Odd Wildcard Matching in Windows 10

I recently ran into an odd behavior of more files matching a pattern than I expected. I’d used exiftool to modify the dates on files my GoPro produced. It creates backup files of the original images when it modifies the tags. Here’s the command I ran.

exiftool.exe -r "-AllDates+=4:7:6 17:40:00" -ext jpg f:\GoPro\20170807

Now I had about 4000 files with the .JPG extension and another 4000 files with a .JPG_original extension.

I ran my program that parses the directory structure and turns all those images into a time lapse movie, and it seemed to be including both the file extensions, making a very disjointed movie.

I loaded my source code in the debugger and it seemed to be doing a findfirst / findnext specifically looking for .JPG files, and not some other extension, but it was definitely retrieving files both with .JPG and .JPG_original extensions.

I then ran a couple of commands at the windows command prompt and was surprised to find the same results there.

dir F:\GoPro\20170807\372GOPRO\G*.JPG /p
dir F:\GoPro\20170807\372GOPRO\G???????.JPG /p

Each command returned both the JPG and JPG_original files.

dir F:\GoPro\20170807\372GOPRO\G*.JPG_original /p

returned just the JPG_original files.

dir F:\GoPro\20170807\372GOPRO\G??????.JPG /p

had one less question mark and correctly returned no files.

This is all unexpected behavior, though I’m glad to see that it was consistent with the operating system and not something specific to the C runtime. I’d love an explanation of what’s going on.

Advertisements

exiftool to manage DJI media files

DJI Drones don’t seem to remember the image count between formats of a media card. This creates a problem for me when I’m trying to backup and maintain my images and video.

Because the dates are all correct in the media files, retrieved from GPS data, organizing the files by naming them based on the date works for me.

Using ExifTool by Phil Harvey is a great solution for pulling the metadata from the files and renaming the files.

The command line that I was initially using is:

exiftool "-FileName<${CreateDate}.$filetype" -d %Y%m%d-%H%M%S%%-c -ext mp4 -ext dng -ext jpg dji*

It’s problem is that it orphans the SRT subtitle files from my videos that I’d like to keep matching the video files.

I’ve tried this variation to do it in one step but it doesn’t work, because the SRT files get renamed as MP4 files.

exiftool -verbose "-FileName<${CreateDate}" -d %Y%m%d-%H%M%S%%-c.%%le -ext mp4 -ext dng -ext jpg dji* -srcfile %f.srt

If anyone has a suggestion for how to rename all the media files in one directory I’d appreciate it. Even running two commands in sequence would be fine.

Update:

I’ve figured out that running these two commands in sequence will get me the results I am looking for:

exiftool "-FileName<${CreateDate}" -d %Y%m%d-%H%M%S%%-c.srt -ext mp4 -srcfile %f.srt dji*
exiftool "-FileName<${CreateDate}" -d %Y%m%d-%H%M%S%%-c.%%le -ext mp4 -ext dng -ext jpg dji*

I’m still looking for a way of doing it in a single command that may leave less room for error, but this is working for now.

FFMPEG and drawtext

Several years ago I wrote a program that consolidates time-lapse pictures into a directory and calls FFMPEG to create a video.

I had been wanting the time-code from when each picture was taken printed on the screen while the video was playing but had not figured out how to get it done until this weekend.

Video TimeCode

Frame from video showing the DateTimeOriginal timecode embedded.

I’d gone down multiple paths in an attempt to get this result before finally getting the drawtext feature to work. My program manually pulled the metadata from the images before feeding them to ffmpg. I’d tried creating both text files and image files for overlaying. none of those got the result that I was looking for.

When I finally got everything working, it seems simple, but the underlying problem has to do with the amount of string escaping required to get the command to work.

Here’s an example command I was issuing to ffmpeg that got the result I was looking for.

ffmpeg.exe -hide_banner -r 30 -i Wim%05d.JPG -vf crop=in_w:3/4*in_h,drawtext=fontfile=C\\:/WINDOWS/Fonts/OCRAEXT.ttf:fontcolor=white:fontsize=160:y=main_h-text_h-50:x=main_w-text_w-50:text=WimsWorld,drawtext=fontfile=C\\:/WINDOWS/Fonts/OCRAEXT.ttf:fontcolor=white:fontsize=160:y=main_h-text_h-50:x=50:text=%{metadata\\:DateTimeOriginal} -s 3840x2160 -pix_fmt yuv420p -n Test-2160p30-cropped.mp4

If you look at the -vf option parameter, I’m cropping my input pictures to 3/4 their original height, then using the drawtext feature twice. First I write the static text to the bottom right of the frame, then I extract metadata from the source image and write it to the bottom left of the frame.

Because I’m calling this from a program, I had extra escaping of the \ character in my code. All of the escaping required a lot of trial and error to get things working. I’m using OCRAEXT as my font, but I could be using any fixed spacing font. because of the fact that the time is changing every frame, it’s important that the font not be proportional to make it easy to read.

Flashing ESCs on Hobbylord BumbleBee

I bought a Bumblebee Quad from a local hobby shop a few months ago, and when I finally got around to trying to build it with a proper autopilot found that it’s ESCs used a protocol called UltraPWM that is a very uncommon protocol.

I came across this page, https://github.com/sim-/tgy/issues/13 , which leads me to believe that I should be able to flash the ESCs with a simonk tgy firmware and use the hardware I already have.

I came across a cable from hobbyking that is designed to make contact with the surface mounted atmel device and allow programming without any soldering or desoldering. http://hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/__27195__Atmel_Atmega_Socket_Firmware_Flashing_Tool.html It was designed to be used with an atmel programming device that they also sell http://hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/__27990__USBasp_AVR_Programming_Device_for_ATMEL_proccessors.html and so I thought I’d be good to go. The cable cost $20 while the programmer cost $4, but not needing to solder anything was a very positive solution for me.

USBasp AVR Programming Device for ATMEL proccessors

USBasp AVR Programming Device

Atmel Atmega Socket Firmware Flashing Tool

Atmel Atmega Socket Firmware Flashing Tool

What I didn’t recognize until it all arrived was that Hobbyking has updated the USB Programmer to use a 6 conductor connector, but not updated their programming cable from the 10 conductor cable. The message boards on hobbyking discuss the change, and have pinout descriptions, but it’s been very frustrating because getting the parts to do the correct wiring has not been as simple as plug and play.

Atmega contact points

Atmega contact points

Atmega contact points

Atmega contact points

Cable Pinout Description

Cable Pinout Description

This has been extremely frustrating to me as the parts I ordered were billed as no soldering required, but could not be simply plugged into each other.

Time-lapse videos from GoPro

In November 2013 I purchased a GoPro HERO3+ Black Edition to play with video recording, but almost immediately became enthralled with taking sequences of photos over long time periods.

The GoPro can be configured to take a picture every 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30, or 60 seconds. I’ve found that I like taking pictures every 2 seconds, and then converting them to video at 30fps (Frames per second) which gets me an easy to convert time scale. 1 second of video came from 1 minute of photos, 1 minute of video came from 1 hour of photos.

GoPro has a freely available software package to edit videos, as well as creating videos from sequences of images. Because of my past familiarity with FFMPEG I wanted a more scriptable solution for creating videos from thousands of photos.

https://trac.ffmpeg.org/wiki/Create%20a%20video%20slideshow%20from%20images has nice instructions for creating videos from sequences of images using FFMPEG. What it glosses over is that the first image in the sequence needs to be numbered zero or one. Another complication in the process is that the GoPro uses the standard camera file format where no more than 1000 images will be stored in a single directory. This means that with the 1800 images created in a single hour, at least two directories will hold the source images. An interesting issue I ran across is that sometimes the GoPro will skip a number in its image sequence, especially when it has just moved to the next directory in sequence. This is why I had to write my program using directory listings as opposed to simply looking for known files.

The standard GoPro battery will record just about two hours worth of photos. If the GoPro is connected to an external power supply, you can be limited only by the amount of storage space.

Here’s yesterday morning’s weather changing in Seattle.

Here’s a comparison of cropping vs compressing the video. I took this video on a flight from Seattle to Pullman last weekend. You can see much more of the landscape in the compressed version, and see that the top of the propeller leaves the frame in the cropped version.

Compressed:


Cropped:

I’ve written a program that takes three parameters, copies all of the images to a temporary location with an acceptable filename sequence, runs FFMPEG to create a video, then deletes the temporary images. The GoPro is configured to take full resolution still frames, 4000×3000, and I convert those to a 1080p video format using FFMPEG. Because the aspect ratio is different, and the GoPro uses a fish eye lens to begin with, both vertical and horizontal distortion shows up. I run FFMPEG twice, once creating a compressed video and a second time creating a cropped video. This allows me to chose which level of distortion I prefer after the fact.

The three parameters are the video name, the first image in the sequence, and the last image in the sequence. I am currently doing very little error checking. I’m presenting this code here, just to document what I’ve done so far. If you find this useful, please let me know.

Here’s some helper functions I regularly use.

using namespace std;

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
CString FindEXEFromPath(const CString & csEXE)
{
	CString csFullPath;
	CFileFind finder;
	if (finder.FindFile(csEXE))
	{
		finder.FindNextFile();
		csFullPath = finder.GetFilePath();
		finder.Close();
	}
	else
	{
		TCHAR filename[MAX_PATH];
		unsigned long buffersize = sizeof(filename) / sizeof(TCHAR);
		// Get the file name that we are running from.
		GetModuleFileName(AfxGetResourceHandle(), filename, buffersize );
		PathRemoveFileSpec(filename);
		PathAppend(filename, csEXE);
		if (finder.FindFile(filename))
		{
			finder.FindNextFile();
			csFullPath = finder.GetFilePath();
			finder.Close();
		}
		else
		{
			CString csPATH;
			csPATH.GetEnvironmentVariable(_T("PATH"));
			int iStart = 0;
			CString csToken(csPATH.Tokenize(_T(";"), iStart));
			while (csToken != _T(""))
			{
				if (csToken.Right(1) != _T("\\"))
					csToken.AppendChar(_T('\\'));
				csToken.Append(csEXE);
				if (finder.FindFile(csToken))
				{
					finder.FindNextFile();
					csFullPath = finder.GetFilePath();
					finder.Close();
					break;
				}
				csToken = csPATH.Tokenize(_T(";"), iStart);
			}
		}
	}
	return(csFullPath);
}
/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
static const CString QuoteFileName(const CString & Original)
{
	CString csQuotedString(Original);
	if (csQuotedString.Find(_T(" ")) >= 0)
	{
		csQuotedString.Insert(0,_T('"'));
		csQuotedString.AppendChar(_T('"'));
	}
	return(csQuotedString);
}
/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
std::string timeToISO8601(const time_t & TheTime)
{
	std::ostringstream ISOTime;
	struct tm UTC;// = gmtime(&timer);
	if (0 == gmtime_s(&UTC, &TheTime))
	{
		ISOTime.fill('0');
		ISOTime << UTC.tm_year+1900 << "-";
		ISOTime.width(2);
		ISOTime << UTC.tm_mon+1 << "-";
		ISOTime.width(2);
		ISOTime << UTC.tm_mday << "T";
		ISOTime.width(2);
		ISOTime << UTC.tm_hour << ":";
		ISOTime.width(2);
		ISOTime << UTC.tm_min << ":";
		ISOTime.width(2);
		ISOTime << UTC.tm_sec;
	}
	return(ISOTime.str());
}
std::wstring getTimeISO8601(void)
{
	time_t timer;
	time(&timer);
	std::string isostring(timeToISO8601(timer));
	std::wstring rval;
	rval.assign(isostring.begin(), isostring.end());
	
	return(rval);
}
/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Here’s a routine I found useful to parse the standard camera file system naming format.

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
bool SplitImagePath(
	CString csSrcPath,
	CString & DestParentDir,
	int & DestChildNum,
	CString & DestChildSuffix,
	CString & DestFilePrefix,
	int & DestFileNumDigits,
	int & DestFileNum,
	CString & DestFileExt
	)
{
	bool rval = true;
	DestFileExt.Empty();
	while (csSrcPath[csSrcPath.GetLength()-1] != _T('.'))
	{
		DestFileExt.Insert(0, csSrcPath[csSrcPath.GetLength()-1]);
		csSrcPath.Truncate(csSrcPath.GetLength()-1);
	}
	csSrcPath.Truncate(csSrcPath.GetLength()-1); // get rid of dot

	CString csDestFileNum;
	DestFileNumDigits = 0;
	while (iswdigit(csSrcPath[csSrcPath.GetLength()-1]))
	{
		csDestFileNum.Insert(0, csSrcPath[csSrcPath.GetLength()-1]);
		DestFileNumDigits++;
		csSrcPath.Truncate(csSrcPath.GetLength()-1);
	}
	DestFileNum = _wtoi(csDestFileNum.GetString());

	DestFilePrefix.Empty();
	while (iswalpha(csSrcPath[csSrcPath.GetLength()-1]))
	{
		DestFilePrefix.Insert(0, csSrcPath[csSrcPath.GetLength()-1]);
		csSrcPath.Truncate(csSrcPath.GetLength()-1);
	}
	csSrcPath.Truncate(csSrcPath.GetLength()-1); // get rid of backslash

	DestChildSuffix.Empty();
	while (iswalpha(csSrcPath[csSrcPath.GetLength()-1]))
	{
		DestChildSuffix.Insert(0, csSrcPath[csSrcPath.GetLength()-1]);
		csSrcPath.Truncate(csSrcPath.GetLength()-1);
	}

	CString csDestChildNum;
	while (iswdigit(csSrcPath[csSrcPath.GetLength()-1]))
	{
		csDestChildNum.Insert(0, csSrcPath[csSrcPath.GetLength()-1]);
		csSrcPath.Truncate(csSrcPath.GetLength()-1);
	}
	DestChildNum = _wtoi(csDestChildNum.GetString());

	DestParentDir = csSrcPath;
	return(rval);
}
/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

And here’s the main program.

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
int _tmain(int argc, TCHAR* argv[], TCHAR* envp[])
{
	int nRetCode = 0;

	HMODULE hModule = ::GetModuleHandle(NULL);

	if (hModule != NULL)
	{
		// initialize MFC and print and error on failure
		if (!AfxWinInit(hModule, NULL, ::GetCommandLine(), 0))
		{
			// TODO: change error code to suit your needs
			_tprintf(_T("Fatal Error: MFC initialization failed\n"));
			nRetCode = 1;
		}
		else
		{
			CString csFFMPEGPath(FindEXEFromPath(_T("ffmpeg.exe")));
			CString csFirstFileName;
			CString csLastFileName;
			CString csVideoName;

			if (argc != 4)
			{
				std::wcout << "command Line Format:" << std::endl;
				std::wcout << "\t" << argv[0] << " VideoName PathToFirstFile.jpg PathToLastFile.jpg" << std::endl;
			}
			else
			{
				csVideoName = CString(argv[1]);
				csFirstFileName = CString(argv[2]);
				csLastFileName = CString(argv[3]);

				int DirNumFirst = 0;
				int DirNumLast = 0;
				int FileNumFirst = 0;
				int FileNumLast = 0;
				CString csFinderStringFormat;

				CString DestParentDir;
				CString DestChildSuffix;
				CString DestFilePrefix;
				CString DestFileExt;
				int DestFileNumDigits;
				SplitImagePath(csFirstFileName, DestParentDir, DirNumFirst, DestChildSuffix, DestFilePrefix, DestFileNumDigits, FileNumFirst, DestFileExt);
				csFinderStringFormat.Format(_T("%s%%03d%s\\%s*.%s"), DestParentDir.GetString(), DestChildSuffix.GetString(), DestFilePrefix.GetString(), DestFileExt.GetString());
				SplitImagePath(csLastFileName, DestParentDir, DirNumLast, DestChildSuffix, DestFilePrefix, DestFileNumDigits, FileNumLast, DestFileExt);

				std::vector<CString> SourceImageList;
				int DirNum = DirNumFirst;
				int FileNum = FileNumFirst;
				do 
				{
					CString csFinderString;
					csFinderString.Format(csFinderStringFormat, DirNum);
					CFileFind finder;
					BOOL bWorking = finder.FindFile(csFinderString.GetString());
					while (bWorking)
					{
						bWorking = finder.FindNextFile();
						SplitImagePath(finder.GetFilePath(), DestParentDir, DirNum, DestChildSuffix, DestFilePrefix, DestFileNumDigits, FileNum, DestFileExt);
						if ((FileNum >= FileNumFirst) && (FileNum <= FileNumLast))
							SourceImageList.push_back(finder.GetFilePath());
					}
					finder.Close();
					DirNum++;
				} while (DirNum <= DirNumLast);

				std::wcout << "[" << getTimeISO8601() << "] " << "First File: " << csFirstFileName.GetString() << std::endl;
				std::wcout << "[" << getTimeISO8601() << "] " << "Last File:  " << csLastFileName.GetString() << std::endl;
				std::wcout << "[" << getTimeISO8601() << "] " << "Total Files: " << SourceImageList.size() << std::endl;

				TCHAR szPath[MAX_PATH] = _T("");
				SHGetFolderPath(NULL, CSIDL_MYVIDEO, NULL, 0, szPath);
				PathAddBackslash(szPath);
				CString csImageDirectory(szPath);
				csImageDirectory.Append(csVideoName);
				if (CreateDirectory(csImageDirectory, NULL))
				{
					int OutFileIndex = 0;
					for (auto SourceFile = SourceImageList.begin(); SourceFile != SourceImageList.end(); SourceFile++)
					{
						CString OutFilePath(csImageDirectory);
						OutFilePath.AppendFormat(_T("\\Wim%05d.JPG"), OutFileIndex++);
						std::wcout << "[" << getTimeISO8601() << "] " << "CopyFile " << SourceFile->GetString() << " to " << OutFilePath.GetString() << "\r";
						CopyFile(SourceFile->GetString(), OutFilePath, TRUE);
					}
					std::wcout << "\n";

					CString csImagePathSpec(csImageDirectory); csImagePathSpec.Append(_T("\\Wim%05d.JPG"));
					CString csVideoFullPath(csImageDirectory); csVideoFullPath.Append(_T(".mp4"));
					if (csFFMPEGPath.GetLength() > 0)
					{
						csVideoFullPath = csImageDirectory + _T("-1080p-cropped.mp4");
						std::wcout << "[" << getTimeISO8601() << "] " << csFFMPEGPath.GetString() << " -i " << QuoteFileName(csImagePathSpec).GetString() << " -y " << QuoteFileName(csVideoFullPath).GetString() << std::endl;
						if (-1 == _tspawnlp(_P_WAIT, csFFMPEGPath.GetString(), csFFMPEGPath.GetString(), 
							#ifdef _DEBUG
							_T("-report"),
							#endif
							_T("-i"), QuoteFileName(csImagePathSpec).GetString(),
							_T("-vf"), _T("crop=in_w:3/4*in_h"),
							// _T("-vf"), _T("rotate=PI"), // Us this to rotate the movie if we forgot to put the GoPro in upside down mode.
							_T("-s"), _T("1920x1080"),
							_T("-y"), // Cause it to overwrite exiting output files
							QuoteFileName(csVideoFullPath).GetString(), NULL))
							std::wcout << "[" << getTimeISO8601() << "]  _tspawnlp failed: " /* << _sys_errlist[errno] */ << std::endl;
						csVideoFullPath = csImageDirectory + _T("-1080p-compressed.mp4");
						std::wcout << "[" << getTimeISO8601() << "] " << csFFMPEGPath.GetString() << " -i " << QuoteFileName(csImagePathSpec).GetString() << " -y " << QuoteFileName(csVideoFullPath).GetString() << std::endl;
						if (-1 == _tspawnlp(_P_WAIT, csFFMPEGPath.GetString(), csFFMPEGPath.GetString(), 
							#ifdef _DEBUG
							_T("-report"),
							#endif
							_T("-i"), QuoteFileName(csImagePathSpec).GetString(),
							// _T("-vf"), _T("rotate=PI"), // Us this to rotate the movie if we forgot to put the GoPro in upside down mode.
							_T("-s"), _T("1920x1080"),
							_T("-y"), // Cause it to overwrite exiting output files
							QuoteFileName(csVideoFullPath).GetString(), NULL))
							std::wcout << "[" << getTimeISO8601() << "]  _tspawnlp failed: " /* << _sys_errlist[errno] */ << std::endl;
					}
					do 
					{
						CString OutFilePath(csImageDirectory);
						OutFilePath.AppendFormat(_T("\\Wim%05d.JPG"), --OutFileIndex);
						std::wcout << "[" << getTimeISO8601() << "] " << "DeleteFile " << OutFilePath.GetString() << "\r";
						DeleteFile(OutFilePath);
					} while (OutFileIndex > 0);
					std::wcout << "\n[" << getTimeISO8601() << "] " << "RemoveDirectory " << csImageDirectory.GetString() << std::endl;
					RemoveDirectory(csImageDirectory);
				}
			}
		}
	}
	else
	{
		_tprintf(_T("Fatal Error: GetModuleHandle failed\n"));
		nRetCode = 1;
	}
	return nRetCode;
}

Old Humor: Jesus & Satan Programming Contest

I’m cleaning up old text files on my machine and came across this story..

Jesus and Satan were having an ongoing argument about who was better on the computer. They had been going at it for days, and frankly God was tired of hearing all the bickering.

Finally fed up, God said, “THAT’s IT! I have had enough and I am going to set up a test that will run for two hours, and from those results, I will judge who does the better job.”

So Satan and Jesus sat down at the keyboards and typed away.
They moused.
They faxed.
They e-mailed
They e-mailed with attachments
They downloaded.
They did spreadsheets.
They wrote reports.
They created labels and cards.
They created charts and graphs.
They did some genealogy reports.
They did every job known to man.

Jesus worked with heavenly efficiency and Satan was faster then hell! Then, ten minutes before their time was up, lightning suddenly flashed across the sky, thunder rolled, rain poured and, of course, the power went off!

Satan stared at his blank screen and screamed every curse word known in the underworld. Jesus just sighed!

Finally the electricity came back on, and each of them restarted. Satan searching frantically, screaming……. “It’s gone! It’s ALL GONE! “I lost everything when the power went out!

Meanwhile, Jesus quietly started printing out all of his files from the past two hours of work. Satan observed this and became irate. “Wait!” he screamed…. “That’s not fair! He cheated! How come he has all his work and I don’t have any?”

God just shrugged and said, “Jesus Saves.”

I don’t know the origin. If you can legitimately claim it, I’ll definitely add an attribution.

UAV and GPS Dependency

Last weekend I was attempting to have my UAV fly a couple of programmed missions so that I could get a straightforward video of what I was doing.

My mission was simple, and I’d run similar missions before so I expected this to produce a nice video. I would take off, fly a circle with a 50 meter radius at 100 meters altitude, move to another location and fly a second circle at 30 meters altitude, then return to launch. Here’s what it looked like in Mission Planner.

Things look good in Mission Planner

Things look good in Mission Planner

Things started well, but went haywire a few minutes into the flight. There were a few bobbles as is descended from the first circle altitude to the second circle, but I was hoping to let the on-board computer maintain or recover control.


The flight starts around 1:40 on the video, and things generally look good until around 4:50. At that point the UAV starts making some significant attitude adjustments. Around 5:10 it seems to have recovered and making the adjustments to go around the second circle. (At 5:35 the camera is pointed back towards the launch point and you can see two small dots on the ground. That’s the two of us monitoring the flight with the transmitter and a pair of binoculars.) It finishes the second circle around 6:30, at which it should have initiated the RTL, Return to Launch, phase of its mission. Unfortunately I do not currently have the UAV set to face forward during the RTL phase, and so it does not rotate towards the launch point, just travels in that direction. You can see it tilt slightly back, moving in the correct direction, for the first ten seconds until 6:42, but then it starts making huge adjustments to its direction, running the motors at full throttle. At 8:08 it hit the trees.
After the flight I downloaded the log file from the UAV and tried to analyse what went wrong. I was able to produce this picture using Google Earth from the resulting KMZ file.

Mission Gone Bad

Mission Gone Bad

I’m still not sure exactly what went wrong. I believe that the copter lost resolution on the GPS, simply based on the fact that the track never shows it going to the trees, and I don’t remember it doing as much spiraling as the KMZ would indicate. The KMZ file may be available at my home server but right now it does not appear to want to serve kmz or kml files.  The descent from the first circle towards the second circle appears smooth until it no longer needed to travel horizontally, At the point when it needed to only reduce altitude it seemed to circle and appeared to be much more unstable. Perhaps making sure that all programmed descents had much more vertical motion would produce smoother flights in general.

A few valuable lessons that I learned, in no particular order.

  • Stick to flying where there are no people nearby. Even at an RC airplane field with a few experienced people around, this could cause significant injury to humans or damage to property. When the copter was coming in fast towards the landing area, and obviously going to overshoot into the trees, completely losing the copter in the trees is much better than causing any injury or damage to someone else.
  • Be quicker to abort an automated mission and take manual control. I had handed my transmitter to a more experienced pilot while I monitored the automatic mission via binoculars. Several times he asked if he should take control of the unit and I told him that I wanted to see if the unit would recover itself. The early bobbles during the descent from the first circle to the second it recovered, but the RTL path was completely wrong.
  • Give the UAV plenty of time to achieve a reliable GPS lock before arming the motors and taking off.  According to what I’ve read, the launch location used for the RTL function is stored when you arm the motors, not when you actually leave the ground, or power on the entire copter. Landing and disarming the motors in a second location would reset the launch location when you re-arm them.

An interesting thing I’ve noticed by following the drone chatter on the hype meter is how much of a clash this is causing between the computer and robotics crowd and the traditional RC airplane crowd.

The traditional RC airplane hobbyists have been around for over 50 years, and have slowly been integrating new technology such has digital radios, electric motors, and Lithium Polymer batteries into use as the technology as become available. Historical fixed wing aircraft and analog transmitters required large open spaces for both safety and to make sure that there was no radio interference. Liquid fueled model aircraft produced large amounts of noise, and so added to the reasons of working in large open spaces.

The person coming into the UAV/Drone space often has no background in the RC airplane hobby itself and so has no history of the safety requirements and why they exist. Starting with a quadcopter and its capabilities is completely different from starting with a fixed wing aircraft. VTOL, vertical takeoff and landing, brings a confidence that this can be done in a small space, however misplaced that confidence may be. First person video (FPV) seems a natural extension to most new pilots and the concept of limited bandwidth is completely alien.

There are good organizations such as http://www.modelaircraft.org/ that exist for hobbyists, but the person getting into it from the computer side of things often may not even know about them, and an unattractive web site may cause lack of understanding of the benefits offered.

I would not have gotten into this at all if a friend that I’ve known since we were in 4th grade had not added multi rotor copters to his long standing hobby of RC Airplanes. He was telling me how much was available in the new systems, and showing me first person videos on his screen. The fact that he was using all of these digital systems, but his video was still analog, was what got me interested. I wanted to be able to record the entire flight digitally.

I’ve been extremely lucky so far, not having damaged anything or injured anyone, and not broken more than $30 worth of items on my ‘copter so far, let alone lost it entirely. I’ve still got plenty to learn, as well as learning to be much safer, but I’m enjoying the process so far.