Learning To Fly

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You’re welcome for the Tom Petty earworm.

One of the lessons the pandemic has driven home is how important virtual tools are for real estate marketing! We filmed virtual property tours long before Covid, but aerial drone footage wasn’t often called for (and TRREB has a slew of rules surrounding aerial video). However, last fall we listed a beautiful rural property in East Gwillimbury (yes it’s still available!), and hired out the video/photo job – but choked a bit at the $1,200 bill!

Needless to say, I couldn’t help but wonder “how hard can this be?”, and decided to invest in a DJI Mavic Air II drone from BestBuy for the same price as the one shoot. Well, I was about to find out just how hard it can be…

The Mavic Air II quadcopter

I read manuals, I watched YouTube videos, and I flew the drone inside my own house, inadvertently terrorizing all four animals. 😬

Concentrating hard to not hit anything © Allyson Scott

The first thing you have to do when you buy a drone weighing over 250g is register it with Transport Canada. Ours weighs just over a pound, which I thought would give it a little more stability on a breezy day, plus it had higher resolution photo/video capabilities. Registration costs $5, and you have to write the number on the actual drone in case it suffers an unexpected “flyaway” (the technical term used by TC!).

The next thing you have to do is get certified! Again going through the TC website, the basic level license exam costs $10 to write, and involves 35 multiple-choice questions with a 65% threshold to pass. If you need an advanced license, there is a longer online test plus an in-person flight review.

You’d think the questions on the basic exam would be fairly easy, and all related to flying a drone, but you’d be wrong! You have to be familiar with meteorological terms, airspace classifications, and specifics such as whether updrafts can be influenced more by flying over water, or over rocks! I’m grateful it was an open book test, but the time limit means you can only spend so long confirming your answers. It was not as easy as I expected, but I passed with flying colours!

After practicing indoors, I took the drone out for its first flight over my own house, and did a 360 spin high in the sky. It’s fun to realize what a little dramatic stock music can add to a basic video on a gray day!

Drone view of its first launch in the back yard © Allyson Scott

The drone test drive also proved useful for taking pictures of roofing issues for my neighbour!

I decided the first professional use would be at our new listing in Wasaga Beach last month, which was especially handy because the property was surrounded by 4-foot snow drifts! There would have been no other way to get a shot of the back yard.

Back yard drone view in Wasaga Beach © Allyson Scott

I had to launch it from a flat area on the front porch, which sets the “return to home” location for the drone. I flew it up and over the house, and then took a variety of photos and video clips around the back yard. Suddenly, the controller announced the aircraft had a low battery warning, and would return to the home position in 10 seconds!

I ran through the house in my sock feet as the drone flew back to the front porch, but I could not get it to actually land. I tried everything to adjust its position as it hovered in front of me, but it kept sensing obstructions. Without really considering the consequences, in my frustration I reached out and simply grabbed the drone out of the air. You will see from the video of the entire event why you should never do this.

The off button is on the top, beneath the whirring rotor blades. The drone was now in my hand, shaking and jumping around as it tried to re-orient its gimbal. I ran down the driveway through snow in my socks, thinking if I got to the wide open expanse of driveway I could let it go and the drone would return to its hovering position. It did not. I let go, and the drone shot violently through the air over my shoulder and slammed into the side of the house at top speed. I was certain it was destroyed, but surprisingly this was the extent of the damage:

Shattered sensor and landing leg © Allyson Scott

Happily I discovered that with a little crazy glue on the leg, it still operates well, minus one sensor on one side. Somehow the propeller, camera, and gimble were all unhurt, and I was able to do some additional test flights at a cottage.

Aerial view of cottage in Haliburton © Allyson Scott

I’m still figuring things out after only a few test flights, and I’m still feeling pretty intimidated, but I can start to feel the potential in this last video!

Now all I have to continue to work on is my piloting, editing, and soundtrack skills – and my common sense!


4 Responses to Learning To Fly

  1. Cindy Hammond says:

    LOL Ali, I love your stories and can somehow picture this all going down. So glad that the damage wasn’t critical.

  2. Pam McDonnell says:

    I can imagine your panic Ali and to picture you in socks running down the drive was a great image.

    • Jody says:

      I think you can see the panic on my face in the video lol! My heart sank when I picked the pieces up off the ground, as did Crystal’s, but it turned out ok thank heavens! Ali

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