Matte’s Blog

A Flight To Remember

It would be interesting to see the vote on a House of Representatives measure to allow all Americans licensed in any state to carry their concealed handguns into the House Chamber.


Well see, knowing that i needed to practice, i took my new drone out into the unoccupied kids’ playground next door so that i could get comfortable with the controls, to practice so that using them became intuitive and that in an emergency i wouldn’t have to waste time thinking about which thumb pressed where did what to the drone’s flight.

But since i’d already flown the drone with exquisite caution a couple of times, what i needed to do this time was start flying it around at a brisk speed and at varying altitudes, being careful of course to keep it always within my line of sight.

I’m still somewhat iffy about use of the DJI Go 4 app, and couldn’t get it to come on properly this time, but actually you can fly the drone without using the app, so i just went ahead and took off manually.

Glorious.  It shot straight up like a rocket, but i immediately brought it back down to about 20 feet and then decided to use both thumbs at once to send it climbing off at a 45 degree angle.  Which it did.  Way too fast.

And in the process of trying to turn it around and bring it back, i somehow managed to fly it down onto the top of the archway at the entrance to my apartment complex.

Oh hell, i thought, this is going to be a quagmire of embarrassment, finding somebody with a ladder long enough to let me get up on top of that arch.  Thinking there might be some neighboring structure abutting the arch on the other side, i walked around there.  Nope.

But then as i turned to go down into the courtyard to look at the other side of the arch, i noticed my drone.  It wasn’t on top of the arch but rather had clipped the edge and fallen flat on its back into the driveway, where it lay unconscious.

I sprang to its side and clutched it to my breast.  Then went into triage mode and found two immediately visible problems.  First, one of the rotor blades had snapped off, broken so that it wouldn’t go back on.  No biggie since replacement blades are cheap. The real problem was that its camera assembly was hanging out by a thread.  Oops.  The rubber stabilizing band that you’re warned to check when you’re unpacking must have slipped off during one of the impacts.  But wait.  I don’t see a band.  And since the camera was OK when i unpacked, i don’t know what the band even looks like.  Nothing on the ground around here that looks like it might be the band.

Hmmm.  Internet to the rescue.  Went looking for images of what the camera assembly was supposed to look like when properly attached and blundered instead onto Magicsky on Montgomery St, authorized DJI sales and repairs.  Yeah, i’m in over my head so might as well just take the drone in to them.  To save face i’ll tell ’em i was making a pass over Ploesti when i was crippled by the flak and limped home on a wing and a prayer.  Ummm, three wings.  Prayer optional.

So yes, we’ll be happy to look at it.  Bring it in.

Good grief.  Breathtakingly handsome store, gleaming glass and chrome with drones displayed like jewelry.  I’m standing there with my pitiful little wounded bird in my hand looking at drones with full meter wingspans.  Maybe i could just trade mine in on an upgrade.  Naw, better wait until i’ve learned how to fly this one.

So they took it in for a diagnosis and called me back the next day with the news that the camera assembly was beyond repair and had to be replaced.

So my flight that covered a distance of less than twenty meters and lasted about a minute ended up costing me $339.  This is going to be a more expensive hobby than i’d imagined.

The good news is that i can pick it up tomorrow and, back to the gingerly approach to flight i was previously taking, learn to fly the thing.  I’m thinking my first foray after i’ve learned will be up the Russian River valley to get better shots of many of those bridges since about half of those that are in the photo essay now shouldn’t have made the cut, but i wanted a pic of every bridge whether it was any good or not.  The pic.

Meanwhile, here’s the butt end or the proud prow, not sure which, of the new Transbay Terminal.  This one is impossible to photograph from the ground since it runs two long blocks southwest, but it would take nerves of steel to fly a drone among all the highrises surrounding it to get a good shot.  I’ll save that for when i’m experienced.

Transbay Terminal

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  1. ckm3
    Posted 7 December 2013 at 09:18 | Permalink

    For most people, what stays in Las Vegas is the money.

    Most excellent turning of the phrase

    • Matte Gray
      Posted 7 December 2013 at 14:26 | Permalink

      Many thanks.

  2. Chimpus_Dorkus
    Posted 21 December 2013 at 19:59 | Permalink

    Ouch. Poor bb, here’s hoping you have some good holidays etc to cheer you up and a speedy recovery.
    Be careful, will ya?!?

    • Matte Gray
      Posted 21 December 2013 at 20:50 | Permalink

      The holidays are most definitely cheerful, the recovery is progressing apace, and the caution level has been dramatically increased.

  3. Posted 24 January 2014 at 12:08 | Permalink

    Thank you for remembering Barry. And for loving him, as I did. I am glad he got to see a loving face before he died. You are right, he wanted to go out on his terms and it was never going to be pretty. Barry, even though he’d be cleaned up, was always disappointed after falling or having a heart attack, being picked up by ambulance, treated and then dumped right back onto the streets… He gave up hope for a place indoors after realizing that even that level of frailty was not enough to deserve housing in this city. he did admit to me he would have preferred to live inside. As you said, he was not crazy. 🙂 Again, thanks for the love and kindness you and others showed him. I know he appreciated it.

    • Matte Gray
      Posted 24 January 2014 at 12:26 | Permalink

      Since i wrote that account i’ve been back to the makeshift shrine several times and have talked with folks who knew him longer than i, people who were also there the afternoon before he died and to whom he also expressed very clearly that he did not want to go to the hospital. Some of the people who knew him better are organizing a little wake for him on the 1st of February, and i’ll post more details here as i learn them. Meanwhile, a useful resource is, with an article on 22 Jan that has extensive comments.

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