Using a DJI Drone to record house build

Using waypoints to make amazing drone videos.

Advertisements

Drones provide an inexpensive, easy way to record from high above and far away with little or no training. There is no pilot’s license required for small but competent drones, but you do have to avoid no fly zones such as airports, certain municipalities, or harassing individuals. As a person who builds and fixes computing systems (technology, process, people) for a living and a person who tinkers with everything from computers to IoT to cars and boats to houses for fun, it was always my desire to build a house. I’ve been using my DJI Phantom 3 SE (no longer manufactured) drone to thoroughly document the build process.

Modern drones are relatively easy to fly. That doesn’t mean the pictures, especially video, will look any good. I took lot of ugly video at first. There always is the thrill of being aloft, which you can observe from your phone. The DJI Phantom 3 SE (my older drone) and newer drones use GPS or GPS+GLONASS, typically fly for about 20 to 30 mins, range 1/2 to 1 mile, record at 720p or 1080p, hover within 0.5 to 0.1m if you just let go of everything even in a stiff breeze, newer ones avoid objects, and fly at up to about 50 MPH.

I prefer a dedicated controller, but many can be flown from just a smartphone. Many  have advanced abilities to follow-you or at least the controller, circle a known point, do special effects, respond to hand gestures, or fly a pre-assigned flight path made up of waypoints.

Waypoints are your friend when making a video. The best way I’ve found to get a good video, excluding editing (not covered here), is to set a flight path via waypoints, save the mission, and then run the mission.  There are numerous youtube videos out that illustrate the process. I’ve included a video from DJI below to illustrate the process using my DJI drone, but other drones and drone manufacturers have similar abilities.

The real trick is when you run your mission is to set the “Head to:” setting to “FREE”. In head to mode FREE, you control where the camera points. So now you know the drone will fly the mission, not crash, and you can focus on pointing the camera. Shots always are more dramatic if you can move the camera on 3-axis. You already have motion, but you tilt up and down and pan side to side. You’ll get a pretty decent video without editing.

In addition, you can repeat the mission since it saved for you. By flying the same mission, you can see changes over time. In the case of my house build, I have flown around the home site in each stage of the build. I now have a video library I can check to see the house slowly being built.

Enough people have expressed interest in my house build in Florida that I am going to write a new blog on it. Once I get enough content, I’ll post the new WordPress site here.

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 10.50.35 PM

A Global Business Traveler’s iPhone (updated 21 Nov. 2015)

iPhone Travel folderBelow is a list of apps I use while traveling the world and keeping up with business and personal calendars. A few things on my iPhone and iPad make it simpler, more enjoyable, or both. The best apps give me abilities I couldn’t before – Made for Mobile(tm) is the IBM term.  I change flights while walking between appointments (Airline app) and re-book a car (National Car app). I land and get to a destination with only an address (GPS, usually Motion-X). Check prices, look up documents, and find better store nearby. Respond instantly with links to IBM Connections (IBM’s social business environment) stored in Evernote on every device (PC, iPhone, iPad). My life demands speed and range and the right apps and knowing how to use them makes it both possible, easier, and more enjoyable.

Three items of caution: First, I use an iPhone and iPad which works for me as I find the interface more consistent and elegant than others, but I am confident that other mobile OS’s have wonderful features and capabilities such as Android’s heavy integration with Google and especially Google maps.  Second, this is not an exclusive or comprehensive list nor do think these are the best, but a list of what works for me.  Third and final, I don’t work for any of these companies nor did they compensate me in any way in fact in some cases I paid them to get the app if it wasn’t free.

My SmartPhone Applications

* means I use it heavily or wouldn’t consider a phone w/out it.

Business

  • *ApptDialer – dial conference calls, best $4 I ever spent
  • *Linkedin – business connections
  • *Evernote – multi-platform notes & more, once you get it, you’ll wonder how you lived w/out it
  • *google – Apple doesn’t like them, so you’ll have to install it
  • *CamScanner – Use your mobile phone as a scanner
  • bump – lets you xfer business cards between phones by bumping them
  • webex, blackboard, IBM Meetings (and 3 others) – conferences on the go, great on iPad

Weather: What is it like outside and will it be next week

  • *Weather Underground – great weather & weather science (membership $5/yr), loved it since day 1 on the Internet, membership gives you add free everything
  • *Wunder Map – best weather maps using google maps overlay, also via Weather Underground
  • Every other weather app and there are lots of them
  • Navigation: Seriously, I usually have an address, no directions, & no time when I land
  • MotionX Drive – was an excellent navigation app, but after getting me lost several times, I dropped it
  • *Waze – FREE navigation app that beats most dedicated GPS units with constant social updates like Police, accidents, road changes, and vehicles stopped. It becomes an Adult version of I-Spy. Voice navigation is accurate, easy to understand and give sufficient warnings. The voice recognition is better than typing and it integrates into your contacts and calendar and gives you directions to your next appointment.
  • google maps – not native and clunky on iOS, but useful
  • google earth – cool way to look for a vacation spot or house
  • iExit – whats on the next exit on the interstate, free

News & Information: Even when traveling, I want to know what is happening in the world

  • *nytimes – my daily news of choice due to level of coverage of national and international
  • *kindle – yes, you can read all your Amazon kindle books on your iOS devices, but you can’t shop for them in the app, so you just have to use a browser
  • nyt now – a more modern look at NY Times
  • NPR News – NPR via internet and I do use the station finder when the hotel radio will work (not often)
  • TED – Short, important topics via well done lectures, makes you think
  • Flipboard – never got into this, but it has high potential for news, there are others, too.

Entertainment: All work and no play makes me cranky

  • *Pandora – listen almost daily, pairs well w/ good bluetooth speaker, repeats too much, but I want to set & forget when I listen
  • *tunein radio – listen daily to NPR, pairs well w/ good bluetooth speaker, has a sleep timer, hate hotel radios
  • *Amazon Music – stream every album Amazon sells for free if you have Amazon Prime. I’m in heavan. Can play for days w/out repeats. Playlists are decent.
  • at bat – if you like baseball, sound works over wireless, TV works better on a hotspot
  • netflix – the cord cutter staple
  • amazon instant video – free w/ prime, some good stuff including paid content
  • youtube – video by someone to show some of everything not totally obscene, actually a really good teaching / learning tool
  • soundhound – ID a song
  • night sky – (if you like looking up at night)
  • remote for electronics – most smart devices have smartphone apps

Photography: Now everyone has a camera to use everywhere all the time

  • Mostly use the native iOS camera app, but sometimes…
  • Fast Camera – rapid series of shots
  • 645 PRO Mk II ($4) – makes your iPhone nearly DSLR minus lenses
  • Camera+ ($2) – makes your iPhone super good point & shoot
  • I don’t edit on my phone or iPad, but iPhoto seems useful

 Dining: I’m always up for a great dining adventure

  • *opentable – high end dining, limited, use for business rsv mostly
  • *yelp – low end dining, the open now feature is great, heavily influenced so read w/ caution
  • starbucks – caffeine addiction & snacks, made coffee cool again

 Shopping: It is not a sport or fun for me, but my credit cards don’t lie and I do buy stuff

  • *keyring – put all your loyalty cards in the app. (lots of after midnight eating out of 24 hr grocery stores for this consultant)
  • *amazon – get Amazon’s price by scanning a bar code
  • Every big box retailer (Lowes, Home Depot, Target, etc.)

 Travel: makes sitting hours in small seats inside flying tubes slightly easier

  • *flightaware – track a flight in flight
  • *uber – get a taxi, car, SUV in most major cities (signup & CC required)
  • flightboard – nostalgic look at what is departing and arriving at an airport
  • hipmunk – travel planning and discount fares – love the interface, so powerful on web & as an app
  • tripadisor – use for cities, hotels, & restaurants, etc. some helpful materials, I write reviews under ccflroadwarrior (Cape Coral FL Road Warrior)
  • worldclock – the iPhone / iPad has a decent one, but this is better
  • Your Hotel chains (mine is mostly Hilton)
  • Your Auto Rental company (mine is mostly National Car, Hertz sometimes)
  • Your top airlines mobile app (mine is mostly Delta and sometimes American)

I hope this helps you with travel and the necessary work / life integration (replaced work / life balance since mobile device proliferation).  Feel free to share and reply with your favorites and thoughts. I’m always open to better ideas for better outcomes.