it to the falls, mini quads in hand.
However, once we saw the scenery, a two word consensus was rapidly reached on whether to fly. The second word was "that".
While spectacular, the falls offered a zero (0) chance of recovery if anything went wrong, and we all wanted to go home with our mini quads. If I'd had the bigger once I might have been more tempted (it has the added safety nets of GPS and altitude hold), but still it would be a daring prospect; the picture doesn't quite do justice to the extreme drop we faced.
|Boonoo Boonoo falls - scary dropoff!|
Still, it was a pretty place and a nice walk. Maybe I'll go back there and fly next time. ;)
On the way back Damien decided to take the road less travelled, and we headed down some tracks through the bush for a while. In the end we had to backtrack, but not before getting the minis out for what I suspect may be a world first.
With the three of us in the car, we drove down the road – Damien driving the car, and Jim and I chasing it with our minis. This was the first time I've FPVed from a moving vehicle and I can tell you it is HARD. And WEIRD; your eyes tell you one thing, but your body tells you another, and when the car lurches to avoid potholes it is very difficult to fly straight! I suspect this sort of activity would actually make quite a lot of people motion sick. Luckily my stomach is tough.
|The front paddock|
After that little adventure we headed back to the property, and stopped at the front paddock for another fly, just because it was so damn pretty, and there was so much cool stuff to fly around – trees, rocks, dams, big open spaces – we had it all.
With our mini batteries flat it was time to head back, but I had more flying to do, so I picked up the big quad and shot some nice footage of the rusty cars and paddocks as the sun was nearing the horizon.
(here's a link to the flight data: http://www.flytrex.com/mission/quadcopter-tbs-discovery-with-gimbal-mark-cocquio-4916)
It was a good way to end the day (that, and shooting some stills of the local bird life back at our hosts' house).
|Red-browed Firetail Finch - Neochmia temporalis|
MondayI woke early to utterly still, clear blue skies, so there was nothing for it but to get the mini out and use it as an alarm clock to rouse everyone else.
After buzzing the campsite a couple of times Damien emerged, but we had to wake Jim by banging on the van. Apparently he had dreamed of flying his mini into a school, and having to apologise to the principal. I take no responsibility whatsoever for this dream. :p
Anyway we knew the good conditions wouldn't last forever so we had a quick cuppa and then hit the road to Bald Rock itself.
The climb up didn't take long (we took the short, *steep* route up), and the day was amazingly clear – we would see all the way to Mt Warning, 130kms distant.
Bald Rock is spectacular – it is the largest granite rock in Australia from memory – and it's well worth a visit.
The flights were great. All three of us had several – Jim with his mini, Damien with his Scarab, and me with the big TBS Discovery.
|Quadcopter and moon|
|Jim flying FPV|
|Reconn flying FPV|
All three of us took it pretty easy; a crash would have been inconvenient to say the least, and nobody wanted to go home with smashed (or lost) stuff. So the footage isn't as daring as it could have been – but it's still spectacular, and has given us many ideas for the next visit.
Here's a compilation of my four quadcopter flights over Bald Rock.
And here's a link to the flight data: http://www.flytrex.com/mission/quadcopter-tbs-discovery-with-gimbal-mark-cocquio-4866/
All up it was a great trip. It's a shame there weren't more of us but in a way that stopped the airwaves from getting too crowded, and anyway there's always next time.
Huge thanks again to Damien for organising such a great spot (with a tarp!) and our hosts Jeff and Clare for having us. Can't wait for the next adventure.
If you'd not sick of the pictures yet and want to see more, you can view the whole set on Flickr: