The Drone and the Sequoia – Epilogue

Part I and Part II if you’d like to catch up. This is part III.

Day 5

Grandpoobah (the owner of the cannon) wanted to give it a shot himself, so he came over to Oakland with a more powerful electric pump, supposedly capable of 180 psi. We worked as a team: he held the cannon and aimed it, I pulled the trigger (a two-position gas valve requiring a quick smack). We were getting better with every attempt, but unfortunately the $20 pump from Amazon gave out after eight tries. The smell of burnt plastic signaled its quick demise. At that point I decided to give up on the cannon.

I went to the Arborist subreddit (not to be confused with r/trees) and explained my situation. As luck would have it, a redditor who lives nearby offered to come take a look and maybe climb the tree for me.

Day 6

At 3pm on Monday, I met with Chris at the tree. An arborist by trade, he brought a ton of specific gear for climbing the most challenging trees one could find. Super nice guy, it turned out that he’s also a rock climber who climbs at the same gym as I.

Chris getting ready to climb

The hardest part for him was throwing his arborist weight into the right branch. I was surprised by his technique; he threw the line by hand about as high as we could go with the fancy air cannon. It took him maybe ten attempts to get the line over the branch he wanted to use as an anchor. He then wiggled it until the weight came down on the other side and tied a rope to the end. Pulled the rope over, tested it to make sure the system wouldn’t give out, and proceeded to ascend.

A few minutes later he made it to where princess Garuda was patiently waiting for her hero to rescue her from the maw of the evil Cth… ok enough with this metaphor.

So high

At 4pm on February 13th, 121 hours after getting stuck, the Garuda was finally down on the ground. Chris did not want any compensation for his ascent so I bought him a case of my favorite beer (thanks so much dude!). I wouldn’t ask him to do this again, so I’m staying clear from those trees until I learn the ropes myself.

The Garuda was intact, ready to fly. Not even the props were damaged. The GoPro was still mostly charged. The battery was down to 0.8V, but I carefully nursed it back to health and it flies just fine (believe it or not).

Out of the tree, ready to fly.

And this concludes the epic of the drone and the sequoia. Moral of the story: arborists are great people and drone enthusiasts should be nice to them!

I’d like to say the Garuda lived happily ever after, but a few days later the Great Garuda Fire of 2017 happened (ESC, camera, canopy and motor perished in it). I fixed it up but I’m still waiting for a new canopy to fly it again.

If you enjoyed this series, check this site often for more adventures. In the meantime, find me on Youtube.

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