The Death of a Phantom

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Well, I just racked up my second catastrophic Phantom 3 S crash yesterday. After thousands of miles of fully autonomous Litchi flights logged over the past couple of years, landings have become a mundane routine, or so I thought until things went awry for no discernible reason just as dusk settled in yesterday.

On arrival from a 6-mile round trip Litchi sortie, my trusty Phantom 3 Standard buzzed into view, and as usual, I disengaged the RC controller's "F-Mode" waypoint setting so as to switch over to GPS "P-Mode" for the landing. Battery levels were down in the 20% level, so I anticipated a sluggish throttle response as I lined up for a steep glide slope to set down on the plywood table I use as a landing strip. What I did NOT anticipate was a sluggish yaw and pitch response as well, which I have NEVER encountered before even when the battery ran perilously low.

Instead of a nice smooth glide slide to landing, the drone seemed unresponsive, but in the mild panic that ensued I clean forgot to select the "Attitude-Mode" middle switch position that would have given the craft a more vigorous control response. With the drone in GPS mode, I then flailed about on the controls trying to correct the Phantom's gradual wind drift into my 60-foot tower that is intended to be a key aspect of my long-range FPV ground station. Before I could muster the presence of mind to select the sportier responding A-Mode, there was a God-awful clang as the drone impacted the upper reaches of that metal tower and then proceeded to honor the invitation of gravity.

The drone landed upside down in some soft undergrowth at the foot of the tower, and I still held out hope of making a repair with the spare parts for the camera mount that I'd thoughtfully ordered a year earlier. The ribbon cable came unplugged on impact, and the plastic camera mount bracket on the drone body was broken. An hour later I'd swapped in a new plastic bracket and plugged in the two small connectors and that ribbon plug, only to find that the camera image was inverted upside down and that the drone would no longer bind with its controller.

To cut a long story short, my second Phantom 3 Standard to depart the mortal realm and join its ancestors died today and has been buried in my spare parts cupboard with full military honors. By pure coincidence I yesterday located on eBay a used Phantom 3 Standard with one battery and no controller included, for the princely price of $100, after obtaining assurance from the seller that his drone had never crashed and worked as intended. So there you have it, fellow armchair aviators, the baton has passed from one late and lamented Phantom 3S, to another, which will now be my third such bird. Over and out until flight operations resume out here in the remote boonies of the Third World.
 

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Let us know if the replacement works as advertised. Thankfully the P3s is fairly cheap but great bird. Love my Phantoms, no more 3s but several P4 models..workhorse
Tell me your secret and how do you get 6 miles out of that, I only get 3 miles 15 -18 minutes @ 16 mph, maybe 18,000 feet with 2 bars left on the battery,thanks
 
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These museum exhibit Phantom quadcopters are built for the long haul for sure, and I plan to fly them for as long as they are available to buy used. I really like the ability of all Phantoms to fly Litchi waypoint missions with full autonomy whereby they complete all waypoints even if connectivity is lost along the route between the drone and the RC controller. Newer DJI drones using the DJI Fly operating system lost this ability to complete waypoint missions without any pilot input required.

With two crashed Phantom 3 Standards on hand now, I might even try to see if I can't learn to swap out parts and maybe even revive a dead one at some point as a backup.
 
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These museum exhibit Phantom quadcopters are built for the long haul for sure, and I plan to fly them for as long as they are available to buy used. I really like the ability of all Phantoms to fly Litchi waypoint missions with full autonomy whereby they complete all waypoints even if connectivity is lost along the route between the drone and the RC controller. Newer DJI drones using the DJI Fly operating system lost this ability to complete waypoint missions without any pilot input required.

With two crashed Phantom 3 Standards on hand now, I might even try to see if I can't learn to swap out parts and maybe even revive a dead one at some point as a backup.
Huh
 
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Tell me your secret and how do you get 6 miles out of that, I only get 3 miles 15 -18 minutes @ 16 mph, maybe 18,000 feet with 2 bars left on the battery,thanks

Because I don't reside in the USA or the EU, it is perfectly legal for my drone to fly Litchi missions beyond not only the visual range but also beyond the signal range of the RC controller itself. The older DJI drones will fly such "blind" waypoint missions reliably every time.

For flights over 15 minutes long, Litchi OVERESTIMATES the flight duration by 5 minutes, meaning that the actual flight time for such flights will be 5-minutes SHORTER than the flight time showing on the Litchi screen. For example, if Litchi estimates the drone will complete all programmed waypoints and return to base in 27 minutes, the REAL duration of that flight will be 22 minutes. and NOT 27 minutes.

For an old Phantom 3 Standard drone, the battery will typically keep the drone flying for 22 minutes, by which time the battery percentage will have dropped down to between 15% and 20%, depending on wind conditions along the flight path,

I found over time that Litchi flight plans launched with 100% battery charge after a very recent battery charge, can cover 6.1 miles flying at 17.9 mph in an elongated tear-drop-shaped flight path having very few abrupt changes in direction, and that distance is typically covered in 21 minutes, during which about 3.6GB of video footage will be recorded in 2.7K resolution. Distance covered can be maximized by using curving turns and gradual changes in direction while setting up the waypoints.
 
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How fast are you flying? and why not just land in F mode?
You know I could kick myself for manually landing the craft in GPS mode when the battery was running so low. I should have used A-mode to get quick responses to my control inputs. This crash would never have happened if only I'd just lowered the drone vertically down when it ended the mission directly above the launch point.

I've always enjoyed sending the returning drone about 80 meters away and then hand-flying a nice smooth glide slope to the landing spot, just for the pleasure of doing so. Yesterday was the very first time that the Phantom seemed to lose touch with the controller, before then drifting towards a crash with that tower. I should have left well enough alone and carried out a simple vertical descent with no fancy maneuvers. Now I know better haha.
 
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You know I could kick myself for manually landing the craft in GPS mode when the battery was running so low. I should have used A-mode to get quick responses to my control inputs. This crash would never have happened if only I'd just lowered the drone vertically down when it ended the mission directly above the launch point.

I've always enjoyed sending the returning drone about 80 meters away and then hand-flying a nice smooth glide slope to the landing spot, just for the pleasure of doing so. Yesterday was the very first time that the Phantom seemed to lose touch with the controller, before then drifting towards a crash with that tower. I should have left well enough alone and carried out a simple vertical descent with no fancy maneuvers. Now I know better haha.
Sorry for your loss bud. Very well told.. I've been there myself
 
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My Phantom 3 loved trees more than me!!
In the past, I'd always assumed any drone pilot that lost his craft to a tree probably hadn't invested enough simulator time to hand-fly the aircraft with adequate precision.

That haughty presumption of mine went out the window when my Phantom 3 Standard simply IGNORED my frantic control inputs and embarked on a slow-motion drift towards that radio mast, DESPITE being in GPS mode which should have arrested that drift and kept the drone in one spot when I momentarily let go of the controls as one of my failed ideas attempted in rapid succession.

I still haven't figured out why the Phantom rebelled against me, having obeyed all my commands without question previously. I suppose I could try and access the flight log since the drone does power up, but even having that record won't bring this crashed Phantom 3 Standard zombie drone back from the dead.
 
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These museum exhibit Phantom quadcopters are built for the long haul for sure, and I plan to fly them for as long as they are available to buy used. I really like the ability of all Phantoms to fly Litchi waypoint missions with full autonomy whereby they complete all waypoints even if connectivity is lost along the route between the drone and the RC controller.
That honestly depends on the software and the mission. I fly "connectionless" missions fairly often with my P4P. On super long corridor missions I actually PLAN on losing connection. Since I know the drone is going to make a U-turn and come back, it's a simple matter of fully understanding battery capacity to make sure there's enough power to come home. It's a little nerve racking losing all communication with the drone for a minute or two, but so far she has never failed to come back into range.




Newer DJI drones using the DJI Fly operating system lost this ability to complete waypoint missions without any pilot input required.
I actually flew a mission just yesterday with an M300 RTK. In theory, this drone is set up to complete waypoint missions even if it loses connection to the RC. We've yet to test that function.



With two crashed Phantom 3 Standards on hand now, I might even try to see if I can't learn to swap out parts and maybe even revive a dead one at some point as a backup.
That's great that you were able to find a replacement. 100 bucks seems about par something as old as the P3. Good on you for keeping that beast alive and useful.

D
 
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In the past, I'd always assumed any drone pilot that lost his craft to a tree probably hadn't invested enough simulator time to hand-fly the aircraft with adequate precision.

That haughty presumption of mine went out the window when my Phantom 3 Standard simply IGNORED my frantic control inputs and embarked on a slow-motion drift towards that radio mast, DESPITE being in GPS mode which should have arrested that drift and kept the drone in one spot when I momentarily let go of the controls as one of my failed ideas attempted in rapid succession.

I still haven't figured out why the Phantom rebelled against me, having obeyed all my commands without question previously. I suppose I could try and access the flight log since the drone does power up, but even having that record won't bring this crashed Phantom 3 Standard zombie drone back from the dead.
I learned to fly with my Phantom 3. I’ve gone on to get my FAA endorsement and have been flying real estate jobs for years. The one thing I learned is to stay away from trees as best you can. One false move and you’re toast. Lost my Phantom 3 standard in my own yard with a zig instead of a zag!! Broken camera. Went on to other drones, but that 2.7k still camera hooked me on aerial photography. Cheers.
 
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