We have lift-off. A pesky buzz, like that from a chorus of humming birds, lifted our photo drone from the hands of its minder and into the air. The pilot, Jacob Lederer from seaHex, taking directions from PassageMaker’s art director, David Pollard, sent the drone flitting to and fro, up, down and around. This small three-rotor prototype flies about eight minutes on a single charge, and its GoPro Hero3 camera, mounted on the undercarriage, shoots a still every two to five seconds, depending on the setting. That’s a lot of frames. Lederer settled on a 14-percent minimum reserve power supply as the failsafe to return the drone to its catcher on the afterdeck of the Greenline 48, the subject of the Boston Harbor cover shoot.
PassageMaker was lucky to be part of this trial. The manufacturer of the drone, seaHEX of Bristol, Rhode Island, asked to participate in the photo shoot to test this prototype’s ability to shoot a boat while it’s under way. The company planned to use the photos in its promotional campaign and gave us permission to use examples for our feature about the new Greenline 48 Hybrid.
Company representative Jock West and Lederer brought a single drone, a handful of batteries and a charger. During each six-minute flight, one battery was charging off the boat’s electrical system. When the drone returned, West installed the fully charged battery and placed the spent one into the charger.
During normal flights, this drone automatically returns to the location from which it launched when the power supply gets close to zero. In this trial, the launching coordinates were changing constantly as we maneuvered the boat to vary the background scenery. If the drone had set down at the original location, it would’ve sunk into the sea.
This trial also tested the drone’s ability to fly in a fresh breeze—about 15 knots average throughout the day—which pushed the limit of the 8 lb., carbon fiber bird. It doesn’t have enough power or mass to stand up to higher wind speeds and could be blown beyond the range of its remote control. A splashdown would result.
The good news is that the production version of the seaHex will float, and the company has done everything it could to make the drone watertight. The props repel water, and the gps control units live in watertight compartments. Breather valves allow the altimeters to function flawlessly. It also can take off from the water without assistance, as long as the sea state isn’t too rough.
Although Pollard directed the shoot, via a small portable screen or Fat Shark Attitude V2 video goggle, one person could fly the drone and direct its camera by using a custom DJI remote-control system. What a great way to photograph your boat in a wide variety of locations and from interesting perspectives. You also could launch a drone from the deck of your trawler and get stunning photos of wildlife, rock formations and flora up to 1,000 feet away on an inaccessible shore.
I don’t mean to drone on about this cool device, but it certainly seems like fun to pilot it. Read my story about the Greenline 48 in the November/December 2014 issue of PassageMaker or online here.