Hi everyone! I’m really sorry about the lack of blog posts! Been a long time and there’s a lot to catch up on. I’m in Borneo now, which needs a whole bunch of new posts, but I’ll start from back in Thailand, using the drone too survey the forest plot in Haui Kha Khaeng.
We covered ground much faster than in Khao Chong, as the ground was dry and flat, compared to the deluge down the sometimes actual cliff faces I was used to. We made it to the end of the plot where the trees were supposed to be thinner and I set up the drone.
The canopy was pretty thin, but pioneering arms of lianas leaned out into the space above us, and I could imagine getting tangled in the propellers easily. Still, we’re here, only one thing to do. I showed Komg how to safely hold the drone on the flats of his palms for takeoff and I sent it up.
In the car on the way to the camp the day before, Komg had asked me what was the likelihood of just losing the drone in the forest. I had read about drones sometimes just flying away, taking all the equipment with them and disappearing, this image seemed very real and plagued my thoughts whenever I took it out of the case, thinking that my last rough landing would have dislodged something and introduced a bug into the system. In theory when the drone is almost out of battery, it should fly back to the controller using its GPS. However I had no desire to test this theory for myself, so I had no idea what would happen if it ran out of battery, out of sight and above the dense forest. So what was the likelihood of just losing it here? “Ha- sib/ Ha- sib.” I answered, laughing. 50/50.
“Ha- sib/ Ha-sib!” yelled Komg as it took off over the forest, rising with tinny whine into the air and over us. I gulped and laughed, it was time to be brave and test the limits of my ability with the drone, launch it through tight spots in the canopy and pilot it with limited visibility in between the trees. I sent it on a long sweeping arc over the forest, taking photos and then again in a zig zag to get the whole area.
The sun was really bright and it was hard to spot the drone in the sky, but the little engine made enough noise for us to figure out where it was when I lost it in the air.
After a good, long flight that would I hoped capture as much of the site as I could, I brought it back down, there was no space to actually land it on the ground here, but I had found a soft bush which I would strategically crash into, in theory. I brought it down slowly, seesawing to avoid branches. Finally I brought it until was about eight feet from the ground and let it hover. What I forgot however, was that Ooh was standing behind me, on a large log, I brought the drone up again and set it down on a course much farther away from us, while Ooh stood his ground defiantly against the misdirected robot.
We did a few more flights, and with every one, I kept thinking Hahn- seep/ Hahn- seep. After a good, long flight that would I hoped capture as much of the site as I could, I brought it back down, there was no space to actually land it on the ground here, but I had found a soft bush which I would strategically crash into, in theory. I brought it down slowly, seesawing to avoid branches.
I did one flight taking pictures to map the plot and another to film flying over it, then crash it neatly into the soft undergrowth. While flying it was hard not to get distracted by the forest around me, absolutely fizzing with the sounds of life.
We wandered back to the camp and fired up the computer to see what we had got, my hands drumming against the flaky bench top I was perched on, itching to view the landscape from a perspective seen by no one before us. To top it, the drone was tucked safely between my feet, dusty and defiant having beaten the odds.