First Steps on the Drone Path

Bird’s-eye views are not normally possible unless you have a helicopter at your disposal. So when I found out drones were becoming affordable I bought and sold a few second-hand ones (starting in October 2016), experimenting with them a bit. I started with a seemingly (long story) dysfunctioning second-hand DJI Phantom Advance. Gave up on that in January 2019 when I got the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Elite Edition. That one worked fine, but I thought it was really bulky and noisy and somehow didn’t motivate me to use it. So none of them really ticked all the boxes, but thankfully I discovered an Indiegogo campaign for the Micro Drone 4.0, initiated by Extreme Fliers. The specs were amazing, the price was under $200 and I went for it straight away. It hit the required funding (over €1.5 million) in late March 2019, so that made me quite happy. Now all I needed to do was wait. I also ordered some extra batteries, at which time I had only spent a little over $200 (drone was €145, 3 extra batteries €65).

Those of you who have heard of the Micro Drone will by now already realise what I didn’t really want to realise until mid May 2020: the specs had deteriorated (in particular a flight time of less than 5 minutes per battery charge) and the entire device was not going to get delivered until after the summer (well over a year later than projected). In fact, the whole thing might indeed be a scam. Over 14000 comments on the Micro Drone’s Indiegogo page and a “backers unite!” effort to get their money back will provide you with plenty of disaster tourism to whet your appetite on.

Be that as it may, sometimes you’ve just got to take your losses and move on. Thankfully the Covid crisis left me with nothing to spend my holiday money on, so I could get a proper drone. Not second-hand, not via eBay, but new. And the kind backers at the Micro Drone page on IGG had been going on about another and much better drone to get as a replacement, the DJI Mavic Mini. It was about twice as expensive, but a flight time of up to half an hour on a single charge, and a range of up to 4 km sure seemed to more than compensate that. At just under 250 grammes (amazing!) you also don’t need to officially register it. I went for the DJI Mavic Fly More Combo, which included two extra batteries, a smart charger, propeller protectors, a carrying case and a bunch of spare propellers. More than enough to have a lot of fun with.

In the days between ordering the item and receiving it I watched quite a few videos n Youtube. There was a guy who made it fly 5 kilometres and back (over a flat landscape), and someone else who made it go up 500 metres. Exciting stuff, with beautiful videos as a result.

But it wasn’t until I actually got my hands on the Mini that I truly realised what it was like to have a properly manoeuvrable sky camera at my disposal. You suddenly view terrestrial objects in a different light, like how to approach them from the air, where to take off and land without trees or too many inquisitive people, which viewing angles would be most advantageous. It gives you a feeling of tremendous freedom, and a rekindled appreciation of places you visit, or even the town you live in. Seeing things from above is just, well, frikkin’ awesome.

Obviously, the first flights are adrenalin-fueled. The first time I got a “connection lost” message, or a “strong wind” warning made my bollocks drop and stomach knot. The first time flying over water. The first time you see a bird flying by under it. The first time you accidentally use  “sport mode” when you’re pretty close to trees. The first time you actually lose sight of where it is. When you see some birds showing semi-aggressive interest in it. But after a couple of flights you get a feeling of how to navigate and, quite literally, the sky becomes the limit.

PROS:

  • it is really very compact: drone + remote + 3 batteries fit in a modest 26x20x6 cm carrying case
  • single-charge flight time is almost almost 25 minutes or more, which is usually enough for at least 2 and usually more sessions
  • very good video quality, more than good enough for a non-professional user
  • easy to use for an utter novice such as I was (and still am, a bit)
  • nice automatic video shoot options (though you eventually won’t use ’em that much I guess)
  • very convenient “go back home” option to get it to fly back to where it took off
  • wonderful range

CONS:

  • no collision detection – if you pay no attention, it will just fly into things
  • no tracking option (I understand they didn’t include it in the software because otherwise DJI would not be abe to sell the somewhat more expensive models anymore)
  • the batteries take quite some time to charge (up to 90 minutes per battery)
  • the propellors seem pretty fragile
  • it sees where it is, and will automatically adjust maximum height depending on where it is, or even not take off near an airport (I can see how that could be a “pro” rather than a “con” for many people 🙂
  • flying at night is really not useful, the camera doesn’t pick up too much
  • the camera is always horizontal, so no yaw like on a helicopter

I made a bunch of short-ish videos of flying around Gouda that I edited (without sound) and put on a Youtube playlist in case you’re interested. Despite there being more cons than pros, I would unreservedly advise anyone who wants to get a drone that is more than a child’s toy yet no expensive professional one to get this Mavic Mini. The pros are much, much bigger than the cons, for sure. Expect to pay a bit under €500 for the Fly More Combo package.

Update on 27 September 2020: By now there are nearly 19000 comments on the MicroDrone IndieGoGo page and I have needed to replace two Mavic Mini propellor blades. I am still very happy!

Announcement of new Fear of God / Détente site with Forum

I first heard Fear of God’s “Within the Veil” on 14 March 1992 and I was instantly hooked. In the month after, I saw Fear of God twice, and both times met their vocalist Dawn Crosby. I did not realise it wasn’t the original line-up, but the music was there. To me, “Within the Veil” was the album of 1991 (not Metallica’s black album, though I loved that too back then).I was 24 at the time, and Fear of God struck a chord in my soul despite my rather privileged life.
In autumn 1998 I found a site dedicated to Fear of God maintained by Kevin “Bl00d” Nunn. Oddly enough, I was the one that told him about Dawn’s untimely death nearly two years earlier. Her death affected me deeply. Could I have done anything to prevent it? I had been in touch with her off and on since 1992, but apparently my fan comments had not sufficiently helped her see the bright side of life. I knew she had been a pained, troubled soul.

At the time I discovered Kevin’s tribute site, he barely did anything to update it anymore. So when I asked him if I could take over, I think he happily agreed.

So on 8 December 1998 I launched the first iteration of my version of the site. Since I was not in touch with any members of the original line-up, it focused on the then current incarnation of the band, going by the name of Fog. My main contacts were vocalist John Childs and guitarist Tony Mallory. The domain was jezabelsdreams.com, named after the album released by this band.

Fog dissolved, as it does, and in March 2001 I launched a totally revamped version of the site, inspired by having been on the phone with original guitarist Mike Carlino the winter before. It focused much more on the line-ups that recorded “Recognize no Authority” and, obviously, the seminal “Within the Veil”.

Years later, I happened upon Tony Keastead’s Dawn Crosby fan page on Facebook. We struck up a mutually beneficial exchange of information. When I decided my Fear of God site wasn’t really going anywhere due to lack of time and lack of news, I contacted Tony to ask if he was willing to take it over and become the third webmaster. He agreed, and nearly 17 years to the day after I had re-started the site, he took over. I occasionally visited the site, and was glad to see it was being updated more often than I did.

Late 2019 or early 2020 I visited the site and noticed the domain had expired. There was now no official presence of Fear of God, nor Dawn Crosby, on the web.

During the Corona crisis it occurred to me that I should at least make sure that there was some semblance of a repository of All Things Dawn. This culminated in my registering fearofgod.band (fearofgod.com, my first choice, was taken by some fashion brand). I re-instated the site from a backup, checked out the Wayback Engine Internet Archive to add some of Tony’s latest changes, updated various bits and bobs on the site, and also added the forum you’re reading now.

Now it needs to be said: The new version of the site doesn’t use state-of-the-art web design techniques, so it may not work well on phones or other small screens. But there is for now, and the foreseeable future, a place where fans of Dawn and her bands can find information and, due to this forum, meet.

If you’re interested, visit the site on fearofgod.band or detente.online.
I hope you’ll enjoy the site and that you’ll join the forum if you’re into these bands. I only wish Dawn could have been around to enjoy this part of her legacy.