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Lesson learned


Feb 10, 2023
NSW, Australia
I'll never take off with a less than full battery again (for a filming flight)

I did some filming of a property my Sister and her partner purchased recently, after the flight the battery was around the 54% mark. Moved to another location and was filming some waterfalls. I figured I wouldn't be long and the drone wasn't very far away so 54% would be enough. Finished filming and the battery was below 40 but above 30% I was flying manually but as I'm still relatively inexperienced I hit return to home. Once the drone got to around 80 M I got the strong wind warning which of course stopped the RTH. I descended to around 40 M and flew it towards me using the map and could hear it behind me and not quite where I wanted to land. As I manoeuvred the drone towards my landing area (but still not where I wanted it) the drone entered landing mode due to the low battery.

I cancelled that and flew it to where I wanted to land and alarms were going off of course I was freaking out (first time this has happened) and I got it down safely and checked the battery 11% remaining. I am pretty conservative normally and usually land with at least 25 to 30% remaining and would have in this case if it hadn't been for the RTH use, high winds at altitude and my inexperience at piloting the drone. Like I said lesson learned.

Here is one of the videos I shot

I would suggest that you are perhaps learning the wrong lessons.
Taking off at 54% is not necessarily risky IF the charge is relatively fresh and you do not fly as far away as you would on a full battery.
On the other hand if the charge is old then it does become risky since it is unpredictable as to how long the charge will last.

Unless behaviours have changed, a strong wind warning by itself should not stop an RTH.
DJI's warning errs on the side of caution and the drone should continue to try to RTH even if it makes no headway against the wind or gets blown down wind.

I would suggest that having an unnecessarily high RTH height set is one of the risks in this flight.
As you found out it risks putting the drone up into strong wind.
It also raises the threshold percentage for the initial forced landing phase and, if required, it wastes power in any climb to RTH height.

Three other risks come to mind
1) being unaware of the direction of the prevailing wind, that assumes that it could be discerned. You can use the App's artificial horizon to gauge wind direction and speed.
2) You make no mention of a low battery RTH warning, did you see one? If so did you cancel it?
3) "and could hear it behind me", for numerous reason you should be facing the drone.
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I don't see taking off with less then 50% battery necessarily a bad think but the entire flight needs careful planning and management. Do no fly more then 100 feet from takeoff location. Maintain VLOS control so you know exactly what the drone is doing. Make sure you have a clear landing area available at all times. Planning for emergencies is a priority as it should be for all flights. There is a lot more to consider than just battery life. Understanding current wind conditions and impact on flight is important for all flights.
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Reactions: Anthony Ivory
I'll fly with a less than full battery often. We land and launch many times on the same battery. I'll fly at 20% if it's a very short and very close shot (less the 2 or 3 minutes).

The key is watching the battery and distance for RTH.
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