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Travelling to Nepal and flying in the Himalayas

Discussion in 'Photos and Video' started by aikimark, Jan 10, 2015.

  1. aikimark

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    In December I traveled to Nepal with DSLR kit along with my Phantom 2+. Prior to leaving home I had done approximately 15 flights so didn't have a lot of flying experience. I bought to take with me:

    - spare battery - traveled with two batteries in total. I charged when I could find electricity along with other phone etc batteris using an Australian extension power board, which I plugged in with a single Asian adapter
    - spare set of blades
    - HPRC 2700WPHA2 case (http://goo.gl/lqqpT9)

    Flying Singapore Airlines from Sydney, I was asked to put both batteries in my carry-on luggage. I did this in separate ziplock plastic bags. The batteries raised a few questions at security through the trip but generally it was pretty easy. The carry case did a great job of protecting the Phantom through a number of airports in and out of Nepal. The wheels and handle make it very easy to transport. However it is large, and weighed around 12kg when packed. Given the small flights within Nepal sometimes have a weight limit of 15kg for a passenger including carry on bags, this is quite relevant.

    Part of our holiday involved a trek along the Everest Base Camp route to Namche Bazar, before heading to Thame. The trek involved walking for 4-6 hours each day, and took us to 13,000 feet. We had porters to help with our bags, and it was a little bizarre each day to see one of them strap the carry case to his other bags on his back and head off. This meant I didn't have access to the Phantom for the full trek, but only at our destination each day.

    Key lessons learnt in flying in the Himalayas:

    - don't assume that finding only 4 satellites is because of the height of surrounding mountains. The first time I flew the Phantom, I couldn't establish a home position as I could never find more than 4 satellites. I flew regardless, but not very far from launch point, as there was some wind and I had no experience of flying it without the GPS support, let alone flying it at 9,000 feet. It turned out I'd made a pretty simple mistake of launching too close to a building which was blocking satellite reception - I had jumped to the conclusion that either the mountains were to blame, or that satellite coverage over a remote part of Nepal was too limited
    - the drone is able to fly at close to 14,000 feet above sea level, which was the maximum altitude I reached with it. At this point it was 600 feet above the ground, and I could hear it straining as it flew
    - the drone is more susceptible to vortex ring state (vrs) at altitude. I was being cautious flying, given relative lack of experience coupled with uncertainty around the nature of altitude flying. However descending from 14,000 feet the drone entered vrs from which I couldn't recover. As I'd avoided flying over buildings it simply crashed into the snow and was easily recovered. I was aware of this issue prior to leaving on the trip as I had tried to make myself aware of potential flying problems but hadn't experienced it at sea level and mistakenly assumed that the descent speed limitation was an effective protection against this risk. I'm happy I had recognised my limitations, particularly the inexperience at altitude, and was cautious with my flying
    - it's easy to get distracted by the significant attention the drone attracts (certainly in a country such as Nepal). This can impact on concentration while flying, which is not good! However, it was good that I had taken a spare set of blades...
    - people get very nervous if the drone is flown near a military base. I didn't even know there was one in Namche (it turns out it was a very small one just over the back of the hill) and was surprised when our lodge manager asked me to land the drone before it caused problems with the military (he expected they would want to see permits etc)
    - it's important to fully familiarise yourself with the DJI Vision software before leaving home - it was only near the end of the trip that I discovered it was possible to download the images using wifi to the iPad. I had spent $$ on buying a number of memory cards

    All in all, a great experience with a few fantastic photos for memories.
     

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  2. DrTelemark

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    Thanks for sharing your experience with the Phantom at altitude. I love that region of Nepal and it was great to see your photos. I am a bit surprised you were able to take your quad into the national park - very cool they allowed that to happen. When I travelled there years ago, they were restrictive even on a video camera (had to pay for a license). Guess things have loosened up a bit.
    I'd love to see your shots of Ama Dablam - I'm sure you took some...

    MT
     
  3. aikimark

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    MT,

    Not sure the guys at the checkpoints even knew about the quad. We were asked at the checkpoints what camera I was carrying, and I told them about my Canon 5D. At those points the porters were ahead with the kit including the drone, and it didn't even occur to me it might be a problem. Not sure what I would have done with it if it proved problematic! I guess these days, however, most phones are capable of recording good quality video so maybe things have eased up a little? Having said that I was travelling with some very experienced guides, and no one flagged that it could be a problem.

    That part of Nepal is just stunning. I was fortunate to trek through Mustang 4 years ago which was also amazing and it's hard to believe the two areas are in the same country.

    Ama Dablam is breathtaking... no great shots with the Phantom but here's a token one with the Canon.

    Thanks for your feedback
    Mark
     

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  4. knuckles

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    Location:
    Arizona
    Thanks for sharing all the details and pictures. Were you flying with stock props or the new thrust boosted ones?

    I had been flying the new thrust boosted props for months until I broke two. I switched back to stock props when flying at about 6,000ft elevation in wind I found control much more difficult. I had to make 3 passes to try to land safely. Anyway I was wondering if you had tried the new props at that altitude.
     
  5. aikimark

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    I was flying with stock props - to be honest, until your question I wasn't even aware of the alternative! That may explain the challenge I had with my first flight at altitude. It was around 9,000 ft and I had no home position registered. I was flying the craft without its self correction and found it a real challenge in a breeze.

    I have video of my vrs issue - I'll try to post it this weekend.