Australia - intro video...

So I have a ton of video and photographs, shot from multiple cameras, to include my relatively new DJI Mavic Pro. The intro to our home video is a mash-up of some of those drone shots.

A couple interesting notes about it.

First - I was really, really surprised that the TSA did not care that I was carrying about my drone with batteries all in a hard case in my backpack. I figured it would set off some interest. None at all.

Before flying the drone, I checked with all the surrounding parties. On the boat, I asked permission from the Captain, and all of the people that were aboard so that I didn’t interfere with anyone’s vacation. They all loved the idea, and even moreso after I showed them some video of the first flight from the deck. The Mavic Pro has some pretty quiet prop tips. I’d guess that people were only aware of its presence and location during the takeoff and landing. Once it was moved away a hundred feet or so…you’d be hard pressed to hear it. Most people never knew when it was flying.

On the island, I asked the island director, and he showed me the two places I was allowed to fly from. Indeed, those two places matched up the launch points the DJI software allowed for. If you try to launch inside the airport zone, it won’t let you fly.

I used the Australia CASA app to determine legal places to fly the drone. Coupled with the DJI app that connects to the controller/phone, the DJI will actually physically stop the drone from penetrating airspace or restricted areas. It is really nifty software that helps keep you out of trouble.

The altitude limit in Australia is 120 meters - the same as the United States (400’). The DJI won’t allow you to fly over 120 meters if you use the default settings (I did). So all footage was shot from 120 meters or lower.

I researched all of the CASA rules (aviation rules) and park rules…however there was one rule I was unaware of and that is that you aren’t allowed to use a drone over whales. Well, you are, but you have to do it above 500 meters. For some reason, drones are classified as helicopters, and so there ya’ go. With the legal altitude limit being 120 meters, then obviously any top-down video of a whale violates that rule. That isn’t a CASA rule, but rather a wildlife/resources rule. I have seen conflicting information that suggests 100 meters for drone as a separate entity from helicopters, also put out from a government agency:


That said, I didn’t know any of the rules regarding that, and the whale encounter was a chance one while flying my drone about 150 meters off the coast of Lady Elliot Island. Once I got back to the mainland (no internet on the island), I did some researching and found that I might have broken some rule. As a mea-culpa, I self reported my self via the CASA drone hazard online form (although I don’t think it was necessarily a hazard), and am waiting to hear back. I explained that I thought I flew the drone contrary to the rules out of ignorance, but that I had heavily researched the aviation rules. So we’ll see what happens. I didn’t take any additional whale footage for the rest of my stay in Australia.

An interesting aside about that. There were a couple marine biologists on paddle-boards out during that whale encounter and they paddled toward the whales to swim with them (also apparently contrary to rules) but they were absolutely thrilled with my footage when I gave it to them. So I’m hoping it is one of those “tsk-tsk” things and we can all consider ourselves more educated. I will say though…that the speed those whales were roaring through the water, I think there was zero chance they could hear a drone 200-300’ over them.

Also of interest. The Mavic is pretty easy to fly. GPS stabilized, the camera is gyro stabilized, and much of this footage was taken with only my second flight of the drone ever. It was on the job learning…and I was pretty happy with the result. I was scared to death my drone was going to “not come back” and end up in the ocean many times…but the software is really, really good.

EDIT: Re-uploaded with 4K video:


That whale and manta ray footage is incredible. Nice!

If you break the law in Australia, I think they give you a passport? (:duck:'s)


Oh, and a technical detail. The footage was recorded in 4K and looks insane. The only setting I could find to work with in Premiere (my copy is very old) was 1080p and the conversion, then uploading to YouTube does down sample it quite a bit.

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I hope so! The first thing I did when I got home was start researching flying for the RFDS!


Bloody awesome footage!

That was my dream, when I was in my teens. Not to fly heavies, but to fly the GAF Nomad for the RFDS! :slight_smile:

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Awesome footage there! looks like a lovely boat you were on. Very homesick now!

Yeah, I’ve only lightly looked at it so far. I honestly don’t know how competitive the jobs are for RFDS, and I don’t know how accepting of foreign applications Australian aviation companies are. And if we moved, it would have to be for all the right reasons.

That is amazing! I need to go there some day!

Looks like an amazing place. Thanks for sharing Chris! It looks like your Mavic Pro was worth the expense just for the video you shared with us here. :sunglasses:

Here is a sample of the original 4K video…


Outstanding video Chris. Those manta rays were massive! I was curious about the size until they came into the frame near the whales. Pretty amazing.

What did you use for a monitor - phone, tablet, or goggles? I know that you were considering the goggles at one point, which I very much prefer. Another option that I just discovered is mounting an iPad with sun shade on a tripod and using a long USB/apple cable to your Mavic’s controller. More stuff to carry though.

They are enormous. Easily 12-15’ across. We ran across many of them while snorkeling and they are majestic.

I ended up using my iPhone 6+, which has a nice form factor in my hands. I just watched a video of a guy using an iPad mini…which I might go to…I’ll have to give it a whirl. But I do like the compactness of using the iPhone.

I’ve shied away from the VR goggles just because of the legal requirement to keep the drone in sight at all times (cough). I’d like to give them a whirl though just to feel what that presence feels like.

I was mostly flying my drone at low sun angles and direct sunlight on my iPhone screen wasn’t much of a problem…so I didn’t use a sunshade at all, although I could see where it would be useful.

I’m really enjoying this Mavic and it is probably one of the neatest tech-gadgets I’ve ever purchased. It is as simple or complex as you want it to be. I need to go find some wide open spaces to try out the motion tracking and base/controller homing functions. From what I’ve read, you have to be careful where you use those because sometimes the drone is flying in an orientation that prevents the obstacle collision sensors from working.

Stating the obvious but it’s best not to rely on the proximity sensors. They are basically there to save you when do something unintended. Line of sight (LOS) flying is a critical skill to master for the aerial media pilot. One of the best things that you can do is practice finding your “bailout” position. That is, an orientation that you can put the drone in quickly when you’ve become disoriented. It’s basically nose away which allows the stick movements to command the same responses from the drone as viewed from your perspective. A good drill is to hover and practice getting back to bailout from different orientations, like nose in, nose 45 right, nose 45 left.

Keeping your UAV in sight and oriented becomes increasingly more difficult as the drone gets further away, we get distracted, or as our eyes get older. I used to poo-poo the Home button, thinking that it was for amateurs. That is until I used it to save my P3P one day when I completely lost it over the creek behind our beach house. Now, I think that doing Home return testing is not such a bad practice. I.E. hit that button once in a while so that you are intimate with its location and how the drone reacts when you use it.

Really nice flying and editing job Chris.

Yeah. That is a button I read up on, but didn’t try because I was a bit worried about experimenting with it given my flying locations. I did do some reading of the Mavic “POH” and noticed that the Home Return feature has an enroute altitude setting - does that have to be set each time you fly it or does it default to something? I would think you’d want to set that pretty high (maybe even the maximum 400’) to give the best chance of obstacle avoidance.

I’ve been pretty conservative with battery consumption and returning or at least starting the drone return process just a bit above the preset warning level (30%). I feel that gives me some additional wiggle room in case of an anomaly. Interestingly, I ran into such an unanticipated event on one of my island flights. I was flying the drone just offshore, getting some footage of the sunset. As I was returning the drone to the beach, the island’s lighthouse light started up. I don’t know exactly what was going on, but as I was flying the drone toward the beach, each time the lighthouse beam hit the drone, it would trigger the obstacle sensor and the drone would come to a stop mid flight. LOL. It happened about four times before I figured it out, rotated the drone 90 degrees, and flew the drone sideways and under the beam.

Well, not one of the 19 Crimes that would get you sent to Australia back in the day…but I’m sure it would have been if they had UAVs/Drones back then…so yes, he should receive an Aussie Passport shortly.

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I read somewhere that one that Australia draws the line at 35 yo for emigrants. So if you are gong to do this you had better act soon youngster!:sunglasses:

If it is not a bomb, potential makings of a bomb (the whole liquid thing), a Glock or a Smith & Wesson product , some type of knife, machete, broadsword, halberd, etc.…you are pretty much good to go.

Nail clippers and trimming scissors got a lot of scrutiny…this…incredibly…not so much as a batted eye…

The rotor blades have rubber safety tips, so not threat there

I assume it went through the x-ray scanner? That’s the key. They can see that there is no “bomb looking stuff” hidden inside.

They used to have to turn laptops on (rational: if there was a bomb in there it would be inoperable as a computer…I never quite bought that). Regardless, its too bad they didn’t have you “turn it on” and fly around the terminal to prove it wasn’t a bomb. That would have been way cool! (but not as cool as the posted video - simply awesome!)

It only need to be set higher than the tallest tree in your area LOL, and we have some well over a 100 ft in Atlanta. Ask me how I know :sweat_smile:. Fortunately, the setting is persistent. DJI used to set this pretty conservatively out of the box on their NAZA flight controllers, I believe to save battery life. Maybe 30 meters. The first thing that we would do when setting up the controller is to change them to Return to Home altitude to 60 meters.

One more thing that I learned the hard way is not to take off under tree branches. That probably sounds like that would be sort of an obvious thing to do. But on hot days, you’ll find yourself looking for a shady spot to fly from. Racing drones don’t have this issue, because their controllers are minimal and don’t have GPS receivers or a return home feature on board. So, it’s common to see a bunch of guys sitting around a tree with their FPV goggles on flying racing drones.