Flight testing; DJI Air2S drone. Mastershots and Quickshots.

I’ve had the DJI Air2S for a few months now and been very careful about learning its nuances and foibles. I do NOT want a repetition of my Hervey Bay incident with a GoPro Karma, that due to a misleading battery warning system is now at the bottom of Hervey Bay in QLD along with its GoPro 6 and footage of a whale shoot while out with the famed fly fisher and guide, John Haenke.

Consequently, even though I am here in Australind in WA, just north of Bunbury 200km south of Perth where we are almost surrounded by water, forays over the briny have been minimal, and the local dog park has been the go-to place to learn how to fly this wonder of electronics.

So far and so good. No crashes, clipping of trees or other nasties to date. In the process, I have now gained the “feel” of the flying and my only gripe (still) is that with your average smartphone or tablet acting as the viewfinder, the Australian sun just blasts everything into oblivion and you simply have to rely on physically watching the Air2S itself to see where you are and what direction you are heading.

It also makes it difficult to change settings in the DJI Fly app, especially camera settings, but in reality, you can hardly blame DJI for this. I hope to have this fixed sooner rather than later with my design for a sun shade-cum-controller-holder well on the way in Cinema 4D. My major dilemma here is that the Adventurer 3 3D printer I have won’t do the physical size prints I need to do it in one piece, so I am working out how best to fix that via modularising the model before printing.

This will be added to the Lifthor Baldur controller mount I purchased (and I HIGHLY recommend this for the Air2S.

I do have a sunshade for my Samsung A71 phone, but that is out on loan at the moment with my younger brother who is evaluating my DJI Mini 2 with a view to purchase.

But back to the Air2S proper.

In my learning process so far, I now have the hang of the basic controls and the Mastershots Quickshots functions. If you are not aware, Quickshots are pre-programmed actions in the Air2S such as Dronie (the Air2S flies backwards whilst ascending and keeping the camera fixed on the pre-selected subject), Circle (the drone continues to circle a pre-selected object and Rocket (the drone lifts off vertically with the camera pointing straight down). There are another 3 Quickshots – Asteroid, Helix and Boomerang.

Another Mastershot variation is that of Hyperlapse. An example here is Circle whereby the drone flies around a circle with a selected object at the centre and takes photos to create a timelapse video. The interval, duration and speed can all be set by the pilot as well as the direction.

Other Hyperlapse options include Waypoints, Free and Course Lock.

The easiest option and the one I played with yesterday is called Focus Track and its accuracy blew me away.

In simple terms, you take off and let the Air2S hover at around 2 metres. There are 3 possibilities available, Spotlight, Active Track and POI.

In my case I simply drew a square around my image on the screen of my Samsung A71 in the DJI Fly app and instantly the Air2S recognised I was “the subject”.

From that moment onwards, no matter where I went, as long as it could follow it did. Up the street, around the cul-de-sac, back down the street, left into my driveway, walk around in a circle, dodge a tree and then back up the street again and the Air2S faithfully re-oriented itself via direction and height to make sure I was always at the centre of the video being recorded.

It eerily reminded me of the robot in Arthur C Clarke’s “City and The Stars” that followed at the Master’s shoulder no matter what!

Even at different heights, that 4K camera kept its eye on me, and the capability from a technical point of view is very impressive as you can see from the video. Notice in particular the drone’s avoidance of the tree branches as it keeps a safe distance and instantly re-orients itself.

So, this has been a major learning step – and a fun one to boot. My next attempt all being equal, as part of my Fitting Out A Boat For Video Shooting, is to get the Air2S to follow boat at slow speed, and then use the different Mastershot modes to get various types of footage. And of course trust that all goes according to plan, no batteries fail and after the flight, I can safely get the Air2S back on board without incident.

Along with the footage!

My trust is boosted by the fact that in over 2 years of playing with DJI drones (and other products from them such as the OSMO phone gimbal, RONIN dSLR gimbals, not to mention the RoboMaster EP Core robot, I have never had a failure).

And this is not a blatant advertising plug I promise. Simple fact.

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