Performance anxiety

This past week was one of my worst when it comes to stress. I dont know about you, but for me I am driven to succeed in many things. And to succeed, it generally requires top notch performance in all aspects. That I can do and work towards, but the problem is when I’m being watched. Especially for practical components. I actually feel those eyes boring into me and in that moment I lose all grounding; my heart literally goes into panic mode and feels as though it is beating outside my chest; the communication signals from my brain to my hands are severed; my hands become instantly clammy and useless.

When I look at a normal stress day for me, this is kind-of the pattern of what it looks like:

Overall stress level is generally well below the 25 mark and according to Garmin that is a good state of rest, well managed with a pretty constant heart rate.

According to the Garmin algorithms:

  • 0-25 is considered a state of rest
  • 26-50 is considered a state of low stress
  • 51-75 is considered a state of medium stress
  • 76-100 is considered a state of high stress

So why I am sharing this?

Well, this past week was my RPAS practical component. In aviation terminology it is known as a remote pilot aircraft system. In layman’s terms, it is known as a drone.

There are certain legal requirements to attain accreditation by the Civil Aviation Authority. What I didn’t know was that in order to get accredited the drone is required to be flown in Atti-mode (attitude mode named quite appropriately), which means there is no GPS lock for stability and positioning purposes. Any slight breeze or wind will affect the actual position of the drone, causing it to move in direction with the wind, totally out of sync for your specific maneuver that needs to be completed within specified criteria. Orientation becomes critical.

So just to give you an idea of what my body went though, this is what my stress levels looked like this past week…

Monday: Practice

Tuesday: Practice

Wednesday: Practice

(Funny enough on this day I actually mastered most the moves without much wind effect. I felt good afterwards but still maintained high stress levels. You can even see the nice blue lines during my sleep on the right hand side).

Thursday: Practice

Friday: Recommendation for final skills test

Saturday: Final skills test

This was the final skills test day. With only 11 minutes of flight time, stress was very high but at least short lived. I mean just look at how nicely I slept (throughout the afternoon and later that night). My husband even said I had a new snore that sounded like a burp – I called it a snorby – that’s how deep I slept.

Stress is an amazing thing. And sometimes we can’t predict how our bodies will react in certain circumstances, but we can understand how and why and try to manage that, as best we can.

As you have seen, performance anxiety for me is very real and something I need to do a lot of self-talk around, including simple things like wiggling my toes to help ground myself back into reality and bring the focus back. Chewing gum I hear is also an option.

The good news though, is that all this high level stress has actually paid off and I am officially a qualified drone pilot! Ok it sounds pathetic, but hey – look what I went though to get it! Surely that counts for something!

Drone Attack

Have you ever done something that made you feel like an absolute chop? I have, many times and this one was particularly recent.

My husband and I, being avid drone flyers could not resist. Eager to get some sea and beach footage, we were both convinced that we knew better despite the signs (yes, no one is exempt from this!).

As always, the first step is to check the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) app. A rather sophisticated app with predefined settings that will apply the current weather conditions of the area you intend to fly in. One of the many factors would of course be the wind and wind gust factors. Taking all measures into account, this was the result:

Not good to fly!

Convinced we have flown in stronger winds before, we set up taking care to calibrate and set the home point on the landing pad. And up we go.

Almost immediately my gut was unsettled. Not feeling entirely comfortable with my drones’ performance, I decided after a short way out to try fly back to the landing pad, which happened to be directly against the wind. The drone struggled. It made headway but very slowly. Finally, after using the sport mode, it came within reach of the landing pad. The difficulty was to now land the drone against the wind.

Maneuvering for good clearance, a gust of wind came out of nowhere and hit the drone sideways from the sea side, pushing my drone as if it was riding the crest of a wave straight towards a small wooden roof that covered a bench overlooking the sea.

#I am constantly amazed at nature’s intent!

My first reaction was to try turn the drone in the opposite direction. But that meant back into and against the gust. I think my heart stopped for a brief moment. Trying to recover, the propeller hit the roof, with force, causing the front arm to fold in. This meant trying to now recover a three propeller quadcopter, certainly not designed to fly one motor short and not an easy task to say the least. It dived towards me, gaining momentum as gravity played it’s part. It hit my hand then crossed over towards my husband (who was of course hearing my crashing drone and still trying to keep his on a safe flight path). He was indeed a blessing in disguise. If he was not standing where he was I am sure my drone would have gone for a swim.

So yes…after a few propeller slices to his arm, my drone finally came to rest upside down, on the ledge before the drop into a tidal pool.

Ouch!

I guess we learnt a lesson here. Indeed a chop! But maybe to be a little more careful and take heed of the signs, even if it is just wind gusts that could be a problem. All factors must be taken into account. On the other hand, we now know what kind of winds we cannot fly in. So all in all, a good learning experience and the scars to tell the tale!

#love drones… and my husband!