Monday, November 28, 2016

Branching Out

We had a bit of a Charlie Brown crisis yesterday, though in the modern era it's not kite that gets stuck in a tree but a drone. It was a pretty serious dilemma, however, and just goes to show you that you can't get between a boy and his drone. We even called the fire department in a desperate bid to see if they could help - they couldn't, so we were left to our own devices. To be clear, by the time we contacted the firemen and were told it wasn't going to happen, we had already resolved the situation.

N has been really getting into drones and it's pretty crazy stuff, albeit cool crazy stuff. Not only does he like to fly them, but he and his buddy make them from scratch, or close enough to count as making them from scratch. You can buy the components online and then assemble the drones to the specifications that you want. There are many levels of complexity, and the lower levels are surprisingly affordable. The big thing is first person viewing, or FPV. I mistakenly thought this was virtual reality (VR) and earned the scorn of both my kids.

Anyway, with FPV you control the drone, which has a camera, but you can see what's going on in real time while wearing a headset. It's pretty crazy stuff, and depending on the range of your receiver, you could theoretically fly the thing anywhere. The problem you run into is when you are just learning the ropes and can't always fly out of complicated situations. This includes flying your drone into a tree and getting stuck in the branches. This happened yesterday, and N came home in distress because not only was the drone stuck, but the battery was dying, and apparently you don't want the thing to completely run out. They are sensitive things, so time was an issue.

All of us went out to the tree to assess the situation, and it wasn't looking good. It was about 40 feet up there, and climbing the tree was out of the question. I brought my extension ladder and tried to knock it out with a roof rake, but couldn't reach it. We probably could have extended the thing all the way but it was pretty squirrelly resting it against a tree and trying to climb up so high. Mom wasn't having any of it, so we were reduced to trying to dislodge the thing by hitting it with various thrown objects. This included a hockey puck, a football, frisbees, and a soccer ball. If you've ever tried this, you know it isn't easy throwing something straight up into the air, especially high up, and we couldn't get any of these things high enough. We finally tried with tennis balls and a racquet. Using this method we got the height, but as you can imagine, our aim suffered greatly. We toyed with the idea of hiring an arborist to get it.

While A went to see if the fire department could help us, I kept hitting tennis balls straight up in the air and finally one of the balls hit the drone and dislodged it. It immediately occurred to me that the thing was falling and I needed to catch it, so I dropped everything and stuck my hands out to grab the drone, which I did, cutting my hand in the process - the things we do for our kids. N was hugely relieved, and the drone came out pretty much unscathed. Mom and dad were relieved that the drone did not need expensive replacement parts, and dad got to feel like he did something good for once in his life. I love when that happens.

For all it's worth, this is not a unique problem for drone enthusiasts, as you can imagine, and there are plenty of websites dedicated to helping the needy drone owners reclaim their vehicles from trees. You gotta love the internet... sort of.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Amy Duffy for the pic.

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