Why I crashed my drone - the art of learning by making (expensive) mistakes.

Joined
Mar 2, 2019
Messages
45
Reaction score
18
Age
52
So I crashed my drone for the first time. It's a right of passage I guess, I'm still a rookie with less than 10 hours flight time. I watched a lot of videos and read forums while getting into the hobby. One thing I found really useful were the sections of '10 ways to avoid crashing and flyaway' - and very useful were others account of how and why they crashed /lost drone.

In the spirit of that I would like to pass on my own story of how my P3 fell 30 feet and broke.

I was flying in the evening in a forested lake environment, I actually could not launch for some time as even though there were good paths, the tree canopy, even without the spring bloom, was too sketchy to fly through.

however I found a clearing at a path intersection with around 30 foot clearance all around.

It's here if you would like to take a look

Clearing near garryland

All was well, flying not too far , keeping high, checking signal etc etc. A few walkers came past with their dogs, asking if the buzzing was a drone. I offered to show them the screen, as the drone was directly above me and stationary 100 feet up. A second walker stuck around and continued to chat, him and his dogs were in my landing space. He was a little socially awkward, and not getting the hints that I wanted to land my craft now. Although at this point I was still around 40% battery it was getting towards dusk.

I moved down the path and here is my first mistake, I brought the aircraft down to around 60 feet, but brought it down at an angle - this was the first mistake - there was little wind but as I came closer to a large tree the drone shifted, I had not allowed wiggle room - the 10 foot bubble I should be imagining around the drone. Due to the angle I did not guage the position of the ac to the tree, the props hit and it flipped 90 degrees, causing the auto shutdown. I watched it fall the remaining 30 feet to the floor and my heart sunk. It had fallen on it's head so surprisingly the camera and gimbals seemed ok. The firmware error and compass error were all I could see, however I can't re-calibrate the compass now.

So here's what I learnt, which has been said many times and I have read before flying said by pilots with much more experience than me. Don't get distracted by others interested in the drone. Have a spotter there to chat to them so you can focus on flying. I'm ok to chat when it's hovering at 100 feet but not when trying to land among the trees.

Secondly I should have been more assertive in asking him and his dogs if they could just give me the space to land. I would have hand caught anyhow as the dogs were off the lead, but I really should have brought the drone straight down, in the area I took off from, ensuring I had good vision of the sky and the branches around. If the guy would not have come along, I would not have crashed, but it was my fault for accommodating him and trying to land in a tighter spot and not directly down in the original spot. The 'not wanting to appear rude to a stranger meant I moved my landing point. That combined with NOT COMING STRAIGHT DOWN - caused the crash.

I know every drone pilot has a crash - kinda an expensive right of passage. I made a foolish mistake, I've heard others tell similar "stupid mistake" stories, and they helped me. I hope you guys can take something from this and avoid the same.

I'm taking it to get repaired later I hope I can afford it. I don't have the disposable incoming to keep doing this!

Flay safe


Davious


p.s on the plus side I did get some of my best footage so far - it's like my drone said, "after this I can do no better - I'm done"


EDIT - I can't help thinking that if the drone had not done it's auto shutdown for the tilt, even with the damaged prop it would have landed with some slowing. Because it just shut off - I had no chance to recover, The video recording stopped at the point it tilted as well. If the props had kept going I could have feathered it down maybe?
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Maddy and sarniac

sar104

Dic mihi solum facta, domina.
Premium Pilot
Joined
Mar 22, 2014
Messages
5,305
Reaction score
2,700
Location
Los Alamos, NM.
So I crashed my drone for the first time. It's a right of passage I guess, I'm still a rookie with less than 10 hours flight time. I watched a lot of videos and read forums while getting into the hobby. One thing I found really useful were the sections of '10 ways to avoid crashing and flyaway' - and very useful were others account of how and why they crashed /lost drone.

In the spirit of that I would like to pass on my own story of how my P3 fell 30 feet and broke.

I was flying in the evening in a forested lake environment, I actually could not launch for some time as even though there were good paths, the tree canopy, even without the spring bloom, was too sketchy to fly through.

however I found a clearing at a path intersection with around 30 foot clearance all around.

It's here if you would like to take a look

Clearing near garryland

All was well, flying not too far , keeping high, checking signal etc etc. A few walkers came past with their dogs, asking if the buzzing was a drone. I offered to show them the screen, as the drone was directly above me and stationary 100 feet up. A second walker stuck around and continued to chat, him and his dogs were in my landing space. He was a little socially awkward, and not getting the hints that I wanted to land my craft now. Although at this point I was still around 40% battery it was getting towards dusk.

I moved down the path and here is my first mistake, I brought the aircraft down to around 60 feet, but brought it down at an angle - this was the first mistake - there was little wind but as I came closer to a large tree the drone shifted, I had not allowed wiggle room - the 10 foot bubble I should be imagining around the drone. Due to the angle I did not guage the position of the ac to the tree, the props hit and it flipped 90 degrees, causing the auto shutdown. I watched it fall the remaining 30 feet to the floor and my heart sunk. It had fallen on it's head so surprisingly the camera and gimbals seemed ok. The firmware error and compass error were all I could see, however I can't re-calibrate the compass now.

So here's what I learnt, which has been said many times and I have read before flying said by pilots with much more experience than me. Don't get distracted by others interested in the drone. Have a spotter there to chat to them so you can focus on flying. I'm ok to chat when it's hovering at 100 feet but not when trying to land among the trees.

Secondly I should have been more assertive in asking him and his dogs if they could just give me the space to land. I would have hand caught anyhow as the dogs were off the lead, but I really should have brought the drone straight down, in the area I took off from, ensuring I had good vision of the sky and the branches around. If the guy would not have come along, I would not have crashed, but it was my fault for accommodating him and trying to land in a tighter spot and not directly down in the original spot. The 'not wanting to appear rude to a stranger meant I moved my landing point. That combined with NOT COMING STRAIGHT DOWN - caused the crash.

I know every drone pilot has a crash - kinda an expensive right of passage. I made a foolish mistake, I've heard others tell similar "stupid mistake" stories, and they helped me. I hope you guys can take something from this and avoid the same.

I'm taking it to get repaired later I hope I can afford it. I don't have the disposable incoming to keep doing this!

Flay safe


Davious


p.s on the plus side I did get some of my best footage so far - it's like my drone said, "after this I can do no better - I'm done"


EDIT - I can't help thinking that if the drone had not done it's auto shutdown for the tilt, even with the damaged prop it would have landed with some slowing. Because it just shut off - I had no chance to recover, The video recording stopped at the point it tilted as well. If the props had kept going I could have feathered it down maybe?

It should not have shut down due to excessive attitude in the air. Many dozens of flight logs posted here and elsewhere show these aircraft rotating and flipping after prop loss or motor failure, and I've never seen a single shutdown during those events. And you would not want a shutdown in the air since the aircraft is perfectly capable of righting itself after a collision if it has all four props and motors functioning.

As far as I can tell the auto shutdown function only activates if the aircraft status flag is "Ground", meaning that it has landed or has not yet taken off, which makes sense as a safety feature.

I suspect that the flight log might show something else was the problem here.
 

Fly Dawg

"Electricity is really just organized lightning"
Premium Pilot
Joined
Apr 29, 2016
Messages
4,659
Reaction score
2,076
Location
Watkinsville, Georgia
Due to the angle I did not guage the position of the ac to the tree, the props hit and it flipped 90 degrees, causing the auto shutdown.
To my knowledge there is no such thing as "auto shutdown".

I can't help thinking that if the drone had not done it's auto shutdown for the tilt, even with the damaged prop it would have landed with some slowing. Because it just shut off - I had no chance to recover
I suspect there was a different "cause" for the shutdown. Depending on the impact force and angle, it is possible, although not likely with a P3, that the impact and flip, dislodged the battery. The flight logs may answer that.

On many occasions, ( and a proven fact ) the pilot's recall of a sequence of events is often inaccurate.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Davious

sar104

Dic mihi solum facta, domina.
Premium Pilot
Joined
Mar 22, 2014
Messages
5,305
Reaction score
2,700
Location
Los Alamos, NM.
To my knowledge there is no such thing as "auto shutdown".


I suspect there was a different "cause" for the shutdown. Depending on the impact force and angle, it is possible, although not likely with a P3, that the impact and flip, dislodged the battery. The flight logs may answer that.

On many occasions, ( and a proven fact ) the pilot's recall of a sequence of events is often inaccurate.

There is auto shutdown in some aircraft/firmware combinations. The Mavic motors will shutdown if you invert them, but not while flying - only if they flip on takeoff/landing or if you turn them over after hand catching.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Davious
Joined
Sep 6, 2018
Messages
1,373
Reaction score
816
Age
54
Location
Canada
To my knowledge there is no such thing as "auto shutdown".


I suspect there was a different "cause" for the shutdown. Depending on the impact force and angle, it is possible, although not likely with a P3, that the impact and flip, dislodged the battery. The flight logs may answer that.

On many occasions, ( and a proven fact ) the pilot's recall of a sequence of events is often inaccurate.
You are correct @Fly Dawg. There is no auto shutdown on the P3 from excessive "tip" angle. I've confirmed this by grabbing my P3 while hovering and turning it on it's side to see what happens and all it did was fight very hard to "right" itself. This was a test I conducted related to the CSC shutdown and recovery during flight. I can confirm the props will not start if the AC is tilted too far from level but they will not shutdown even when upside down.
 
Joined
Mar 2, 2019
Messages
45
Reaction score
18
Age
52
Thanks for the replies on this, I was basing the 'auto shutdown' on this video
where a p4 dropped from the sky. I haven't tried flipping my p3 yet - as you say the logs could help. The ac is packed now ready to go for repairs but I'll post the logs when I can and would appreciate your input.

"I suspect there was a different "cause" for the shutdown. Depending on the impact force and angle, it is possible, although not likely with a P3, that the impact and flip, dislodged the battery. The flight logs may answer that. "

The drone was still working after the fall, lights on an vps humming. The battery was intact - I have telemetry data after the video stopped as well.
 

Fly Dawg

"Electricity is really just organized lightning"
Premium Pilot
Joined
Apr 29, 2016
Messages
4,659
Reaction score
2,076
Location
Watkinsville, Georgia
where a p4 dropped from the sky.
A P3 will not shut down. A P4 might. You can't base your P3 on a P4 reference. Each aircraft is different, as sar104 mentioned above.
 
Joined
Jan 25, 2019
Messages
256
Reaction score
145
Age
68
Thanks for the reinforcement and reminder to stay focused until the drone is safely on the ground.
 

sar104

Dic mihi solum facta, domina.
Premium Pilot
Joined
Mar 22, 2014
Messages
5,305
Reaction score
2,700
Location
Los Alamos, NM.
A P3 will not shut down. A P4 might. You can't base your P3 on a P4 reference. Each aircraft is different, as sar104 mentioned above.
Thanks for the replies on this, I was basing the 'auto shutdown' on this video
where a p4 dropped from the sky. I haven't tried flipping my p3 yet - as you say the logs could help. The ac is packed now ready to go for repairs but I'll post the logs when I can and would appreciate your input.

"I suspect there was a different "cause" for the shutdown. Depending on the impact force and angle, it is possible, although not likely with a P3, that the impact and flip, dislodged the battery. The flight logs may answer that. "

The drone was still working after the fall, lights on an vps humming. The battery was intact - I have telemetry data after the video stopped as well.

You can examine or post the log - preferably the aircraft DAT file - but it will not shut off motors in midair due to attitude. None of the DJI aircraft do that. The event in the video was not an attitude-induced shutdown either - it was a power interruption.
 
Joined
Sep 6, 2018
Messages
1,373
Reaction score
816
Age
54
Location
Canada
Thanks for the reinforcement and reminder to stay focused until the drone is safely on the ground.
Yes an excellent reminder. If I'm planning to fly in a new area I always bring someone with me. A second pair of eyes is always helpful, whether it's to keep an eye on the AC and anything near it while I'm focusing on a particular shot or during landing. The exact same thing happened to me where a woman and her dogs walked up just before I wanted to land. I politely asked if I could land safely, she said go ahead, kept herself and her dogs at a safe distance away and I could focus on landing safely. My son who was my VO kept an eye on them while I landed with no issues.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MotorCycle-Man
Joined
Mar 2, 2019
Messages
45
Reaction score
18
Age
52
Thanks for the discussion guys, it helps to share my pain :) I dropped it into the repair shop today. Once I get a quote, I'll be in a better position and able to get the logs.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 3rdof5
Joined
Jun 11, 2016
Messages
287
Reaction score
122
Location
Mendocino CA
An auto shutdown occurs whenever a prop strikes and object like a tree branch, pole, wire, bird or whatever. That's exacty what happened to me when I put the aircraft into "sport" mode to expedite return from a distance over water. Sport mode shuts off the obstacle avoidance and greatly increases the speed. So the AC came in "hot" and overshot the clear area where I wanted to land, and a prop struck a small branch on a tree. It instantly shut down and fell about 15 ft. to the ground, breaking off the gimbal arm. It was the dead fall after shutdown that caused the damage, not an impact with the tree. I had DJI Care Refresh, so I replaced the AC, using one of the two replacements available. I'm flying a P4A+.
 
Joined
Sep 6, 2018
Messages
1,373
Reaction score
816
Age
54
Location
Canada
An auto shutdown occurs whenever a prop strikes and object like a tree branch, pole, wire, bird or whatever. That's exacty what happened to me when I put the aircraft into "sport" mode to expedite return from a distance over water. Sport mode shuts off the obstacle avoidance and greatly increases the speed. So the AC came in "hot" and overshot the clear area where I wanted to land, and a prop struck a small branch on a tree. It instantly shut down and fell about 15 ft. to the ground, breaking off the gimbal arm. It was the dead fall after shutdown that caused the damage, not an impact with the tree. I had DJI Care Refresh, so I replaced the AC, using one of the two replacements available. I'm flying a P4A+.
Now we know the P4 will shut down the motors during flight. The OP was flying a P3 which won't do that.
 
Joined
Jun 11, 2016
Messages
287
Reaction score
122
Location
Mendocino CA
Now we know the P4 will shut down the motors during flight. The OP was flying a P3 which won't do that.
The OP and several commenters assumed that the shutdown occurred because of the position of the aircraft. What I reported is that with a P4 a shutdown is triggered when a prop strikes a solid object. We have a statement that a P3 won't do that.
Is anyone sure that a P3 will not shut down if a prop strikes something? That seems like an important safety feature.
 

BudWalker

Premium Pilot
Joined
Jun 24, 2015
Messages
1,448
Reaction score
554
Age
72
Location
Arroyo Grande, California
The OP and several commenters assumed that the shutdown occurred because of the position of the aircraft. What I reported is that with a P4 a shutdown is triggered when a prop strikes a solid object. We have a statement that a P3 won't do that.
Is anyone sure that a P3 will not shut down if a prop strikes something? That seems like an important safety feature.
For answers to questions concerning crashing a P3 I turn to my flying partner who has multiple incidents with his P3. The motors didn't stop when he ran into the side of my house.
 

sar104

Dic mihi solum facta, domina.
Premium Pilot
Joined
Mar 22, 2014
Messages
5,305
Reaction score
2,700
Location
Los Alamos, NM.
The OP and several commenters assumed that the shutdown occurred because of the position of the aircraft. What I reported is that with a P4 a shutdown is triggered when a prop strikes a solid object. We have a statement that a P3 won't do that.
Is anyone sure that a P3 will not shut down if a prop strikes something? That seems like an important safety feature.

Are you quite sure? I've looked at many logs showing motor obstruction all the way to stationary, and it has not shut down the motors. I wonder if something else happened in your case to cause the shutdown.
 
  • Like
Reactions: BudWalker

BudWalker

Premium Pilot
Joined
Jun 24, 2015
Messages
1,448
Reaction score
554
Age
72
Location
Arroyo Grande, California
Are you quite sure? I've looked at many logs showing motor obstruction all the way to stationary, and it has not shut down the motors. I wonder if something else happened in your case to cause the shutdown.
Yes, and I don't think we've ever seen something in any eventLog stream to the effect that the motors were stopped because of an obstruction.

Also, I suspect it would be difficult to differentiate a motor obstruction where it would appropriate to stop the motors. I.e there would be too many false positives.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Davious and sar104

Forum statistics

Threads
140,308
Messages
1,446,362
Members
102,077
Latest member
Gods Grace