Drones in the bush

It was a simultaneous thought shared with my son to the point that our respective e-mails must have crossed somewhere over Africa: “Dad, I think a drone would be great for your blogging activities ” and “Jul, have u heard of photography drones? I think one would be good for safaris”. We were very pleased with ourselves as, at the time, drones were only starting to be used in the bush for animal photography and filming.

A couple of months later when he came to Zimbabwe he brought an economical camera drone with him “Dad, this one is for testing purposes” he said. We immediately got to using it; well he used it and I interfered! Following its fast assembly my son started flying it and mastered it quite quickly (no doubt as a result of having spent long hours playing PlayStation and Xbox instead of doing his homework!). I conveniently refrained from voicing my praise with respect to his mastery, as I had been stern in establishing time limits on computer games, and instead proceeded to watch.

Eventually my turn with the drone came and I received the necessary instructions and began my attempts. At first my flying consisted of starting the rotors and hopping about trying to get the machine to go where I wanted. A couple of batteries later (they last a very short time!) I was awarded my beginner’s brevet. My take off was perfect and I started flying it; which also went well. During one such flight, I was so fascinated with watching the machine that the “Dad, watch where you are flying!” shout from my son took me by surprise, causing me to lose concentration and to remove the crucial finger from the joystick. Needless to say things started to go awry very quickly…

First, the drone turned violently to the right causing me to over-correct in the other direction. Luckily, after the maneuver, the drone still had sufficient altitude but, to my dismay, was hovering directly over a water hazard (read old swimming pool). In the same way that looking down from a balcony causes you to feel a fear-induced (and often paralytic) rush of adrenaline, my fingers stopped obeying my commands and: splash!

The positive outcome from this experience is that I can now confirm that drones float (or at least this plastic one did)! After its recovery my programme for the day was secured: drone disassembly, drying, reassembly and testing. Fortunately it flew again, although with my son once again reinstated as pilot and myself as manager!

Following this experience I have decided to wait for the prices to go down so that I can acquire a more sophisticated one that I can navigate from my phone. It is also my desire for such a drone to possess a “Boomerang/Home” button to bring it back to me (safely) after taking pictures of game. Unfortunately, however, drones are becoming increasingly common now so our “surprise factor” has vanished but, who knows, maybe something interesting can still take place, just be patient…

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