Learning to Fly (A Drone)

by | Sep 18, 2020

Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.
Leonardo da Vinci

Terasaka Rice Terrace in Saitama Japan

Against my better judgement, I am learning to pilot a drone. The fact that I am all thumbs when operating remote controlled objects or even jumping over barrels to rescue a princess from a giant monkey be damned. When I first watched those high definition Youtube videos soaring over broccoli shaped forests and emerald seas, I saw a glimpse of my future, and it had propellers and a tiny camera.

Although one cannot legally fly a drone over most urban areas in Japan (a fact I only learned after buying the drone), there are no such limitations over most of the Japanese countryside, which is of course more than 90% of the nation. Because my job takes me all over the less-populated places of Japan, perhaps it wasn’t such a terrible impulse investment after all. But I would need to learn to fly it, a task which turned out not to be as simple as I hoped.

One of the interesting things I found out from flying a drone is that my irrational fear of heights somehow translates to flying a drone. Although my feet are firmly planted on the ground, something about the view from 75 meters in the air looking down still causes my stomach to churn. If drone flying isn’t therapy for my fear of heights, perhaps I’m going to have to see a real therapist.

The other issue I am dealing with is that left and right, forward and backward don’t translate very well to my brain when I am in the air. Add up and down to the equation and my flights become a sitcom of navigational errors. Thankfully, modern drones are equipped with all sorts of features that make it difficult to turn your drone into a flaming wreckage. Difficult, but not impossible.

My 4th adventure with my new drone took me over the Terasaka Rice Terraces in Saitama, about an hour’s train ride outside of Tokyo. The rice is in the process of being harvested, making interesting patterns in the organically shaped paddies. I had the skies above the terrace to myself, and I took full advantage, flying for about 30 minutes and practicing simple maneuvers.

The following short video is the fruit of my labor. Enjoy.

 

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