Holy cow, what a night. Phantom 4 beware

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#1
So let me preface this with I wont be doing this again.

I got my new phantom 4 and was so impressed with its distance over my standard. Tonight around midnight, I decided to send it out and really see how far it would go. I launched and off I went. This is where I screwed up. I put it in sport mode thinking I could cover more distance faster. Well I did that, got about 11,600 feet away. Signal started fading and returning home. By this time it was at maybe 40-45% battery and still a ways off. I started to panic and tried to cancel return to home so I could get it in sport mode to come home quicker.

What I didnt account for was that when it returns to home, it comes back at regular slow speed even though you were flying in sport. Battery hits 25% and I really panic, its still like 9000 feet away. I run inside, grab my car keys and haul *** down the road with the remote thinking I could get closer and land it. I got closer and last I saw was 5% battery, 7000 feet away and a height of about 390 feet.

I was in full panic. I thought this thing could drop out of the sky anywhere and at the very least the drone is trashed. I drive around trying to find this little side road where it was last located on the mapping. I knocked on this ladies door and asked if I could use my flashlight to look around her property for it. She was not happy but finally said yes. I looked around, no luck.

This is large tree, farms, residential and wide open areas. I highly doubted Id ever find this. I found another side private road and drove it to the end where this large horse pasture was. I knock at the trailer for the owners and no answer. Then I turn around and see it!! Its beyond the fencing inside with the horses and flashing red in the grass. This was an amazing feeling.

At this point, I think to myself there is no way im going in there and walking without getting permission. Its midnight and I don't want to get shot out here. I call 911 to get an officer to help me locate the owners and give some credibility to me. I then look over and walking with a flashlight and gun is the husband of the first lady I talked too. Oh ****. I tried to yell to him what I was doing but no luck, he was calling 911 too. I knocked at the door of the horse peoples home and out comes another guy with a gun. Totally understandable at night. If it wasnt about to rain and $1400, I wouldnt have been out there.

Cops show up and calm the situation down. I went back there with the owner and got the drone. IT WAS PERFECT. Minor dirt but not damaged one bit!! I have no idea how this is possible since it ran out of battery at 400 feet unless they are programmed to auto land at some point instead of come home.

I owe that guy a beer, apologized again and went home completely relieved. Despite the capabilities of the phantom 4, I wont be doing that again. So warning, if you use sport mode, make sure you have the battery to get home!
 
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#4
I think the warning should be fly within your skill level and the 'copter's limits...
This is my 3rd drone and am a skilled flyer. I underestimated the new sport feature and the drones ability to come back. After watching flight map, when I made the turn to come home I had 77% battery. Felt that was plenty to get home. It wasn't. I screwed up.
 

Meta4

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#6
Minor dirt but not damaged one bit!! I have no idea how this is possible since it ran out of battery at 400 feet unless they are programmed to auto land at some point instead of come home.
If you were designing a Phantom 4 how would you program it to handle a critical low battery situation?
Would you make it just fly until it could fly no more?
For your revision homework, study what happens in a critical low battery situation.
 
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#7
Sport mode shouldn't matter.. It calculates the distance to travel back to the home point.. The only difference is if you flew with a tail wind so on the way back it couldn't fly back at the intended speed as it was flying into a headwind. I fly out far in sports mode all the time and lose connection only to have it return home no problems
 
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#8
If you were designing a Phantom 4 how would you program it to handle a critical low battery situation?
Would you make it just fly until it could fly no more?
For your revision homework, study what happens in a critical low battery situation.
Yep I saw on the flight map it went to landing around 12%. Very smart feature. I'd never been that low before where that has to kick in to land me so didn't know.
 
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#9
Sport mode shouldn't matter.. It calculates the distance to travel back to the home point.. The only difference is if you flew with a tail wind so on the way back it couldn't fly back at the intended speed as it was flying into a headwind. I fly out far in sports mode all the time and lose connection only to have it return home no problems
Maybe that was part of it. Not sure. It didn't even get close to back home with 77% left. Not sure what happened
 
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#10
77% battery would be enough to fly 11,000 feet easy enough unless wind was against you.
But you said 40-45% in first post. That might still get you home but going out anything beyond about 5000 feet needs caution and good awareness of local conditions.
 
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#11
77% battery would be enough to fly 11,000 feet easy enough unless wind was against you.
But you said 40-45% in first post. That might still get you home but going out anything beyond about 5000 feet needs caution and good awareness of local conditions.
Yeah I assumed 45% until I watched the flight mapping.

Another thing I remember is that on the return to home, it was overly slow. Maybe 5mph. I'll have to go watch flight again to see for sure but it was real slow for some reason. I didn't feel wind but maybe up in sky ift was more windy than ground
 
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#13
Atti mode will fly faster than sports mode although it will drift so follow the green line home.

You should have had plenty of battery left at 77%

Was it windy? Was the battery fully charged before flying?

I flew 4.5 km (14,700feet) out which got down to about 58% battery and then there was a slight wind on the way back, now that was scary when I'm over water...got down to 18% when I landed and just made it back.

On the way there it was around 20meters per second then on the way back return to home would only do about 10 meters per second. Sports did about 13-14 meters per second and atti did 16-17 meters per second. That extra few meters per second made all the difference! Man it was scary... I'll never probably do that again that far out.

It worked out I was covering about 1km(3280feet) for every 10% battery drain.

Your so lucky! But you should have easily made it back? Or did you use return to home and then realise you weren't going to make it and then switched to sports at 30or so %?
 
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#17
"...I owe that guy a beer, apologized again and went home completely relieved..."
As a form of good relations and that we sUAS owners are not malicious I say you should buy all the folks a beer and a dinner for the cop.

Good PR is what we need in 2016. Especially for situation like this.
 
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#18
Beyond LOS i only use sport mode to return if i have good signal, I encountered crosswind once on the way return home and its barely making 6Mph due to heavy wind, I switched to Atti mode and dropped altitude, At lower altitude the wind was not so bad but again if flying during night dropping altitude could be disaster as you cant notice if there is any obstacle as it could be too dark
 
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#19
Lesson to us is that dont panic in such situations.

I used to get crazy when such things used to happen but I learned that our first responsibility is to save people from getting hurt over attempts to save our money/ aircraft. If we keep this in mind, we won't panic, we will try to find a safe landing place. It's after all a flying machine and anything can go wrong.
 
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#20
panic, its still like 9000 feet away. I run inside, grab my car keys





I knocked at the door of the horse peoples home and out comes another guy with a gun.

I have no idea how this is possible since it ran out of battery at 400 feet unless they are programmed to auto land at some point instead of come home.
!
This is my 3rd drone and am a skilled flyer. I screwed up.
With all due respect drone50, this does not sound like a post or situation from a "skilled pilot"! You are very lucky though I'll give you that much, I'll also leave you with a piece of advice that I've learned the hard way, always have a couple emergency landing spots mapped out on your route not only when you're flying at night but especially when you're flying at night. When you don't think you're going to be able to make it back ,don't panic and grab car keys and dont leave your home point, just safely use the amount of battery you do have left to make it over to that comfortable emergency landing spot, whether it be open pasture or a parking lot you know nobody's using at the time. Then tilt the camera down and check your radar and slowly hover until it reaches 10% autoland and then guide it down to a safe landing. This way you know exactly where it's at and you know that it had its best chance of auto landing without hitting a tree or an uneven grade, and you know right where to go get it. Now I said wait for the 10% because if you try to take it down when you still have 15 to 20% it may lose signal and try to lift back up and take off towards home point. So wait until it wants to autoland and then let it go safely! Good luck friend
 

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