By Will Harford
It sounds so easy:
Take a drone and make it fly from a boat. What could be harder than this?
In fact, this is one of the hardest things an operator can do and something which often goes wrong. We're going to look at some of the reasons why drones end up at the bottom of the sea when taking off from a boat, ship or vessel.
Boats on water and at sea, even with the engines off and anchored are very rarely at a standstill. Whilst you're stood on a boat, you may be stationary in relation to the deck, but the boat is far from stationary compared to the water and seabed below. We need to use this as the basis for understanding how GPS drones use their positioning, regardless of their surroundings, as the first mistake people can make is to take off with the drone in 'GPS Mode'
GPS Mode is one of the safest means of flying and will protect you from gusts of wind and keep a drone steady in the air for filming. However, there are often times when a non-GPS mode 'ATTI' is needed, but many drone users forget the ATTI option soon after passing their exams.
Here is an example of someone flying in GPS mode and attempting to land on a boat. The operator is confused because whilst the drone is correctly following her inputs, the boat isn't moving relative to the drone, which is giving the illusion of the drone flying badly. The operator doesn't help with the fact that she's also flying nose in, which has reversed her drone controls.
We've jumped the gun a little bit here, as we do need to talk about taking off in Atti mode. This is the next issue which can cause a crash.
Hand Launching and Landing
The idea of catching or holding on to a flying blender is quite worrying, but it is by far the safest thing you can do, to ensure that everything is running smoothly on the drone and it's safe to fly from your moving platform. During launch, you'll be setting the flight mode switch to ATTI and positioning yourself downwind of the boat (remember that atti will move with the wind, so you don't want the wind to push the drone into the boat!). Your controller should have a neck strap, which will allow you to perform a CSC stick command to start the motors, once you've got the drone held up like in the photo above.