Saturday, 10 March 2018

The Monster Hunt Takes on a New Dimension




The hunt for the Loch Ness Monster takes on a new dimension and that dimension is height as I take possession of a DJI Phantom 3 Professional drone. Next month I hope to take this device to the loch and put it through its paces above the loch surface.

Now I say new dimension, but I am not the first to take the hunt to the air. Certainly the honour of using a drone at least goes back to fellow Nessie Hunter, Gordon Holmes, who was testing his drone for Loch Ness two years ago. Gordon tells me that mission did not end well, but the idea itself is sound, and taking his advice onboard, I will press on with my own search this year.

But, of course, the airborne search for Nessie goes back much further than Gordon or myself. Nessie fans will doubtless remember the adventures of Ken Wallis and his autogyro back in 1970 as his services were enlisted by the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau to fly over the loch.




However, the airborne reconnaissance has now been automated with high resolution video feed and various stabilising features which can produce a stream of images superior to anything Ken could have produced. All we need is the Loch Ness Monster to pass just under the surface in full view of the drone with its video camera trained on it.

There are various classes of sighting - the traditional on the water surface scenario, the small subset of monster on land events and the even smaller clutch of encounters underwater. To that we can add the smallest of all - airborne sightings of the creature just below the surface. Indeed, has anyone claimed to have seen the monster just below the water surface from above?

The answer appears to be at most twice. The first comes from Tim Dinsdale's "Loch Ness Monster" where on page 114 we read this: 

... on 7 June 1933 in the newspaper Argus the following statement appeared.

'Sir, having seen in the local press the report of a strange monster in Loch Ness, it might interest you to learn that while flying over that loch last week in the vicinity of Urquhart Castle we beheld in the depths a shape resembling a large alligator, the size of which would be about 25 feet long by four feet wide.'

The second account is found in Constance Whyte's "More Than A Legend" on page 44 where a BBC radio broadcast from 16th October 1954 is recounted:

The witnesses were interviewed for the B.B.C. by Mr Andy Cowan Martin of the Glasgow studios who made personal contribution on the subject of the Monster. This is his story as broadcast.

"Where the strange and the weird are concerned it is a very satisfying thing to meet and have a chat with somebody who has seen what you've seen. But I'd better start at the beginning. It was a day in month of June 'way back in 1939 and I was flying from Kirkwall to Inverness and, just for fun, the pilot said he would take us over Loch Ness and we might see the Monster.

We flew down the loch as far as Fort Augustus and on the way back I actually saw the Monster for about half a minute or so, but by the time I'd yelled to the other people in the 'plane to look where I was pointing and the pilot had brought the 'plane down nearer the surface of the loch the Monster . . . the thing . . . giant eel or whatever it was, had submerged and all that the others could see was a swirl of foam.

Frankly they didn't believe me when I said that for a few seconds I had a clear view of two very prominent sort of humps and a third one that was not so prominent and it looked something like the head of a seal. Ever since then I have got a kick out of reading newspaper stories about other people who've been reported as seeing something like what I saw, but until this week I have never actually met anybody who's seen whatever it is that's been given the name of the Loch Ness Monster."
 
Okay, the second account seems to involve a creature at the surface, but there you have the only two airborne sightings I am aware of. Getting back to the present, preparations will have to be made for this new aspect of my visits to the loch.

Firstly, there are rules regarding the general operation of drones that have to be obeyed pertaining to distance, proximity to others and so on. Secondly, I will have to get practise operating one of these things as it will be over the waters of the loch where operational failure could lead to a watery grave. After all, these things are not waterproof.

Thirdly,  where would be the best part of the loch to fly the drone over? Flying it to the midpoint of the loch may actually violate drone regulations, but I am wondering if near a river mouth may be a good start?

Anyway, as Holmes said to Watson, "The game's afoot!" (sorry, Gordon).


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com





20 comments:

  1. The mouth of the river at Foyers could be s good location �� Good luck...given the price of these things, if you could attach a buoyancy aid onto it, id be thinking seriously about it !!

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    1. Yes, Foyers is a possibility. One company used to offer plastic coating for waterproofing, sounds a bit of a scutter.

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  2. It may complicate things but having the drone operator in a boat on the loch may give better access to areas if the drone needs to be kept in view of the operator .I suppose a flat calm day would be best & a location away from tourists so as not to be constantly answering their questions while trying to concentrate on the job in hand(a boat would help here).Best of luck & looking forward to seeing the results later in the year .

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    1. I will stay on terra firma but I am sure I can find a quiet spot away from (most) tourists.

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  3. Very hi tech, what's the range for controlling the drone, i.e. could you fly it across the loch ?

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    1. The range would be limited by battery power (20+ mins) and by law to 500m (I think).

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  4. I wonder if a hot air balloon, suspended over a shallow area near a food source couldn't be outfitted with a camera (regular and/or infrared) taking a picture every 30 seconds? It would be silent, unlike boats or drones, and the silhouette of an animal should be visible against the light silt. Do a search on the site for the Greta Finlay sighting. There is an aerial photo there that shows such a shallow area - there must be even better place lochside, near river mouths. It would even be a good idea to provide chum or some other food source to try and lure the animal into the shallows to maximize the chances of a photo - how that would be done regularly is another question - some mechanism that release a certain amount of "bait" every 15 minutes or so? Anyway, since the LNM seems to be a side dweller and a predator, it's an idea....

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  5. I'm sure Mr Wallis made quite a racket as he flew over the loch; your drone should be quite a quieter. As for locations, I would fly it over remote areas that cannot be seen from the road or loch side, or even easily accessed by people...

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  6. Great idea! Drones are very loud so keep it as high as you can. Also, I used to work with the Red Bull drone team and the said watching one of their drones lose power and fall into the sea was agonising. So take care and watch that battery life! Good luck.

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    1. Noted, battery power level is monitored, so must not be ignored when it flashes!

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    2. I am reading the drone manual, it has a low battery alert which insists you press the "Return to Home" button which sends the drone back to the GPS position of the user. After 10 seconds it makes its own way back! Hopefully this will solve the ditching problem, but I am not being complacent!

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  7. I'm loving this idea, and can' wait to see the results...does the drone take stills or videos? Myself, I think an interesting area for surveillance might be the edge of Urquhart Bay where Robert Badger had his terrifying encounter...the layby opposite the castle would be quieter than the castle itself, or perhaps by the new lifeboat launch site, if that is permissible. Good luck anyway!

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    1. Up to 4K video and 13 megapixel stills as I recall. Can also stream live video to smart phone attached to remote control to move to areas of interest. Recordable of course. I will concentrate on the south side initially.

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    2. I think the South shoreline of the Loch is a great area to focus on. It is where I would start. Are you able to access the south shore in the horse shoe vicinity? The cliffs are steep in most places I recall but there is where you find wildlife, maybe aquatic animals reside close to that area as well.

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  8. I had an idea a few years ago regarding these. Fitting a lens with a polarising filter (which have to be adjusted correctly to reach maximum efficiency, and therefore this would need to be done prior to take off) helps cut reflections from the surface, allowing one to see deeper. Which of course is relative in Loch Ness. However, some is better than none. Also, with the sun at a good height, you basically have a large torch shining in. The filter is only really effective at right angles to the sun, but it still gives an advantage. I thought of this for Loch Morar given the clarity of the water, but it may still give an advantage to see somewhat below the surface, as far as one could under the circumstances.

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    1. Loch Morar is a good idea. Meantime, the peaty waters will limit visibility, a seiche disk test I think goes down to 16 feet? So the creature would have to be farily close to the surface. But getting a silhouette of something moving would be a major win.

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    2. Certainly would. Lining up the sun on a summers day, where it rises high enough to shine down into the water would increase the chance of a decent shot no end. Not sure if those times are prime for sightings, but however. A top down view would also eliminate misidentification issues caused by wakes, or those reflective waves. One would think. Best of luck with it.

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  9. The gyrocopter photo looks like "Little Nellie" from the 007 film "You Only Live Twice"...

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  10. I would definitely add something as a float device just in case you find the weather suddenly changes and the winds get nasty quickly. Plus you may just get video of something and cant afford to lose your drone. Perhaps you discovery something unexpected, an anomaly in water or on land. Taking your drone to remote Loch areas may lead to something nobody knew about or anticipated.
    A drone would not cast the looming shadow or create loud sound above the Loch, it may be better at spotting objects from the overhead view than we all realize. Practice working and understand your drone just in case Nessie pops up !! It happened to many many people who sure had the ultimate surprise

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  11. Maybe av a word with the lads on royal scot fort augustus! I believe they have sonar contacts now and again and lots in same area!!!....Roy

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