DJI Mavic, Air and Mini Drones
Friendly, Helpful & Knowledgeable Community
Join Us Now

Solution: flying from a boat

The only bit of what you wrote that I was questioning was the 'setting the failsafe option to hover' bit and that is because it can lead to a low battery RTH.
Makes sense - there certainly is not much clarity in the manuals. Personally, I'd rather have the boat get closer to the drone than have the drone takeoff and go someplace on its own, but it is all very circumstantial. This is a new Mini 3 - but only time will tell if it works as well as the bigger drones, for the type of work that I do.
 
It sounds like you've had some real world experience that's well worth knowing more about. I want to be sure I'm understanding your landing method. Is this on target?

As the drone descends, your gloved and visored helper extends their hand above their head and catches the pipe cleaners extending down from the belly of the drone. I'm guessing that they pull the drone downward and the drone attempts to climb to and you are simultaneously holding the left stick back to shut off the motors. The helper hangs on until the props stop and then gets a better grip on the drone as it droops and tries to bend the pipe cleaners.

Thanks.
Yes. So, I've tried this about 20 times on land and it seems like the best thing is to hang on and try not to pull the drone down or else it will attempt to climb. When it climbs, I just kinda hang on and keep trying to get it to land and eventually it seems to settle down and turn off. But, with the vision sensors disabled the motors seem to shut-off immediately, which is much better than trying to fight the drone and/or turn it upside down. With this handle, it really is just a little nub so the moment you grab it the drone's belly is resting on top of your hand. With the Phantoms I have the catcher hold it above their head until I can get the motors shut off (which sometimes can take a while as the drone tries to pull away). I'm really going to need to test this more in all kinds of conditions before rendering a verdict - but I figured I'd share. The steps listed work for all the other drones we've used on the water.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MS Coast
I like the description of hand launching and landing. I’ve done hand landing more than launching oddly enough. The one question I have when landing is: Is the boat stationary or moving (not rocking/bobbing)?
 
I like the description of hand launching and landing. I’ve done hand landing more than launching oddly enough. The one question I have when landing is: Is the boat stationary or moving (not rocking/bobbing)?
Thanks! I think that launching from a platform on a boat is much more feasible than landing. I've launched by putting a drone up on a box, above all railings, and with a clear shot to the sky. The technique is similar - up and forward as fast as you can and it actually eliminates the things that can go wrong with a hand launch. Most of the boats we use for work don't have a good spot and so we have someone stand up on a platform on the bow. The one drone I've dropped in the water was from a bad launch where I was trying to do it all myself and I was in too much of a rush to get it up in the air and I let go too soon (we all ran to the railing and watched it spin down to the murky depths). I don't think I've ever tried a hand catch on a moving boat: it seems very difficult. The rocking and bobbing can make it tricky enough! I usually get the boat skipper to orient the boat in the most stable position and we go from there.
 
Brilliant. My one and only flight off a boat resulted in no usable video and a dunk in Lake Michigan within 3 minutes. Original Mavic Air. A quick couple of tacks by my friend and I got it back, thanks to the empty Pepsi bottle taped to the bottom of it. Thank goodness for DJI refresh at the time. I may someday try your method.
 
Don’t launch or recover from the bow (front) of a moving boat. As soon as you launch, the boat is converging on the drone. Always launch from the back. Don’t let go until you feel the drone pulling away. Then the drone and boat immediately separate (which is what you want). When it is time to recover the drone fly to the back of the boat. Depending on your boat, you will need to have obstacle detection turned off. have an old MPP so I just back it to the boat since there is no rearward detection. Backing to the boat also makes it easier to visually control since left stuck moves the drone to the left. It is much easier to have an extra person catching the drone. If you don’t have a handle on the bottom of the drone to catch it, you are risking your fingers and you should be wearing some good gloves. Once you catch it, just thrum is sideways and the drone will turn off.
 
Hi everyone,

I regularly fly from boats for work. Landing on a deck in those conditions is very difficult (I've even crashed an old Phantom 3 while trying to land on a helicopter pad) and so hand-catching is essential. I have seen the catch handles but I haven't been particularly impressed because: 1) they don't seem particularly sturdy, 2) they make landing on ground impossible, 3) they increase the weight above the 250g limit, and 4) they probably affect performance and battery life. Landing on an outstretched hand is also difficult when the boat rocks and although the propellers don't appear to cause much damage, we generally work in remote conditions where any injury is bad, and so I don't love the idea of someone sticking their fingers upwards to catch the drone. Here is an ugly but workable solution:

View attachment 163669

Pipe cleaners wrapped all the way around the body towards the aft part, and sticking down to form a handle (note the drone is upside-down in the photo). I was going to use a stiffer wire, but I had the pipe-cleaners handy, and they work well. The connection to the drone is solid, they don't add much weight, they can be tucked away when not used without having to remove them, and even when down, the drone can land normally and just pushes them out of the way. You can keep the handle small enough that it has no chance of getting fouled in the props and it still provides a little grip to hold on to. The only downside that I've seen is that while holding the handle it is difficult to turn off the props, if the downward vision sensors are enabled - for boat launches it is probably best to disable the downward sensors with tape anyways. Here are some tips for how I launch and land from a boat (that apply to drones in general) in case this is helpful for anyone:

Launch:
1) Have a second person hold the drone above their head at the front or back of the boat, with the drone facing outwards. Above the head is critical so that the drone doesn't drift back into their face.
2) Let the drone pull out of their hands and immediately go up and forwards as fast as you can, to avoid boat drift or hitting any of the antennas, towers, etc.

Recovery:
1) Fly the drone in close, staying above the tallest parts of the boat, to avoid antennas, towers, masts. Give yourself plenty of battery life to do this (even 10 minutes). Edit: update the home point now.
2) Turn the drone so that the front is facing away from you and stop looking at the screen. Now your controller movements mimic the drone's movements (i.e. right is right, left is left, forwards is forward, backward is backward).
3) Have your second person stand at a high point that is clear from obstructions with their hands over their heads. Now you can steer the drone in slowly, keeping it above their heads. They have to be ready to duck if the boat bobs up at a bad time. Keeping the drone above their head allows them to be out of the way of the props in case of a sudden shift in the boat.

Finally, disabling Smart RTH, setting it to hover if the signal is lost, and constantly updating the home point are important. I like having a drone spotter to keep VLOS if I'm watching the screen.

In general, I'm a big fan of PPE: gloves, mesh visor, ear coverings. For big drones this is essential, but even with a small, plastic-propped drone the props can do some major damage to eyes ears and noses - and so I like to have the second person wearing a visor a hat and gloves.

We've used similar protocols for large heavy drones with carbon fiber props and phantoms and I've only lost one drone to the water (a P4, when I wasn't following this protocol). Hopefully this janky-looking handle works well and this protocol is useful for someone out there.
I think all the smaller DJI drones will shut off their motors if you simply tip the drone 90 deg. in any direction, which would be easy w. your 'handle'
 
Lycus Tech Mavic Air 3 Case

DJI Drone Deals

Forum statistics

Threads
129,984
Messages
1,548,098
Members
159,042
Latest member
dubbaker