Zoom, Zoom, and more Zoom

LA ghost town

LA with no people, from a drone.

With everyone working from home, schooling from home, celebrating from home, and in some cases

mourning from home, Zoom has become a commonly heard word.  Zoom this Zoom that, I typically find myself attending a minimum of 3 Zoom meetings each workday and I think my record is 10 Zoom meetings in one day, but who’s counting because I’ve completely lost track! My mom was supposed to go to Austin, TX for a wedding, but that was changed and was also on Zoom with quite a few folks in virtual attendance.

Last week my aunt Rachel passed away and there was a memorial over the weekend.  (FYI, we don’t know if she had COVID, she was in Williamstown Commons but was not tested as she didn’t meet the criteria.) My mom and I attended her service via Duo, another video app similar to Zoom but made by Google. My brother was nice enough to help out while wearing a mask and social distancing by holding his cellphone for us to see.  We couldn’t hear what the priest was saying as he was so far away, but that was OK.  This was still the safest way for everyone to attend.  We are planning a full memorial for everyone in the family at a later date.

There’s lots of concern for privacy with Zoom, and rightfully so.  Zoom is super easy to use, and that’s it’s main weakness while at the same time being it’s greatest strength.  Here’s an article from the New York Times that explains pretty well.   Some students have reached out to me and the school with concerns ghost me!around using Zoom, but it’s just as safe as Facebook or Instagram or any of those other “free” things  Speaking of those, there’s are some ways to have fun with Zoom.  For example, you can use fun filters like on Instagram or Snapchat by installing this fun program described here on CNET.  I tried it and it works, but it can be a resource hog on your system.

Saturday Night Live had a great skit about and filmed entirely within Zoom from the SNL At Home show this past weekend hosted by Tom Hanks – a COVID survivor.  It’s out there for free on YouTube and here it is for you to enjoy! (Tom Hanks isn’t in the skit sadly, I could have used a cameo from David S Pumpkins!)

There’s many options for staying connected while we all practice social distancing and stay at home.  Now if only the weather would improve so I could fly some drones!

Drones for Social Distancing

With the recent guidelines for social distancing, many folks are struggling for activities to do.  There have been several recent drone videos of major cities, such as San Francisco and Boston, with few to no people in the streets and I’m a big fan of these.

While I really wish I had a nice big drone that can fly far and fast and take 4k video, my trusty Mavic Mini is good enough to get out and fly on most decent days, and yesterday we had one of those.  Wind gusts were topping out at about 25mph, which is a little risky for a drone with a top speed of 30-35mph, but I’ve now got several hours of flight time in and lots of experience with the little Mavic Mini so I took a chance.  I chose my location, the Eugene Moran Wildlife Management Area in Windsor, MA. I did a little research on this area and saw no notes that drones were not allowed and also that most of the wildlife in this area are birds, a hazard I am very familiar with.  For the most part birds stay away, but sometimes if they swarm they can get aggressive or territorial. There was even DPW truck here when I arrived, you can see in the video, and he didn’t seem to have any issues with what I was doing and drove away without issue.  If necessary, I had and always have my FAA certification card on me to show that I know the rules and how to follow them.

The flight went very well, although I did get several high wind warnings the little Mavic Mini performed exactly as expected.  If you see any jerky movements in the video, that’s because I was reacting to the wind.  Here’s the full video for your enjoyment.

I find piloting drones to be exhilarating — it takes a great deal of focus and gives me sweaty palms.  While the actual piloting is not very relaxing, I think the results are very much so. When I’m trying to make relaxing videos I use the Cinematic flight mode which gives super smooth results.  I think that for future flights I will also do a fly through on regular GPS flight mode so the drone moves faster to more get that feeling of flying.

Tattiya, a colleague of mine at BCC, gave me a really good idea too when we were discussing image juxtaposition.  I’m going to program some GPS drone flight paths then go back and fly those paths at different seasons/weather.  Once we get a few we can juxtaposition videos!  More to come!