Drone-FlyerDrone Quadcopter goes rogue!

In an ever-increasing thirst to boost business, I recently purchased a Parrot AR Drone. This is a 4-prop toy helicopter with a built in camera that is controlled by your iPhone, iPad or Android device. It is much more than a toy.

After enough research I, of course, hit eBay with a vengeance! The average price of the AR Drone 2.0 is around $400.00. There was no way I’m was paying that! I was able to procure my drone for $325.00. After 4 days I had my a drone. Yes, I had my own personal drone. This is awesome. The ideas started swirling in my head of what I was able to do with this baby.

The original intention was to fly over construction sites for my client George Reed Inc. I manage GR’s website/social media and am always looking for ideas to boost their exposure. Construction is exciting when you do Maverick-style flybys! That’s a Top Gun reference for anyone under 30.

These drones take a bit of skill to fly. The software is fairly ease to understand, but there are several factors for optimum performance and connectivity. This all translates to tinkering. Balance the props, strip away the extra weight, get high performance bearings, get NEW props, etc… Tinkering=Money. It was too late, this thing was way too fun, and I was going to be the Chuck Yeager of drones, so I spent another $100.00 to get all The Right Stuff.

After a week I was able to control the drone quite well. The upgrades helped immensely. I was buzzing neighborhood dogs, wowing the locals and posting videos to Facebook. I figured it was time to search eBay for a bomber jacket and scarf. (My flight suit leaves much to be desired)

Like anyone with a toy of this magnitude I wondered “How high can this thing go?” I was really jazzed about that brilliant idea. I immediately grabbed the drone and ran out to the cul-de-sac. The AR Drone has around a 50 meter range from the controller which really means around 25 yards at best. It can also be adversely affected by other WiFi signals and wind. These factors were clearly evident later.

Clicking inside the software settings I jacked the maximum ceiling to 200 meters and hit go! The drone began a rapid ascent and before I realized, it was out of WiFi range. Three signal bars to no bars in a flash. Pointing my iPad skyward, I scrambled to reacquire my Precious! The drone just kept climbing. I began to laugh. It went higher, I laughed harder. When it was around 400-600 feet in the air and drifting south, I ran to my car to begin the chase! (200 Meters=656 ft)

Still laughing, I drove to the neighborhood where I thought it could be headed. I had now lost sight of it. Funny how the sky is full of hawks when you need to look up. A sky full of birds but no drone. I scanned the sky for a while. I drove to Wine & Roses. I drove to the park. Nothing. Time to go back to base and regroup.

I knew that the drone would land safely on its own when the battery ran out. (that’s what the box said) If this were true then there was a good chance it just landed somewhere.  Hopefully a soft landing avoiding the water or a busy street or a tree. The battery lasts around 10-12 minutes so I figured I had a mile or so, due south, to canvass.

I announced my failure on Facebook and gave everyone permission to razz me. Not that they need permission, but I needed to get ahead of the story. I made a poster with a picture of the “Lost Drone” and began the public offering/pleading/bribing. I went looking for online Lodi news outlets to get the word out. This led me to post on the Lodi News Sentinel’s Twitter page. I did the usual printing of posters and headed out to my local telephone poles. $100 REWARD FOR SAFE RETURN!

 lodi, ar drone, video, Woodbridge, web design, drone, Lodi News Sentinel, graphic designLater that day I received a call from Wes Bowers of the Lodi News Sentinel. He saw the Twitter post and wanted the details. This was great! I told him the whole ordeal. The next day the story appeared in the paper. There was hope!

8:00 am the phone rings. A man a few streets down saw the article and said there were flyers on the mailboxes about a lost toy helicopter with a contact number. Bingo! I raced over to the area and collected a few fliers and thanked the man who called. He was on his morning walk and recognized my car from the other day. I text the number from the flyer with an attached picture of the drone. “That’s it”, he replied – Eureka!!!

I jammed over and met Seth. Seth had my drone. Thank you Seth.

He told me the drone was hovering around 30 feet above his court in front of his house. Then it dropped to about 2 feet off the ground and hovered for what he said was 10 minutes. The drone landed softly. He waited for the kids to come pick it up. No kids. After a while he picked it up, thought about throwing it away (what?!?!) noticed the camera and decided to hold on to it.

I offered my $100 reward which was declined. I love this town! Good people.

I want to thank Wes and the Lodi News Sentinel for the help. I want to thank Seth and that fun little flyer he made. I will fly again thanks to your courageous efforts! There are others who helped who wish to remain anonymous. Thank you also.

I mentioned that it has a camera right? Well here is the video of the flight below. Enjoy!