Mavic vs Tree – The Importance of Situational Awareness – A Mini PostApril 1, 2018 4 By Scott Hinkle
It’s far too easy these days to whip out your drone and start flying without really giving it much thought. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the Mavic vs Tree posts in forums and social media circles and the subsequent tales of having to recover said drone from high up in the tree. Sadly, this Easter weekend, I too joined the ranks of tree trimmers. This mini post is meant to stress the importance of situational awareness and, hopefully, will keep your drone flying safely.
Situational awareness also includes being aware of the airspace you are flying in and what restrictions, if any may exist. Check out my DJI Mavic Pro Apps – My Top Picks post for a list of apps I recommend, some of which provide airspace information.
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Plan Your Flight
One of the easiest ways to avoid a mishap is to plan your flight beforehand. This doesn’t have to be an all-inclusive written plan. It can simply be a quick mental exercise where you can take a look at the planned flight area to assess safety concerns, weather, obstacles and any legal issues. Giving just a little pre-flight attention can help you avoid an unfortunate outcome.
Keep Your Drone in Sight
I can’t stress this enough… Keep your drone in sight. If your flight plan will take it out of your line of sight, place one or more spotters along the planned flight path and keep in communication with those spotters. If you can’t see your aircraft, you can’t see other obstacles in its path. These can be static such as trees and buildings or objects in motion such as birds and other aircraft. Not only will you be flying safely but keeping a visual on your drone at all times is actually an FAA Part 107 requirement.
Don’t get Tunnel Vision
It’s so easy to stare at the screen and not look up. Sadly, this is where I failed recently. I was slowly backing my Mavic Pro in an attempt to get my entire house in frame so I was focused on the screen. I ended up backing into my neighbor’s tree (starting my new tree trimming business). Set a personal goal of looking up from the screen every few seconds to make sure you’re aware of your drone’s location relative to nearby objects.
What About the Obstacle Avoidance System?
The obstacle avoidance system is a great safety feature but don’t rely on it blindly. As in my case, the Mavic Pro doesn’t have rear sensors. I was able to back into a tree with no warning. Moving in a direction that your drone has sensors for isn’t a guarantee either. If you’re moving too fast your drone may not be able to stop in time or if the obstacle is difficult to detect (such as a power line) the aircraft could still fly into it. Also, In Sport Mode the obstacle avoidance system is disabled.
I was lucky. I suffered a damaged prop causing my drone to drift and my camera’s horizon to be tilted and I had to clean debris that stuck to the body of the drone but there was no permanent damage and my Mavic didn’t end up stuck in a tree. A quick wipe down of the body and swapping of the props and I was good to go. This experience was minor compared to many but it stresses the importance of situational awareness. Remember this, no matter how well you pad your drone, in a Mavic vs tree situation, the tree will be the victor.
Be aware of your drone’s location, nearby obstacles, fly safely and don’t rely on the obstacle avoidance system. Just a few minutes of pre-flight prep time and a little situational awareness can save you from an expensive mistake and some embarrassment.
If you feel I’ve missed anything, disagree with me or have additional items you think should be included please comment below. I do review comments and, once approved, they will be visible on this post for others to see.
Thanks for this article. I really enjoyed reading it! I totally agree, situational awareness is very important when flying drones. If you aren’t aware of the surroundings, there is a big risk that you can severely damage your drone and surrounding property or even harm people. That is why I personally don’t like it when people only use these VR-glasses to navigate their drones.
Hello! Yes, I agree. Thank fully my mishap was not a costly one. I’ve been wanting to get the goggles for some time but haven’t due to the cost and inability to keep LoS without a separate watcher.
Thanks for commenting.
Good thing you are able to switch out the busted prop for your Mavic. I’m glad your camera wasn’t damaged.
This is a good post to warn newbies about how to fly their drones in an incident free manner being aware of obstacles and the situation. I guess there is no substitute for flying time experience, though.
I was lucky. I was too focused on getting my property in the frame that I wasn’t looking behind my drone. Luckily I was moving at a snails pace so it didn’t go crashing to the ground.
Situation awareness cannot be stressed enough. You are right in saying there’s no substitute for experience. Practice makes perfect as they say.
Thanks for taking time to comment!