Commercial Drone Training With The University Of Portsmouth

Commercial Drone Training With The University Of Portsmouth

An additional part to my job role here at The University of Portsmouth sees me manage part of the RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) flights for commercial operations along with colleague, Toby Meredith. Part of this job outlines a responsibility to continually uphold a certain amount of flying hours in order to be allowed by both the university and CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) to fly for commercial businesses and corporations.

So last week, we headed to a field just on the outskirts of Chichester and did just this. 

It was a truly beautiful morning and one that served a great purpose. With the wind speed at less than 3 knots and the sun blazing down over us, it was perfect flying weather. 

As well as being my first outdoor flight with the Faculty of CCI's (Creative and Cultural Industries) RPAS, this was a carefully piloted training exercise to test a few features that have not have been possible in a sports hall. 

The first was to trial the RTH (Return To Home) feature. This acts much like a panic button, something you should hit when something goes wrong or maybe your flight is interrupted. After hitting this button, the drone behaved in a way that was different to what I was expecting. Using it's onboard GPS system, it immediately turns to the direction of the desired landing zone and climbs to 30 meters. It then holds it's position while seeking that the area is fit for landing before slowly descending. After a second attempt of working out what it was doing at 30 meters, we realised that it was in fact, a successful test.

The next feature was to test active tracking which you can see in the below video. The idea here is to have the RPAS in an autonomous state (where it flies itself without human control) but have it track and follow our colleague. While I had the controller in my hand, all of the footage captured and displayed in the below video is of the drone doing all of the work itself, chasing my colleague, Toby. My other RPAS colleague, Martin was the designated observer. 

We also wanted to try presentation to camera while craning away. We wanted to test pulling the drone up and out, a shot you'll commonly find on any outdoor programme that's usually conducted by a large crane or even in some cases, helicopter. 

I tested a track pan shot from left to right that went around the subject. Again, this would be used for a presentation of sorts. The footage was all originally shot in 4k but has been reduced down to 1080p. Due to the shadow of the drone in shot, you would never actually use this shot as it is.

We also tested the sports mode on the DJI Phantom 4 to see how we could push the device to the absolute speed limits and wow, did it pull away. I feature I can't ever see us using in practise, even if it was tremendously fun!

All in all, this was a successful 40 minutes of flight time added to both Martin and my flight records for this quarter of the year. We were very lucky to secure the plot as well as have the beautiful weather we experienced while out and about.

Stay tuned to the blog for further updates on RPAS.


Photos provided by and copyright © 2018 Toby Meredith. The commercial drones operations at The University of Portsmouth are governed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approval of the Operations Manual with approved pilots certified by National Air Traffic Services (NATS) on 18 November 2016. Commercial work provided by the university is not available for external hire at this time.
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