Norman in all his wisdom thought it would be a good idea to swim 1 1/2 miles around the Old Man of Stoer to help raise money and awareness for the local RNLI lifeboat in Lochinver. Bare in mind this is Scotland not long after the beast from the east, its not even t-shirt weather yet and hes wanting to go for a dip.
Living on the coast you take it a for granted that if anything goes wrong there will be the RNLI and the Coastguard there to help. The lifeboat in Lochinver covers a massive area of the west coast its not just Lochinver.
After speaking to Norman and the RNLI crew i went up to Lochinver to carry out a site survey of their lifeboat the RNLB JULIAN AND MARGARET LEONARD a Severn class lifeboat.
The main purpose of this was to familiarise myself with the vessel and also to check for any possible issues including interference and where possible to take off and land the Inspire 2. This was going to be a first for me to take off from a boat, I have experienced compass issues when taking off from metal structures. Site survey complete and there was enough space at the Stern of the vessel (there you go i did not say back) and there was no interference between the boat communications and the Inspire 2. Looking at the take off area it was small but it should be adequate to land safely however hand catching the Inspire 2 was the preferred choice, to lower the aircraft to an acceptable level were a member of my crew could safely reach underneath.
A good few nights of taking off and landing practise both landing directly on a small area, smaller than that of what space was on the boat and a lot of practise of bringing in to hand catch, i felt confident enough to carry out the operation safely.
The location of the swim was the Old Man of Stoer, not to be mistaken for the Isle of Skye. Its proximity 20 miles from Lochinver heading up the coast just past Stoer Head lighthouse.
Friday night was spent double checking all my gear making sure everything was charged all the firmware were up to date and ticking off my checklists.
Saturday morning was the drive from Ullapool to Lochinver and meet all of the crew of the day and brief them, loading up the camera gear and getting into my RNLI oil skins (im sure i was called Banana Man). Meeting the still photographs and then heading off for Old Man of Stoer.
I set the DJI Osmo Mobile up and started recording the trip, im still waiting for DJI to release the Ronin S, hurry up please ;-) DJI. The Osmo mobile 2 is pretty damn good for what it is, there were a few issues it could not deal with the wind blast off the sides of the boat but overall it got me a lot of good footage, the biggest issues is the Smartphone and lack of aperture settings.
On approaching the Old Man of Stoer i soon realised that the swell was going to rule out hand catching the drone, as the vessel was stationary the movement was from all directions making it a struggle to stand let alone have one of my crew attempt to hand catch. After accessing the situation i made the decision to fly and to clear the rear of the vessel for landing.
Norman was lowered into the small boat due to the swell and once he was ready we had radio communications to take off.
We had to go at the right time of day allow for the tide, in doing so meant sacrificing where the sun would be, this meant there was a big difference in exposure caused by the shadow from the cliff tops meaning that i would have to try and find somewhere in the middle, not too dark to lose all the detail in the shadow and not to bright to lose it all in the highlights.
All pre flight checks were completed, battery level warnings adjusted to allow longer time to land. Taking off was a full power and going straight out over the water, checking that all controls were working and then getting into position to give the Cox the signal to get Norman into the water.
What was clear straight away was how small and hard it is to spot a human body in the water, even with Norman wearing a yellow swimming cap with the waves crashing he soon became very hard to spot, see the image below.
After filming Norman swimming around the Old Man Of Stoer my low battery warning was just about to kick in before i started to bring the aircraft back to land. Advising the crew to clear the stern of the vessel i brought the Inspire 2 into land.
The vessel at this point was really pitching and i had a few attempts at bringing the aircraft in smoothly and then i committed to landing. The aircraft touched down on the vessel and all was good apart from the motors would not turn off, i was holding down on the left thumb stick as i always do but the motors kept going, this then caused the aircraft to pitch forward every so slightly and a prop made contact and cracked, at that point the motors eventually came to a stop but the prop was damaged. I made the call not to fly the Inspire 2 again until it could be examined on land and tested in a safer environment.
After further investigation the damage to the prop was caused due to the pitching of the boat the aircraft did not think it was firmly on the ground so would not allow the motors to turn off. So for anyone going to be taking off from a boat i would highly recommend the take note that they will have to kill the motors as soon as it touches down as like an emergency procedure.
Here is a link to the short film of the charity swim.
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