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Mavic Pro just flew away!

SMOKEYOB

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Hello all, my friend pointed me to this forum, and suggested I share my story on here, so here it goes.

I bought the Mavic Pro right around the end of December 2016, and received it sometime in January. I flew it all over my home area dozens of times without issue, so I was pretty familiar with all the settings, controls and functions. I went on a trip to Costa Rica in March and brought my Mavic Pro with me. I flew it a few times at the first destination, all around a volcano, and got some great footage. At my second destination, my Mavic Pro flew away from me! I tried to retrieve it based on the last GPS coordinates stored in the flight log, but it was unretrievable without having serious mountain climbing gear. Mountains of Costa Rica - 1, Mavic Pro - 0.

I was staying at a hotel in the mountains 5,176 feet above sea level, and decided to take the drone out for a flight in the morning, right outside my hotel room. I could feel it was a bit windy but nothing I haven't flown in before. I launched the drone, set my home point, and sent it out. After a couple minutes, I started getting a lot of high wind warnings, so I decided to bring it back. I activated the return-to-home feature, but it wasn't coming back... it kept flying away from me. No matter which direction I pointed the drone, it kept drifting away from me at rate of 15-35 mph (and it was set in non-sport-mode). I switched on sport mode, but I couldn't fight the winds, it just kept flying away from me. I decided to fly in a downward direction and attempt to land it somewhere and then drive to the location and get it, but it was drifting away so fast that I couldn't get it down fast enough to keep with the pace of the ground getting lower and lower as it drifted farther and farther away. Eventually, I got close to ground, but the battery ran out, and I lost signal. It was near a mountain road, and I had the GPS coordinates, but as stated in the last paragraph, it landed in an area of the mountains that was too dangerous to explore by foot.

The drone flew 26,013 feet away from the take-off spot (still had full control of the drone and camera at that distance due to the direct line of sight, since I was at almost the highest altitude in that town), and it was 2,294 feet below the take off altitude when the battery ran out and lost signal. The battery only lasted 14 minutes, due to the fact that it was trying to fight the strong winds the whole time.

I contacted DJI Support and sent them my flight log to see if they had any explanation for me, and they replied with some evidence saying that it was high winds that caused it and not a defect. Not sure if it was my fault or not... well I was controlling it so it was my fault... perhaps there were some very strong winds once it got out far enough. I am upset that I lost the drone, but I still think it is an amazing product, just not invincible. I will be getting another one soon, especially since DJI now sells them without the remote for $759.

I am sharing my experience as a warning to others. Don't ignore the high wind warnings, because this puppy will fly away from you if it can't fight the winds and there is nothing you can do to stop it.

Below is a satellite pic of the flight path (it's a straight line going away from me lol), 2 pics of my take-off point, and some pics of where it landed. The cows know where it landed but they wouldn't say :-| These are pics from my phone, I'll upload some snapshots and vids from the Mavic Pro when I get a chance.

If anyone can chime in on a similar experience they had, or a close-call, or if anyone has anything to add, please feel free.

Thanks for reading.

Flight Path

Altitude at take-off point

take-off point

approximate landing (crashing) point

landing point (cow on right saw something but isn't talking)
 

msinger

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Please upload your TXT flight log here and post a link back here. You'll find instructions for locating your TXT flight log at that link.
 

DodgeP

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The Mavic is super weak in high winds and unless someone who examines the logs here proves differently, DJI is probably correct. I watched as the winds wouldn't let me perform any controlled movements with the sticks (in the wind) while my Mavic was only 20' feet away from me. What you're feeling at ground level is not what the mavic is feeling at its altitude. In my experience, all I could was watch as my mavic slowly and continuously drifted further and further away. Luckily for me the wind stopped for a brief moment near the end of my battery and I was able to regain control and land.
 
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Razmar

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What about calibration? Did you perform one before you started flying in Costa Rica?
 

SMOKEYOB

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The Mavic is super weak in high winds and unless someone who examines the logs here proves differently, DJI is probably correct. I watched as the winds wouldn't let me perform any controlled movements with the sticks (in the wind) while my Mavic was only 20' feet away from me. What you're feeling at ground level is not what the mavic is feeling at its altitude. In my experience, all I could was watch as my mavic slowly and continuously drifted further and further away. Luckily for me the wind stopped for a brief moment near the end of my battery and I was able to regain control and land.
Yes, there was definitely a big difference in the wind speed where I was standing and where the mavic was flying. I asked a few friends how well it performed in high winds, and they all said no issues whatsoever. Once the high wind warning showed up on my screen, which I usually ignored when flying around my home area, I tried to get it back, but it was too late.

Thanks for sharing your experience DodgeP.
 

SMOKEYOB

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This may sound stupid. But what about cutting throttle?
Not stupid at all... I considered that, but I didn't want to cut throttle so soon, for 2 reasons..., I didn't want it crashing on a house, car, people, etc. and I didn't think I was going to lose it. Once it got way way out, I still believed I would be able to land it and retrieve it. And when the battery level got extremely low, I strongly considered cutting throttle, but wanted to at least have it drop somewhere where I could possibly retrieve it. There was a mountain road that I tired to get it over, but it was drifting so fast, I missed it. With the battery draining so fast, the non-stop high wind warning beeps, and even more beeps for critical battery warning and battery discharge errors... Just so much going on at once, takes a bit of training and experience to be able to handle all that, move the camera, process the information, and make a move... unfortunately the battery ran out so fast I didn't get a chance to cut throttle.

Great experience though, will be more prepared if there is ever a next time.
 

SMOKEYOB

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Please upload your TXT flight log here and post a link back here. You'll find instructions for locating your TXT flight log at that link.
Here is my reply from DJI support, was happy they took the time to analyze it and reply, just so I can have closure on what exactly went wrong.

"
Dear Customer,

Thanks for your patience.

For your claimed case, we have already finished the analysis, and the result is as follows:

1) t=04-17 h=22m d=1777.2m, the aircraft tilted pitch (3.4) & roll (16.0) but flew oppositely without any pilot input;
2) t=10-34 h=-361m d=5967.3m, the aircraft tilted pitch(-15.9) & roll(-0.9) but flew oppositely without any pilot input;
3) The above info proves that there was a strong wind
4) t=12-22 h=-416m d=7044.8m the drone turned into critical low battery landing
5) t=14-11 h=-699m d=7931.1m the battery died

According to the analysis, the incident was not caused by any product malfunction factors.

Should you have more questions, please feel free to let me know.

Best Regards,

"
 
D

danman999

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Winds aloft can be much stronger than surface winds, and tend to be unidirectional. The surface of the ground and structures/terrain weaken surface winds.
Also, mountain ridges can cause turbulence waves and downdrafts. as well as rotor clouds than can extend more than 40 miles downwind from the leeward side of the mountain.
I fly airplanes that weigh several tons, and strong winds aloft can toss me around like a rag doll, especially in mountainous terrain. Imagine the little electric motors of the Mavic trying to fight that.
I hope you find your Mavic, with no more harm than a lesson learned.
 

Oingo Boingo

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The Mavic is super weak in high winds and unless someone who examines the logs here proves differently, DJI is probably correct. I watched as the winds wouldn't let me perform any controlled movements with the sticks (in the wind) while my Mavic was only 20' feet away from me. What you're feeling at ground level is not what the mavic is feeling at its altitude. In my experience, all I could was watch as my mavic slowly and continuously drifted further and further away. Luckily for me the wind stopped for a brief moment near the end of my battery and I was able to regain control and land.
Dunno bout that. I have flown in winds close to 18 knots and yes it can be bashed around but have never had serious issues. I film MTB races and will at times let drone just hover and hold its position while I shoot with the TV cam .. then I put down the TV cam and grab the drone to get a chasing shot.... Unless Ure in gale force winds the Mavic seems capable in most winds upto 18 knots. How do I know it was gusting 18knots ? I have an anemometer in my kit
 

SMOKEYOB

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Winds aloft can be much stronger than surface winds, and tend to be unidirectional. The surface of the ground and structures/terrain weaken surface winds.
Also, mountain ridges can cause turbulence waves and downdrafts. as well as rotor clouds than can extend more than 40 miles downwind from the leeward side of the mountain.
I fly airplanes that weigh several tons, and strong winds aloft can toss me around like a rag doll, especially in mountainous terrain. Imagine the little electric motors of the Mavic trying to fight that.
I hope you find your Mavic, with no more harm than a lesson learned.
Lesson learned for sure, this happened in March though, so no retrieving it now. There must have been 75mph+ winds out there, otherwise how can you explain the following? And I'm no expert here, so if anyone can chime in and enhance or correct my explanation, please feel free.

With the drone set to sport mode, without touching any controls, the drone is supposed to hover... But instead the drone was drifting away at speeds of 20-40mph almost the entire flight, again without any input from the remote. Here is a quick screenshot from the flight log showing the remote control sticks in their neutral state, and sport mode on. You can see the drone is pointing towards the take-off spot, and it's flying backwards at a speed of 35.2mph in this screenshot, but no matter the direction it was pointing, it just kept drifting away... The drone in sport mode is supposed to max out at about 40mph. With the controls in neutral state, the drone naturally tries to hover in place, which I believe means it was pushing forward at 40mph to try to stay in one spot... but still flying back at 35.2mph... Some quick math here yields wind speeds of at least 75.2mph at that moment. Someone correct me if I'm wrong here, but I believe this indicates that there were some crazy high winds up there, consistent with DJI Supports response.

 
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gnirtS

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If you upload the .txt to the Airdata website it'll give a wind map and speeds to show all that.
 

Mavic19963

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Not stupid at all... I considered that, but I didn't want to cut throttle so soon, for 2 reasons..., I didn't want it crashing on a house, car, people, etc. and I didn't think I was going to lose it. Once it got way way out, I still believed I would be able to land it and retrieve it. And when the battery level got extremely low, I strongly considered cutting throttle, but wanted to at least have it drop somewhere where I could possibly retrieve it. There was a mountain road that I tired to get it over, but it was drifting so fast, I missed it. With the battery draining so fast, the non-stop high wind warning beeps, and even more beeps for critical battery warning and battery discharge errors... Just so much going on at once, takes a bit of training and experience to be able to handle all that, move the camera, process the information, and make a move... unfortunately the battery ran out so fast I didn't get a chance to cut throttle.

Great experience though, will be more prepared if there is ever a next time.
Not trying to point fingers of judgement, but did you employ aeronautical decision making (ADM)? That's part of the FAA 107 for UAS certification. Not sure if a METAR report was available in the area that you flew in, but knowing the weather in the vacinity before flight may have prevented your mishap.
 

gnirtS

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40mph at 75ft AGL is a lot of wind for sure. That alone is the max the mavic will do in sport mode full throttle.
 

Mavic19963

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Upper level winds can be stronger than at ground level. Nothing up there to obstruct wind flow.
 

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