Why *I* Don’t Catch my Drone

Catching a Drone

Recently I was asked “When do you choose to catch your drone vs landing your drone?

Catching a drone in midflight seems to be a badge of honor amongst some drone pilots and the reasoning behind it is baffling. It’s “so easy to do” there are even videos that teach drone operators how to catch their drone.

They have a number of arguments in favor of doing so.

I don’t want to risk my UAV hitting the ground.” “Dirt gets into the props when it’s taking off or landing.” “It looks really cool to people watching, and it shows I’m a pro when I catch my drone.”

On Facebook I once made a comment regarding the safety aspect of drone-catching and was promptly rebuffed with “If you can’t catch your drone, you don’t know how to fly” was the leading theme in the long string of derisive commentary that followed. I *can* catch my drone, just as I *can* play tag with an angry bull in a corral (and have done so).

A previous article entitled “Understanding Turbulence,” discusses how rotors and lee-winds can unpredictably affect UAV/drone flight. A human body is an obstacle to wind and the body is capable of diverting rotor wash or create a sink space. While being able to catch a drone mid-flight is certainly ego-supportive, it simply is unsafe for oneself and bystanders.




Here are a few injuries from around the web, demonstrating a varying degree of injuries by small UAV propellers. Some propellers are nylon-encased plastic. Others are carbon-fiber (CF). CF props are the most dangerous of all as they have no give, and are very sharp on the edges, providing for faster flight and more precise control.

Small drone injury

This is a relatively small cut from a prop, incurred while catching a drone mid-flight. An arrogant UAV operator commented “He didn’t know how to fly.” Perhaps the injured person knows how to fly; an unpredictable wind caught his vehicle and caused it to tilt?

A drone selfie and catch went wrong when the props fell into the sink created by a body obstructing air.


Some people simply don’t learn the first time. There are those that count these scars as “badges of honor.” One might call them scarlet letters of stupidity. This person has experience in cutting himself.

Larger drone injury

With a drone loosely in hand and the motors spinning down,the drone may fall away from or towards the body, catching a bicep or forearm.

Pre-stitch cut

This is a similar injury. The injured man was holding his drone by the landing skids and it “pulled away and then towards him” as the quadcopter attempted to self-balance. Nine stitches later, he regretted catching and holding the vehicle. At least the CF blades made for neat and clean slices.

Drone Stitches

Having a flying Cuisinart at arms-length or less simply isn’t a good idea for a variety of reasons. At arms-length is entirely too close to the face and neck.

A reporter for the Brooklyn Daily was struck by a drone, cutting her nose and chin.


Ultimately, the crew at Mythbusters (they love UAV/Drones and use them in production of their show) did a segment on the potential lethality of drones. Perhaps a bit extreme, one cannot miss their point.

Latin pop-star Enrique Eglasias likely has lost significant sensitivity in his hand due to attempting to catch a UAV during a concert performance. I have little doubt that some UAV operator is reading this blog thinking “That guy is stupid” while justifying why he/she catches their UAV.


I don’t catch my drone because I lack the skill to do so; like most people proficient with a UAV, I can put it precisely where I want it to land.

I don’t catch my drone because I’m averse to injury of myself and others. Safety always precludes “looking cool” or even saving a small cost of operation.

It may look cool to catch a drone and it may even reduce the risk of ingesting dust or dirt particles into a motor, thereby shortening the motor’s life. Perhaps think of it this way; A new motor may cost as much as $50.00. That’s a mere fraction of the cost of a trip to the emergency room and likely significantly less costly than an insurance deductible.

Happy flying!


Douglas Spotted Eagle is an sUAV operator with more than 500 hours of lDSE-droneIconShotogged flight time on various airframe types. He is also a USPA Safety and Training Advisor (at large), and a USPA AFF instructor. Safety is his priority in all aerial endeavors.







Image result for drone crash, buildingAs sUAV/drones become more and more popular, it seems that more and more of them are striking the sides of buildings, trees, or poles without the pilot understanding why.
“It was flying fine and all of a sudden it zipped up and into the side of the building.” “Everything was great until the drone had a mind of its own and flew straight to the ground.”
“The drone was flying over the trees and all of a sudden it spun around and dropped into the trees.”

Reading forum conversations around the internet suggests this is a common, yet unfortunate and avoidable experience.

First, let’s establish that flying in GPS mode may be ineffective when very close to a building. Signal may be lost, and this could explain a few of the building strikes.

However, far and away more likely in most instances the UAV was caught in a “rotor.” These are also known as up/down drafts, lee waves, or cross-winds, depending on which aviation discipline one adheres to. Needless to say, these phenomenon do exist, and play havoc with any sort of aerial activity whether it’s wingsuiting, parasailing, skydiving, model aircraft flight, swooping, small aircraft, and particularly light-weight multirotors.

Image result for wind turbulence map
These “waves” are indicators for manned aviation and construction crews, yet the principle is
only a matter of scale.

Even when a manufacturer provides a statement of stability in “X” winds, this should not fool a pilot into thinking that the sUAS is turbulence-resistant. Given enough turbulence or infrequency of a wave, the UAV will become unstable.

It’s always better to be down here wishing we were up there, instead of being up there wishing we were down here.

The first rule is to set wind limits. Small quad-craft should stay on the ground at windspeeds of greater than 12mph/5.5 meters per second. Hexcopters should consider grounding themselves at 22mph/10meters per second. Of course, this figure may vary depending on your organizations policy and procedures manual, insurance requirements, or payload on the sUAS.

This video provides some demonstration of the cycle of the wave and how a gyro and accelerometer might cope with the cycles. Notice how all the aircraft are “cycling” in an attempt to maintain altitude and position, even as the waves of the wind rotate?

Truly, knowing about them is half the battle. Staying away from them is the rest of it. Failing the former, being able to manage the craft in turbulence is the next-best step.

A building blocks the wind on one side (windward side) and on the opposite side (leeward side) the wind will pay all sorts of havoc with any flying object. Winds will extend in distance up to four times the height of the obstacle, and two times the actual height.

Understanding Turbulence 2

40×4=160 feet. Therefore, for 160’ beyond the obstacle at ground level, your multirotor is at risk for catching either a down draft or an updraft.


OK, say there is a building that is 40 feet in height, and you have a medium wind blowing. Gusting or steady, it makes no difference.

40×4=160 feet. Therefore, for 160’ beyond the obstacle at ground level, your multirotor is at risk for catching either a down draft or an updraft. Either way, the airframe/hull is not in clean air. In extremely high velocities (high winds) the ratio of obstacle/distance may be as great as 15X (of course, a UAS would likely not fly in these winds)!

In terms of height, depending on wind velocity, the UAV may have to climb as high as 80’ to find clean air above an obstacle. yet at 80′ AGL, the winds are likely entirely different as well, depending on the weather and other obstacles in the area.

The air goes over the obstacle and is “pulled” to the ground (downdraft), where it then “bounces” upward (updraft) and tries to resume its level flow.

These phenomena are entirely independent of  sinks,thermal rises, dust devils, and the like.

This also occurs in natural/unbuilt up areas. Trees, canyons, ridges, rock-lines; any large object will incur rotors. Avoid them. It’s virtually impossible to determine exactly where the down draft vs. the updraft may be occurring, and the location of these dirty winds will change with swind velocity.



When wind flows between buildings, the mass of the air/gas is compressed. This results in an increase in velocity. Think of squeezing hard on a tube of toothpaste, compressing the contents through the tiny hole in the end of the tube. This increases the speed/velocity at which the toothpaste squeezes out. The same thing occurs with moving air between buildings or other solid objects.

Depending on the wind speed, the increase may require as much as 4-10 times the distance before the winds return to “normal” velocity seen before the gap or corner.

Image result for Wind
Image courtesy of Rheologic

Ground winds and winds “aloft” (true winds aloft are beyond the reach of most UAS operations) are rarely equal. Winds at 50′ are rarely the same as winds at ground level in an urban or suburban environment.  Even small berms in the ground can cause jarring turbulence (as shown above) that settle in the low areas. These urban “microclimates” can be very problematic for light weight UAS in required-precision environments.


Here is a more complex example of winds blowing at 22mph in an urban environment.

Complex Winds.JPG

complex winds 2

Compression of the flow due to building dynamics push the wind into more than 40mph in some areas. While the overall winds, and reported winds in the area suggest that the windspeed is perfectly acceptable for most commercial aircraft, turbulence and accelerated velocities within tight areas are far beyond the risk limits of most small UAS’.

Flying from warm sands to flying over water on a hot summer day may also create challenges to smooth and level flight.

DUST DEVILSImage result for dust devil

Dust devils are summertime phenomena that can be very dangerous to humans anywhere a UAS may be flying. If they happen in a city, there is usually ample evidence of their existence, as debris flies high in the “funnel.” These nasty actors can show up anywhere there is hot asphalt, sand, dirt, and if that mass of rapidly moving air connects with a cool surface, they can turn violent very quickly, slinging a sUAS far from its intended flight path.
Image result for dust devil Image result for dust devil

Dust devils in the Nevada desert can be frightening, especially when two or three combine into one vortex.

If by chance a dust devil is seen climbing in the distance, prepare to bring the aircraft home and land. If the dust devil is anywhere near the vehicle, climb in altitude while moving in any direction away from the dust devil. They are usually very short-lived.

Image result for dust devilImage courtesy Washington Post

How do we avoid getting caught in turbulent air? The long answer is “experience.” Flying in these challenging spaces teaches us to find the lee, based on the behavior of the UAS, which will always be slightly latent to the wind.
The short answer is to study environments. Look at the wind indicators that might normally be missed.  Learn to read the environment; it’s not hard once one begins to look for the details around buildings, trees, brush, monuments, chimneys, and other ground obstacles.

Two standard practices that may save pilots from troubles;

  • Always use a windmeter/anemometer, and check the winds frequently in midday flights.
  • Have a corporate or personal policy of a hard-deck/stop speed.  This eliminates wishy-washy/should I/shouldn’t I decisions in the field.  Our cap for teaching students with a Hexcopter/Yuneec Typhoon H is 16mph. If a gust crosses 16, we immediately stop, and wait it out to determine the wind trendline.

Another practice (although not standard) is to put a 5′ stream of crepe’ paper on a stick at eye level or so. This WDI, or Wind Direction Indicator, will immediately demonstrate changes in windspeed or direction, both clues that the weather may be rapidly shifting.

Determine distances from obstacles as accurately as possible prior to flight in order to best understand where the rotors will occur.  Doing so goes a long way to maintaining control and safety when the drone is in flight. With a bit of experience, one rarely needs to worry about obstacle turbulence.

Happy flights!




millennials_1Millennials this,  millennials that, “we’re strategizing how we’ll reach millennials this year; they’re vital to our growth. “We’re holding millennial focus groups to better understand ‘these people’ for the future success of our company…” “They are just so hard to reach because they’re fickle, lazy, ignorant, flip-flopping, narcissistic, undependable people.”

Blah blah blah.

Google “Millennials are” and see what comes up. It’s shocking. It makes me wonder if the mystery and myth surrounding millennials are ancient grey-haired once-was marketers that haven’t had an original idea in a decade. Do the people that write these articles truly belief what comes out of their fingertips?


My friends, so-called “Millennials” are first and foremost, people. Millennials truly aren’t  a mystery any more than Van Halen were a mystery to your parents in the 80’s or Nirvana in the 90’s. If you don’t understand the customer, it’s likely that either you’re using age as an excuse, or sloughing off on the job. Either way, the challenge is predominantly between your ears.


If you want to reach this exciting, affluential and influential new crop of clients and customers, start with the basics and lose the social label. Open your ears and mind. Understand that messaging to millennials is messaging to the older customers that you understand.


Yes, the older generation frequently takes their cues from the younger generation; it’s always been so. Except now, it’s even moreso. Older generations pay attention to what millennials are doing in great part, as older generations have seized upon social media as a means of communication and information. Although millennials are moving beyond the standard fare of Facebook and Twitter, they will remain strong influencers over these channels for many years to come.

So how should you speak to this group?

-Start with the Customer. What happens when they evaluate your product next to the competition? Is the product useful? Does it live up to your promises/marketing messaging? This is called “Truth.” Truth and transparency matter to the next generation. More than to any previous generation. This generation is somewhat jaded by comparison.

-Focus on the right segment with your products. Have you clearly defined the segment of the market you want to win? Does your core deliverable benefit young adults? If so, aim to be different, not necessarily better.

-Attract talent to your marketing group. Brand and Category influencers are important, but having people that can communicate with these influencers, having people that understand both the inbound marketing needs but also understand implementation are not necessarily easy to find. Avoid worrying about someone being overqualified for the role; if they’re good, they’re good out of passion and passion will give you more than you bargained for. Including the occasional challenge that comes from stretching your own corporate boundaries.

-Invest in innovation, be nimble with opportunity. Invest in your company by bringing on movers and shakers that make you uncomfortable. Discomfort indicates growth or potential for growth. When the market trends indicate a shift around your core, move with it instead of observing and strategizing. By the time you’ve gathered enough data to create a strategy, the trend will have already again shifted. Social media/inbound marketing trends move fast. Be ready.

-Being nimble doesn’t mean not planning. Plan and then plan more. Rather than planning the details, plan the department, plan the scrum, plan the means in which the organization will respond to shifts in trends.

-Be brief in your messaging. You hated it when your parents or professors went off on long rants about this, that, or the other thing. The popularity of Vine and Twitter (you do know these applications, yes?) are popular is found within their brevity. Brief does not equal “clever.” Brief means short and to the point, which goes to the afore-mentioned transparency. Social media appreciates brevity.

-Offer unique value, and be prepared to sell on the value vs marketing the product. What is the clear, concrete, definable value that puts your product on the leaderboard?

-Be honest. Seemingly too easy when it’s not. Consider a 50 year old man using words like “dude” or “groovy.” Aside from being incongruous, it’s hollow, fake, and underestimating the intelligence of your client or customer.  Messaging that is truthful and transparent transcends hollow messaging that attempts to speak the “millennial language.” Tell and sell the benefits of your offering. Millennials are if nothing else, intelligent and loyal so long as you’re communicating truth. Keep it real in your social media messaging, provide content that demonstrates the differences, solutions, opportunities, experiences, or whatever else your company offers, and you’ll be surprised at the increase in “millennial” engagement.

Keep Trying; TRIAL CLOSES!

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky

Whenever we’re working with a customer, it’s easy to fall into a habit of merely talking about the product, but never actually “trialing” a close, asking a customer their opinion of the feature/benefit you’ve just shown or explained to them.

Trial Closes are our way of “taking the customer’s temperature” as to where we are in the dialogue.

“Will that work for you?”

“Is that an improvement on what you’re doing now?”

“Does that appeal to you?”

“What do you think of this feature?”

“Where would you put this in your studio?”

“Does this do everything you’re asking for?”

“What else do you need it to do?”

“How soon were you thinking of acquiring?”

Ask questions. Ask for opinions. The answers will lead you to preparing the best solution and the best close.


When customers come into your business, they are looking for something. However, in today’s world of constant distraction, it’s rare that their focus is solely on business. They may be annoyed at the bad traffic, they may be thinking about their lunch appointment, or trying to decide if they are really ready to make a purchasing decision today. They may be thinking about the weather. It’s anyone’s guess, but with smartphones, mental multitasking, and daily stress, don’t kid yourself; the client isn’t always thinking about your product, your business, or you.

attentionHow do we get their attention focused on our business, our product, or you (the sales person)?

In the next paragraph, I’m going to introduce you to a friend named SAM. Sam is an attention-hound. He’s a constant multi-purpose tool that offers up varying methods of getting the client’s attention. Sam can be employed in some form or fashion, no matter what the business may be. Sometimes, using more than one of Sam’s methods may be necessary to maintain the client’s attention.

Meet “SAM:”

S-tartling statement
A-sk a question bearing on a need
M-Mystery Question

N-ews/big N-ames
E-hibit or E-xample


Sam is introduced as a way of grabbing someone’s attention. You’ll find that these methods work outside of sales, too!

STARTLING STATEMENT; This is anything you say, that the customer isn’t expecting. Even in today’s modern world, customers still expect to hear “Can I help you?” or some variant.  Instead, try something along the lines of “How’s your golf game today?” or other personal question relevant to the customer. One sales person I worked with years ago would ask “What’s shakin’?” It worked quite well for his type of personality and style.

ASK A QUESTION, BEARING ON A NEED; This could be as simple as “what brings you in today?” or “Did you need an XYZ for your ZYX? (the client may be carrying a product or part).”

MYSTERY QUESTION OR STATEMENT; This was a tactic of door-to-door salespeople back in the day, yet it’s quite effective in web or personal sales. “If you can guess what I’ve got in my hand, I’ll give it to you,” or some semblance of that statement. Websites frequently use mysterious headlines to grab attention, sometimes known as “Click-bait.” Verbal “click-bait” can be effective, when used in the proper context and situation.

COMPLIMENT; The key word to paying a compliment to a client, is to be SINCERE. Pithy, hollow compliments will have the opposite effect, and you’ll lose your client’s focus before the compliment is finished.

REFERRAL; This is a good one from both angles. Either you’ve been referred by a client, or you’ll reference a client to the new person coming in, ie.; “Jim Marshall mentioned you’d be coming in this morning…” The only thing better is when the client meets us and says “Jim Marshall told me you’d be great for my business.

INSULT; Use this technique ever so carefully. Some clients we know well, and playful banter might be terrific. Some clients have personalities that no matter what, even a playful insult may bother them. Know your client, know their business before using trash-talk. Even if you know the client is a sports fan, be sure that they have a sense of humor about their favorite sports team’s losing streak before you bash the team logo on their ballcap.

NEWS/NAMES; Big news or big names, particularly when it’s relevant to your business, is always a good attention-getter. For example, “Did you hear that Trevor Noah is replacing Jon Steward on the Daily Show?” Or more specifically “Did you hear that Howie Mandel’s new show is being captured on common consumer cameras?” would be a good attention-getter for an electronics or imaging firm.

GIFT; Gifts are common attention-getters. Everyone loves a gift, whether it’s simple trade-show swag or something more personal or involved.

EXHIBIT/EXAMPLE; Some manufacturers have products cut in half to show their inner workings, or an example of component integrity. Or, perhaps there is an exhibit of a product being used in an environment. Both work well as conversation-starters and attention-getters.

SERVICE; This is easily the most powerful attention-getter there is. People love service. Frequently, clients or customers will chose service over product quality (depending on the industry). For example, I frequent a restaurant not because the food is amazing, but rather because the waiters all recognize me, refer to me by name, and make me feel incredibly welcome when I walk through their door.

SAM is a great tool for remembering and implementing attention-getting with clients, and getting them focused on our product/sales presentation and how we can best provide solutions to their problems or challenges. Getting their attention is the first step in the sales process.

valueFrequently, customers phone in versus coming into your store, asking for a price quote on a particular item. Too frequently, a salesperson will respond with “We have those for $XXX.XX,” and this ends the conversation. The customer may (and likely will) have further questions, yet we’ve already affixed the price firmly in their mind.

I submit you NEVER END IN PRICE when asked about a price over the phone, in person, or via email!

When someone asks for a price on a product, they’re asking “how much is this going to cost me?”

What we’d like to do is to affix the VALUE of their purchase vs the COST. ROI, or “return on investment” is an indicator of what someone gets for the amount of cost or effort they put into owning or doing something.

VISA keys in on this well with their ads of “PRICELESS.”

A successful man treats his elderly parents to a wonderful vacation, and watches them reliving childhood fun.

  • Business class tickets: $7000.00
  • Luxury car rental: $500
  • Amusement park tickets: $300.00
  • Watching your parents become children again: PRICELESS!

We too, can build this same value, even in a short phone conversation with a customer calling around to get pricing.


Let’s imagine being a photo retailer with a customer calling for a price on a MeFoto RoadTrip tripod.
He asks for a price on the tripod.
We could answer “Those are 199.99.” And that’s what most sales people would do.

However, we can also respond with “We’ve got those on sale for $199.99, and that includes a Cordura carry bag, a mounting shoe, and spike adapters. Would you like me to pull one aside for you?”

Even if it’s a simple thing, such as a price quote on a lens: “The lens is 699.99, and we have it in stock. It comes with the lens cover, carry bag,  and end cap, but does not come with the bulletproof warranty. You’ll probably want that for a lens as nice as this one.”

Three things happen in the above paragraphs.

  • First, we’ve offered a price.
  • Second, we’ve increased the perceived value of the product by highlighting what the customer is getting for the price/cost.
  • Third, we’ve closed them.

roi-awardIt’s quite possible that one of three conversations occur after you’ve quoted a price in this manner.

  • They’ll tell us we’re too high (which then gives us the chance to discuss the price, and/or use the “If I Can” Close.
  • The customer will ask more questions (questions are awesome, they allow us to gather and share more information, making the sale more likely).
  • They’ll simply say “yes.” And then we’re asking when they’ll be in to pick it up, or would they prefer us to ship it to them?

Either way, it’s a win/win when we’re having a dialog with our customers. We can further increase the value by pointing out they’ll likely want a second shoe for a second camera, making it easier to switch cameras. We likely will also have the opportunity to actually sell, vs merely answering a phone and hoping for a sale.


We provide services to many people, every day.
These people have choices. Customers/Clients have more choices today than ever before. That they’ve chosen your company, is reason enough  to be grateful for their patronage and opportunity to serve them.

EVERY invoice should be followed up with a thank you, within 3-4 days.  

We can thank customers for the opportunity they’ve given us to provide a quote. These sorts of “thank yous” should follow within 3-4 days (at most).

We can thank customers for the opportunity to generate an order, and use the opportunity to let them know we’ll be keeping them informed of an order status. Order communications should happen every 5-7 days.

With this in mind, I’d like to offer up some sample templates for email to customers. Of course, we expect each sales person to adapt these templates to each customer/situation for best fit.


“Dear Mrs/Ms/Mr/Dr (use the appropriate name or title), Thank you for your recent purchase of _____________.

I want you to know how much we enjoy serving your imaging needs and consider you a special customer. Of course we appreciate your orders, but we also appreciate the positive lift we get from your visits.
We look forward to the next opportunity to serve you.”


Hi (first name, or appropriate name),
I wanted to congratulate and thank you for your recent purchase of _________________. I’m sure you’re going to be thrilled with the (whatever product you offer) you create with it.  Would you like me to stay in contact with you regarding (hardware updates, software updates, new add-ons) for your _____________?
Thank you for choosing (Company name_!
Hello (Customer), 
Congratulations on your purchase of _________ from  (store name/location). We’re grateful that you chose us as your supplier for your (whatever product you offer) needs. We’re always here to offer advice or information regarding your new _________ or anything else related to creating great images. 
I’ve attached a pdf copy of your invoice for your convenience.


(Customer name),

Thank you for trusting us to be your source for top quality (whatever product you offer)  products in (your location). We appreciate your kind expressions of appreciation, and are especially grateful for the recent purchase of ______________. You’ve chosen a terrific product for __________ and we’re sure you’ll be pleased.

Thank you for choosing (company name) for your (whatever product you offer) needs. We look forward to hearing more your successes with the ___________.

A “thank you” letter sends a message that you are both considerate and professional. This goes a long way to supporting the positive impression you’ve given your customer/client when they’ve purchased or requested a quote/proposal from you or your company.


If possible, address your letter to a specific person
Avoid addressing a thank-you letter just to the company or organization in general.

Be sincere
Would YOU appreciate an insincere “thank you” (or any other communication)?

Make your letter stand out
Be creative. Be specific and include details from the event or experience.

End the letter on a positive note
Closing depends on the type of thank-you letter. For example, you may:
Restate your gratitude, or suggest a possible future opportunity. Perhaps ask if it’s acceptable for you to stay in touch. Remember, asking a question is the best way to assure a response, right?

Close with either an expression of thanks or an indication of your intention to continue contact.