Matt Lichtenwalner

Mobile mapper for Ushr - roaming the US and Canada constantly. Maybe a bit of art and/or writing here and there to spice things up.

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I was flying my drone today. It's not all fancy and sexy like the big (really) expensive ones, but it wasn't cheap, it fits my life nicely (it's just slightly larger than a smartphone), and it's been a hell of a lot of fun to play with.

The down side to it being so small is that it's crazy light weight and gets blown about by the lightest of breezes. Still, I took a slight risk. There's been a ton of wind here in TX, and today wasn't terrible. What's more, I was in an are somewhat protected from wind by trees in a wall around me.

It wasn't enough. I was flying for a little bit when a gust of wind came in, slammed my drone head on into a concrete pillar, and she dropped out of the sky and smack dab into the middle of a creek.

What's more, I wasn't able to get to it immediately.

You can picture me running the long way around to scramble through some underbrush and through muck to find... the creek was muddy as hell, so I couldn't see the drone at all.


That's where the bad luck ended. I was able to find her, and eventually recover her.

I pulled the battery as soon as I got it in my greedy hands, but I'm sure the damage was done.

Stopped at Fry's (holy hell do I love that store and wish they had locations on the Right Coast) and picked up a T5 Star Head screwdriver. Which - you know - you can just pick up any ol' time you want when there's a Fry's nearby. Brought the drone back to my hotel and opened her up as much as I could (there's a couple of screws I couldn't get at without breaking the case and causing perminent damage) and she's drying over night.

I'm not really hopeful, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I really want this to work.

In the meantime, here's a little video that Google assembled of some of the footage I previously took:

2/26 '17 5 Comments
Sorry to hear about your drone Matt! Those things are fun.

I went to a big JavaScript conference three years back. They had a break day where you could choose fun activities or beginner tutorial tracks. I went with "nodecopter," in which you program drones in JavaScript.

The drones we were using had cameras on board. Our task was to program them to autonomously take off, have a look around, locate a landing strip visually, and go land there.

Nobody nailed this task, primarily because each drone is a wifi access point unto itself, which is great until there are several of them. Then it's horrible, nobody can communicate with their drone. Would probably have worked much better if the drones had been peers on the wifi (as in, many computers sharing a wifi) rather than trying to be wifi network hubs unto themselves.

But... who cares? Whee, fun with robots!

My little team, which also contained my old friend CJ, did manage some neat tricks including an ASCII art visualization in which you could tell the drone knew the difference between "landing strip-ness" and "boring area-ness." We didn't quite have time to master teaching it to take off and then turn sloowwwwwly and look for that landing strip and nudge forward slowwwwly etc.
That sounds like a seriously cool exercise! Whenever I think of 'coding + doing stuff with visual data' I think of my buddy Wes. Years ago, he worked for a lumber company and developed code to automate "this stack of lumber needs these chemical treatments and that one needs those" based on photos of the ends of the stack of lumber.

I love the idea of 'teaching' a robot based on visual data. (Says the illusrator.)
curious about the term drone. it seems like snoring or dullness, whereas i assume the device drone is pretty awesome stuff and more exciting than estes rockets.
I can't speak to them all, but the one I have is definitely fun. Some sense of flying without actually flying.
Oh man, what a bummer! I hope she dries out and is ok.