First Aerial Sailing Clips!

It’s been a dream of mine:  To shoot aerial video of our sailboat .. while sailing.  Now, as you can imagine, this presents some “slight complications” … the boat has lots of lines and stays and mast thingies poking up, as well as no real clear landing zone of any significant size … this necessitates hand launching and retrieval (a “skill” some don’t like to practice even on land!)  even when at anchor in still coves … but we were not at anchor, and it wasn’t still … so everything was in motion, in every direction, all at once.  The launch was fine:  the drone (Mavic Pro in this case) activated and rose from my hand when I released it.  Then it seemed as though it was flying away from my perspective; rather, it was that the boat was sailing away, and the drone was hovering over water.  I pushed record feeling that “I’m committed now!” feeling.

The flying was pretty nice .. got a few shots I liked although I was not really “working it” as I was too worried about the retrieval.  We got a lucky sighting of a small pod of sea lions during the flight, and they showed up fairly well on the video.

Then the retrieval:  My first attempts to maneuver the drone close enough for me to grab but far enough forward so I had time to let go of the controls to grab the drone met with zero success.  This drone is a little trickier than some due to its small size and the proximity of the whirling props to the fingers that grab … so I could not be too careful.  I promised myself to use the Phantom 4 Pro next time .. it comes equipped with much larger and safer “handles” (as in the landing gear) so it can be snatched more easily.

Michele went to turn the boat into the wind, and we knew the big genoa would flap around a lot … but we did not anticipate how much force the wind had on that sail, and a slight oversteer lead to backing the genoa, and now the boat is still in motion, heeling, and the wind is blowing in the wrong direction for a hand retrieval of the drone, so … let the drone hover over the waves while I reefed the sail, and tried again.  After the boat had slowed enough, I was able to get the drone close enough to hover, and I reached out and GOT IT!

I was prepared to land the drone on the nearest beach and go back and get it with the dinghy (or have someone pick it up for me if it was on the mainland) but happily I didn’t need to do that.  I was making sure to start the retrieval process with plenty of battery left so I would have enough to get to land “just in case” …

Anyway, here are a few of the clips (the fast-motion semi-circle shot was from the drone being in Target Follow mode, and it was having to correct a lot … the actual shot is cool, but took way too long) and I look forward to topping these clips with better light, better camera (Phantom 4 Pro) and both sails up!  But that will take more planning … so be patient.