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Photography Techniques and Equipment This forum is for the discussion of technical details of how to take good pictures as well as discuss the equipment used in that pursuit.

Xiaomi Mi 4K drone
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Old 12-25-2017, 11:03 PM   #21
Rich Z
The height allowed now is kind of "set" by the FAA to 400 ft. Not sure how much they can enforce such a thing, however. But supposedly all drones over 1/2 lb have to now be registered with the FAA. I'm not sure this would ever pass a constitutional test if it went to court, however, because as long as I am not engaging in some sort of problematical interstate commerce with a drone, I can't see where the federal government was ever granted this sort of authority by the US Constitution. But of course, proving you are right about such things, by riding such a lawsuit all the way to the Supreme Court, is a whole lot more expensive to do than most people would ever be willing to take on voluntarily.

The only restriction on horizontal range appears to be the recommendation that the drone stay within line of sight. But not sure where it says anything about the drone actually remaining IN sight along that line. These things are pretty small, and become very difficult to see pretty quickly. Some of them claim a distance of a couple of miles, but realistically that would have to be a one way ticket for such maximums. Battery power is a major consideration when you want a return trip for your drone. Here is a video of a guy running his out to about a mile and a half and then returning it with just a small bit of battery power still remaining.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikMKjC7KKbo

Had the wind been blowing the wrong direction because of a sudden change during the flight, there was a real good chance that his drone would have dropped down into the trees long before getting back home. There are quite a few videos on YouTube of just this sort of thing happening to people.

This can also be problematical because once many of these drones reach a particular low value on remaining battery life, they will automatically land the drone, no matter where it is and what is underneath them. Seems kind of short sighted to me, since apparently this is being done to keep the drone from just falling out of the sky when the battery becomes completely depleted. Personally I would like to have it that I could still use that remaining 5 or 10 percent or so of battery charge to try to pick a better spot to bring it in, rather than the drone itself just deciding, "I am landing HERE, right NOW." And to top that off, with the new smarter batteries, they show zero percent charge remaining even though there is still a substantial charge left in the battery. But to try to keep the battery from terminally discharging, they show zero percent with actually a good margin to spare. Again, personally, I would like to be able to make that decision myself. If I have to choose between losing the drone in a lake, or having the battery depleted to the point where it becomes permanently dead, I would choose to lose the battery rather than lose the drone itself. So I do wish these manufacturers would put some sort of overrides in the system so the operator had some say in the matter when things get a bit out of hand.

Maybe in some later generations that will take place. The drones do seem to be getting more and more "intelligence" programmed into them with things like obstacle avoidance and the like, so maybe some sort of rudimentary artificial intelligence to make rational decisions in an emergency will show up in these things eventually. Of course, even then, I would STILL like to have a say in the matter concerning MY property, not what some programmer in China thinks is best for me.
 
Old 12-26-2017, 11:19 PM   #22
Twolunger
After checking the specifications, the Xiaomi Mi has a pretty good range, compared to the less expensive models. What else do you plan to do with the drone once the gutters are all clear? I've flown a cheap model just for the fun of flying without crashing. Do you have some practical application in mind?
 
Old 12-27-2017, 03:54 PM   #23
Rich Z
Quote:
Originally Posted by Twolunger View Post
After checking the specifications, the Xiaomi Mi has a pretty good range, compared to the less expensive models. What else do you plan to do with the drone once the gutters are all clear? I've flown a cheap model just for the fun of flying without crashing. Do you have some practical application in mind?
Nothing really specific at the moment. Might take it out into the national forest near me and see if there are some spots that might look interesting from an aerial view. Too bad the state and national parks all have phobias about drones, as there are some beautiful areas I would really like to get video footage of from this flying platform. I would like to fly over St. Joseph state park (Cape San Blas) and St. George Island park, but apparently I would have to take off and land outside of the park areas to do so legally. I don't believe this drone has the range for me to be able to do that. It is usually quite windy at St. Joseph state park (Connie and I usually refer to it as Cape Sand Blast), so that would complicate estimating where the turn around point in remaining battery power would be. The battery drains rather quickly when having to fight winds. It is usually much safe to fly out against the wind, so that you have the wind at your back on the return trip. But that can be hard to predict for a drive out to such areas, as wind direction can change in a heartbeat around here.

I had thought that the ground level of my own property would be much more visible through the trees than it actually is. Well, at least when viewed from my smart phone while flying. Easier to see more detail when I play the video on my PC's screen. Seriously, there is a lot of our land that Connie and I have never set foot on. We have a stream running through the north end of the property, and unless it is a particularly dry season, it can be swampy in patches. Not to mention that if the mosquitoes are in abundance, it certainly wouldn't be much fun in those areas. With the property being heavily wooded, the shade keeps the mosquitoes quite comfortable waiting for a meal to wander on by. So looking at the land via a drone, I thought, would be rather intriguing. I guess I can once I get over being such a weenie about being too close to the tree tops.

I guess this is more of a fun toy, which I thought would be a reasonable purchase now that the reliability of these things is much better than when I first looked into them, and the video quality is respectable enough to actually be useful. As I mentioned before, I do think that 4K 60fps will be much better to use on a moving platform, but that option is not widely offered quite yet, and only now on drones that cost a lot more than this one. But maybe next year options will improve. By then either less expensive drones will offer this improved video capability, or else maybe I will have even more confidence in these things to where I won't mind so much spending a bit more money on one that is a bit more full featured with better resolution options and all directional obstacle avoidance. Sure hope there is "hawk avoidance" too, as I know we have them around here, and getting the drone attacked by one would certainly bring it down, not to mention likely injuring the hawk too.
 
Old 01-03-2018, 05:34 PM   #24
Rich Z
Took the drone out the other day to try to figure out where that high pitched squeaking noise is coming from that I am hearing. First I took the props off and then used a microphone attached to my camera to try to see if I could identify which motor was making the noise by checking one motor after another. But I really couldn't hear the noise that way, so perhaps the lifting force of the propellers is necessary.

So I put the props back on and then did a short flight and brought the drone as close to the camera as I could to see if that would register audibly what I have been hearing. I guess I should have moved the work table out of the way, as this drone just does not like an uneven surface that gets in the way of the prop wash. I found it tough to control even under GPS mode and had to fight with it when it kept trying to drift close to me and the camera.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1A4OYaY_yvs

But I can plainly hear the squeaky noise starting around 2:54, but not too much luck trying to determine if it is just one motor making the noise and if so, which one. I think it got slightly louder as the left front motor of the drone faced the camera, and I kind of leaning towards that motor being the culprit, if I had to make a choice.

If it would hold still, I could try the same thing using the microphone, but that would mean having to set the controller on a table and walk around the drone closely without having any hands on the controls. I am not too keen on that idea.

Not sure how much this is something to be worrying about, though. Maybe a little spot of lubricant applied to the motors would help? Hopefully if it gets worse, it will do so gradually instead of a sudden motor failure while 200 ft up in the air and over a pine tree.
 
Old 01-04-2018, 12:48 AM   #25
Twolunger
Why can't you anchor the landing gear to a picnic table and let the motors run so you can Check them? We used a hollow tube in the old days to hear engine noises. Today they have stethoscopes. I'd be careful about lubricating the motors. If they are brushless they may be either sealed, or shielded, with high temperature grease. Oil may dilute the grease and cause more problems.
 
Old 01-29-2018, 10:47 AM   #26
Rich Z
I contacted the company about the slight gimbal tilt I (and others) have had with this drone, and they set it up such that a new firmware update would be sent to my controller the next time I logged in to fly the drone. So the other day I set things up to get the firmware update and then go through the recommended calibrations. One thing that struck me as odd was that the procedure indicated that the drone should be pointed due North for the calibration. I could see that for a compass calibration, but no idea why that would be important for the gimbal to be able to "dead reckon" a flat horizon. But I did it their way, anyway.

I then took a short flight, straight up, and then spun the drone around to check it out. Still seems like a very slight tilt, but definitely looks like an improvement. Even if I can't iron out the slight tilt, this would be livable.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlrcojiD2uQ
 
Old 01-30-2018, 10:02 AM   #27
SODERBERGD
Jealous

That's amazing. I SO need to get one, but only after I retire. Too much on my plate for that now. Thanks for sharing.
 
Old 01-30-2018, 02:47 PM   #28
Rich Z
Quote:
Originally Posted by SODERBERGD View Post
That's amazing. I SO need to get one, but only after I retire. Too much on my plate for that now. Thanks for sharing.
I don't think there is going to be any real penalty for waiting, Don. Technology is pushing these things to better and better quality and reliability almost on a daily basis. I know I will hold out for my next drone having 4K 60fps. 60 fps makes a substantial difference in the video from a moving platform. 30 fps is OK for relatively slow moving video, but it degrades quite a bit when the action, either from the camera's perspective, or the subject's, speeds up. This can be especially noticeable when foliage is in the image, because the image processing bogs down and just tries to smooth over the information it can't handle. So branches, leaves, and grass will wind up looking like green cotton candy in the image as the detail is lost.

DJI just came out with a new product they are calling the Mavic Air (I believe). But alas, it is still only 4K 30 fps. They do have the Phantom 4 Pro in 4K 60 fps, but more than I want to pay at this point. And DJI is still apparently plagued with fly-away problems from what I have been hearing on the net.

I'm hoping that Xiaomi will be coming out with a new model in the near future that really goes toe to toe with DJI.

One of the funniest things I read recently looking into these drones was someone in China complaining about their own Chinese competitors copying their designs and products and selling them cheaper than they were.

Karma is a bitch, ain't it?
 
Old 02-10-2018, 04:01 PM   #29
Rich Z
Finally had a day yesterday where it wasn't raining, windy, or I was under the weather from that cold or bug I picked up last week. So I took the drone out to try out some stuff with it. Actually felt a bit rusty at the controls, so this is something you really need to practice quite a bit, I guess.

Anyway, this drone comes with some automated flight features in the controller app that I wanted to play around with. The first one is the capability to set way points that will direct the drone to automatically fly from one to the other point in sequence. What you do is to go into the menu to select it, set up the parameters you want (drone height, speed, etc.) and then select the points you want on the map screen by simply tapping points on your cell phone display running the controller app. My goal had been to send the drone out the driveway at 125 ft elevation, down the road, then when reaching the edge of our property, move from one corner to the next, circumnavigating the four corners and head on back to "home". But I think there is a limit of 6 way points, which would have been OK, since I could have triggered the Return To Home feature when the drone had finally reached the end of the way point run.

BTW, what is interesting to me about this function is that I think it would be handy to set way points to command the drone to fly a pre-determined path, which would allow me the freedom to then just worry about manning the direction that the camera is pointing without also having to worry about where the drone was actually going to be flying. Theoretically, of course. At this point, I don't know what the drone actually does if you, for instance, yaw the drone to chance the lateral position the camera is pointing. The only movement you can make with the camera itself, is from pointing directly forward to pointing directly down, and any point in between. Any time you want to video something off center from being directly in front or directly under the drone, you have to move the drone itself to do so.

But the flight plan didn't work out as planned, however. When the drone flew out over the driveway, and then headed north up the road to the north edge of the property, it got to the point where I had it set to turn west to that NW corner of the property. Instead, it announced that it had lost signal, and that automatically triggered the Return To Home safety function, so it just turned to point directly "home" and came on back to the launch point and landed. Perhaps I could have regained control at that point, but I didn't try that quite yet.

Hmm, flight data was showing that it got out to about 1100 or so ft, and I think I've flown it slightly further than that before. But I was running a screen capture program on the smart phone this time, so perhaps that is interfering with the control app somewhat. I then tried a simpler way point set, just heading straight out to that northwest corner of the property, then turning south to the next corner. BTW, it seems that you MUST put the drone up high enough to clear any obstructions BEFORE triggering the way point routine, because when you trigger that function, it immediately heads towards that point, gaining altitude along the way. In my case, that would have meant flying directly into a pine tree before it got high enough to clear it. Fortunately I put the drone at height before triggering the way point command, otherwise this could have turned out ugly. Anyway, the drone again only got about 1100 feet or so out there, and then lost signal and did the RTH thing again. I may have to try this again sometime without that screen capture program running to see if that is causing this problem. The drone SHOULD be able to go much further out than that. Some people have logged a couple of miles with their drones (this model). Of course, I don't expect to get it that far with all the trees causing interference, but still, I think it should go somewhat further than 1100 feet out from me.

Anyway, so much for the way point test. So I then decided to try another function called "Orbit Mode". With this one, you have to position the drone above the Point Of Interest (POI), then set up the parameters you want. There was one parameter called "angle" that I'm not sure about, since the display didn't mean much to me. It could mean the direction the drone is pointing, but that is apparently covered in another selection. Maybe position of the camera, but the display didn't seem to be associated with the possible directions you can actually set the camera, which is just up and down at various degrees. So I guess I'll have to play around with that sometime just to see what it does. Again, you need to put the drone at height to clear obstructions BEFORE triggering this function. It doesn't go UP then out, it goes up gradually at an angle while heading to the start point on the circumference line of the circle you have set.

This one seemed to run without issues, but I was only about 215 or so feet from the controller.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uz6Q2hUT7dc


I can see where people could get into trouble with some of these modes by not knowing how it actually operates and allowing the drone to run into something as a result. There is no sort of obstruction avoidance on this drone, so if you tell it to run into a wall or tree, it will certainly oblige your wishes. I'm guessing you can cancel these automated functions on the fly, but things could happen quickly and you just might not have time enough to figure out what to do before the crash. Probably would be a good thing for me to figure out experimentally under controlled conditions.

Also I had quite a few instances of trying the RTH (Return To Home) function, either because the drone lost the control signal, or I just used it as a fast and easy way to bring it back home, and noticed that the drone just didn't seem to get as close to the launch point as it had in the past. Sometimes came down as much as 8 ft. away. That's not too bad, I guess, but you still have to keep that in mind in case you are launching it from a narrow area with obstructions all around you.

But all in all, a good day of flying. Any day you don't crash or lose your drone flying it is a GOOD day.

Oh, just out of curiosity, I took my temperature gun outside because I wanted to check the temps of the propeller motors after flying to see how that looked. I'm guessing that a motor going bad would tend to be hotter than the rest of them, so I wanted to get a feel for what the temperatures should be. All four of them were registering between 100 and 103 degrees F, which doesn't seem TOO hot to me. So all is good with the motors, so far.
 
Old 02-26-2018, 06:48 PM   #30
Rich Z
This video is taken by someone using a DJI Phantom 4 drone, and not the Xiaomi Mi, but it gives an interesting application of using a drone to actually find snakes out in the wild.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v97KrZTzYWU
 

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