How Not To Fly A Drone Into A Tree

Written by a guy who flew his drone into a tree

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The Tragedy

So I crashed my drone into a tree and stranded it there in the rain, because #skills.

And just like a “frame” in medias res movie that starts at the end and then flashes back to the beginning and explains the lead-up to the tragedy, I shall now take you down memory lane on an exquisite journey of intrepid adventure, aerial stunts, and a colossally epic amount of face palming.  Prepare to:

  1. Read it through, and
  2. Engage SMH mode
  3. Stay tuned, because there's a valuable lesson here at the end.

 

Back to The Beginning

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Christmastime was great.  I got some nice things.  Though I much prefer to give, it is exceptionally awesome to receive the occasional freaking super awesome gift-o-rama.  Not that I am overly specific or controlling as far as what I want, but that is what a vanity URL like www.buyjoshthisgiftnow.com leading directly to my Amazon Wish List is for, right?  Admit it.  You just clicked that link because you wish to purchase something for me.  I respectfully accept.

This year, my wife spoiled me with a new, awesome drone.

When I opened up that package, I was immediately greeted by the glistening sight of a small Pelican case wanna-be.  I knew instantly what it was!  After all, I made the wish list.  My hands trembled as I opened up the case protecting my mostest favoritest gift of all time.

A new, shiny Potensic drone.

I had never had a drone before.  The closest thing I ever had to a drone was a hot dog I taped to another hot dog and then flung up into the air in a helicopter rotor fashion.  I was successful at crashing that one too because I am told that synthetic tubes containing pork entrails are generally not suitable for aerial travel.  Our Labrador Macy enjoyed these unsuccessful test-flights however, because, well, gravity.

But this was a drone, a real drone.

I flew it the day after Christmas, because I have two small children who are spoiled by grandparents that we firmly instruct not to spoil our children, and who acknowledge and respect our wishes by ignoring us and spoiling them.  I do not think I am saying it correctly when I instruct them not to do this.  Anyway, due to said spoiling it took me 24 hours to successfully wade through the mountains of Christmas wrap and already-broken presents just to get outside. (I forgot to tell you: our kids are small and reckless…bonus!)

The crisp winter pine air smelled fit for droning.  So I took it up, and it was beautiful.  Epic.  Serene.  I piloted it all around our 3.88 acres and took some great snapshots and photos.

But something wasn’t right. If you recall, I used to be a wedding videographer.  Being such, I can tell good equipment from bad.  And I already had a DJI Osmo camera that I used at weddings.  In the back of my mind, a seed of envy for those DJI drones began to take root.

In less than 5 hours, I would manage to find my wife buried under that Christmas wrap, and after performing CPR, explain to her that, although she had purchased the correct item from my Wish List, I had in truth selected a substandard item, and was now setting my sights on an even greater prize: The DJI Mavic Air 2 bundle, complete with three 34-minute flight batteries, a carrying case, a micro-SD card, backup rotors, and a free manicure.  I’m kidding.  The manicure was extra.

But still – this was the drone that eats other drones for breakfast. Remind me to schedule my next facial though.

It was time to upgrade.

Buy DJI Mavic Air 2 - DJI Store

So here’s what happened

Drone Crash Story

"Drone Crash Story" by Dave Dugdale is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

Fast forward to Monday the 4th.  I received my new drone a few days later, registered it with the FAA, polished it and flew it over and over again, amazing the neighbors, and that was me on the news that caused that high-altitude fiery helicopter crash "by some unknown drone operator. " I am sorry.

Last Monday, after a bit of a tough and stressful day, I went out to "unwind" a bit with Shaniqua.  Oh! I forgot to tell you I gave her a name.  Anyway, my unwinding regimen typically involves flying Shaniqua six feet above Macy, who repeatedly jumps and barks until she becomes hoarse and sounds like a smoker’s voice box.  I categorize Macy’s activity under the column labeled “uproariously hilarious.”  Macy does not put this activity under any such column, as Shaniqua is not a hot dog, which is both confusing and upsetting to her.  Also Macy does not categorize things.  Also Macy is a dog.

I believe it was the tears in my eyes from such side-splitting laughter which prevented me from seeing clearly, as I proceeded to give my poor canine a break, fly Shaniqua off into our pasture, send her into an unintentional nosedive, veer left…

…and promptly crash her 40’ feet up in a pine tree.

Now, despite the promotional material that swore that Shaniqua comes with obstacle avoidance, she clearly decided to controvert all such marketing promises and lodge herself near some pinecones and birds’ nests.

As you can imagine, I was a bit miffed. Shaniqua was my favorite Christmas present ever. But that Monday, Macy's canine justice was served, because now she was stuck in an evergreen tree on the corner of our property much higher than my ability to hurl my child at her to bring her down.

You see, God blessed me with a healthy dose of acrophobia along with only a 16' ladder and no periscoping tools of any kind.  Along with this, I was reminded that the only thing I am truly skilled at is making macaroni, which does not help in extracting drones from trees.

So, my only recourse was to hurl other things up at Shaniqua in the mad hope that I might bump a branch and send her down into my arms while “Reunited” by Peaches & Herb played slowly in the background.  However, me being me, the baseball bat that I threw up to nudge the drone became stuck, the storage tub lid that I threw up to nudge the bat became stuck, and I do not believe my mailman appreciated my grabbing him and launching him from our trampoline to get my storage lid.  Now we needed to send in someone to get the mailman who went in to get the lid who went in to get the bat who went in to get the drone.  I am confident my tree was laughing at me.

So now?  It was time to call the EXPERTS.

But everyone I called flatly declined. I think one laughed uproariously and hung up.  Fire department said no. This arborist said no. That arborist said no. Contractor friend said no.  In fact, when he asked me how high up my drone was stuck in the tree, the only thing I was able to say was that I would probably need a drone to figure that out.  That did not help us get any nearer our objective of rescuing poor Shaniqua, for now it was starting to rain. I still offered him some macaroni however.

Enter Fire Station 35 in Lacey, who referred me to a cat rescue company.  So I called, down to my last hope that at least someone would be willing to rescue something that:

  1. was beyond the reach of my tippy-toes, and
  2. did not have whiskers

Welp, Tom came to the rescue!  I wasn't expecting anyone until the following day, and was pretty sure that I was going to lose Shaniqua to rain damage. But Tom came over in pitch black at 6pm!  He immediately suited up with what to my mind was 400 pounds of gear, straps, buckles, chains and other things that I am fairly certain are also used by the US military to extract confessions from Middle-Eastern detainees.  He then proceeded to shimmy up the tree like a squirrel. His bushy tail, staccato "chee-chee" noises and mouth loaded with acorns only served as further proof of his rodentia.

I’m also fairly certain that I heard strains of the Indiana Jones theme playing in the background during all of this.

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In the end, Tom rescued Shaniqua, and made me a very happy camper...albeit an incredulous one, because I was blown away grateful that a cat rescuer would come out at oh-dark-thirty to rescue something of mine that definitely purred but was not going to rip up anyone’s couch. Tom is AMAZING. He is an expert in his craft, he was super safe, and now I can fly my beloved Shaniqua again. Thank you Tom!  What a guy.  He said he’d be back in a week or so for the mailman, but that he doesn’t do baseball bats or storage tub lids.  I guess you can’t have everything…where would you put it all?

For me, I dusted off Shaniqua, cleaned her up and did a test flight later that night.  I avoided the pasture.

 

Why It Matters

Blind Spot

"Blind Spot" by Images by John 'K' is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

Why does all of this matter, you ask?  Because it’s my aim to occupy your time reading my blogs while I sneak in and get those auditions you missed.

I jest.  There’s a deeper meaning here, as usual.

Peripheral blindness is a thing.  If you don’t believe me, try driving with two planks of wood nailed into each side of your head, and each plank sticking out at least a foot in front of you.  I am joking.  I just wanted to try out my new power of suggestion skills, and we all could use a good laugh after last year.

A career in voiceovers, like flying a drone, requires a sense of presence.  A sense of really understanding where we are, and navigating with care.  There’s a lot that can go wrong in a VO career:

  • Auditioning for the wrong jobs
  • Selling yourself short
  • Underbidding a colleague
  • Overworking
  • Choosing the wrong branding or logo
  • Bragging
  • Not balancing your work with physical fitness
  • Avoiding coaching
  • Producing your own demos
  • Never giving back to your peers

This is an industry that requires that we maintain an understanding of where we are in the pecking order, where we’re going, and avoiding obstacles that may hurt us and others.

It’s critical that we take time to give an honest assessment of where we’re heading, that we know the pitfalls and obstacles that will ensnare us, and that we take care to properly map our course beforehand.  I think that’s one to grow on, and I was reminded of that this past week.

If you don’t believe me, just ask my mailman.  Careful though, I think he has a bat.

 

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NOTE: This blog is purely for commentary / educational / entertainment purposes.  I make no money from these blogs; though I do not refuse large cash gifts if it means I can pretend I'm a church.

 

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Joshua Alexander
Seattle Voice Actor & Voiceover Talent for hire
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11 thoughts on “How Not To Fly A Drone Into A Tree”

  1. It’s been a decent while since I’ve found somebody’s misfortunes THIS amusing. I loved this story!! And I’m so glad it came with a happy ending – I was getting worried that the mailman was going to be left defenseless in that tree.

  2. Ha! I have a drone, a much less expensive and much less….everything, drone. Mine is distinctly in the “toy” class. I hope someday to have a really nice one that I can risk stranding in a tree. Glad you got yours back. 🙂

  3. I prefer the kind of drone that just works all day and does everything I tell him to, and calls me Queen. 👑

    Also I am very impressed with your ability to turn your drone-crashing story into a voiceover-business lesson! 👍

  4. As always, I have the computer read your posts to me. I scan along, because you have pictures! 🙂 Today there was another gem: “Micro-SD card” = “Micro-South Dakota card”, hehe.

    As for the mailman, Indiana Tom will be back for him – just not the bat – whether it’s hanging upside down asleep or not.

    I think in any artistic career, selling ourselves short is something that we all do to an extent. We have to learn it’s okay to charge for our skills. I think it was your post the other day that asked if what we did has value and the answer is yes! If anyone wants you to do something, regardless of how much, because you are good at it, it has value. Defining how much is the businessy part I still need some edumacation on tbh! 😀
    Reading books on business and leadership to get the right mindset for it. The whole “art has to be free” or “I feel guilty for charging for it” is really not helping!

  5. Hi Joshua,

    First let me say you have readers from France that love your stories. Though English is not my language, I take the liberty to comment byway (so be kind ;o)

    I fly drones (professionally… http://www.philea.tech... and as you may guess, I know everything ;o) and started voice acting recently (so still green … but improving http://www.philea.tech/vox).

    As a ‘drone pro’, I stuck a drone in a tree. Not my fault, trees do attract drones, it’s a well know law of physics)
    But to recover the drone that was ‘wayyy to high’, I searched on the web and built a tool that I called the ‘Bazoooka-drone’ and got it down after my first attempt (… it may be luck, but well…)
    This tool is cheap and was invented by guys that fly bottle-water-rockets and that want to get the captors/cameras back to the earth when their toy is stuck in trees.
    Believe me … it works !!!

    … Now, I’ve got to get back to my auditions, … to just run…

    Phil

    1. See! So you know. Thank you for feeling my pain. By the way, your mailman is still up there too; make sure and bring him food and drink every now and then, or he’s going to start tearing into your packages.

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