I wrote about my experiences with drone ownership some time back, a multi-part story about a technology that looked promising, but eventually became a somewhat disappointing experiment for a number of reasons. It wasn’t that the drone experiment was a failure from a technical point of view, but failed from what could be called a practical or aesthetic point of view. I became reasonably competent with the very basic drone that I bought and a move to a much more capable and higher end drone would have been an easy transition. However, I’m very glad that I did buy a simple and inexpensive drone from the outset as I realised that drone ownership wasn’t what I had anticipated, nor which I would find overly useful in the long term. A $140 drone, rather than a $1500 drone was the best investment that I’ve made for a long time, even if that drone now resides in a cupboard unlikely to ever see the light of day again.
Just when I thought I’d finished this particular series, I decided to do an additional modification to the MJX and so it would have been completely remiss of me not to detail what I did and how things worked out. As I mentioned in Part 4, I’d been modifying the camera mount to try and get more stable shots and, even though my flying was improving, there was no way that I was going to produce smooth and steady video with these rigid mounts. I really did need a motorised gimbal and so that’s what I ended up getting, a two axis gimbal (to control pitch and roll) that kind of ticked all the important boxes and didn’t cost a ridiculous amount of money. I thought of getting a three axis gimbal, but with the type of video that I wanted to produce, a two axis should fit the bill quite well.
Following on from Part 3, just when I thought things were going quite well with the MJX the dash cam stopped working. So while waiting for a replacement camera I did some more work on improving the camera mount and I also put in further flying practice. While my flying skills had started to improve, I was still a little prone to flying into trees, though far less than earlier. In fact, I’ve managed to improve so much that I was recently able to walk the MJX about an area at Mossvale Park that is quite closed in and with more than enough trees and large overhanging branches that would have instantly taken out the MJX a week or so ago. That surprised me greatly and I had a bit of fun manoeuvring the MJX about before I moved to the large open area for some more vigorous flying and tuning. I guess I’d finally started to get the hang of things and it also helped that there was no wind about on this particularly cold morning, so I was looking forward to more of the same.
When I thought the MJX was utterly lost in that large gum tree, as I noted in Part 2, I immediately ordered a second one because of the trip into the High Country we had planned for the end of Easter. I really wanted to have the drone along to capture some aerial footage of the surrounds and get in more practice away from civilisation. But since retrieving the MJX, I still can’t believe how tough this drone really is, almost unbreakable. I’ve watched videos of drones crashing and being totalled at first strike and someone said that I should have bought a cheap $30-$40 drone because as a first timer I’d crash and break them, so better breaking a $30 drone than a $130 one. Given the number of crashes so far, I think I would have exceeded that $130 in cheap drones in the first week.
One of the things I found with learning to fly the MJX, following on from Part 1, is that I mastered the basics fairly rapidly and was able to control the drone far quicker than I had anticipated. Muscle memory started to take over the management of the controls joysticks and I was more gentle with the movements and so could control the MJX far more precisely. However, that didn’t help when something went a bit awry, such as the MJX heading towards a tree, where I would then do something silly rather than measured. That’s what happened around the end of my first week when I was about to land the MJX. I was at Mossvale Park and one of our hounds made a bee line for the MJX as it was descending, causing me to take it up far too fast, which took it towards a large gum tree across a nearby river.
After much thought and deliberation, driven by failure with alternative ideas, I finally succumbed to buying a drone (something I had been thinking about for a while). With the recent release of the DJI Mavic Air drone, which has received many accolades, I was about to put down some hard cash ($1300 worth) on one of these drones, when I had a return to sensibility. Not having ever owned a drone, I realised that spending that much on my first drone was kind of silly given the chances of crashes and the like. Even though the Mavic Air has all manner of built-in crash avoidance technology, nothing is infallible, least of all me. So I opted for something cheaper, ten times cheaper, and bought an MJX Bugs 3 drone for $130.