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Seeking advice - first "incident"

DomoDan

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TLDR: I was flying my drone (OG Mavic Pro) the other day when it got a weak signal notification, then disconnected. The drone never "returned home". I found it later in the flight path it was taking on it's return to home, when it either flew straight in to a rock wall or attempted to land in a boulder field and got all busted up. I'm looking to draw from everyones experience around the best way to get it fixed. Full story below.

So, this week I was in Lake Powell, filming my friends doing some wake boarding. For those unfamiliar with Lake Powell (you should google it, it's beautiful), it's a lake set deep inside red rock canyons. It's made up of a zillion fingers and has more coastline than the west coast of the United States. I was following the boat and flying manually in sport mode. It was out over open water, but apparently got some of that famous red rock between me and the drone, when all the sudden I got a "weak transmission signal" then almost immediately after a "disconnected" message. I immediately hit return to home, but the remote just kept saying connecting.

Frantically, I jumped on a jet ski and took off towards where the drone was. I was hoping the remote would reconnect as the drone was either flying home, or was hovering somewhere stuck. I could never get the remote to connect. I looked all over, but as it was out over open water and doesn't float I couldn't see anything. I followed the trajectory it was on and didn't see anything on the coast line it would have ran in to. I assumed the drone was lost and went back to the house boat.

Well, a couple of hours later my friends I was filming made it back, and they told me they saw the drone stop, fly up and start heading back towards the house boat. This was intriguing, so I looked at the map and plotted a straight shot line from the place the drone last communicated with the remote and my phone the house boat, and I could see there was a large red rock point that is ~1,000 feet high that was in the flight path. I thought maybe the drone tried to come home, couldn't find a way around that point, and when the battery got critically low it just decided to land. Now, at the bottom of that red rock wall was about a 100 foot tall, incredibly steep boulder field that lead down to the beach (the water level is insanely low right now). I took a rescue party over there, beached a boat and we started scrambling up the boulder field. I found the drone and it would appear what I expected happened was exactly what did happen. The drone is all busted up - one of the front "wings" is partially dislodged and the foot busted off. The camera is shattered. The battery was dislodged and is all scraped up. The metal plate on the bottom of the drone is all banged up and bent. The rubber feet on the bottom and plastic panel that covers a little access port on the back are missing. I was surprised to see the battery still lights up two lights when the power button is tapped.

I don't expect DJI to fix this for free, but it would be awesome if they did. The reality was I was 8,000 feet away and honestly couldn't see the drone anymore - I was tracking the boat with the camera and as such let something get between the drone and myself which caused this disconnect. What do you think would be the best way for me to get it fixed? Is it worth fixing? I can post pictures of the carnage if it would be helpful, and pictures of when I found it if anyone is interested. Also happy to retrieve and post any flight logs if there's value in that.
 

Salem-Drone

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I go further than I should go (out of sight) but the rule about VLOS is there for a reason. I might go around 500-1,000 feet which with a mini2 is well beyond VLOS but you cleared more than a mile away... :) I would say you learned a lesson that was expensive. Did you recover the video from the journey? That might be interesting to see the last ten minutes as it encountered the mountain. What DJI will do? that is up to DJI and the more experienced pilots here will weigh in on that...

sorry for the loss of the drone but risk management is the name of the game. Our job as Rpic is to make good decisions that don't jeopardize our drones. Your decision was your own... Good luck in the future...
 

test2000Anafi

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I would love to see the footage: amazing story and crash though, with the jetski's, rescue party etcetera.
It reminds me of the first Point Break movie which is amazing as well. Good luck and I hope to see some footage and or data!

With my drone (parrot anafi) I can set the RTH height at 150m, but that probably would not have helped as the rock is to high
 

DomoDan

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I go further than I should go (out of sight) but the rule about VLOS is there for a reason. I might go around 500-1,000 feet which with a mini2 is well beyond VLOS but you cleared more than a mile away... :) I would say you learned a lesson that was expensive. Did you recover the video from the journey? That might be interesting to see the last ten minutes as it encountered the mountain. What DJI will do? that is up to DJI and the more experienced pilots here will weigh in on that...

sorry for the loss of the drone but risk management is the name of the game. Our job as Rpic is to make good decisions that don't jeopardize our drones. Your decision was your own... Good luck in the future...
Yeah, I know VLOS is a thing. I've been flying this drone all over the world for 5 years, and have flown up to 23k feet away before! Crazy, I know. I haven't taken the memory card out yet to see if any video can be recovered, but I don't think it was filming at the time. I will certainly check that out.
 
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DomoDan

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I would love to see the footage: amazing story and crash though, with the jetski's, rescue party etcetera.
It reminds me of the first Point Break movie which is amazing as well. Good luck and I hope to see some footage and or data!

With my drone (parrot anafi) I can set the RTH height at 150m, but that probably would not have helped as the rock is to high
I will pull the memory card today and see if it happened to be recording, and if I can figure out how to grab a flight log as well. It was really pretty amazing - I never thought in a million years I'd find it, but thought I'd keep some of the teenage boys occupied for a few minutes with an adventure.
 
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MS Coast

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Yeah, I know VLOS is a thing. I've been flying this drone all over the world for 5 years, and have flown up to 23k feet away before! Crazy, I know. I haven't taken the memory card out yet to see if any video can be recovered, but I don't think it was filming at the time. I will certainly check that out.

Well, I have to say that this reminds me of the news stories about the alligator poachers who were caught because the game and fish department saw the photos the poachers bragged about on their Facebook page.
 
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DomoDan

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I have to admit - I thought someone would chime in with experience in getting the drone repaired, either by DJI or by someone else.

Nobody reading this has experience with that?
 

Salem-Drone

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It depends on what you are looking for. Yes, you can get DJI to repair it and if you are expecting it to be free or cheap, I don't think so. I have sent mine in because it would not turn on and they sent me a new drone at no cost.
But you flew the drone beyond VLOS, You lost contact with it and it did what it was supposed to do and on RTH it crashed into a cliff.
You can ask big Al (One of the Admin) what his opinion is and since none of us work for DJI we can only give you what our "opinion" is and IMHO They are not obligated to fix it and if you throw enough money at it they will be happy to.

I have seen ADs for a place in CA that also repairs drones but I don't remember much about it. Somebody who is more knowledgeable may step in now that I have said this but if not, message an admin/mod
 

Capt KO

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Replacement would be cheaper than repair. You got your life out of it for sure. There’s a lot out there to get right now in every price range. Good luck on your next adventure. Great story.
 

Merrill277

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I have an MA2 and for less than a year. I flew sideways into a cliff near Moab Utah and later used "find my drone", a really nice feature to find it. A GPS map on it, led me right to it. I tried fixing it myself but the tiny parts and wiring are ridiculous to work with. I priced the repair by calling the first DJI repair that came up online. They quoted me $366 to repair. I decided instead to use a dji work order and then sent it to the DJI repair facility in grapevine Texas. They completed the repair by simply replacing the drone excluding the battery and only charged me $137 including shipping. It came with a new drone, gimbal and camera. Took about a week total. My suggestion is just do that, don't wait, get a shipping label in the process from them and send it in. It will save you a lot of time and frustration, and in my opinion a quite reasonable fee to repair. Keep in mind, I cannot speak for the Mavic pro or how long you have had it or exactly what they can do for you, but I can honestly say I was very pleased with their service center.
 

DomoDan

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I have an MA2 and for less than a year. I flew sideways into a cliff near Moab Utah and later used "find my drone", a really nice feature to find it. A GPS map on it, led me right to it. I tried fixing it myself but the tiny parts and wiring are ridiculous to work with. I priced the repair by calling the first DJI repair that came up online. They quoted me $366 to repair. I decided instead to use a dji work order and then sent it to the DJI repair facility in grapevine Texas. They completed the repair by simply replacing the drone excluding the battery and only charged me $137 including shipping. It came with a new drone, gimbal and camera. Took about a week total. My suggestion is just do that, don't wait, get a shipping label in the process from them and send it in. It will save you a lot of time and frustration, and in my opinion a quite reasonable fee to repair. Keep in mind, I cannot speak for the Mavic pro or how long you have had it or exactly what they can do for you, but I can honestly say I was very pleased with their service center.

That’s good to hear. I did get a shipping label and will send it in. I don’t expect them to repair it for free. I guess if I can get it repaired for under $300 I’ll do that... if it’s more then I’ll just sell off all the accessories and batteries and get the new Mavic Pro 2.

I wish I could combine the autonomous flying and tracking abilities of my Skydio 2 with beacon, with the flying experience of my Mavic Pro. That’s a drone I’d spend a few thousand on in a heartbeat.
 
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Prismatic

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Not to put too fine a point on it, but flying over Lake Powell is illegal at any range. The lake is completely contained within the Glen Canyon Nat'l Recreation Area--which is administered by the National Park Service, and is thus off-limits to drones.

Now, it makes sense to prohibit flights near Rainbow Bridge, which is accessible from Lake Powell. That area should be given special status, if only because it's a sacred site for the native Navajo.

But fer cryin' in a bucket, that region is not only remote and isolated, the GCNRA was specifically designated by Congress as a National Recreation Area. That as opposed to being a National Park.

The National Parks have a slightly-schizoid mission to preserve their wild character whilst managing millions of tourists. Banning drones is arguably a necessary compromise.

But you can't really make that argument for a National Recreation Area. The creation of Lake Powell itself utterly destroyed the "wild character" of what was once a deep, largely impenetrable wilderness. Today, jet skis and houseboats cast rippling shadows on the ruins of ancient villages. And I guess that's fine, they don't "ruin the place for everybody". But drones? They're forbidden in GCNRA only because "no drones" is NPS policy.

I'll note here that National Monuments that are under Bureau of Land Management administration do allow drone flights. One in particular is the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which borders GCNRA. The canyons and cliffs of the GSENM offer ample opportunities to crash your drone in a beautiful and inaccessible place. 🤭

Now, the administration of Glen Canyon Nat'l Rec. Area may not strongly enforce NPS drone policy except in egregious circumstances. And enforcement would be nearly impossible anyway. If so, lax enforcement wouldn't be "official" policy, so woe to anyone who forces a bureaucrat to balance their career against this issue.

Regardless, the whole fiasco should never have happened. Respect the rules, or we all pay a price.
 
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MAvic_South_Oz

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I could see there was a large red rock point that is ~1,000 feet high that was in the flight path.

Lots of things done wrong here, but hopefully you can learn from it.

The above note brings up an interesting question, for me at least as I haven't encountered it before.

If your drone is doing a failsafe RTH, it's RTH altitude is set to say 100', and it comes to something higher than that, we know it should then, under normal circumstances, climb vertically until it can get over the obstacle and continue.

But what happens when the obstacle is over 400', or even 1640' as per DJI max alt limit set ?
Will it keep going up, or just hover at either point until battery disconnect ?

I will pull the memory card today and see if it happened to be recording, and if I can figure out how to grab a flight log as well.

Yes, please post video and flight log, some will probably be able to tell you pretty much what has happened.

Go here for the flight log instructions . . . section 3.


I have to admit - I thought someone would chime in with experience in getting the drone repaired, either by DJI or by someone else.

Nobody reading this has experience with that?

It's an M1P, old tech, obsolete aircraft, parts might be an issue, not worth repair from the sounds of it.
Would likely give you more ongoing issues and costs.
 

test2000Anafi

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But what happens when the obstacle is over 400', or even 1640' as per DJI max alt limit set ?
Will it keep going up, or just hover at either point until battery disconnect ?

It will hover until the battery gets too low and it will autoland.
It's also completely possible that the RTH speed is too high for the obstacle avoidance to work and it will crash either way? Do the sensors even work when RTH is activated ?
 

DomoDan

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Well, the flight log isn't worth a **** because it stopped logging after the drone disconnected from the phone. I wasn't recording at the time, so no video of the accident.

DJI quoted me $859 to repair the drone, which makes absolutely no sense. They did say they would send a revised quote that may include some discounts (and I told them they can remove the replacement battery, as I have plenty of those).

At this point, I'm just going to sell the accessories (bag, remote, charger, batteries, etc...) and buy a new drone. I just need to figure out which one to buy.
 

Meta4

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Well, the flight log isn't worth a **** because it stopped logging after the drone disconnected from the phone.
The recorded flight data would have shown enough to point to the issues that caused the crash and help to avoid repeating it.
There are probably some things in there that you aren't aware of.
But you would have posted the data weeks ago if you were interested in finding out.
 

DomoDan

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The recorded flight data would have shown enough to point to the issues that caused the crash and help to avoid repeating it.
There are probably some things in there that you aren't aware of.
But you would have posted the data weeks ago if you were interested in finding out.

I’m happy to post it for you. I’m not an idiot and I know what happened- I think I explained it in the first post. I let a 1,500 foot call rock get between me and drone, so it disconnected and the drone couldn’t find a path back. As such it tried to land on a Boulder field and tumbled down the rocks.
 

MAvic_South_Oz

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I let a 1,500 foot call rock get between me and drone, so it disconnected and the drone couldn’t find a path back.

That's something that is an unknown here.
The M1P OA should see it rise until it can clear an obstacle.
The questions is, will it climb such a height to clear the 'thing' in the way ?
Or will it be deemed too high within the flight parameters, or possibly run out of battery trying (if low on juice) ?
A flight log should have an answer hopefully.
 
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