On the technical side of things I’ll keep short but basically I already have a GoPro Hero4, mostly to film downhill rides on the mountain bike, but it never really catched on by me, too much camera shake, with this in mind I was interested in the hand-held karma attachment which reduces the camera shake so you end up with a smooth film much like carrying around a selfie-stick ( not that I have or ever will) but similar. The idea of a drone came up when you start to idling through photograph sites like 500px of which I am a member and start noticing a number of overhead sky views, cool how did they do that ? So there are many drones out there but having come halfway with GoPro I checked out the new Karma drone and for a number of very good reason thought, yep that’s the one I need (want) and before you can type in the credit card details it’s shipped and on the way.
The package arrived just a couple of days before we drove down to Tuscany ( no coincidence there ) as I saw this as a chance to learn how to fly without hitting too much stuff in the open farmlands surrounding our Tuscan Retreat.
Attracting the four blades is easy and quick and it’s arms fold back into the package altogether so you only have to attach the blades the first time or if you crash-land and need to replace them. The console comes with a ten minute video tutorial as a chance to try out flying maneuvers, but the real test is just to go for it.
The clever part is that by filming a video and setting up the camera beforehand you are able to choose snapshots directly from the film footage afterwards as the camera shoots three photographs per second, so each frame is available as a still photograph.
After the first take off in a clear field some distance from the overhead power lines prevalent in Italy, the rotor blades whir into action and the Karma drone rises up to a height of two meters in front of me and hovers there. The maneuverability is easy and exceptional, rising straight up or down is one toggle, spin left or right in the other direction or forward or backward, I soon get the hang of the flight. The camera is moveable as well so it can turn 90 degrees to look directly down to the ground. The camera is a double-click on the side for a photograph or burst of pictures depending on the set up or go for it and made a video with all the available setting of a normal GoPro camera, cool I am enjoying this.
Of course what goes up must come down, this is where a couple of aspects come to the fore, firstly the battery doesn’t last very long, twenty minutes max. if you don’t zoom up and down like me. The last five minutes the band at the top of the console turns from green to yellow meaning that if you land now you won’t have enough power to take off again, with three minutes left it starts getting stroppy and insists that you better start landing now or it will do it for you…hum in total about fifteen minutes of actual flying time. Although the battery is quick to load, about an hour, a longer battery life would be better if you go to the bother of driving somewhere to film over a lake or whatnot so room for improvement GoPro, of course just buying another battery is maybe the solution if you don’t have time to get the shot you want.
Anyway I fly over the fields and above the trees, avoid the power cables and with a bit of flying experience behind me start to fly over the house and garden even doing a couple of fly pasts over my head and some crazy maneuvers around the fields till I have the great idea to test how high / far can it fly, well upwards about 150m before the connection to the console fades but that’s pretty good and delivers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and hills. Distance wise I fly it over the fields and trees, over the river and further afield towards Campiglia, too far, after about 175m the console decided I had gone out of range and it was turning the Karma around and heading home on its own accord, panic, remember those power cables, still there, but this time without my control, the karma comes straight back to me and a bit further. At this point I was a bit worried it would hit the overhead power lines and fry but by taking back control (a term I’ve heard far too much recently, but that another story) I managed to bring the drone down about twenty meters from me…in a field …..as a crash-landing. Well after a couple of minutes trying to find it, there it was on its side held up by the crops, nothing broken just a bit scuffed around the edges.
All in all a cool piece of kit that I will be putting in the back of the car and stopping to have a fly should the opportunity arise. Do I need a license in Germany, no because it weights under 2kg, no I won’t be flying over towns, built up areas, airports, police stations or over central Berlin, so yes I checked first, although I do expect some comments and hassle back in Germany, but hey I won’t be bothering people on purpose, I intend to head for the deserted hills and lakes.