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I believe I can fly
March 10, 2013 10:25 AM   Subscribe

R/C cameraman Robert Mcintosh takes you soaring high above Santa Monica, Venice, and San Francisco. Float through the air as you glide along the beach and up through the spokes of the Ferris wheel over the Santa Monica Pier. Then head a mile or two south and get a bird's eye view of Venice's Muscle Beach. When your head has stopped spinning you can take in San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge or get away from it all (including the ground) out at at Vasquez Rocks.

Note: You may want to keep the Dramamine handy.
posted by Room 641-A (44 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nothing short of brilliant. Thanks for this fantastic post.
posted by andreaazure at 10:35 AM on March 10, 2013


Impressive. Enjoying while it's not considered terrorism.
posted by localroger at 10:39 AM on March 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


OK that Ferris Wheel flythrough is crazy. How does this work for the pilot? Is he flying through the camera view? Is it all hand-flown or is there some automation that allows more precision? I assume it's some sort of highly maneuverable quadrotor?
posted by Nelson at 10:49 AM on March 10, 2013


Chasing the bison in San Francisco was rather disgusting. Leave the animals alone.
posted by njohnson23 at 10:50 AM on March 10, 2013 [15 favorites]


Toward the end of the Santa Monica one I found myself wondering if the Dude would appear in the air with a bowling ball, or possibly Maude on a flying carpet.
posted by A dead Quaker at 10:53 AM on March 10, 2013


According to the pilot's homepage he uses a Conrad 450 ARF quadcopter, which as you can see in the YouTube video has shielded rotors. So maybe not quite as crazy as it looks.
posted by localroger at 10:57 AM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


From what I can tell he's tight-lipped about his technique.

I swear there's a part in one of the videos where the camera bobs around, looking down on him chilling under a palm tree with the controls, but for the life of me I can't find it.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:11 AM on March 10, 2013


Those were pretty, until he used it to harass a buffalo. Really, it seems like only a matter of time until stalkers and other assholes are using these things for all kinds of shitty hijinks.
posted by Tsuga at 11:11 AM on March 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I swear there's a part in one of the videos where the camera bobs around, looking down on him chilling under a palm tree with the controls, but for the life of me I can't find it.

I think that was someone else's video. It was also Venice if I remember correctly.
posted by dobbs at 11:14 AM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree with njohnson23, leave the damn bison alone. If I'd been there then I would have smashed his gear. In fact, I would have smashed it if it had come anywhere near me. What if it loses power or control over a crowd of people? If it comes down into my yard when I'm in my underpants am I supposed to just smile and wave at it? I get that the footage is "cool", but since when did "cool" trump the rights of ordinary people? We are not your playground.

And why is this cool when some random dude does it but terrorism when the government does?
posted by Fnarf at 11:16 AM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Really, it seems like only a matter of time until stalkers and other assholes are using these things for all kinds of shitty hijinks.

Which is an excellent point when making the case for getting rid of stalkers and other assholes, not quadcopters.
posted by carsonb at 11:25 AM on March 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Fnarf: "And why is this cool when some random dude does it but terrorism when the government does?"

Did I miss the video where this guy killed someone?
posted by brundlefly at 11:27 AM on March 10, 2013


Did I miss the video where this guy killed someone?

No, but you caught the ones where he endangered people. And harassed an animal. All for your amusement.
posted by Fnarf at 11:32 AM on March 10, 2013


I remember what it cost me to hire a helicopter to fly my camerman over the dish telescopes SETI use in West Virginia on a Discovery Channel shoot.......four figures goes out the door fast.

We were at max weight plus a few pounds, and taking off felt more sluggish then I'd have liked

This is an interesting tech revolution, like many, that makes filming cheaper every day, but I agree, its going to bump up hard against various societal inpediments soon.

The other day, a pilot of an airliner on approach to JFK reported a near miss with a drone/rc aircraft at 1400 ft
posted by C.A.S. at 11:32 AM on March 10, 2013


I like the way the Venice Beach vimeo ended. (Spoiler: palm tree: 1; quadcopter 0)
posted by kozad at 11:37 AM on March 10, 2013


Fnarf: "No, but you caught the ones where he endangered people. And harassed an animal. All for your amusement."

That's a very broad definition of "terrorism"
posted by brundlefly at 11:39 AM on March 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm seeing these shots more and more, including the TV show I'm currently editing. Technology is amazing.

He has serious balls if he's flying a $40k quadcopter through a ferris wheel though. I've heard these can be built for as little as $700 but even then I'd be freaking out.
posted by fungible at 11:42 AM on March 10, 2013


Yeah Kozad it doesn't look like Mcintosh has gone undinged in his daring close flybys. I'd guess the copter isn't likely to be hurt much by falling, nor to do much damage with those shielded rotors, but the big risk is losing it entirely in an area where he doesn't have access to retrieve it.

This is an interesting tech in that it has the potential to be both glorious and amazingly annoying, and will probably end up being both. Making it illegal is going to be nearly impossible, except that we will still have to be wary of everyone having their own personal silent cheap untraceable Blue Thunder to spy on us, but without the beautiful publicly posted videos.

Some industrial and agricultural interests are trying very hard to put a clamp on RC photography because secrets they've depended on keeping behind the wall and security fence are way too easily exposed.

If you made even a minimal effort to cover your tracks it would be almost impossible for anyone to trace a rogue copter back to its owner even if it crashed and was recovered by hostile agents. I can think of lots of people who would be willing to risk $1,000 or so in hardware to get shots of things other people don't want them to see.
posted by localroger at 11:44 AM on March 10, 2013


Previously, not a double.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 11:46 AM on March 10, 2013


These are really well done and fun to watch, but mostly they just leave me thinking that I can't wait until Grand Theft Auto V is finally released.
posted by Balonious Assault at 11:53 AM on March 10, 2013


The FAA has already cracked down on drone flights, making it illegal to fly these rigs anywhere in the US for commercial purposes. Amateur flying is still legal, but likely to be regulated at some point. The fines for breaking these rules are huge, too.
posted by klinefelter at 12:00 PM on March 10, 2013


Amazing. It's like watching a flying dream.
posted by banwa at 12:12 PM on March 10, 2013


There's going to be a huge market for toy-scale SAM launchers.
posted by ceribus peribus at 12:18 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


What if it loses power or control over a crowd of people?

Ever drive?
posted by Bovine Love at 12:32 PM on March 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


The manufacture, maintenance, and operation of cars are regulated in ways that hobbyist aerial vehicles aren't...yet.
posted by cribcage at 12:41 PM on March 10, 2013


How noisy are these? Anyway, fairly soon these will be cheep, quiet, tiny and need no radio control, they'll be autonomous, give a simple verbal command "Get me some shots of Susie riding the ferrics wheel and drop the chip at location z". Seems not unrelated to that privacy thread.

Incredible video, I wonder if it could get through a moving Ferris wheel? Must be on great light lens.
posted by sammyo at 12:45 PM on March 10, 2013


Mcintosh is tight-lipped about his exact setup but if I was trying to duplicate his work, I'd have the HD camera self-contained and fly with a lower rez, high wireless framerate camera with a wider field of view. That would allow you to frame shots accurately while deftly avoiding obstacles that aren't visible in the HD view without using a crapload of control bandwidth. You get the HD footage from a SD card when the craft lands.

The whole untraceability thing needs to be reiterated. Every part that goes into a UAV has other legitimate uses. I've seen designs that use motors salvaged from CD and DVD drives. The batteries, control electronics, and comm gear are all bog standard and used for many other things. If you're willing to risk losing a thousand bucks or so in hardware there is nothing to stop you from flying one of these things through the local chemical plant, prison courtyard, illegal drug emporium, factory farm, or whatever. Get shot down and there's huge fines for doing it? Let them try to find you. Sure ossifer I bought some servos, but those were for my RC car.
posted by localroger at 12:58 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Related post I just saw on Hacker News on flying a RC plane back from the edge of space and an older mefi post of some FPV flying in Brazil
posted by Z303 at 1:19 PM on March 10, 2013


Wow Z303 that edge of space return is cool.
posted by localroger at 1:39 PM on March 10, 2013


I'm currently hiding my credit card, very tempted to have a play with all this :)
posted by Z303 at 1:42 PM on March 10, 2013


Bugging the bison was not cool, but as for the rest--never have I wanted to be a bird more.
posted by Savannah at 1:45 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm currently hiding my credit card

Oh I've been itchy like that for a couple of years. Get the price down by another factor of 2 and I'll be in.
posted by localroger at 2:31 PM on March 10, 2013


When Parallax, makers of Basic Stamps and the unusual 8-core Parallax Propeller CPU, decided to make a UAV kit they had a contest in the forums to name it. The fellow who came up with ELEV-8 got a free kit.

How noisy are these?

The electric ones don't have much range -- they can only fly for a few minutes on a charge -- but they are for all practical purposes completely silent.
posted by localroger at 2:35 PM on March 10, 2013


I was surprised to see that no one seemed to take notice, especially on a quiet, early morning.

laconic skeuomorph: "Previously, not a double."

Ah! That's the Venice video I thought I was linking to. You can see him sitting under the tree at 2:20.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:19 PM on March 10, 2013


I think you can see him at the end of the one that begins at the Golden Gate Bridge- he's in the back of the black pickup with the tripod. It's holding his antenna pulling PoV video from a low-res camera on the helicopter. A friend of mine does this with an R/C airplane- he has a headset that puts screens in front of his eyes. He just runs the video through a splitter and records it to an SD card as it comes down. The quality from these is definitely from a second camera recording everything onboard.
posted by BungaDunga at 3:49 PM on March 10, 2013


Bugging the bison was not cool

Certainly, but I've seen some attempts are being made for virtual fences. I think the thing I saw was zapping the poor cattle (although a 2x4 to the head barely registers so a little zap? cows are tough) but a bit of buzzing to keep a herd safe would not seem unreasonable.
posted by sammyo at 3:52 PM on March 10, 2013


I stopped watching at the bison harassment.
posted by uraniumwilly at 4:32 PM on March 10, 2013


Amateur flying is still legal, but likely to be regulated at some point.

It's more than likely. We will be lucky if regulation is all we get. Oregon is moving for a complete ban of all RC aircraft. Other states have some really nasty laws pending as well.

I'm a hobbyist and aviation enthusiast. I am also a huge nerd. I have zero interest in spying on people. I just love things that fly. I fly my models over open areas and avoid flying over people or houses.

But it doesn't matter, chances are that if you put a $40 keychain camera on an RC plane you'll make it illegal or be subject to regulations like having to file a "data collection statement" in triplicate with the feds, and then be subject to lawsuits from "concerned citizens" for taking one video frame of their house from 300 feet up and a half mile away.

I kind of know how gun enthusiasts feel. I have been stocking up on cheap security cams, video transmitters, and GPS autopilots because it's entirely possible that all of it will be prohibited before the year is out. If you want to try FPV, the time is now.

I wouldn't object to some kind of licensing scheme similar to what we have with Amateur Radio. But the hobbyists may be lucky to get even that.

Of course, all the innovation and creativity we are seeing in this hobby will just go underground or move elsewhere - China probably.

I already had to stop talking talking about one of my other hobbies, PC Flight Simulation, which I have been doing since I was 15 years old. After 9/11 all it did was make people think I was some sort of aspiring terrorist and freak them out.

I love machines that fly - this has become a secret shame in a very paranoid America.
posted by smoothvirus at 4:35 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you liked the videos linked here you should watch this one which I think is the best FPV video I've ever seen:

In My Dreams

this is from Team Echelon, seen previously on the blue. It's also exactly the same sort of thing I am aspiring to do and two of the models seen in this video are on my build bench right now.
posted by smoothvirus at 4:46 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Something about a camera moving apparently seamlessly through the air, flying around and through things, reminds me of the 3D flybys you can often find in demoscene productions. It's kinda surreal.
posted by ymgve at 4:52 PM on March 10, 2013


I don't know whether to blast these down with a shotgun when they come near my place or go out and buy one myself. Delightful and scary at the same time.
posted by tommyD at 5:09 PM on March 10, 2013


whether to blast these down with a shotgun when they come near my place or go out and buy one myself

The proper American spirit would advise to do both.
posted by localroger at 6:41 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


klinefelter: "The FAA has already cracked down on drone flights, making it illegal to fly these rigs anywhere in the US for commercial purposes. Amateur flying is still legal, but likely to be regulated at some point. The fines for breaking these rules are huge, too."

In Australia, the current rules set by CASA -- which look set to change soon -- are that if you're using an RC/drone aircraft for commercial purposes you essentially need to have a completely pilot's license. It's actually a license that's a little less difficult to get than a pilot's license, but we're talking thousands of dollars and many hours in training, practice, and study. For recreational purposes, no such requirement.

I'd actually imagined that the FAA would be moving towards something like the CASA requirement, rather than that the Australian model would get less strict like the US model. We're talking about people putting things in the air above all of us, after all. There has got to be some accountability.

I think it'll happen, though, within the next couple of years. Licensure, regulation, applications and fees. And all so we can sock this bison-buzzing dipshit with a fine or loss of license. Which is, given my fondness for bison, worth it!
posted by barnacles at 10:39 PM on March 10, 2013




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