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Blessing or curse - this will ultimately be down to its application
The SeaHelp drone test:

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People are of different minds on the question: some would like to take a gun and shoot all of them; others have discovered them as a new hobby for technology fans. We are talking about drones which seemed to be circling last year in every bay and in every marina above the skippers’ heads. If they are a blessing or a curse – this will ultimately be down to their application. Those using drones to spy on their neighbours anchoring next to them will hardly receive any encouragement from their environment. However, serious drone film-makers are much more interested in storing the beauties of the landscape and the very special charm of water sports on their hard drive or share it later on with their friends, respectively. An idea of what this can look like is provided by our SeaHelp regional guide: more than 60 videos with lots of breath-taking aerial views of the Croatian coastline are unfolding the beauty of this unique landscape and the very special charm of water sports. With the guide’s help, skippers are now able to plan their holidays full of anticipation or can go over one of their trips once again and indulge in happy memories.

Those entertaining the idea of documenting their future trips airborne oughtn’t be afraid of modern technology: dealing with modern drones such as the GoPro Karma, the DJI-Phantom series or the DJI-Mavic models is relatively simple and easy to learn for initial photographs but, in the end, in spite of all solid and technologically mature support systems there is only one thing for sure: only practice makes you perfect. Operating drones is quite similar to playing golf: you are getting steadily better but will never be totally perfect. But, first of all: before putting out to sea with your new drone, comprehensive practise on shore is required.

All manufacturers are offering tutorials on their homepages with the intention to support the drone pilots prior to their first flight and, in addition, to inform them clearly about any special extras the particular flying object is equipped with and thus might influence their decision to buy. Please find below an overview of three of the most popular drone models which, however, are very different:

GoPro Karma:

The GoPro Karma is considered the most universal of all drones: its foldable, can be stored in a handy backpack and, in combination with the GoPro Hero, offers superior image quality. The highlight: when using the Karma, the gimbal, which is a specific balancing system for shake-free recording, and the camera, can both be used separately. The copter enables skippers to shoot videos and photos at a lofty height, record first-class videos on board with the separate gimbal and employ the as well independently functioning camera during possible dives. However, there is one disadvantage of this so universally applicable drone: it is lacking its little helpers, those who make flying even more comfortable: effective collision avoidance and precision landing at the start point might be sorely missed sometimes. Maximum flying range 3,000 metres, maximum image transmission 1,000 metres.

DJI Mavic Pro

Little Mavic is capable of doing everything larger models can do, maybe even better. It can be stowed in the pocket of some cargo pants or a jacket and it can be operated comfortably via the display of a mobile phone though operation would be more comfortable using a tablet. Image quality stays far behind the GoPro Hero, but this would actually mean complaining on a high comfort level, as the Mavic, just like the Karma, is supplying first-class 4K photos which would credit most film productions. It can even be operated inside buildings and, thanks to collision avoidance when completely activated, crashes with possible obstacles are nearly impossible. In addition, it photographs the take-off point and lands there again most precisely, even after a longer flight. During the SeaHelp test the maximum deviation was two centimetres. Maximum flying range: 7 kilometres, maximum image transmission to the pilot 3.5 kilometres.

DJI Phantom IV Pro

The DJI Phantom IV pro is capable of doing everything the Mavic can do but, in addition, it has lateral obstacle detection, while the Mavic can only detect obstacles at forward flight mode. Image quality is slightly increased compared to Mavic but probably only experts are really able to see the difference. In any case, it will be much more difficult to carry the Phantom due to its dimensions than the small, foldable Mavic. Maximum flying range 3,000 metres, maximum image transmission 3,500 metres.

Conclusion:
For those looking for a suitable set for high-quality aerial, ground and underwater views, the GoPro Karma will be the best value for money. Nevertheless, missing support systems require the utmost attention when flying. The Mavic, on the other hand, is of quite a different kind: you can concentrate entirely on shooting photos when flying and, set accordingly, all flight manoeuvres, including landing, will be executed automatically. With certain exceptions, though, the Phantom IV Pro is similar to the Mavic, but all those skippers who may attach importance to having a small, handy drone, are well advised to choose the Mavic because of its packing dimensions.

 

For a successful landing on board: the pilot directs the drone towards the catcher…

 

 

 

 

…and the catcher resolutely grabs it, just like on this photo. But be careful: the rotors might cause severe injuries when touching your fingers.

 

 

 

 

Quick-change artist:

In the case of the GoPro Karma, the gimbal can be used separately for high-class, rigid shots, even at full speed.

 

 

 

 

Tips of the editorial staff:

– Before starting the first drone flight, beginners are well advised to practise on shore and watch the tutorials offered by the manufacturers. A remote sports ground or a big garden might be the proper location for the first training flights.
– When starting off board, each drone is memorising the GPS data of the take-off point and is trying to exactly return to it. Should the boat be adrift for just one metre, it will land in the water without fail. Therefore, it is recommended to get the drone back in teamwork and not to use the “return-to-home-button” or, alternatively, disable that modus when it is approaching. After some training runs on shore, the drones might be well “captured” manually.
– Special caution has to be applied in the case of large yachts: they quite frequently are equipped with a “drone defense” which might lead then to the radio connection breaking off.
– Special attention should be paid to wind and battery level. When leaving the starting point remember that the return journey against the wind will require considerably more power.
– Those aiming at shooting films or photos by drone in the sunny south are in any case well advised to take along a set of grey filters so that the white boats do not appear as “burnt” when they are overexposed.
– Please remember complying with the legal conditions when flying drones in the respective country, don’t bother anybody with your copter and avoid flying over sensitive objectives, but all this advice can be found in many other places. Legal advice regarding the operation of copters in the respective countries can be found on https://my-road.de/drohnen-gesetze-in-europa.
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Currently, drones are considered the trendiest toy for skippers. Nevertheless, the buzzing flight devices are capable to bring home first-class videos when a few important points are observed. SeaHelp has tested the most common models in advance.

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