Lost my drone in the Arctic

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In September 2016 I had a nightmare flight in Beechey island, where my drone got completely crazy and did not respond to my commands anymore. I landed in the sea.

I noticed later in the flight log that there was a compass error after I started the flight... the wind carried the drone and there was nothing I could do. For months I thought it was some type of a beginner error, but only today, almost one year later (I asked DJI to at least explain to me what went wrong and if I had any rights of a replacement drone), DJI responded:

"Hi Sir,

Thanks for your patience.

For your claimed case CAS-xxxxxx-xxxxx, we have already finished the analysis, and the result is as follows:
Flight time:2016.09.01 09.22:51(utc+8)
FLY022; Home point:74.7215634, -91.8416966; Last point:74.7154911 -91.7417518;
1.The aircraft was controlled by pilot in gps mode;
2.T=17:26,h=-9m,d=3018.5m,flight record interrupt during Landing by intelligent battery;
3.Compass navigation bias was too large, the aircraft lost control due to environment.The Phantom 4 cannot operate within the polar areas.

According to the analysis, the incident was not caused by any product malfunction factors. As such, we could not provide warranty service.

Should you have more questions, please feel free to let me know.

Best Regards,

DJI Tech Support
http://www.dji.com/"

One of these fine prints you only know it exists when you lose your drone!!!!

Quite frustrating! Plus the horrible feeling to have left "trash" behind (under the sea)

I just wanted to warn you guys... issues really happen!!!
 
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JWH

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Interesting..... Thank you for posting. That possibility would have never entered my mind. I doubt if I will ever travel to the Artic areas. We do go to the Caribbean. I wonder if the same compass errors would occur near the Bermuda Triangle.
 

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One of these fine print you only know it exists when you lose your drone!!!!
Beechey island is almost the closest land to the North Magnetic Pole
A magnetic compass is unreliable that close to the magnetic pole
p47 of the manual says: The Phantom 4 cannot operate within the polar areas.
 
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Ok, I'll plead dumb, but if the P4P flies by GPS coordinates why does it need a compass to make it back to home point? Won't the GPS tell it whether or not it is going the right direction?
 

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Ok, I'll plead dumb, but if the P4P flies by GPS coordinates why does it need a compass to make it back to home point? Won't the GPS tell it whether or not it is going the right direction?
The GPS will give information on what distance and direction to go home but the Phantom needs to know which way it is pointing to be able to adjust course to get home.
The Phantom can fly without GPS but it can't fly without a compass which is needed to tell the Phantom which way it is pointing.
Try to use a compass in that sort of location and it's going to give you unreliable or unusable data.
The flight controller is going to have real problems when the data from the compass and GPS are conflicting.
 
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The GPS will give information on what distance and direction to go home but the Phantom needs to know which way it is pointing to be able to adjust course to get home.
The Phantom can fly without GPS but it can't fly without a compass which is needed to tell the Phantom which way it is pointing.
Try to use a compass in that sort of location and it's going to give you unreliable or unusable data.
The flight controller is going to have real problems when the data from the compass and GPS are conflicting.
Ok, now i'm a little smarter than i was yesterday.
 
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Thanks for your post. I appreciate the problem and I am sorry about your loss. I haven't encountered this yet on the Phantom but I have a Zerotech Dobby which is very sensitive to magnetic interference. I was in the US in May and couldn't easily calibrate the drone due to the geology of the region being mostly iron deposits. I have noticed compass calibration is impossible for the DJI P4 unless you are at least 25 meters away from your car so it may be equally sensitive.

I did experience a problem with my iPhone this winter which just shut off while I was flying making it difficult. It was roughly minus 20C at the time. I did have a propeller spin off at that temperature but luckily my P4 was just landing. I suspect the cold caused some shrinkage of either the prop or the motor. That was a rough day for me. I fixed the iPhone problem with a battery hand warmer I velcro to the RC and phone. That seems to do the trick. But the prop spinoff problem is different and I think the DJI Phantom prop system may be a bit too loose for cold temperatures.

I am planing to build my own quadcopter (more likely a hexacopter) with the a much simpler controller board thus avoiding all the issues of corporate compliance, nanny state, etc. I plan to not have any GPS so I will operate it only under completely manual control. I plan to mount a Xiaomi Yi 360 VR camera to it (in addition to a FPV camera). Maybe something much simpler would work better for you in your circumstances? I am also thinking an RC glider might serve me better for some of this photography work and operate that only in FPV mode. There are many ways to skin a cat. I think for many "extreme" applications a drone like the DJI's are over-simplified to make operation far easier and somewhat safer and that simpler old school designs might be better. But, you must actually pilot it which adds a level of difficulty to it which may be daunting to typical Phantom users who are used to the drone handling a lot of the work. I am equally spoiled so it will be a steep learning curve for me even though I am a licensed pilot with over 2,000 hours as PIC. Flying RC aircraft is a lot more difficult than flying an airplane IMHO.
 
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Thanks for your post. I appreciate the problem and I am sorry about your loss. I haven't encountered this yet on the Phantom but I have a Zerotech Dobby which is very sensitive to magnetic interference. I was in the US in May and couldn't easily calibrate the drone due to the geology of the region being mostly iron deposits. I have noticed compass calibration is impossible for the DJI P4 unless you are at least 25 meters away from your car so it may be equally sensitive.

I did experience a problem with my iPhone this winter which just shut off while I was flying making it difficult. It was roughly minus 20C at the time. I did have a propeller spin off at that temperature but luckily my P4 was just landing. I suspect the cold caused some shrinkage of either the prop or the motor. That was a rough day for me. I fixed the iPhone problem with a battery hand warmer I velcro to the RC and phone. That seems to do the trick. But the prop spinoff problem is different and I think the DJI Phantom prop system may be a bit too loose for cold temperatures.

I am planing to build my own quadcopter (more likely a hexacopter) with the a much simpler controller board thus avoiding all the issues of corporate compliance, nanny state, etc. I plan to not have any GPS so I will operate it only under completely manual control. I plan to mount a Xiaomi Yi 360 VR camera to it (in addition to a FPV camera). Maybe something much simpler would work better for you in your circumstances? I am also thinking an RC glider might serve me better for some of this photography work and operate that only in FPV mode. There are many ways to skin a cat. I think for many "extreme" applications a drone like the DJI's are over-simplified to make operation far easier and somewhat safer and that simpler old school designs might be better. But, you must actually pilot it which adds a level of difficulty to it which may be daunting to typical Phantom users who are used to the drone handling a lot of the work. I am equally spoiled so it will be a steep learning curve for me even though I am a licensed pilot with over 2,000 hours as PIC. Flying RC aircraft is a lot more difficult than flying an airplane IMHO.

I was so glad I'm an experienced old school RC pilot the first time my app crashed, "hmm, guess I' fly back to the box and land" no big deal.
 
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No fine print at all. In very large print on page 47 of DJI Phantom 4 User Manual - Flight Environment Requirements - The Phantom 4 cannot operate within the polar areas. Don't blame DJI for not reading the manual.

Now tell me WHO IS BLAMING DJI??? Show me where I wrote it was DJI’s fault?

I just wrote the post to make people AWARE of the fact, and maybe for those WHO READ, to GET REMINDED AGAIN!

I hope you are not a DJI employee, as this would be a complete turn off to me! I never asked for a refund or blamed DJI. I kindly asked them to analyze my flight data and tell me what happened! It was my 3rd flight EVER!

I hope you read the full manual right at the start and that you NEVER made a mistake to be so judgmental.

Good luck with your drone.
 
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The GPS will give information on what distance and direction to go home but the Phantom needs to know which way it is pointing to be able to adjust course to get home.
The Phantom can fly without GPS but it can't fly without a compass which is needed to tell the Phantom which way it is pointing.
Try to use a compass in that sort of location and it's going to give you unreliable or unusable data.
The flight controller is going to have real problems when the data from the compass and GPS are conflicting.

Perfect explanation.

I have been flying now for over one year and my knowledge is much broader now.

This place needs people like you. Positive, with constructive feedback!!!

Cheers, @droningandmore on Instagram
 
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Now tell me WHO IS BLAMING DJI??? Show me where I wrote it was DJI’s fault?

I just wrote the post to make people AWARE of the fact, and maybe for those WHO READ, to GET REMINDED AGAIN!

I hope you are not a DJI employee, as this would be a complete turn off to me! I never asked for a refund or blamed DJI. I kindly asked them to analyze my flight data and tell me what happened! It was my 3rd flight EVER!

I hope you read the full manual right at the start and that you NEVER made a mistake to be so judgmental.

Good luck with your drone.
Now tell me WHO IS BLAMING DJI??? Show me where I wrote it was DJI’s fault?

I just wrote the post to make people AWARE of the fact, and maybe for those WHO READ, to GET REMINDED AGAIN!

I hope you are not a DJI employee, as this would be a complete turn off to me! I never asked for a refund or blamed DJI. I kindly asked them to analyze my flight data and tell me what happened! It was my 3rd flight EVER!

I hope you read the full manual right at the start and that you NEVER made a mistake to be so judgmental.

Good luck with your drone.
Hey droning, sorry I guess I should have put a :) on my post. Your post caused me read the manual again. You getting your dander up so easily did put a :) on my face . Yes, I've made a few mistakes. I had two P4's did not return home (retrieved both) a P3S that hit brush, flipped upside down but made it home. A P4 Litchi Mission with waypoints set too low. Obstacle Avoidance saved the day and it arrived home 4 1/2 minutes late. Also a couple of minor crashes. Guess we all make mistakes including my post. Another mistake, I should be out flying instead of harassing people on the computer. Happy flying.
 
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Hey droning, sorry I guess I should have put a :) on my post. Your post caused me read the manual again. You getting your dander up so easily did put a :) on my face . Yes, I've made a few mistakes. I had two P4's did not return home (retrieved both) a P3S that hit brush, flipped upside down but made it home. A P4 Litchi Mission with waypoints set too low. Obstacle Avoidance saved the day and it arrived home 4 1/2 minutes late. Also a couple of minor crashes. Guess we all make mistakes including my post. Another mistake, I should be out flying instead of harassing people on the computer. Happy flying.

No worries :). And thank you for the very nice message . Learning from our mistakes makes us better pilots.

Cheers and safe and fun flights
 
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Thanks for your post. I appreciate the problem and I am sorry about your loss. I haven't encountered this yet on the Phantom but I have a Zerotech Dobby which is very sensitive to magnetic interference. I was in the US in May and couldn't easily calibrate the drone due to the geology of the region being mostly iron deposits. I have noticed compass calibration is impossible for the DJI P4 unless you are at least 25 meters away from your car so it may be equally sensitive.

I did experience a problem with my iPhone this winter which just shut off while I was flying making it difficult. It was roughly minus 20C at the time. I did have a propeller spin off at that temperature but luckily my P4 was just landing. I suspect the cold caused some shrinkage of either the prop or the motor. That was a rough day for me. I fixed the iPhone problem with a battery hand warmer I velcro to the RC and phone. That seems to do the trick. But the prop spinoff problem is different and I think the DJI Phantom prop system may be a bit too loose for cold temperatures.

I am planing to build my own quadcopter (more likely a hexacopter) with the a much simpler controller board thus avoiding all the issues of corporate compliance, nanny state, etc. I plan to not have any GPS so I will operate it only under completely manual control. I plan to mount a Xiaomi Yi 360 VR camera to it (in addition to a FPV camera). Maybe something much simpler would work better for you in your circumstances? I am also thinking an RC glider might serve me better for some of this photography work and operate that only in FPV mode. There are many ways to skin a cat. I think for many "extreme" applications a drone like the DJI's are over-simplified to make operation far easier and somewhat safer and that simpler old school designs might be better. But, you must actually pilot it which adds a level of difficulty to it which may be daunting to typical Phantom users who are used to the drone handling a lot of the work. I am equally spoiled so it will be a steep learning curve for me even though I am a licensed pilot with over 2,000 hours as PIC. Flying RC aircraft is a lot more difficult than flying an airplane IMHO.

Have fun with your project! It sounds interesting!!! Cheers, @droningandmore (on Instagram)
 
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Thanks, I am getting closer to doing this. I have ordered a Xiaomi Mijia Sphere 360 Panoramic camera and planning to get a racing drone or alternatively an RC plane for getting 360 videos. I haven't yet decided which is better for me. The price is roughly the same and if one adds Ardupilot (or similar) it adds back the functionality although in polar regions the same problem will exist. Interestingly, I was shooting videos in Tuscany this past week using my Phantom 4 and it acted very strange. It would takeoff and start flying but would halt midair and wouldn't move forward at all. It would fly back to me but it was as if there was a wall I couldn't cross. Rebooting, searching for new firmware etc. failed to resolve the problem. The next day no issue and I could fly Litchi missions as well (although I was keeping a keen eye on location if I had to go and find it). This happened with both the DJI app and Litchi. The Litchi mission were even weirder as I could program it and upload, start the mission and it would just sit there. Interesting problems like this with DJI products seem to be normal. This was also the first chance I had to use the Strobon Cree standalone strobes from Flytron. Wow! I can actually now see the Phantom even 3 miles away in daylight. I recommend these to everyone.STROBON Cree® Standalone - Flytron. I mounted them to small platforms I printed on my 3D printer using velcro tape.DJI Phantom 4 Pro LED leg holder by Rcfiddy1
 
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That is a very good question I think. Heading is not maintain in Atti mode, but maybe compass data is still processed in some extend. Either craft or pilot switching to Atti mode should get out of the issue. Autopilot disengage to regain control should have priority on abnormal data but maybe there was too much abnormal inconsistent data.
 
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Could one who is proficient in ATTI mode take off in such and acheive polar flight success?
The drone was turning like crazy... I was seeing the landing gear constantly, and even the lights. It was completely unstable and this probably has nothing to do with GPS, but the compass which might also have some influence on directions, etc... This is just a guess. I am not an expert...

I would also be curious to find out if I can fly in polar regions in Atti mode....
 
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the problem isn't the Atti or GPS mode, but the compass. At the beginning of the post there is an aswer to your question about Atti mode:

The GPS will give information on what distance and direction to go home but the Phantom needs to know which way it is pointing to be able to adjust course to get home.
The Phantom can fly without GPS but it can't fly without a compass which is needed to tell the Phantom which way it is pointing.
Try to use a compass in that sort of location and it's going to give you unreliable or unusable data.
The flight controller is going to have real problems when the data from the compass and GPS are conflicting.
 

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