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Which Drone for a Big Air Kiteboarder

MutantWizard

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Greets to all, would very much appreciate any recommendations that might get me sorted out.

Am a new pilot but a passionate kiteboarder with nobody to fly for me. Consequently looking for a drone that will auto follow well in open space above water with ability to adapt to target vertical changes about 10-15m in 3-4 second.

Can the above be achieved by GPS transmitter tracking or some other way. I already own a Bad Elf Pro so if this is the requirement I could be already equipped for it.

Thanks in advance.
 

Dspace

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Longtime kiteboarder here with a similar issue though I’m already at the age where the joints won’t sustain landings from even 10 m jumps, and a recently torn meniscus to prove it.


Active Track in any of the DJI drones wouldn’t survive tracking an aggressive kiteboarding session at all, and it looks like DJI is giving up on any gps based tracking. I’ve owned a Mavic Pro for a year. It has been awesome, but even with Autopilot and stuffing the controller in a Nanuk case it’s just not up to the task of serious autonomous follow for something like kiteboarding

Swellpro doesn’t do anything even remotely close to a decent gps based autonomous follow mode, and from what I can tell, even their latest model is still loaded with bugs

I would say that there are 3 “sort of” viable drone companies in the Autonomous-Follow category, Skydio, Staaker, and Airdog. Skydio has some really cool technology, but it’s definitely not geared towards kiteboarding, which involves high wind, reasonably high speed, and no terrain features. Skydio even says its drone is not intended for use over large open water or winds over 10-15 mph.

So that leaves Staaker and Airdog. Both are tiny Kickstarter type companies. They are crude compared to DJI but they do the job. I researched both and went with Staaker.

Features:
Water proof wi-fi gps/barometric-altimeter controller/ tracker device you wear on your shoulder or wrist

Off-the-shelf 3rd party 3 axis gimble that holds any GoPro. I use mine with a Yi-4K. No camera link to the controller/tracker. You just turn it on/off manually.

The drone itself is best described as a simple, clunky BEAST. You get a 50 mph sustained top airspeed with a real-world 20+ min flight time in winds in the 20-25 knot range.

Sorry, no obstacle avoidance sensors. They are useless over water anyway, and would never work at higher flight speeds

Low battery RTH function. It actually works pretty well and is definitely needed when you have your hands full with a kite. Flying the drone manually with the tracker buttons is really cumbersome compared to stick controllers, so another reason RTH is important for water use.

In its “water mode” you can set/change the follow altitude, distance and compass orientation at any time. However, the drone won’t climb and descend when you jump but the camera will track up and down following the tracker (just added in the latest firmware upgrade). The reason they don’t allow the drone to ascend/descend (in reaction to the tracker ascending/descending) in water mode has to do with the relative barometric altimeter readings getting confused if the tracker goes underwater during a wipeout (the drone can accidentally follow you right into the water).

Due to the injured knee I don’t have any kiting video yet, but there are a few vids out there. The first Staaker I got had a serious bug but they replaced the unit for me and the new one is working without a hitch so far. To be honest I luv the do-one-thing-well simplicity. This is the drone those knuckleheads at GoPro should have produced instead of that ridiculous Karma. Attached vid is not me

 

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MutantWizard

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Thanks guys, looked up all three. Watched a few vids made with Staaker and it seems like quite an appropriate option. It will do what I want and even though it may have limited free flight flexibility seems that for an inexperienced pilot it might be the easiest one to fly.
 
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