Creating a Weekend Adventure with Drones (for cheap)
Over the past few weekends, I’ve had an incredibly fun time with drones. A quote attributed to Einstein says that “Play is the highest form of research”, so during those days I guess you can say I was deep in the trenches of the research lab.
Creating the Adventure
Step 1: Gather All the Drones, and Equipment
You don’t need to have a super complicated drone with all the latest tech features to have fun. I own a number of high performance FPV racing drones but on the past weekend adventures, I didn’t use them. I took my Parrot AR. 2.0, Parrot Mambo and a couple of toy drones. It’s also important to have lots of spare batteries since battery life isn’t that long on most toy drones. A car charger or portable power bank can also help.
I have 10 spare batteries for the Eachine E010 which lets me fly for up to an hour. I have a backup battery for both the Parrot AR and the Mambo.
Step 2: Select a location
I usually look for somewhere away from a lot of people, preferably in nature. After spending a lot of time in busy city areas during the week, it’s nice to get away from that environment on the weekends. My family and I usually start driving in a particular direction until we find just the right spot, it adds to the “adventure” element. For kids, this is a good way to get them engaged in the process and keep them occupied.
Ensure the area you select allows for drone operations. There are a number of apps you can download that offer location maps and inform you about drone regulations internationally. If you’re flying outdoors in unprotected areas, be cognizant of the local wildlife.
On the first weekend last month, we ended up flying in a partly forested area. The trees and branches made for some fun and natural obstacles, and the onboard cameras on the Parrot drones provided great opportunities for amateur aerial photography. The area we were flying in though had lots of wildlife. We ended up waking up some ocelots. We didn’t see them but heard their growling echoing through the trees. The ocelot encounter added to the excitement of the day and got the adrenaline pumping…..we thought it was a much bigger cat. We didn’t want to disturb the wildlife though so after that, we decided to leave and choose another location.
Step 3: Fun
While outdoors, we took a couple of risk with the small drones. They’re relatively cheap so losing one isn’t as painful as losing something more expensive (say a DJI Mavic Pro). We created challenges amongst ourselves, pushing the drones to the limits seeing who could fly the highest, the farthest and the fastest. As mentioned above, the outdoor environment provided many natural obstacles so we also took turn seeing who could fly around and between spaces in the trees and around branches. The tight spaces between trees increases the probability of spectacular crashes which are always fun to watch when your opponent is the one flying. The drones we use are quite durable, so they usually survive the crashes.
Rainy Days? Build Your Own Indoor Drone Obstacle Course!
On days when you can’t go outside, a fun activity to do is to create an indoor drone obstacle course. In my family’s case, we usually scour the house for items that aren’t in use or that can be moved easily. We use chairs, coat racks, desks, shelves….whatever works. It’s a really good way to spend an hour or two just having fun and offers a new way of having a creative experience.
Flying the Parrot AR. 2.0 through clothes racks. It looks easier than it actually is. It took us several attempts to fly through the clothes rack successfully.