Up in the air

August 15 – The drone is flying, high up in the clear blue Greenlandic sky.

My feet are planted on solid ground, the drone controller in my hand and a hell lot of mosquitos swirling around my head. The drone is flying and I’m in a state of excitement mixed with some tension. It’s my virgin flight in Greenland as a drone pilot and I have been looking forward to this moment.

I decided to take the MOB (Man over Board) boat into land feeling more confident flying the drone from land this first time instead of from Pâmiut. All the metal on Pâmiut is interfering with the drone compass, which means that we might be forced to do take off by hand instead of from the deck of the ship. A manoeuvre I haven’t practised yet.

We are at the entrance to Gåsefjord, just before ‘Knækket’. It takes about five minutes to sail from Pâmiut to shore. We are five people in the boat. The moment we set foot on the brown rocks the mosquitos are all over us – and none of us even thought of bringing mosquito nets.

Gåsefjord from above

But my focus is not on the mosquitos; my full attention is on the drone. I find a more or less levelled place for take off. Power on the controller – power on the drone – pull sticks down and centre – propellers starts as busy little bees – left stick slowly up…and take off! The drone flies, smooth and steady, up and away we go, high above the massive rocks and the fjord. The drone returns and lands safely and the first footages of this amazing great landscape seen from above are a reality.

For the next hour I fly the drone. At the last flight before the mosquitos are done with their main meal (us) and my four colleagues really don’t want to be here anymore, the screen of the controller experience a sudden blackout. With a black screen and the copter in Atti mode (having no GPS signal) I have to return and land the drone. Fortunately I still have full control and the drone lands safely.

Later in the evening it is time for another session with the drone. This time Pâmiut is at a full stop and with the ship not moving (that much) I get ready for another take off. This improvised mission is to investigate if the drone can be used for searching for the heart rate and acoustic recorders that were placed with suction cups on the three narwhals in Hjørnedal and that since have fallen off. They have to be retrieved to get the logged data. Bogi from the crew signs up for holding the drone at take off and catching it again for landing. That way I can fully concentrate on controlling the drone. Bogi gets ready with a safety helmet and long gloves. We are on the front deck, the drone pointing towards the water, once again the summing sound and the drone flies. A spontaneous and cheerful applause from the crew meets us as Bogi catch the drone returning with videos and great shots of Pâmiut however no sign of the recorders.

Flying the drone from Pâmiut

Next day I shortly tried to fly the drone while the ship was moving. This was a lot more difficult than I have thought and something that requires a lot of practise to master.