One of Air-Vid’s pilots created this FPV flight through an iceberg.
This unique perspective of an iceberg arch is gorgeous. We contacted Benjamin Davis for his first hand account.
Arriving at the scene, it looked amazing, people everywhere, along the shoreline, snapping photos with their DSLR large lense cameras slung around their necks. I looked at Meg and I said to her “I have to fly through that!!” It was big and beautiful with an open arch in the center, almost church door shaped and surrounded by walls of ice. We left shortly after, I thought about it all week and became obsessed with the thought of it. I made it my mission… I have to fly through this before it melts or collapses.
I packed up my truck with the right tool for the job, one of my TBRC (http://www.teambasement-rc.com) 60″ wings and strapped in my original GoPro Hero HD in there, set on 720/60, the goal was not about getting the best quality video, and making it pretty, this mission was just to fly though this thing!!!… It’s go time!
With my wife and newborn daughter Elle packed in the car, we headed out on the road. The weather in St. John’s is not usually conducive to RC flying as there are high coastal winds around cape spear, this day was an exception, Sunny skies and warm. On arrival we met up with my “support team” Mike White (my spotter) , Billy Russell (the ground station attendant/antenna tracker) and Andy Pilgrim (moral support). Also present was their significant others Lee, Diana, and Kristen respectively.
It was windy as heck, as always here in St. John’s, the 3rd windiest city in the world (Google it!!) it was enough that I had to spike down the tripod legs for my ground station and take the servo leads out of the pan tilt for the antenna tracker and got Billy to hold the antenna upright and track the wing around the sky.
I looked out over the ocean at the iceberg, and knowing that I had no retrieval boat my thought was that if I screwed up I probably wasn’t getting it back. I was willing to take the risk, I had a mission, and I’d be mad if i didn’t attempt it.
Once I got a GPS lock/set home and a quick control check it was up in the air, then a quick RTH (return to home) and video link check I lowered the Fatsharks (http://www.fatshark.com) and then onwards and out over the ocean to the iceberg I flew.
It took me what felt like mere seconds to get out over the iceberg as the tailwind-out was strong. Once over the top I dropped down behind the iceberg to get a feel for the video link qualities behind it. Everything was checking out fine so I tear-dropped around and headed for the hole facing into the wind toward the berg, and as you can notice in the video there was the effect of high winds swirling around the iceberg creating mechanical turbulence, so much so I doubted a clean pass and had to pull up and away. I then circled around and tried the approach upwind and heading downwind toward the hole, which on the upwind side was much smoother and no effect of mechanical turbulence just the presence of the strong tailwind pushing me along.
I approached a little to the left side to give me a quick exit angle in case it got turbulent again and had to bail…but to my delight this time it was relatively smooth air and as I approached closer..and lower, I knew at this point I was committed! The berg looked huge and magnificent through the FPV (first person view) cam with the overlaid OSD (on screen display), I was close! Just a little further! And at that point…with a little trickle of melting iceberg water droplets falling around the wing..I penetrated the arch!!
My OSD told me the inside of the hole was 1.4km from home, and as you see once again on the video as soon as I came out the back side of the berg I got slammed again with turbulent air! But I made it through, that’s all that mattered, pulling up and away I thought “I’m getting the heck outta here!!”. I then turned and headed back towards the shoreline into the headwind. A much slower ride home, more time over the ocean, it’d be a shame to not make it home at this point, I had a precious SD card on board!!
It was an intense 10 minutes of flying, concentrating, fingers working hard on the sticks to keep the craft steady, so it was a calming feeling to see my home-point on the shoreline to come into view. With a quick celebratory fly-by I circled to land.
I checked it off the list. I was pumped, and what a blast that was!!!!! I’d love to do it again.. Mike and I had made a plan to do a formation proximity flight through the iceberg a few days later with his TBRC wing and mine, but the arch had collapsed shortly after. So needless to say we didn’t attempt that daring stunt. But, apparently there’s more icebergs on the way down… I’m hoping they have holes in them too!! So we still may have a chance to do that.
Later that evening I sat at home on the couch and posted the video, it was just a quick edit I had made to let the guys around here see, no sound, no music as I had planned to make a nice edited video later when I had the time, longer, with music, and a bit of sound. The next day I was getting emails and texts from friends liking the video and sharing it onwards, one email was from a friend I knew from flying school, a fellow local RC club flyer and member, and a well known person in the RC community, Carl Layden, he said something along the lines of “wow nice video!, I’m going to share it and promote this a bit, do you mind?” Shortly after that email it went a little viral on the internet and It started getting a lot of attention. I’m glad people enjoyed it and were sharing it with others. It gave a birds eye view of what this unique iceberg looked like close up, and also flying though it!!
Needless to say I’m thinking about what to do next, without a doubt there will be more icebergs to be done, most likely with my 3-axis gimbal’d Aerial photo on my DJI (http://www.dji.com Hexacopter) along side the wing. We’ll see. So expect some more videos this season and stay tuned … I’ll be coming to an iceberg near you!! Lol Best Regards and fly safe! Ben ”
Thanks a ton Ben for that “Chilling” account of your adventure!! Looking forward to more from Benjamin Davis. – Air-Vid.com