Tips for Using AirDog in the Backcountry

March 20, 2017

They say there are no friends on powder days, but trust me - AirDog will be a very good friend to you if you read these tips & tricks below.

During my last backcountry splitboard trip in the Swiss Alps, I learned the hard way that you have to make sure your drone, AirLeash and GoPro batteries haven’t been drained due to a 4–5 hour sub-zero climb to the peak. Because when it comes to shooting and you realize you're out of power, your effort carrying all that stuff up will have been in vain.

Don't Let the Cold Drain Your Batteries

Keep them close to your body heat (inside pockets) or throw a bunch of hand warmers in a smaller bag where you keep your AirDog and GoPro batteries. This way you'll keep 'em warm and secure a longer flight time. I also suggest having external powerbank connected to your AirLeash while it's packed in your bag. Another tip — make sure you check if your GoPro is being charged when connected to the gimbal.

Finding Flat Leveled Surface in Mountains... 

... might be difficult, so I suggest you do the sensor check and the necessary calibrations (both for the drone & gimbal) before going up. But before you do it, leave AirDog & AirLeash outside your car or lodge for 5 minutes (this allows the devices to adjust to the outside temperature), then switch them on and wait for a GPS lock. By default preflight sensor check is required if the ambient temperature changes by some degrees and/or every 8 hours, so if you've done it in the morning you should be fine during the day in the mountains.

Takeoff in Deep Snow & on Slopes

What I usually did was place my board upside down and takeoff from it, or use the board to create a solid surface on the snow. It’s important to make sure LIDAR does not get snow stuck on the lens, so put your mitten under it during takeoff. Some people are using these foldable landing pads.

Photo by Bjarte Knudsen

 

Packing

It is recommended to remove the propellers before you pack AirDog in your backpack, otherwise they might bend, which results in nasty vibrations. Plus this way the drone should take up less space. But if your bag has outside straps, you can probably store it with the propellers on. Always make sure that the gimbal is firmly fixed and will not be damaged. I wrap some clothes around it for safety's sake.

GoPro Lens Fogging Up

Nothing can be worse than blurry footage because of condensation inside the GoPro casing. That happens because of the variance of inside/outside temperatures. To eliminate lens fog, make sure you use some type of moisture absorbing insert: anti fog inserts from GoPro (kit includes 3 sets of anti-fog inserts, and retails at $14.99), cheaper kit from amazon, or use some dirt cheap DIY methods. Another problem is wet snow covering your GoPro lens, you can either apply Rain X water repellent or mount a hydrophobic lens protector.

The Best Shooting Angles

Visibility, lighting and GoPro settings all affect the outcome of your shoot. In this blog post I will share my experience on the best angles. I'll start with the worst angles: 1) right above your head - first of all, you will miss all the beautiful mountain scenery in your shots, secondly, the camera's gimbal balance can be affected by over tilting on its pitch axis which can result in unwanted vibrations; 2) in front of you —slopes from the front look like flat, so probably not very impressive. So what you would want to have instead is to set the distance and altitude far and high enough so the horizon is always visible and place the drone behind you or on one of the sides(always be aware of the surroundings). Behind you will look cool because the viewer can anticipate what's ahead of you. Play with the GoPro lens angle, “wide” usually looks best in mountains, but if you want to appear closer, use the “medium” setting.

Lastly

Always fly using Backcountry mode, but if you choose to use Custom mode, set the landing option to Spot landing, monitor your drone's battery level on AirLeash and when you hear the beeping around the 33% level, press the “come to me” button to have it close by you, you don't want the drone to start landing itself in a crevice or ravine when it reaches a 23% battery level. Although as the last resort you can pause the landing and call it closer to you, but it can not be done when the critical 21% battery level is reached.

Stay safe out there and have fun! Don't forget to add #airdog hashtags whenever you share your footage!

Words: Martins Vilums • Airdog Team

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