Category Archives: On Our Doorstep Baldock

DJI Mavic Pro – Review – A drone so stable it appears frozen in time #gadgetroadtrip

I have been flying drones for the last 18 months, specifically DJI drones. It’s no secret that DJI have cornered the drone market from beginner to corporate use. From simply aerial photography to flying cell towers, DJI seem to have it all.

As part of our recent Gadget Man Road Trip from Ness Point to Ardnamurchan, we took along a DJI Mavic Pro and Osmo+, in this review I’m going to be talking about the Mavic Pro.

Click here to buy the Mavic Pro

The first thing you notice immediately upon taking the drone out of it’s box is that it is absolutely tiny! The rotor blades and arms all fold very neatly into themselves, giving it the appearance of a sleeping bat. Nature has almost always proved to be the most efficient designer and it seems that DJI has taken quite many queues when designing the folding mechanism. Having the Mavic fold so gracefully means that it doesn’t take up a great deal of space and setting up is very quick, there’s no need to fixing rotor blades as they come fixed to the craft, so looking for that photographic moment is generally not lost as box to air time is very quick.

The drone is flown using a very neat controller that connects to your mobile device using USB. Aside from using the phone, the controller also displays important information on a LED display which makes read information in bright sunlight very easy. Operation of the drone is achieved via DJI’s own DJI Go4 software or using 3rd parties such as Litchi. It was supremely simple to operate the drone and its incredible stability gives you a very confident edge when flying.

DJI have placed the 4k camera and sensor at the front of the aircraft, doing away with the underslung designs preceding it. By doing this means that even quick acceleration doesn’t cause the rotors to obscure the display which is an all to common problem with most drones. The camera has a clear plastic dome which is easily removed to allow for clearer footage with less glare. The quality of the footage is jaw dropping! We weren’t massively lucky with the weather especially in Scotland, but we were still able to produce some amazing footage all the same, even in grey skies.

The Mavic can take still 12MP photos as well as video and can also be controlled by gestures and there is also a Wi-Fi mode with less features.

Stability wise, the Mavic Pro is awesome. As well as GPS and Glonass stabilisation, the drone also uses down facing stabilisation using additional cameras. By referencing the ground, the drone can hover almost stock-still in the sky, it’s quite unnerving to see. It also packs collision avoidance cameras too which is great when flying near to trees.

Flight times are excellent being more than 25 minutes and the drone is noticeably quieter than other aircraft I have used. Sport mode gives even greater performance and allows you to swoop around the sky with easer.

DJI have included their Geofencing software or NFZ (No fly zone) features on the drone which avoid it being flown in areas that are either illegal or dangerous such as near to airports or stadiums. This is a great inclusion which hopefully will help drones to gain a better reputation in the UK press.

Good drones don’t come cheap and DJI have positioned the Mavic Pro in the higher price bracket, however you are getting an exceedingly good aircraft for the money. I tested the ‘Combo Kit’ which comes with drone, 2 batteries, car charger, 3pin charger, controller, 16GB MicroSD and leather carry case, this comes in at around £1200, however there are deals without the added extras which bring the price under £950.

 

Look out for Black Friday deals which bring the price down even further

Matt Porter

The Gadget Man

 

 

The Gadget Man – Episode 87 – Drones. Should they be licensed?

I was back on air this morning with Mark Murphy and James Hazell to talk about drones and the immense rise in their popularity.

With popularity comes a degree of public worry and a much larger degree of press coverage. Should drones be licensed? Should people need to take a proficiency test to use them? All of this was covered on BBC Radio Suffolk this morning along with interviews with The Civil Aviation Authority and local pilots.

Drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles come in all shapes and sizes and can range in price from £10 to literally thousands. Many of the more expensive semi professional drones have ‘Geo Fencing’ which stops the drones from flying in banned areas or ‘No Fly Zones’.

Of course it is possible to build your own drone. Kits are widely available and many people have built their own drones from scratch using light weight computers such as the Raspberry Pi. In this case, no licensing is going to stop the production of these kinds of drones and increasingly advanced techniques such as GPS ‘way point’ route planning means that the pilot does not need to be in radio contact during the flight and therefore distances of 7km possible before battery charging is necessary.

Currently in the UK, I can’t see how any ‘proficiency’ testing can be brought in being, it would be far too costly and reliant of the purchaser of the drone. Tracking the drones is equally difficult without elaborate (and expensive) tracking transmitter/receivers being added to the drone.

Consequently, it lays with the manufacturers of these devices to ensure that their equipment is safe, easy to use, legal and abides by any global no fly zones.

I will be reviewing the Parrot Bebop 2 camera drone very soon, so stay ‘tuned’.

 

The Gadget Man : Parrot Bebop 2 Drone with “Follow Me Bebop”

I‘ve finished testing the Parrot Bebop 2 camera drone. A fully review is coming up shortly. In the meantime here is a selection of footage I have taken over the last couple of weeks.

Now kids can get back to BASIC with Fuze

FuzeKitShadBack in the 1980’s the UK was a melting pot of computer development, back then you couldn’t visit a friends’ house without seeing a them huddled behind a television slowly tapping out computer programs from magazines on their newly purchased home computers. While the USA basked in the glory of the Apple II and IBM PC, in the UK we had our feet firmly placed on the ground and our wallets closed tight. In the States people were paying $2,500 for their computers, far too much for us in the UK, being much more cautious with our hard earned money! Instead we made our own computers, the amazingly popular Sinclair ZX Spectrum, BBC Model B, Acorn Electron and Dragon 32. All of these were home grown products which took the country by storm for a few short years, much cheaper than the US counterparts at £140 and much more fun, well until the IBM PC was licensed to the likes of Dell, HP and AST and the prices started to tumble to more affordable prices.

BBC Model B
BBC Model B from the 1980’s

During this era of the ‘Home Computer’, a new industries sprung up with them. After weeks and months of typing program listings from magazines, the kids started to understand what was behind the code, how it worked and in most cases, how to improve it. Small ‘Software Houses’ appeared and began selling their games in the back pages of the computer magazines.

The BBC Model B was adopted by schools and immediately the national curriculum included ‘Computer Studies O’Level’. It was now possible to study computer programming, the UK was becoming a hotbed for coding and technology. Following school, students could continue their studies through college and university, it was exciting times for the UK computer industry.

Then suddenly without notice, the curriculum began to change again. The PC had become established in peoples’ homes and work, it seemed like everyone was running Windows and suddenly everything was easier. Instead of learning the basics of coding and programming, pupils were taught how to use Word Processors and Spreadsheets, how to put together school magazines using pre-made layouts and horrific 3d text effects. We had lost our way, we had forgotten how to encourage creativity and instead software was now just tools to build similar looking newsletters and faxes using ‘Wizards’ and animated paperclips.

The_RPi
Raspberry Pi computer with HDMI, Audio, USB and Network connectors

30 years on and quietly ‘Coding’ is back in the curriculum, the country has woken up to it’s lost opportunities and reintroduced the tools to help our children learn to create again. The Raspberry Pi computer was launched in 2012 and brought affordable computers to everyone. At a little under £20, you could buy a fully functioning credit card sized computer that could connect to your HD TV and could be programmed using any available language. It was a good start, but there was something missing.

T2_Hub_CloseThis is where Fuze comes in, by packaging the Raspberry Pi in a useable case (strangely evocative of the BBC Micro from the 80’s) with integrated keyboard and circuit prototyping board, the Fuze is being launched into schools as the ideal platform for Coding in the curriculum. The circuit board that sits on top of the Fuze allows for electronic design and testing that can be directly controlled from the included Fuze Basic programming language.

FUZE_SE_WEB5
A nod to the past is apparent with the Special Edition Fuze case

Included in the package is also a variety of transistors, LED’s and resistors packaged with a Programmers Reference Guide and Quick Start Projects book. Out of the box, it’s everything a budding programmer needs to get themselves on the path to Coding in the 21st Century. Further purchases can buy you a Robot Arm and other interesting projects and of course the system is based on the Raspberry Pi which has a mountain of components already available and the option to try out modern programming languages such as Perl, C++ and PHP.

Electronics_Logo
The Fuze I/O board makes simple prototyping electronics projects simple and safe

The Fuze is housed in a sheet aluminium case which is both durable and safe for young people to use and Fuze have improved upon the Raspberry Pi IO connecters by integrating the FUZE I/O board which greatly simplifies the Raspberry Pi by separating, and clearly labelling, the most common functions (Voltage, Ground, Digital IO and PWM) but goes further with the addition of four analogue in ports and one Out port (as the Raspberry Pi lacks analogue). It all may sound complicated, but in reality it has been designed to be accessible and easy to learn.

The Fuze starts at £69 and is available from a most computer stockists. For more information, visit www.fuze.co.uk.

 

On Our Doorstep – December 2015 – Great Scott! Is that a Hoverboard?

We’re not just on air and online, we’re also in print in this month’s On Our Doorstep, where we talk in depth about the latest so called ‘Hoverboard’ craze. There’s  lots of other interesting articles again this month, so click the link below and dig in.