P3s Pilot loses courage and becomes afraid of heights

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The morning started out like a typical American morning. I saluted the flag, had breakfast, cursed taxes, runaway inflation, and high fuel prices. Then kissed the neighbors, wife, girlfriend, daughter and dog good bye as I headed to the manager to sell my time for money. Upon returning home flying conditions were perfect, the local hoods hadn't stolen the P3s so decided to take a flight.



I did the preflight checks, calibrated the compass, check if I needed a LAANC cert and was cleared to takeoff. Checked the P3s GPS position, home was updated, looked good so I was good to go. In GPS mode, control mode 2, I hovered at 4 feet for final walk around preflight. The area I fly over is dense swamp 6 foot cattails, so if the P3s goes down there is little chance of recovery. Everything checked , engines were running true and steady RPM, position and altitude was holding.



I increased altitude on my way to 400' for a panorama video. At 50' I noticed the UAV was not responding quite right, so decided to abort. Decreasing the throttle control increased the altitude of the UAV to 150', my efforts to bring it back under control resulted in a uncontrolled spiral descent. Cattails absorbed the crash impact and I was near enough to recover.



The only clue I have to a problem is when I calibrate the remote control in Mode 2 the calibration icon does not correlate with the control lever position, and will not change. Does anyone have a idea if this is a software or remote control failure Im really puzzled. Ill try to attach calibration photos.



I now live in fear of being declared not airworthy by my 2 American Airlines pilot neighbors and becoming a poster child candidate for the anti drone activists.
 

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Never heard of such a P3S taking such a death spiral. I had one simply shut off and drop like a rock right as it arrived from a 6-mile round trip Litchi mission, and I had another P3S embark on a number of uncommanded horizontal spins at the point when low battery RTH kicked in during a flight over a swamp forest, but it eventually pointed in the right direction and made a beeline for home without losing altitude.

Pulling up a chair to read any other more knowledgeable responses to the odd flight behaviors you have described, just in case it happens to my drone at some point.
 
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Thanks for your reply. I've flown 100s of hours in different quad drones probably 15 hours at best in the P3S. Its good to know that isn't a common or expected occurrence. I'm hoping to identify a specific failure to regain confidence in the P3S. The Litchi Mission is very impressive, I just began looking at Litchi flight software.
 
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It must have something to do with your callibrations before the flight. I don't know why it should be done. I almost never do any callibration if everything went well at previous flight. Maybe some interference at the site of callibration? Whithout flight log file everything is only the guessing.
Nice that you got it back.
P3 are very reliable and robust flying devices and you'll be flying high again I'm sure. Just let us see the fly log txt file and maybe somebody can tell why that happened.
 
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Just a guess that it may have been a battery failure. If battery power suddenly dropped to critically low, the Failsafe return may have kicked in and sent it soaring up to the pre-programmed return home altitude. I don't think the RC sticks would have any affect in stopping that from happening. And then possibly the battery completely shorted and lost all power and it fell from the sky. Just a guess based on the OP's description of events.
 
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It must have something to do with your callibrations before the flight. I don't know why it should be done. I almost never do any callibration if everything went well at previous flight. Maybe some interference at the site of callibration? Whithout flight log file everything is only the guessing.
Nice that you got it back.
P3 are very reliable and robust flying devices and you'll be flying high again I'm sure. Just let us see the fly log txt file and maybe somebody can tell why that happened.
Thanks Ill try to learn how to download the flight log. In trying I found Airdata app recoded the flight. I thought it missed this flight, but had the wrong data and altitude. Solving the problem will give me some confidence back, Ive never totally lost control of a UAV in hours of flying.
 
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It must have something to do with your callibrations before the flight. I don't know why it should be done. I almost never do any callibration if everything went well at previous flight. Maybe some interference at the site of callibration? Whithout flight log file everything is only the guessing.
Nice that you got it back.
P3 are very reliable and robust flying devices and you'll be flying high again I'm sure. Just let us see the fly log txt file and maybe somebody can tell why that happened.
Thanks Ill look at the calibrations carefully.
 
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Just a guess that it may have been a battery failure. If battery power suddenly dropped to critically low, the Failsafe return may have kicked in and sent it soaring up to the pre-programmed return home altitude. I don't think the RC sticks would have any affect in stopping that from happening. And then possibly the battery completely shorted and lost all power and it fell from the sky. Just a guess based on the OP's description of events.
Thanks, solid guess Im pulling data from the AirData app. So far the data shows batteries were at 83% when I lost control but the error may have not been detected if it was a non monitored component. Apparently, the flight was doomed when I reached 10' when altitude stopped recording, but I only detected it visually at 50'. A battery failure or something else failing could have triggered RTH which was set at 50m. But Im still trying to figure out why I was not able to bring it under control even in RTH mode. This sort of leads me back to RC unit failure of some sort, because of the discrepancy between control levers and DJIgo calibration icons .
 
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Im still trying to figure out why I was not able to bring it under control even in RTH mode.

I'm not familiar with P3s, but I believe you have to toggle it into ATTI mode for a moment to cancel the RTH and take over control. And that calibration issue is strange.
 
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I'm not familiar with P3s, but I believe you have to toggle it into ATTI mode for a moment to cancel the RTH and take over control. And that calibration issue is strange.
Thanks will give it a look see what mode it was set to. I believe RTC somehow may have kicked in but no record of it activated on Airdata app only that RTH was set to 50m. I was able borrow a P3S RC unit from a drone pilot acquaintance. Ill link it and compare it to my RC unit calibrations. I'm still problem solving and will post results when I see what I have here.
 

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I did the preflight checks, calibrated the compass
There is no need to recalibrate anything before flying.
It can't make anything "better" or safer.
It must have something to do with your callibrations before the flight. I don't know why it should be done. I almost never do any callibration if everything went well at previous flight. Maybe some interference at the site of callibration?
Why would you suggest that?
There's nothing about calibrating the compass that would or could cause the issue as described.
 
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A battery failure or something else failing could have triggered RTH which was set at 50m. But Im still trying to figure out why I was not able to bring it under control even in RTH mode. This sort of leads me back to RC unit failure of some sort, because of the discrepancy between control levers and DJIgo calibration icons .
This had nothing to do with calibrating, battery or interference.
Instead of guessing, the recorded flight data is the place to look for clues.

Either post a link to your Airdata summary (make sure you tick the share box).
Or
Go to DJI Flight Log Viewer | Phantom Help
Follow the instructions there to upload your flight record from your phone or tablet.
That will give you a detailed report on the flight data.
Come back and post a link to the report it provides
Or just post the .txt file.
 
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There is no need to recalibrate anything before flying.
It can't make anything "better" or safer.

Why would you suggest that?
There's nothing about calibrating the compass that would or could cause the issue as described.
Thanks, good to know, I probably calibrate the compass with a 360 later and horizontal turn before flying because I head it somewhere and just don't know any better yet.
 
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This had nothing to do with calibrating, battery or interference.
Instead of guessing, the recorded flight data is the place to look for clues.

Either post a link to your Airdata summary (make sure you tick the share box).
Or
Go to DJI Flight Log Viewer | Phantom Help
Follow the instructions there to upload your flight record from your phone or tablet.
That will give you a detailed report on the flight data.
Come back and post a link to the report it provides
Or just post the .txt file.
Thanks,I downloaded the flight log Ill examine it closer later. Very nice, Geo Player shows visual of the flight path behind the garage, an odd look up toward the house I dont understand. Im finding some interesting information on Airdata but trying to get it to export. As I saw the P3S bucking at 50' (tree top level here) there were 2 alerts set. When I learn to extract them Ill post. When I learn to extract Ill post.
 

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Meta4

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Thanks,I downloaded the flight log Ill examine it closer later. Very nice, Geo Player shows visual of the flight path behind the garage, an odd look up toward the house I dont understand. Im finding some interesting information on Airdata but trying to get it to export. As I saw the P3S bucking at 50' (tree top level here) there were 2 alerts set. When I learn to extract them Ill post. When I learn to extract Ill post.
I can't make sense of that flight data.
The data is quite scrambled and shows no height above 10 ft.
There are joystick input numbers that are 6 x the maximum possible and values in other fields that are obviously completely wrong.
There's no indication that RTH was ever initiated.

But if your drone spirals to the ground, the only possible cause is loss of either a prop or a motor.
Calibration or mis-calibration of a compass cannot cause that.
Interference or battery failure can't cause that and there's no indication of any battery problem.

Given the number of problems showing in the flight and the flight data, I'd write the drone off as unworthy, get a more modern model and start again.
 
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I took the P3S for a test flight tonight only 20' but I was in total control of the UAV at all times. From what I have seen so far I feel the failed flight was the result of 3 things, a failed remote, pilot was overconfident in his ability to manually take control of the situation without first taking time to learn and explore options, and not having a emergency plan in place.

Remote Control: In the RC calibration physical controls must respond to 100% on the DJIGo app Icon especially if any control issue is noticed. The original RC unit failed I can't tell if it as a hardware or software failure. Calibration icons do not correspond to the control levers position, I'm unable to change that. The only manual control I had was up, there was no down control, when the throttle lever is in down position the calibration icons shows throttle up. I didnt want to turn the RC control off or initiate RTH because I was recently flying at the Sycuan reservation and RTH was set to 300' because of terrain, I couldn't remember if I lowered it. My decision was rather than send a troubled flight higher try to bring it in manually.

Pilot: Ever since I was working at Ryan Aeronautical and GD, I have been fascinated by drones potential for emergency search and rescue. I was in awe at the USAF engineer's guidance and plans of how the William Tell Competition UAVs were flown at a USAF base thousands of miles away. I never really thought I would have the opportunity to fly a UAV/civilian UAS. I've flown several UAS drones in the harshest conditions I could find to see their limitations and how they respond to high winds and gusts, conditions typical in search and rescue. When the RC unit failed, I was overconfident in my ability to maintain controlled flight, I took manual control. When the RC unit failed my over confidence likely contributed to a failed flight almost loss of my P3S, or worse damage or injury in a more densely populated setting.

Emergency Plan: Every emergency is different. I my situation I saw the P3s waffle and jerk at 50'. Since there was no immediate threat, I should have taken the time to learn. Maybe feather the controls to see what was responding and what wasn't maybe even explore my RTH height setting, to better educate myself to handle the unique situation. My gut instinct was to take manual control, but I had no clue what the controls were doing without first educating myself,

Pray allot: I believe the devil possessed my RC controller because I was thinking evil thoughts. I was picturing flying over a nude beach during cheer leader practice with my video cam running full bore.

Thanks for all your help, Im going to gradually regain confidence in my P3S. But many moons will come and go before can relax and hover at 400' looking for the perfect sunset photos or fly out over the lake in high winds again.
 

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Emergency Plan: Every emergency is different. I my situation I saw the P3s waffle and jerk at 50'. Since there was no immediate threat, I should have taken the time to learn. Maybe feather the controls to see what was responding and what wasn't maybe even explore my RTH height setting, to better educate myself to handle the unique situation. My gut instinct was to take manual control, but I had no clue what the controls were doing without first educating myself,
It's hard to match any of that with your description of the previous incident or the sketchy data from that flight.
Drone flying should be simple and easy, if you take your hands off the controls, the drone just sits there waiting for you to resume control.
If the drone is functioning normally, a seven year old can manage basic flight with only a couple of minutes instruction.

That your drone was reporting altitude incorrectly suggests a potentially serious issue.
If you want to keep flying it, post the txt file from the second flight and I'll check to see if things are normal or if there's an ongoing issue.
 
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Despite its age, the Phantom 3 Standard is one rugged workhorse for sure. Under the command of Litchi's waypoint flight plan facility, this bird will traverse 6 to 8 miles round trip on a single 100% battery charge depending on assigned speed, while filming sharply focused footage with breathtaking cinematic sweeps of the camera.

The yaw motor on my Phantom 3S is deteriorating, which makes it uncharacteristically difficult to hand-fly even in GPS mode, but flying fully autonomous Litchi waypoint missions this drone flies and yaws smooth as butter, while recording cinematic footage with gradual panning yaws that are very easy on the eye.

If your Phantom 3S' recent departures from controlled flight make hand-flying a dicey undertaking, consider giving the drone a new lease of life by flying autonomous Litchi missions planned on a desktop with the free and excellent Litchi Mission Hub platform.
 

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The yaw motor on my Phantom 3S is deteriorating, which makes it uncharacteristically difficult to hand-fly even in GPS mode, but flying fully autonomous Litchi waypoint missions this drone flies and yaws smooth as butter, while recording cinematic footage with gradual panning yaws that are very easy on the eye.
The yaw motor is on the gimbal and moves the camera left and right.
The drone yaws by differentially varying the speeds of the 4 main motors and letting the torque turn the drone.
Your yaw motor has nothing to do with flying the drone.
If your Phantom 3S' recent departures from controlled flight make hand-flying a dicey undertaking, consider giving the drone a new lease of life by flying autonomous Litchi missions planned on a desktop with the free and excellent Litchi Mission Hub platform.
If the drone can't fly properly with manual control, it won't fly properly with Litchi doing the driving either.
 
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Right you are. The props' differential thrust powers drone movements in all axes while the camera's yaw motor produces yaw on the camera alone.

Regarding Litchi's smoother handling of an unstable Phantom 3 S, I have noticed that this craft maneuvers smoothly under Litchi's control, but can be quite a handful to keep steady when it is being hand flown, ever since I began to notice its erratic yaw movements only while under manual control. I intend to fly it using Litchi for as long as it retains its ability to produce useable footage with nice gradual camera pans. and drone yaws.

Ran a Litchi waypoint flight test of 8.5 miles round trip distance yesterday, up from my usual 6-mile round trip autonomous Litchi missions, but that was an increment too far. The drone landed at 10% battery in a nearby tree plantation but amazingly appears to be none the worse for the ordeal, showing once again how resilient these Phantom 3 Standard drones remain as the years go by.
 

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