Article By Guest Author:
The sparse vegetation of Western Mali offers little protection from the sweltering sun. But today in the bush, even if there was cover everyone would still be subjecting themselves to the sun. It’s not everyday a UAV is flying overhead.
A group of kids excitedly giggle and point their necks skyward to catch a glimpse of Event 38’s e384 as it effortlessly glides overhead. I take a quick glance at my ground station before transitioning from pilot to crowd-control in order to clear a spot for the e384 to come in after it’s mission – a mission with a flight time of 60 minutes covering an area of nearly 4 km2 at a resolution of 5 cm/pixel. It’s an impressive performance but this flight time comes at a cost. To be capable of flying for 100 minutes you need a very large wingspan. 1.9 meters to be exact. Before I could perform this mapping in this remote area of Mali, I had to find a way to transport the e384 from the U.S. to West Africa.
The stockcase sold by Event 38 is excellent. Sturdy, customized exactly for the e384, and it comfortably fits all the necessary equipment. It’s a very good option to safely transport the e384. That is unless you need to fly. The total dimensions of the case (55’’ x 13’’ x 13’’) amount to 81’’. A bulky case by any stretch of the imagination that will not only guarantee you oversized baggage fees (typically above 60’’) on all domestic and international airlines but will even exceed the maximum baggage dimensions on some carriers. Delta for instance has maximum baggage dimensions of 80’’.
A second consideration when flying with the e384 arises from the batteries. It is extremely dangerous, and prohibited on all airlines, to have LiPo batteries (especially the powerful 10,000 mAh LiPos used on the e384) in your checked luggage. Rapid changes in temperature or pressure can have disastrous effects on LiPo batteries. Note – before flying with LiPo’s always discharge them to a storage voltage and put them in a LiPo sack.
To travel to Mali I needed a case with the smallest possible dimensions and a means to carry on the LiPo batteries.
Enter the undisputed heavyweight champions of hard case carry, Pelican. After some exhaustive research I settled on a two part Pelican solution to transport the e384.
- A Pelican 1740 Long to hold the e384 and some sharp tools (knife, screwdrivers, etc) that the TSA won’t allow to be carried on. Dimension 44’’x16’’x14’’ = 74’’. Cost $320
- A Pelican 1510 with the 1519 Lid Organizer to hold the batteries, cameras, transmitter and a host of tools. Dimensions 22’’x14’’x9’’ = 45’’. Cost $160 + $25
- Both cases use Pelican’s pluck and play foam to customize the exact fit.
The 1740 Long perfectly fit the e384 with the tail section disassembled. Furthermore the case doesn’t appear as oversized baggage. In a number of flights with this case a quick smile to the airline representative working the check in counter has gotten this case ticketed as normal luggage (that’s a $300 dollar smile). When navigating an airport the wheels and handles on this case make transportation a one man job. Finally it doubles as a great desk for your ground station.
The 1510 is designed to be the maximum FAA carry on size so it will fit in any overhead compartment. The lid organizer holds all of the tools needed for the e384, including the long range telemetry transmitter. The telescoping handle and the addition of wheels making traveling through airports a breeze.
The cost of this setup amounts to $510 USD, which if you’re lucky will pay for itself in the savings from over sized baggage fees from just one round trip flight. Furthermore Pelican cases give you a peace of mind when your e384 is at the mercy of rough baggage handlers in Bamako or long drives in the back of pickup trucks through “roads” in the African Bush.
The e384 is in a class of it’s own when it comes to flight time and ease of use. And with the right cases the e384 and its impressive 1.9m wingspan can efficiently be transported as easy as drones half its size.
Photos by Frank Sedlar and Andrea Amici
Frank Sedlar owns Vela Aerial. He is currently a Fulbright Fellow to Indonesia where he works with the Government of Jakarta and Peta Jakarta to coordinate an urban drone research program. He moonlights as a journalist for Carryology exploring better ways to carry.