How to pilot your drone over a volcano [Video]

Okay, so you might not be planning to take your drone to an active volcano anytime soon. But if it’s in the back of your mind, we have some advice: Listen to Joey Helms.

If you’re a regular, that name might sound familiar. That’s because we featured Joey’s adventures in Iceland a while back. Joey’s the guy who had his DJI FPV taken out by a giant blob of lava, bringing that particular flight to a spectacular end. This is the kind of accident where the “Find My Drone” function won’t do you much good — even if you know exactly where it went down.

But maybe there are ways to avoid such a fiery end? You bet there are.

Flying the volcano

If we were going to ask anyone for advice on flying a volcano, it would be Joey Helms of Chicago. He’s a pretty serious content creator/filmmaker, and he loves the extremes of nature. And, as noted, he’s been to Iceland – and more than once. What landed him on DroneDJ, originally, was this flight: One where his DJI FPV drone was sacrificed to the flames. It’s definitely worth watching, and wincing vicariously:

When we first wrote about that story, it had only a handful of views, but it soon took off (even though his drone could not). As of today, this piece of footage was at more than 1.5M views and had garnered Joey media attention pretty much right around the world.

It definitely made us wonder (as we did earlier), was this crash accidental…or deliberate? That’s between Joey and the volcano, but we do have more to report.

How not to crash into a volcano

While Joey was there, he wisely thought ahead, and he planned a one-of-a-kind tutorial video. Here’s Joey:

Before going out there I was already planning a video ‘tutorial’ of how to fly a drone around a volcano. As I had some flights in I gathered my learnings and then the crash happened. Overall the video concept changed then a little bit and as you can see in the final video and with my updates from home I was not at all expecting it to go viral and completely mainstream around the planet – but I wanted to capture that part of the experience in this video as well.

Tell us, Joey: How many drones were up there?

It highly depended on the time. I was there one morning at around 5 am and I was the absolutely only person at the volcano, which was a magnificent experience. The biggest peak was on Saturday around 10pm, loads of people took a weekend day trip to the volcano and at that rush hour there were hundreds of people on the viewing hill and possibly 10 drones up at any given time. Most of them Mavics, which made it incredibly hard to discern which one is yours. Sidenote: The viewing hill is now engulfed by lava and closed. The situation has changed quite a bit so the footage you will get from now onward will be different.

Cool. Errrr, well maybe the opposite.

The tutorial

Joey’s tutorial video is fun. Not only does it contain some helpful tips, but there’s some really awesome footage in there. Plus, he does a really nice wrap of much of the coverage he received. (Joey, we were really hoping to see our DroneDJ logo in there with our headline, but we’ll let this one slide.) He mentions that some referred to the area as a “drone graveyard.” Any idea how many drones met their end in that molten pool?

I wish there was a counter! I have only heard rumours of ‘dozens and dozens’ of drones. We will never know…unless DJI has a way to report on where the drones disappear. The volcano might be the new Bermuda Triangle.

Interesting.

Let’s see the video!

You’ve got it:

Wait, there’s more!

Joey told us he’d be heading back to Iceland again – his third trip. We asked him the obvious question: Why?

I will be going back for a proper trip to Iceland to explore the highlands that I have barely touched on prior trips to this magnificent island. That trip has been planned for quite some time and while there I will definitely visit the volcano again. But expect a lot of breathtaking drone footage from gorgeous valleys, powerful waterfalls, and moss-covered dormant volcanoes on my channel soon.

We look forward to your next adventures, Joey!

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