Vineyard Shoot

Winery from on High

A tiny part off the vineyard we went to today. The giant piece of the concrete is a bunker to survive a war… only joking, it’s the new wine cellar they are building. They believe it to be the only one in Australia.

Almost finished, they just need to have the tonnes of soil put back on top of the bunker, then a garden planted, for now, eventually the plan is to build an office on top.

Winery from on high

Winery from on high

Winery from on high

Winery from on high

DJI Phantom 4 Battery DOA

DJI Phantom 4

Boy was I about to make an idiot of myself.

I contacted DJI the day I received my new batteries for my Phantom 4 from them and let them know I had received a DOA (Dead on Arrival). I was requesting info about where I could get support in Australia as I didn’t want to have to send the battery back to Hong Kong.

You may not know, but it’s a pain in the ass to send a lithium battery anywhere, especially when it’s not installed in a device. They are considered a dangerous good and can’t be sent via regular post… though they can magically be delivered by regular post.

The cost to send it back to Hong Kong for service would have been around $90 which would have pretty much negated my whole reason for buying it from there in the first place (cost saving).

On my first contact with DJI they said Nope, we can’t help you, you bought it out of your region so you can’t get support for the battery in Australia, nor directly from DJI, you need to go back to your dealer to get support. They don’t have global support for their products. 

On that advice I wrote them a semi-heated note the next morning saying how bad their service was and how I’d expect more from a global company, and how even had I bought it from DJI directly it would have come to me from Hong Kong because that’s where they are for our region.

And then I didn’t hear anything more. I was annoyed and saddened that I’d have to send this unit back to Hong Kong, at my expense because it had arrived DOA.

This morning I was ready to rail on them because of their lack of response. I was going to go full social media blast angry.

Then I clicked on a link in the original reply saying they couldn’t help, it lead to their support ticket site. I didn’t know my login, and requested a password reset.

Logged in and saw a bunch of replies from Alice, who was my rep at DJI… there was even one five minutes after her initial email saying “nope we’re not going to help” this new reply said… “We’d love to help you, checked it out, the dealer you bought from does have a presence in Australia and our Australian support team will come and collect the unit, test it and send you a replacement.”

I never received the notice via email… her other correspondence, which I also didn’t get, was basically her reiterating that reply and asking when they can come and get the faulty battery.

So while I do have to apologise to DJI for all the bad things I have been thinking bout them for the last few days… I would like to say, something in their system is broken.

Long story short, I bought from their prices were almost a third less the cost of a battery directly from DJI and DJI are supporting the replacement… YAY.

Of course some folks have said that DJI take around 6 weeks to get you your replacement item, they insist on testing the returned item first. So I’m still in for a bit of a wait for the battery to come back.


Print Delivery

My prints came today from my panoramas of the Split Point Lighthouse. They look nice. I did a cropped version to the print size and also a couple of full versions (one in metallic).

I’m impressed with the quality of the larger print given they were taken with a drone… but then, it is a 12MP camera and this is a few photos stitched to make the pano, so it’s more like a 40 megapixels.

Split Point Lighthouse

Caught up with the Split Point Lighthouse for this very quick video. It was giving some lovely colours. The video of the lighthouse is as it was taken by my DJI Phantom 4. She’s a beautiful device.

I also made a panorama from up high, I like it. Looks much better on Flickr so if you tap the image and link through to see it bigger.

Split Point Lighthouse - Aireys Inlet

Another Astro Post!

Melbourne Sports Precinct

Yep, one more post and then I’ll maybe round it up to part of a weekly update. But my DJI Phantom 4 “Astro” has been busy today.

I had planned on testing out the Phantom 4’s ability to fly indoors, but I stupidly forgot the key to the office so I couldn’t get any before anyone else. I also knew I would have a wait for anyone else to arrive so I drove around to the Studley Park Boathouse to give Astro a run. You can see a photo and the video I made from this below. I’m not sure about the lopsided horizon in part of the video, but it doesn’t seem to stick around so I’m thinking it may have something to do with the wind that was present this morning.

South Yarra Morning

When I finally got back to work and into the office, I put Astro’s battery on charge so he’d be ready for another go at lunch time, as there were people in the office I couldn’t very well be giving people haircuts that early in the morning.

At lunch time I drove down to Alexandra Parade, across from The Tan running track and sent Astro off for a trip. Not too many people paid him any attention as he flew along the river and up around the corner, but still just in sight. I think tomorrow, weather permitting, I’ll try the time-lapse option on the camera.

Below is one of the panoramas I made from the photos taken today. This one is five images, taken around a central point. I also still want to try a panorama made from side by side shots, I think I’ll end up with a better image.

Lunch in the sky

So I can’t guarantee that this will be the last post, if the weather is nice again I will be out once more with the Phantom 4 taking to the skies of Melbourne.

Two days with Astro the Phantom 4 from DJI

DJI Phantom 4

Yes I name my technology. When you pay more for it than you would a puppy and it brings you, almost, as much joy, it deserves a name. So Astro he is. Astro is my upgrade of Elroy, my Phantom 2 with GoPro drone.

I have a few things to say about the Phantom 4 from DJI and I hope I don’t sound too much like I’m gushing, but Astro is awesome!

I’ve had only really one full day with the drone and it has exceeded my expectations completely. It’s ease of use from the push and swipe to take off and “Tap to fly” functionality, to it’s amazing “Return to home” feature that keeps an eye on battery life and automatically brings the Phantom 4 back to its starting point, landing it safely, the Phantom 4 is perfect for someone like me who has never quite been comfortable flying my drone too far away through fear it will run away. Of course, this fear is not unfounded. I’m always scared my $2000+ piece of equipment is going to go plummeting into the sea. I need to have more faith in the tech. So today I tested a few of Astro’s features out.

Astro in flight

Tap and slide to take off (and land)

A seemingly simple feature, but boy do I love it. Hit the button on the iPad screen, swipe to confirm you want to launch and watch the Phantom 4 spring to life and practically jump to an altitude of 1.2 metres, ready for your further instruction. It might sound silly, but I always get a bit anxious about taking off with my Phantom 2, a few times it has toppled to the side with propellors at full speed and taken chunks out of them forcing me to replace the props before attempting to take off again. With this feature the Phantom 4 takes care of it for you seemingly much easier, unless you happen to not put one of your props on correctly… those things can really fly all by themselves!

Return to home

Sure, when I tried return to home yesterday it didn’t work as I expected it to. But today I was armed with all the knowledge that reading the actual manual can provide. I used the return home feature a few times today and it worked perfectly. I’ll be honest and say it scares the buggery out of me every time I see the Phantom 4 come barrelling along at 30 metres above the ground and seems like it is going to overshoot the home point, but it doesn’t at all. The Phantom 4 stops in midair and begins a graceful descent to the earth from whence it came. Resting and stopping the motors. I reckon if it could smile at you it would do so every time it has safely returned.

I also ran the battery to its limit today. I got about 31 minutes of flight time from a full charge. The drone has this cool feature in the LightBridge software that shows you the point of return. It tracks how far away the Phantom 4 is from the home point and how far it can go on its current battery power before it needs the rest of the reserves to return home. Once it reaches that point the tech lets you know your drone is coming home and home it comes, landing right on the point from which it launched. I love this feature.

Sense and avoid

Who doesn’t send their Phantom 4 barrelling towards a bush making out like one of its features is a whipper-snipper mode? That’s what I did today in an abandoned lot with a lot of overgrowth. On approach the LightBridge software on your iOS device beeps at you letting you know there’s a risk of collision, then the drone stops dead in its tracks before it can hit the object. Even continuing to push the control stick forward, releasing it and pushing it forward again couldn’t make the Phantom 4 move closer towards the bush than it was willing to go. It’s a great feature, but as they warn, it’s not foolproof. The object needs to be within the scope of the front or below sensors. There’s nothing protecting you on rising, left and right panning or going in reverse. It’s kind of like the deflector shield on the starship enterprise. It’s looking forward and making sure you don’t fun into anything.

When in tap to fly mode the drone will apparently fly over these obstacles to reach its destination, but I haven’t tested that yet.

Active Tracking

Now this one worked and didn’t. Probably not helped by the subject I chose, or maybe I just needed to be a little higher to ensure my fast-moving subject remained in the frame. I tried tracking my dog, Bill, as he chased a ball, but here’s the thing… Bill is obsessive when it comes to his ball and he moves really fast when one is thrown away from him. The software locked onto him fine when I dragged the little box around him and when he stayed in the general vicinity the drone dodged and wove, sometimes coming close to decapitating humans, to keep him in his sights. But when Bill ran for the ball he was just too fast for the camera to keep up. As I said, I think next time I’ll go a little higher so we can have more frame for Bill to move in and to remove the risk of losing an ear… or I’ll track a slower-moving target. Painfully I also didn’t video this, I would loved to have seen how the video turned out given the erratic movements of the drone trying to keep Bill in its field of vision.

I was tempted to lock onto one of the cars that was heading out of the park, but in the end decided they might not like a buzzing device following them along… maybe next time I’ll do so from way on high.

Tap to Fly

Aside from the Tap and slide to take off, Tap to Fly has got to be the easiest feature to use. You get the drone high enough so you can see in the view finder where you want it to go and you tap the screen and then tap “GO” and it goes… you can control the speed it moves from a slider on the righthand side of the display from 1 metre per second to, I think, 8 metres per second. But if you’re flying with the wind you might just see that speed exceeded on your display. I sent Astro over to a quarry near my home to have a look around. Using the drones is a great way to see parts of your town you may never see otherwise. He flew over there and stopped when he reached the point I apparently tapped. I say “apparently” because it’s pretty imprecise in the view finder view. I didn’t try and see if you can use the map view for this function. There’s always next trip out.

Phantom 4 Flight Details

A mine in Maddingley

Round up

There’s a bunch more things to talk about and try, but right now I’m loving Astro the Phantom 4 for its ease of use. It also comes in a funky little lightweight styrofoam case that makes it an easy to get around. The Phantom 2 just came in a cardboard box with more cardboard inside, it wasn’t at all conducive to being an option for transportation, there were accessory cases you could by for that. It’s nice that it’s now part of the package. The camera is a delight to use. The new press and lock propellers make it much easier to remove them for storage in the case. The auto tightening props of the Phantom 2 sometimes had me reaching for the removal tool more often than one would like. Today I think I took Astro in and out of the case maybe six-seven times and I didn’t even mind.

Aside from the photos here, I’ve also taken video with the Phantom 4, but nothing too exciting, I’ll likely do a quick cut together of some of the 4K footage tomorrow just to give an example of it’s quality (which is quite sweet I might add). Sadly we don’t have the amazing views of Iceland or Sweden here in Victoria, Australia. We’re at the tail-end of the hottest summer on record and a LOT of the place looks brown and dead, but we will find something cool to video in the near future.

A photographer at heart, I’m looking forward to getting some shots that in the past had I seen would have me wishing for the power of levitation… now I will have it thanks to the Phantom 4 from DJI.

Astro in flight

Bacchus Marsh Farmer's District

Phantom 4 Flight Details