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Drone heading theory when flying with camera operator

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Hello all......

This is my first post here since joining yesterday. See my intro post "greetings from the Wyoming Valley PA".

I usually fly the I2 while my business partner handle the camera/gimbal. Having flown drones commercially since Part 107, I've learned much from trial and error. Often, trial and terror to be honest.

The one thing I quickly learned is that when flying at long distances such as 2,000 feet or more, it's impossible to know the direction of the aircraft nose. In the event of a battery running low, I have spent valuable time trying to determine nose heading. Unfamiliar terrain makes FPV nearly impossible to use. The "radar" screen seems unintuitive and again valuable time is lost looking at it and aligning the drone nose or tail home.

Since I fly with an operator, the best method I have found is to always fly on station with the tail pointed towards me. Small heading changes are made during the final alignment to keep the tail facing me. The camera operator will rotate the gimbal to get the shots. If something happens like battery running low, some system anomaly or aircraft approaching my flight then I just go full back stick to fly towards me. This has been especially helpful with my P4 that seems to loose video signal way too often.

Anyone else do this or have another method? I want to absorb as much info as possible to keep my flights safe.
 
I'm an Instrument rated helicopter pilot as well as 107 cert, and I use the Scan method when flying at distance.
The Scan method is you come up with a scan pattern of instruments.
You never look at one instrument for too long, you constantly scan your pattern of instruments.
This gives you Situational Awareness at all times.
I.E. , look at the Height, Speed, Battery Level, Camera View, Radar, FPV, then back to the Height and do it all over again.
If you just look at the Radar only when you need it, your mind has to pause to interpret what it's seeing.
If you include it in your Scan Pattern, it will become second nature, and you will interpret the info much quicker.
You wont have to try to decipher what its displaying, you will be observing the trend.
That's part of staying ahead of the aircraft.
 
Thanks for the input Ed...

I agree with your theory. The other issue is I need reading glasses to see the screen. When I was flying a 172, the instruments were big enough and far away enough that I could easily see them in my scan. Transitioning from close(with readers) to far away(really far) is difficult.

I'm going to try to make the radar full screen to see if that helps.

I long for simplicity in this system and not so much "video game" in appearance. Even the ability to really customize the screen better would be good.

Flying today so I'll try out your suggestion!
Thanks

PS: Low flying helicopter are the only collision threat I really worry about when flying. They seem to fly very low sometimes especially Life Flight. Do they monitor the CTAF? I have thought about broadcasting in the blind. I know that's not "proper" but I have had to dive several times due to traffic.
 
Often, trial and terror to be honest.

HA! I'm stealing that one!



The one thing I quickly learned is that when flying at long distances such as 2,000 feet or more, it's impossible to know the direction of the aircraft nose.

Well...it's impossible to know via LOS. This is where you defer to your tablet's telemetry, which is extremely useful and powerful.



In the event of a battery running low, I have spent valuable time trying to determine nose heading.

"Use the app, Luke...."





Unfamiliar terrain makes FPV nearly impossible to use.

In my pre-telemetry daze (nice pun!), I occasionally found myself "lost" up there. I even crashed one bird into a field when I simply couldn't figure out which way was home. This was in the Phantom 1 / Hero 3 days, when the FPV fisheye wasn't exactly a great way to get oriented.




The "radar" screen seems unintuitive and again valuable time is lost looking at it and aligning the drone nose or tail home.

The "Map View" is your best friend. Even without a cached map, there's a clear line drawn to your bird, PLUS orientation off the bird, PLUS orientation of the camera in relation to the bird. So this can ALSO be a useful tool for keeping the landing gear out of some shots.



Since I fly with an operator, the best method I have found is to always fly on station with the tail pointed towards me.

I highly recommend you learn how to fly with the bird facing you. I regularly land in ATTI mode with the bird oriented toward me. It's a good way to keep one's skills sharp and avoid panic should you lose GPS.




This has been especially helpful with my P4 that seems to loose video signal way too often.
I highly recommend the 32 channel hack. It's a great way to insure rock-solid video feed in microwave-saturated environments.

I was doing traffic analysis 2 days ago at a truck stop. Pretty much every channel except channel 12 was taken. I switched her to channel 12 and not so much as a hiccup in the video feed. I only went out 1200' (400' AGL), but I've lost feed in as little as 100' if on a taken channel. And Auto Switch stucks IMHO.

I hope this helps. Good luck!

D
 
Hello all......

This is my first post here since joining yesterday. See my intro post "greetings from the Wyoming Valley PA".

I usually fly the I2 while my business partner handle the camera/gimbal. Having flown drones commercially since Part 107, I've learned much from trial and error. Often, trial and terror to be honest.

The one thing I quickly learned is that when flying at long distances such as 2,000 feet or more, it's impossible to know the direction of the aircraft nose. In the event of a battery running low, I have spent valuable time trying to determine nose heading. Unfamiliar terrain makes FPV nearly impossible to use. The "radar" screen seems unintuitive and again valuable time is lost looking at it and aligning the drone nose or tail home.

Since I fly with an operator, the best method I have found is to always fly on station with the tail pointed towards me. Small heading changes are made during the final alignment to keep the tail facing me. The camera operator will rotate the gimbal to get the shots. If something happens like battery running low, some system anomaly or aircraft approaching my flight then I just go full back stick to fly towards me. This has been especially helpful with my P4 that seems to loose video signal way too often.

Anyone else do this or have another method? I want to absorb as much info as possible to keep my flights safe.
If the PIC is unable to tell UAS orientation, the UAS is BVLOS.
 
If the PIC is unable to tell UAS orientation, the UAS is BVLOS.

Not true. Google "Parallax effect." The drone could be 100' away in clear view and the PIC could STILL not be positive the orientation. Hex's are famous for this. If the Sun's behind the bird, the lights are of little to no help.

D
 
Actually, I'll chip in here.

Its actually very easy (with practice) to regain and work out orientation using just sight of the aircraft even if it's just a dot in the sky.
There are flying techniques that can be used from RC model pilots that have been used for years.

Have a Google and you will find a lot of useful info. You can also practice using the Sim until you are confident in the techniques. Just fly the aircraft away from you until it is a dot in the sky then give it full yaw for a few seconds and let go. Now you do not know which way the aircraft is pointing.....

Now push forward on the cyclic (that's the right stick in mode 2 for you non helicopter guys ;) ).
At the same time yaw to the left or right. If the aircraft goes right when you yaw right it is heading away from you. Simply pull back on the right stick and apply yaw in the opposite direction until the aircraft isn't moving left or right......now the aircraft is moving towards you!
If the aircraft moves left when you apply right yaw then the aircraft is pointing towards you. Again simply apply forward cyclic and opposite yaw until the aircraft doesn't move left or right....now it's flying towards you and pointing towards you.

It's a lot easier to do than to explain and there are plenty of YT videos demonstrating the technique.
Once you have practiced and are confident, losing orientation at long distance LOS really won't fill you with fear anymore.
 
Actually, I'll chip in here.

Its actually very easy (with practice) to regain and work out orientation using just sight of the aircraft even if it's just a dot in the sky.
There are flying techniques that can be used from RC model pilots that have been used for years.

Have a Google and you will find a lot of useful info. You can also practice using the Sim until you are confident in the techniques. Just fly the aircraft away from you until it is a dot in the sky then give it full yaw for a few seconds and let go. Now you do not know which way the aircraft is pointing.....

Now push forward on the cyclic (that's the right stick in mode 2 for you non helicopter guys ;) ).
At the same time yaw to the left or right. If the aircraft goes right when you yaw right it is heading away from you. Simply pull back on the right stick and apply yaw in the opposite direction until the aircraft isn't moving left or right......now the aircraft is moving towards you!
If the aircraft moves left when you apply right yaw then the aircraft is pointing towards you. Again simply apply forward cyclic and opposite yaw until the aircraft doesn't move left or right....now it's flying towards you and pointing towards you.

It's a lot easier to do than to explain and there are plenty of YT videos demonstrating the technique.
Once you have practiced and are confident, losing orientation at long distance LOS really won't fill you with fear anymore.

I do sort of the same thing, in that I push the "cyclic" (new word for me...<:^) forward. If nothing happens (because it's going directly away or directly toward me), I stop, then I yaw a bit and try it again. It never occurred to me to STAY forward on the cyclic. That's a great idea! I'm going to practice that technique!

D
 
I have a pair of strobes on my Inspire 2 for twilight and night flying. During the day when I’m flying at a long distance away and/or against a dark background like trees, I’ll position the right light out to the side and turn it on. Then at a distance I can I can rotate the drone and the light will help me with orientation. I use the map in conjunction with the light as well.
 
Thanks for the input Ed...

I agree with your theory. The other issue is I need reading glasses to see the screen. When I was flying a 172, the instruments were big enough and far away enough that I could easily see them in my scan. Transitioning from close(with readers) to far away(really far) is difficult.

I'm going to try to make the radar full screen to see if that helps.

I long for simplicity in this system and not so much "video game" in appearance. Even the ability to really customize the screen better would be good.

Flying today so I'll try out your suggestion!
Thanks

PS: Low flying helicopter are the only collision threat I really worry about when flying. They seem to fly very low sometimes especially Life Flight. Do they monitor the CTAF? I have thought about broadcasting in the blind. I know that's not "proper" but I have had to dive several times due to traffic.
Hint: Most helicopters (especially medical and law enforcement) monitor 123.025 (helicopter air-to-air). I carry an aircraft radio with me (city and county LEA helicopters and lots of medical (ShandsCair) helicopter traffic in my area). They are constantly announcing their location and destinations which gives me a heads up.... especially when I'm higher than 100'!
 
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I have a pair of strobes on my Inspire 2 for twilight and night flying. During the day when I’m flying at a long distance away and/or against a dark background like trees, I’ll position the right light out to the side and turn it on. Then at a distance I can I can rotate the drone and the light will help me with orientation. I use the map in conjunction with the light as well.
I have been using the same idea for about a year.... and it works great! Red strobe on left... Green Strobe on Right and Clear Strobe on top. I always know which way it is facing.
 
Actually, I'll chip in here.

Its actually very easy (with practice) to regain and work out orientation using just sight of the aircraft even if it's just a dot in the sky.
There are flying techniques that can be used from RC model pilots that have been used for years.

Have a Google and you will find a lot of useful info. You can also practice using the Sim until you are confident in the techniques. Just fly the aircraft away from you until it is a dot in the sky then give it full yaw for a few seconds and let go. Now you do not know which way the aircraft is pointing.....

Now push forward on the cyclic (that's the right stick in mode 2 for you non helicopter guys ;) ).
At the same time yaw to the left or right. If the aircraft goes right when you yaw right it is heading away from you. Simply pull back on the right stick and apply yaw in the opposite direction until the aircraft isn't moving left or right......now the aircraft is moving towards you!
If the aircraft moves left when you apply right yaw then the aircraft is pointing towards you. Again simply apply forward cyclic and opposite yaw until the aircraft doesn't move left or right....now it's flying towards you and pointing towards you.

It's a lot easier to do than to explain and there are plenty of YT videos demonstrating the technique.
Once you have practiced and are confident, losing orientation at long distance LOS really won't fill you with fear anymore.
Not sure when you are but in Australia.. bvlos is when you cannot tell which way the rpa is facing just by looking at it. Without looking at your controller or app telemetry too. With an inspire, most commercial operators will have in their manual that 300-400 meters is the max distance before bvlos comes in.
 
Thanks for the input Ed...

I agree with your theory. The other issue is I need reading glasses to see the screen. When I was flying a 172, the instruments were big enough and far away enough that I could easily see them in my scan. Transitioning from close(with readers) to far away(really far) is difficult.

I'm going to try to make the radar full screen to see if that helps.

I long for simplicity in this system and not so much "video game" in appearance. Even the ability to really customize the screen better would be good.

Flying today so I'll try out your suggestion!
Thanks

PS: Low flying helicopter are the only collision threat I really worry about when flying. They seem to fly very low sometimes especially Life Flight. Do they monitor the CTAF? I have thought about broadcasting in the blind. I know that's not "proper" but I have had to dive several people
 
Hi when I fly I wear MuiJim reader sunglasses
They enable me to observe my I2 in bright light
And see the cendence and telemetry clearly they don’t change the colours so the white look white your did have to be carful which glasses you choose get a light tint and not a small pare
Cheers
 
Not sure when you are but in Australia.. bvlos is when you cannot tell which way the rpa is facing just by looking at it. Without looking at your controller or app telemetry too. With an inspire, most commercial operators will have in their manual that 300-400 meters is the max distance before bvlos comes in.

It's the same here, mate. From US FAA AC 107-2 :

"5.7 VLOS Aircraft Operation. The remote PIC and person manipulating the controls must be able to see the small UA at all times during flight. Therefore, the small UA must be operated closely enough to the CS to ensure visibility requirements are met during small UA operations. This requirement also applies to the VO, if used during the aircraft operation. However, the person maintaining VLOS may have brief moments in which he or she is not looking directly at or cannot see the small UA, but still retains the capability to see the UA or quickly maneuver it back to VLOS. These moments can be for the safety of the operation (e.g., looking at the controller to see battery life remaining) or for operational necessity. For operational necessity, the remote PIC or person manipulating the controls may intentionally maneuver the UA so that he or she loses sight of it for brief periods of time. Should the remote PIC or person manipulating the controls lose VLOS of the small UA, he or she must regain VLOS as soon as practicable. For example, a remote PIC stationed on the ground utilizing a small UA to inspect a rooftop may lose sight of the aircraft for brief periods while inspecting the farthest point of the roof. As another example, a remote PIC conducting a search operation around a fire scene with a small UA may briefly lose sight of the aircraft while it is temporarily behind a dense column of smoke. However, it must be emphasized that even though the remote PIC may briefly lose sight of the small UA, he or she always has the see-and-avoid responsibilities set out in part 107, §§ 107.31 and 107.37. The circumstances of what would prevent a remote PIC from fulfilling those responsibilities will vary, depending on factors such as the type of UAS, the operational environment, and distance between the remote PIC and the UA. For this reason, there is no specific time interval that interruption of VLOS is permissible, as it would have the effect of potentially allowing a hazardous interruption or prohibiting a reasonable one. If VLOS cannot be regained, the remote PIC or person manipulating the controls should follow pre-determined procedures for a loss of VLOS. These procedures are determined by the capabilities of the sUAS and may include immediately landing the UA, entering hover mode, or returning to home sequence. Thus, the VLOS requirement would not prohibit actions such as scanning the airspace or briefly looking down at the small UA CS. "

How can a UAS pilot see-and-avoid a manned aircraft if s/he can't determine proper evasiveaction because of not knowing which way the UAS is facing?
 

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Hi I was referring to the difficulty in watching the drone in the air and then checking the Batteries time and height distance and I have had my drone 700 meters away and still been able to see which direction it is heading and been able to bring it Back. I have been flying for over three years and flown hundreds of hours
No incidents to report sofare
Cheers
 
Hi I was referring to the difficulty in watching the drone in the air and then checking the Batteries time and height distance and I have had my drone 700 meters away and still been able to see which direction it is heading and been able to bring it Back. I have been flying for over three years and flown hundreds of hours
No incidents to report sofare
Cheers
I was responding to OP.
 
I was responding to OP.

That’s what I thought

Since I fly with an operator, the best method I have found is to always fly on station with the tail pointed towards me. Small heading changes are made during the final alignment to keep the tail facing me. The camera operator will rotate the gimbal to get the shots. If something happens like battery running low, some system anomaly or aircraft approaching my flight then I just go full back stick to fly towards me. This has been especially helpful with my P4 that seems to loose video signal way too often.

Anyone else do this or have another method? I want to absorb as much info as possible to keep my flights safe.

A straight line home. Typical 107 pilots
At full throttle with little to no experience. Whilst performing orbits.
Forthwith he said?

It’s actually a flight mode for that there scenario designed for inexperienced pilots right out the box. Illegal as it may be. It’s
no sugar coating the act dudet
 
Oh boy.... a lot to say and a very busy past few days for me..

Thanks for all of the suggestions. Where do i start??

First let me clear up the issue. I have flown to the very edge of visibility. I try not to take my eyes off of the drone at this point due to the difficulty to re-aquire a visual. My camera operator will call battery level to me at this point. Battery level can be somewhat erroneous at max altitude and distance due to winds aloft(manned pilot term). I feel that at Bingo fuel, I can't afford time to look at screen or "determine" heading with sticks. That said, the system that works for me is tail points home... camera operator works gimbal.... at Bingo I go full back to get home in the shortest time. This also is useful to me when the occassional video drop out happens. Remember that at distance a wrong move can kill valuable time. I like to land with a battery reserve I guess my hours in manned aircraft taught me that.

I don't typically use flight modes unless there is a cinematic reason. Control input limits during modes is disconcerting to me and make emergency manuvers slower.

I don't trust RTH like Armstrong didn't trust the auto pilot on the lunar lander. It's a pilot thing.

If you can see the direction that your drone is pointing at 2,000 plus feat, more power to you. I doubt it but your clearly blessed.

Strobe are a good idea and I have one mounted so I will try that idea out.

I'll monitor 123.025 for helo traffic... Didn't know that!

On Friday, I found an optician who will make me glasses that are clear on the bottom with a 2.25 diopter for the screen and a non polorized tint that ends abruptly where the bifocal starts. Look stupid but probably is what will work best.

Thanks for the ideas and polite discussion. Although I'm new here, I have much aviation experience. The one thing I wish is that more drone pilots flew their birds like the "aircraft" that the FAA regulates. It kills me to watch someone hand launch a drone. Very cavileer.

To capitalize on an old flying adage... There are old drone pilots and there are bold drone pilots, but there are no old bold drone pilots that have not been sued!!
 

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