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M3 APAS - setting real expectations

Steve Wells

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My first post here. Hope I’m following protocol and if not please accept mky apologies.

I finally got some decent weather and a little availability to take my M3 out to try some of the new flight modes. Although i saw several youtube videos of guys trashing their M3s i figured they were pushing limits and frankly might have been looking to crash their drown for click bait (who knows). But i thought I’d take a deep breath and give it a try today. My first flight was some higher altitude flying above the trees and my second test was me on foot with some slow walking and APAS did a decent job. Decided to try to bike and had 3 prop strikes in a nine minute flight with the final strike causing a crash which pretty much killed the drone.

So question is what this within the expectations of the APAS expectations and this becomes DJI’s problem or was it PIC error on my part? The more i think about it the more it seems that I had unrealistic expectations of how APAS could detect “twigs” on trees and its my bad. Good news is i have the care refresh so its covered, but its a hit on my ego.

Appreciate your thoughts.

Video showing the prop strikes: New video by Steven Wells
Flight telemetry:
 

Don Testme

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TWIGS WITH NO LEAVES AND WIRES WILL ALWAYS GET NEGELECTED BY APAS. APAS just doesn't seem sensitive enough to detect outlying twigs or wires. During the spring and summer when leaves abound on trees it's usually safe, but in fall and winter with just twigs sticking out at the edge of a trees canopy, I wouldn't risk using APAS. These little twigs will get your drone every time. Amost any drone for that matter.
 

DoomMeister

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I watched the first few seconds of your video and came away shaking my head. I really don’t understand why people have the idea that obstacle avoidance will see naked twigs on trees or power lines. Even a drone that was built around obstacle avoidance (the Skydio 2) is not 100% reliable in those situations.

The other issue is how do you maintain VLOS with the drone behind you while riding along a residential street where the likelihood of encountering pedestrians and traffic is likely to happen.

Pilot error in my book!
 

Etdronehome

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You asked for thoughts so here are some in no particular order:

1) The pilot should put the drone in a situation where it is most likely to succeed. For example position the drone on the left side if there are obstacles on the right. Extensively discussed and video reviewed on


2) This first iteration of Active track insists on keeping the drone quite close so it wasn’t possible to put the drone above the trees and have it stay there.

3) The autonomous drones have very limited ability to “see” moving objects in their path. They will track a moving object but likely won’t avoid say another biker or car etc on the road. As the PIC you have NO say in which direction the drone might take to “avoid” something so your test location was pretty dangerous imho.
 

Steve Wells

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Thanks for the replies. I can accept the limitations and I’m willing to call this PIC judgement error. But frankly i felt like DJI didn’t do enough to make limitations around trees clear. Some random thoughts right now

1) Advanced RTH is OUT OF THE QUESTION. There are always little leafless branches. At least where i live. I think this is part of what lead me to believe the vision system can and would be available to detect such things.
2)Birds seem to be able to figure this out. So it does seem technically possible and maybe DJI figured it out. Clearly not.
3)I spent nearly 2x for the M3 vs an M2A with 360 vision sensors and i guess i was expecting it worked well for things that are honestly quite common such as a trees.
4)I’m still quite new to active track, but it wasn’t obvious how to set it so it didn’t wander its way to trees.
5)the paradigm of using active track with your controller on a bicycle mount is flawed IMHO.
6)I had two prop strikes before the fatal third prop strike. I was guessing the reason they gave a pile of replacement props was this was both common and expected to smack trees and that was ok. Looking back i should have totally rejected APAS that day after the first of three prop strikes.

Feels like to me DJI needed to add a much larger section in the flight manual discussions limitations of APAS. Like, only fly in areas without trees such as deserts and beaches. Certainly not Sacramento which is known as the “city of trees”.
 
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Ty Pilot

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Sorry to hear of your crash and glad you'll get it repaired and good as new soon. Here are my thoughts on OA.

While OA is certainly getting better, I have always seen it as a gimmick that appeals (mostly - not always), to new pilots who feel they are getting an extra layer of protection, possibly against their own mistakes. This false sense of protection actually incentivizes risky flight where one might not normally fly. Drone manufactures know this, but if it helps with sales, it seems they are cool with it.

On day one, when I got my Mavic 2 Pro, the OA was turned off and has never been on since. If I can't fly it in, I will not let some AI do it either.

Eye.jpg
 

Steve Wells

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Sorry to hear of your crash and glad you'll get it repaired and good as new soon. Here are my thoughts on OA.

While OA is certainly getting better, I have always seen it as a gimmick that appeals (mostly - not always), to new pilots who feel they are getting an extra layer of protection, possibly against their own mistakes. This false sense of protection actually incentivizes risky flight where one might not normally fly. Drone manufactures know this, but if it helps with sales, it seems they are cool with it.

On day one, when I got my Mavic 2 Pro, the OA was turned off and has never been on since. If I can't fly it in, I will not let some AI do it either.

View attachment 140671
Thanks Ty I think you nailed it on the head. I am anything but a risky pilot but the marketing around M3 OA and especially this advanced RTH gives a sense and impression that it was more than something that might improve changes of success but are far from being “safe”. I’m frustrated honestly that I’m going to have to pay for a replacement and loose my “good driver” extended warranty over something that was honestly pitched has being more capable than it actually was. I’m sure some highly motivated person could push a class action law suite, not me. For me this is a good live and learn. I’m going to return the bicycle mount controller mount as it makes no sense for me living in the “city of trees”.
 
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TonyPHX

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Well, on the plus side you are now a very experienced with the limitations and can speak to the subject authoritatively. : ) Sorry you had to use up a care refresh to do it. But at least nobody was injured.
 

DoomMeister

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Sorry to hear of your crash and glad you'll get it repaired and good as new soon. Here are my thoughts on OA.

While OA is certainly getting better, I have always seen it as a gimmick that appeals (mostly - not always), to new pilots who feel they are getting an extra layer of protection, possibly against their own mistakes. This false sense of protection actually incentivizes risky flight where one might not normally fly. Drone manufactures know this, but if it helps with sales, it seems they are cool with it.

On day one, when I got my Mavic 2 Pro, the OA was turned off and has never been on since. If I can't fly it in, I will not let some AI do it either.

View attachment 140671
Saw enough of that with the Typhoon H didn’t we. 😉
 
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Don Testme

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When I was a newbie, I thought OA was more than it really was. It caused a false sense of security and caused me to crash twice. Luckily they were cheaper drones. Since then, I rarely use OA, unless it's near objects that I know the drone can see. Like houses, trees full of leaves, solid thick objects etc etc.
 

Etdronehome

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@Steve Wells

I want to apologize for my post above.

Your first post right after you crashed and my comments were not very supportive. I should have done a better job of getting my points across.

I guess I’m just annoyed about the plethora of YouTube vids that show “experienced pilots” bombing down footpaths in tracking mode or way beyond BVLOS flights to determine the “limits” of their flying bricks. All we need is to see on the news a drone the size of an M3 hitting some kid in the head due to some knucklehead trying to sell stuff off their YouTube channel.

On the other hand I’m not sure it’s realistic to assume a vendor is going to pull out all the stops in announcing the limitations of their product. I think most people have gotten immune to reading the “fine print”. When is the last time anyone has read all the way through the terms of use of a piece of software etc. ?

DJI does mention small branches, power lines etc in the manual, just not in BIG BOLD PRINT😀
 

dmcgrew

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This guy rides his bike while his $2500+ drone is inches away from trees and just stares at it and smiles. (Removed by moderator)
 
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Steve Wells

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@Steve Wells

I want to apologize for my post above.

Your first post right after you crashed and my comments were not very supportive. I should have done a better job of getting my points across.

I guess I’m just annoyed about the plethora of YouTube vids that show “experienced pilots” bombing down footpaths in tracking mode or way beyond BVLOS flights to determine the “limits” of their flying bricks. All we need is to see on the news a drone the size of an M3 hitting some kid in the head due to some knucklehead trying to sell stuff off their YouTube channel.

On the other hand I’m not sure it’s realistic to assume a vendor is going to pull out all the stops in announcing the limitations of their product. I think most people have gotten immune to reading the “fine print”. When is the last time anyone has read all the way through the terms of use of a piece of software etc. ?

DJI does mention small branches, power lines etc in the manual, just not in BIG BOLD PRINT😀
Thanks for the reply. I am with you that having an M3 hitting someone in the head (myself included) isn’t a good idea. My video even highlighted that OA shouldn’t be used near trees.

So here is my problem. With the new advanced RTH (not part of my video or crash) it seems to suggest that the OA would need to work for things like tree branches. At least the non advanced RTH would allow the pilot to set a home point and altitude that works. I think my first day with my drone the advanced RTH nearly ate the drone missing some trees by only a few inches. My reaction was to just just stop using RTH or keep my trigger finger on the cancel button. But with time i was thinking maybe DJI had a new paradigm of intelligent flight and i could let go of worrying about tree branches. When i had my first two prop strikes against whispy tree branches i starting to wonder if the new paradigm was “this is just expected and why they included a bag full of spare props in my fly more package”.

Ok I’m back to OA is helpful and improves changes of success but it is an incomplete and insufficient system that cant’ be trusted. I get it why DJI won’t market their fancy new 3D 360 deg OA as “incomplete and insufficient” but what will it take before there is some serious injury.

Thanks all. I’ve submitted my drone for “repair” today and declared the vision system faulty. We’ll see how they react but i do have the care refresh. I’m just going to be irritated paying $159 for a repair when in fact their marketing allowed an otherwise very cautious pilot to take risks i would have not taken otherwise.

Live and learn.
 
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Etdronehome

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I’m back to OA is helpful

I’m happy to hear that.

I have recent hands on with a Skydio 2 and now the M3 and their OA ability has kept me out of trouble.

Even though I usually make it a point to fly in open areas and keep the drone fairly close there have been times when I might look away to check the app screen, change a setting etc while the drone is still moving and/or the flight path causes me to look towards the sun so I can’t really see the aircraft. I’m quite confident that the OA would intervene if necessary.

I don’t depend on it but am happy to have it there.

The Skydio 2 has a more mature implementation at this point imho and quite frankly has a user base that has more experience with what “active tracking” can and cannot do. I believe DJI will continue to enhance their abilities over time but for now I have decided to set OA to “Brake”. I will continue of course to fly in Bypass in very controlled situations to help me learn how to “predict” what the drone will do.

DJI ARTH has raised a lot of concern here over the point that it will fly the drone into power lines, branches etc. I share the concern so won’t be using RTH unless I know there isn’t anything like that in the return path or I’m forced to by some “emergency” I can’t overcome in some other way. Hopefully DJI will enable the “classic” RTH aim some future release.

In any event I hope you get your drone repaired and back in service. 😀
 
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MS Coast

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I'd have to say that that was a pretty severe situation for trying a new feature for the first time on a new drone, especially doing it while riding a bike so that there was no possibility of intervening in the event the drone made a bad decision.

It's a little like soloing a student pilot in a T-38 rather than a Cessna 150.
 

eEridani

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I use APAs for one thing: to help the drone from striking something large that gets in it's way that I couldn't plan for. The examples: a billboard that I got behind; a hill top I got too low for; a fence that I misjudged flying back over; a bridge that I thought I was low enough to avoid (and even that is tricky).

Anyone thinking a drone can avoid a mix of branches sans leaves while flying at 15 mph or 20 kph has too high of an opinion of their purchase. I see marketing blurbs showing a drone making some fantastic moves, avoiding all sorts of irrational objects: but I recognize they are selling drones; that such videos are very carefully staged for effect.

It's like the guy letting autopilot on his Tesla drive down the freeway while he watched TV in the back seat then is surprised when his car finds a semi-trailer and he loses his head over it. Sometimes you just have to question the intelligence of the human species.
 

Steve Wells

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Hey thanks again all. I used my first instance of care refresh and hopefully I’ll have the bird back in a few days.

I was just surfing youtube just yesterday and ran into yet another guy with what appears to be WAY better APAS on his air2 (lol well he did crash at the very end but literally mine crashed in less than 4 minutes). Looks like for the most part the APAS works quite well! Wish i had that experience. (I’m in no way promoting this youtube channel, just something youtube recommended i watch)


It sees to me with ARTH APAS HAS TO WORK to be viable and as of right now I’m going to assume its lucky if it works but I’m assuming it won’t.

Onward and looking forward to getting my bird back after being down nearly a month.
 

eEridani

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Hey thanks again all. I used my first instance of care refresh and hopefully I’ll have the bird back in a few days. ...
It sees to me with ARTH APAS HAS TO WORK to be viable and as of right now I’m going to assume its lucky if it works but I’m assuming it won’t. ...

Smart RTH, plus LOS RTH and low battery RTH using APAS works rather well with the correct expectations. My drone has never failed to get back to me, nor has it crashed into something it should have seen and avoided. But I sort of understand how it works and do my best to not set up the flight to fail.

Rule one is to avoid ALL trees, it is right there in the user manual. That rule alone is why the drone flies UP to an altitude before moving towards home, and that altitude must be above any trees or obstacles between the drone and home. If there are obstacles above the RTH altitude, the drone actually can compensate and fly over or around the obstacle - the choice of over or around having to do the the adaptive logic DJI uses. In real life emergency RTH cases I've used, it flies over, not around. But, I can see there is a desire to fly around things, too; if the drone can see a path.

Overall, I'm impressed with DJI's APAS implementation.
 
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