So here we are a week later, with arguments, confusion and dismay from many fronts on the Kickstarter delivery schedule, it caused a lot of anger, some disappointment and a few (i’m sure) refunds.
BUT Airdog have done what they thought is best under the circumstances, and changed how they are dealing with things. They have apologised, and are talking and communicating with people in a way that is as it should be. I have said before they have made mistakes, this was another, but they corrected it quickly.
What does it mean though? Well if i am understanding it right, as it stands now, Beta test applicants will be sent their drones, now i am not sure if that was successful applicants, or ALL applicants. So have requested clarification from Airdog. But people who are willing to test from the start are priority, and then in order of backing. But i do believe that Beta testers where chosen from the kickstarter pool, and no where else, so preorders are behind this in all regards as i understand the situation.
So the drone, with manufacturing underway, with shipping starting in less than 10 days, and people excited to get there hands on things, what do we need to know?
Some of the backers are seasoned drone pilots, and will have a better understanding of how drones work, some will install RC receivers and fly as well as use as automated drones, some will be companies looking to turn this into a business opportunity. All are people who want to fly drones, that is what ties us together. The downside is there will be some Irresponsible Users amongst us, people that disregard safety and the safety of others around them. And i hope the number is few.
All of the testing that Airdog has carried out upto now, has involved having there drones equipped with a RC receiver, and a pilot on hand to take control should it be needed. They had to do this this through testing, and while we will not have this. It is essential to them to better understand and test beyond the limits that we will be flying. So while i have tested with them. The drone we tested with was still connected. I have to be upfront about this. And i will give my reasons for disclosing this. For them, it is not a retail unit. If any accident happened while testing was happening and anyone got injured, then there are different repercussions for them as a company. Like if the drone had hit me, i am not an employee, but they have to ensure safety for me. This was not used. But it was available.
When it comes to how we start and setup the drone prior to 1st use, i am in the position to say, that do yourselves a favour, make a checklist for yourself. I will be writing one for me, and it is possible that Airdog may do this themselves as well. But for the time being do this for yourself. Especially if you have no or little understanding of drones, it will help keep you safe.
The 1st thing you need to understand, is that GPS is something we have little understanding of as a whole, the general public see what it needs to see. With a drone this is different. If you power up the drone and move it, expect a variance in the GPS that can confuse the system, that is not to say it will happen. But this is how GPS can make a difference in a system you do not understand. It may well look for where it originally powered up and not where you currently are. With something like a DJI this is easily remedied with a controller, in an automated drone it would be my 1st concern. never move more than the variance the GPS can handle for itself. More then 5 metres and you should shut down and reboot the system. This is for your safety as well as others. The other thing you need to ensure is that all batteries are fully charged, are in good condition with no swelling and no dirt etc in the plugs, the same with the sensors, they need to be checked as clean, the props need to be checked for damage, warping etc before you fly, and the arms and casing as well. Damage can and does happen to drones during transport. It is your responsibility.
The Airdog runs through a safety check of its own in take off mode, and will register the error fault should it detect something, i don’t know what the codings are, but excess vibration would certainly be one, not being level would be another. Common sense will help you understand this. And a simply shut down and restart after could solve the issue for you.
For those that will be flying with RC, normal rules apply, you will already or should already know what you are doing, so i won’t bore you with details.
And finally make sure your GoPro is on. This is down to you right now. The control of the GoPro will change as they integrate into the system the controls they now have. But i do not believe we will have it in the start. So don’t forget to press record. Airdog will be going through all this in a future update I’m sure.
Companies that are looking to go into the business of hiring are a completely different aspect of this business, i know there will be a few, this is something we are also looking into. But we are going to be conducting a feasibilty study into this before doing it as a fully fledged proposal.
What that will entail, is working with a Ski resort, we will be limiting the hire to an hour a session, we will get 15 minutes of footage in that session and we will be providing all of that footage in raw format at the end of that session on a USB stick. We will also be limiting this to 3 hours per day and only booked in advance (bad weather will result in cancellation and refund of the booking or rescheduling), And we are only running this 3 days per week. The reason is, we need to understand the durability of the drone, the components and the weather affects on all the previous.
With this in mind we have also talked at length with the Ski resort as to best way to implement on the slopes. We will be trialling at what we call a day resort, it is a small resort, with 6 runs and park, but with a capacity of around 4,500 trips per hour which translates to about 2,500 people at the resort on a busy day. We will be travelling with the drone at all times. With a 2nd leash to take control, while riding behind the user. And we will also be wearing high visibility vests stating we are a drone pilot. This gives a clear sign to the other slope users that there is a drone ahead and that we retain control. The other thing we have decided is that the days we use are subjective to the amount of people on the hill. We will be hiring Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. We will be remaining in communication with the resort staff at all times. And we have already decided that when the resort has more than 700 people present, that the use of the Airdog on Green and Blue runs will not be allowed. For the simple fact that these are used by children who are easily distracted and it could result in a serious accident from them not paying attention to what they are doing.
You also need to ensure, you have a liability policy, it makes no difference if you are not flying it, if you as the owner have an equipment failure, then you as the hirer are responsible for any loss or injuries.
Every country will have different legislation regarding this, and you don’t want to have issues with hiring and then the people not able to use for the reasons they are hiring. Work closely with the resorts regardless of sport. They would rather work with you than have you think you can just turn up where and when you like. It is not your land you are flying from. They do have the right for safety reasons to exclude drones if they choose. And if you prove a safe approach with a viable plan for issues that may arise then you will have a better business.
We are going to look into the possibility further down the line of a straight out hire. But user ability, and location will play apart as well as the possibility of the Leash being preprogrammed with GPS data that does not allow it to vary from prerecorded routes. We will be discussing this with Airdog as the viability moves forward.
Now the Irresponsible Users. Don’t take this the wrong way, this is your drone to do with as you please, if you crash it from stupidity then it is your money you have wasted. BUT understand that stupid behaviour reflects on ALL of us. And your actions could result in the banning of drones in there entirety. This may sound far fetched, but if they are regulated to commercial business only, then you will only be able to pay others to fly for you. Not what you want really is it. So have a think about what you do and where you do it. It affects us all…!!! And remember that most drones have blackbox software. If you try to claim under warranty for something that is your fault, Airdog WILL know what happened in detail.
So i have said what i wanted, the views i express are my own, and are common sense and some of the stuff i have said may well be of a different view to Airdog, you can always email me to ask any questions, contact Airdog direct through there email or Facebook page, and there is also a users Facebook page as well, this page is not run or regulated by Airdog and they have no affiliation, but they are on there and do read what we write. It is a good source of honest feedback for them.
And to finish up, i couldn’t help myself, we had a long hard day in the heat when we where testing, and on a short break, Janis took the opportunity to goof off…! I wish i had done the same, but i had to film some more with Edgars for the KS Backers Bonus. I do apologise Janis. But if you will pose for pictures, expect them to be shown to the world. 😉