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DJI Mandatory, uninterruptible actions are wrong, legally actionable

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Drestin Black, Sep 18, 2016.

  1. Drestin Black

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    Dear DJI,

    I have a couple of Phantom P4s and I love them; fly them daily as a hobbyist and am working towards becoming a FAA licensed UAS pilot. You have a great product, hardware and software. Kudos!

    An incident today and the hours since has given me time to reflect and come to a conclusion that I wanted to openly discuss before it becomes an issue you address in court as I feel some day you will.

    UAS (drones) are being treated as serious devices by the FAA now. These are not toys anymore, we have legal obligations and can suffer real and serious fines and penalties for violating them. Not just No Fly Zones, but obligations regarding maximum altitude, VLOS requirements, day time flying rules, etc. The most important take away from this paragraph is that we are now in the realm of regulated legal equipment and their pilots. When your hardware/software, that we MUST use in order to fly the device we purchased from you, FORCES us to break a law or travel in an unsafe way then we are FORCED to address this with you. Hopefully we can fix this in an open discussion before it becomes one where an attorney says, My client isn't at fault, his equipment MADE him do this, he had NO choice/control whatsoever.

    ANYONE today can jump into ANY helicopter and airplane and take off ANYWHERE at ANYTIME and can fly ANYWHERE at ANY altitude ANY speed. Now, ALL of these things are regulated, there are laws that tell us what we cannot do, but we can physically do them (right or wrong is a legal issue). So, there are LAWS that prevent us from doing some of these things or combinations of things. In a regular airplane or helicopter, we must obey No Fly Zones and other Flight Restrictions, but it's up to the pilot to actually obey them. UAS pilots are learning about these things now with the classes and tests for UAS licenses. And we are expected to obey them, just as any other pilot. However; let's be clear; TONIGHT I can go jump in my buddys airplane, not bother calling the tower, taxi and just take off right into other air traffic and point my nose at the White House and go flying over it. What's going to happen is I'll be noticed and someone will try to contact me. Likely I'll be intercepted. Certainly I'll be "talked to", perhaps prosecuted, perhaps go to jail and pay big fines. Etc Etc Etc. You know who does all that? The FAA and other police agencies. You know who does NOT do that? DJI or Cessna or Boeing or any other hardware or software maker.

    On sophisticated aircraft there are warning devices and computers, they tell you if you are going to stall, if your fuel is low, if your flying too fast or slow or too high or low, if your gear is stuck down or up, if there are issues with other electronics aboard. You can be told that your gas tank has less than 1/8th gallon left as you take off for a transoceanic flight. Your GPS and compass can say it's not working as you barrel down the runway and you pull up into the wild blue yonder.

    WHILE you are flying - you computer systems can tell you; "Hey, we are nearly out of fuel." and"HEY, We are REALLY low on fuel!" They can say, "GPS says we are in a no fly zone. or "HEY We Just Crossed Into An The Pentagons restricted air space!"
    Here is what NO aircraft or helicopter will do: It will NOT TAKE CONTROL away and FORCE the vehicle to do something that you can do nothing but watch in horror as it occurs.

    Imagine we got a 747 super low on fuel coming in to land at Chicago and Oh Oh, it's at 1% fuel remaining - so the auto pilot kicks in an Automatically Starts Landing in the middle of a school yard or into a football stadium or into the lake or into a fuel refinery or nuke plant. Or you are flying your helicopter and suddenly the GPS and Computer aboard announce, "You have just entered a no fly zone" - AND IMMEDIATELY just stop, hover, then begin to land on top of a large playground filled with children, or it immediately starts to land in the middle of a lake. And You Can DO NOTHING about it but sit there and die, possibly to you and your passengers own screaming deaths! And if you should survive then the FAA comes to kick your *** you'll be saying, "I didn't do it, the plane/helicopter just did it all by itself!"

    Some might be saying, "You did something wrong." Perhaps; but you are not the judge or jury. And, what about emergencies? In an emergency you can land in NFZs, in an emergency you can go to whatever altitude you need. What if this is a genuine emergency - Oh No, I struck a bird and one engine is out I'm declaring an emergency landing at the nearest airport, Oh No that is a NFZ and I can't authorize GEO because no cell service DOWN DOWN DOWN you go and right into the path of another plane or crash landing on a freeway or top of some building or into a crowd of people.

    My Point - Yes, We WANT and LOVE your automatic features. When I lose connection and you auto return me home - dude, awesome! But when it's partially back and I regain control, you let me resume flight. Cool
    However, When the battery hits critical low you force me to land (except the small "trick" of keeping altitude by forcing the left stick up ... what if I NEED to go up and over a small obstacle before I make a 100% safe landing? Just like a plane pilot who's "Flying on Fumes, the gauge says empty but she's still flying so go baby go please! In DJI land, "Sorry, our sensor reads X%, down you go" and despite the fact that the craft is still flying , you force us down potentially damaging or destroying our craft and maybe hurting others or breaking the law. This is wrong.

    Tonight - I took off in a familiar area and flew a familiar path. The familiar warning to call the helipad near me came up and I self-authorized because I had already called them, we know each other by now ;) Flying and doing just fine, all is well ---- then suddenly, "You Have Entered a No-fly Zone. Landing Now..."
    Let's forget the "What NFZ?!" No time for that. I am a pilot and I am in charge of my craft. I have a fully flight capable craft and I am in contact with it, visually and electronically and it's working just fine. I've hit an invisible wall - right or wrong -- and being told I must not legally go further. Ok Ok I hear you and I have EVERY intention of NOT breaking the law and I'm perfectly happy to stop, and leave, hell, I'll even be happy to do a Return to Home. What I am NOT OK with is: And she just hovers then starts to drop. Gimbal downwards, AWESOME I'm coming down into a tree edged active roadway.

    Here I watch helplessly as I go from legal to legally warned to screw-you-pilot, you going down and breakin' laws! Miraculously I do not hit a branch and she lands perfectly in the middle of the left lane. And I gimbal upwards to watch a car come right for her. Braking hard it doesn't hit. I'm already heading to my car with my partner and he drives as I'm watching on the screen someone stopping traffic, grabbing the drone and jumping in their car with it (lost signal). There are cars all around, whipping past him. He was endangered, they were endangered, my vehicle was endangered.
    I get to the place and pull up just to survey the area. There is a car pulled over on the shoulder idling. I get out of my car and a dad and his son get out. And there's my drone. There are good people. They returned it to me. The father reporting he "practically had a heart attack" because it "practically landed on my roof" and then I was nearly rear-ended. I gave them all the cash I had as a reward and thanked them profusely.

    DJI - YOU are at primarily fault here, not me. I didn't do anything wrong (to this moment I cannot find this NFZ on any map or app I have, starting with the official B4UFLY app and FAA websites but that's not the point of this message). It doesn't matter if I DID violate a NFZ and if I was technically therefore wrong and breaking a rule. I'll suffer that punishment if charged, that's my problem and my issues, not yours. YOU need to build good hardware and software that lets your craft fly properly and as much safety built in - BUT you cannot take control away from us when we need it, arguably, the most! TRY to imagine the scenarios I described above and you being Boeing or Cessna.

    Any real world aircraft pilots: What if your aircraft just took over control and you could do NOTHING as it crashed into the ground? Think that flight system would be around long? Would the FAA even allow it to fly?

    I think that DJI is WRONG, and I think they are even going to find themselves on the wrong end of a lawsuit soon enough, in having software that takes over control in a manner that cannot be overridden. Yes, put in your automatic features if you'd like but in ALL, repeat *ALL* cases, you MUST allow pilot overrides. We are the captain of our ships, what WE say goes when we're flying, NOT you. We are real pilots now with real law and penalties and therefore WE must ultimately be in FULL charge of our craft.

    Summary and to repeat for full impact: DJI, The Pilot is Always in charge of his craft, completely and utterly. We MUST be able to override ANY automatic function. Period. I believe my desire is something you'll find legally necessary to protect yourselves and to protect our equipment and the public we fly over/around.

    Sincerely,
    db
     
    #1 Drestin Black, Sep 18, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2016
  2. ROD PAINTER

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    This is exactly why I did not update my P3P to have NFZ.
     
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  3. Drestin Black

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    What about mandatory landing when battery is critically low?

    Imagine you are in your car and the fuel gauge suddenly reads "E" -- Imagine that right then and there, no matter where you are or what you are doing, the car immediately comes to a stop and turns the motor off and you have zero control the entire time. Meanwhile the engine was running just fine on "empty"

    This cannot be tolerated - sadly it will take an automatic landing that hurts someone and in the lawsuit that follows DJI will be found at fault and only then will they change things. This change needs to happen now, before someone is hurt.
     
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  4. ROD PAINTER

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    I never let it get to that point. I land at 30% battery.
     
  5. Sagebrush

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    Where is this and what map were you looking at? Could you give us the coordinates?

    Thanks,

    SB
     
  6. Drestin Black

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    Not important - beside the point (I've flown this area a dozen times without issue before). This isn't about whether there really was a NFZ or not - that's a technical bug perhaps. The issue is; Control was taken away form a perfectly safe and flying aircraft and it was forced to make an unsafe landing in an unsafe hazardous place putting people at risk and I was utterly unable to do anyhing about it. I'm forced, as pilot to be responsible, but DJI takes my ability to BE responsible and control things away. That's the point.
     
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  7. Sagebrush

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    Okay, I won't look for the NFZ, but what map were you looking at?

    SB
     
  8. flpholt

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    sorry I just read that whole thread and my head hurts . these are still toys hobby grade also as a hobbyist we have a lot more lead way than some one with a 107
     
  9. Drestin Black

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    Not being disrespectful, hope it didn't come out that way. I used the one on the DJI website as well as B4UFLY. I also checked to see if there were any TFRs in the area; none.
     
  10. Drestin Black

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    Sorry it was so long and strong - but I feel strongly about this issue.

    Actually, these are no longer toys at all. We are FAA pilots and bound by real world laws and rules, rules that have penalties of real impact; money and jail potentially. We cannot treat this lightly, it must be treated just as seriously as if we were guys building/flying 747s
     
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  11. Drestin Black

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    p.s., DJI - there is a really quick and easy fix you can do for flying into No Fly Zones, by the way. Instead of initiating a unstoppable automatic landing. Initiate, without delay, a Smart Return to Home. This way, the NFZ isn't violated but you leave control of the craft in the pilots hands.
     
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  12. Sagebrush

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    Beyond frustrating. I'm one of those guys that is fortunate to be surrounded by Class E and G airspace.

    You might try using this VFR sectional: VFRMAP - Digital Aeronautical Charts and see what it shows.

    If it says you were good to go then there is certainly an issue.

    SB
     
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  13. jmc67

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    On critically low battery, you can still keep the bird in the air by throttling up and you also have full control. Do you loose all control if all of a sudden the app says you are in a NFZ and forces a landing? Are you able to at least maneuver the craft to land safely?
     
  14. BigAl07

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    Unfortunately regardless how we feel these are still toy-grade sUAS. If you want to move up to a more robust system you can very easily it's just going to cost a lot more. Just because these are now lumped into the same group as 54lb capable systems that can fly 100's of mile doesn't make then any less than toy-grade. We are pretty much pushing their envelope in so many ways it's not even funny.

    Remember the majority of the DJI Phantom market is still hobby use and that's where their point of interest will remain until the majority are something else but I don't ever see that happening. Regardless what we feel like we should be able to do DJI is basically CYA by instilling what their engineers believe is the best possible "over rides" in most scenarios.

    What needs to be mentioned is before DJI implemented "Battery Critically Low" scenario we were running our batteries VERY low and trying to get ever last second out of the packs. Once they hit an internal "dangerously low point" the batteries shut down. You just think you don't have control now... what if the props stopped turning? Yea we had that at one point too. It could be (and was) a lot worse.
     
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  15. Drestin Black

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    I understand what you mean, but now that we are under control of the FAA and even hobbyists are subject to the same laws and regulations and everyone is liable if your drone crashes into someone or something and does damage. There needs to be liability. My attorney is going to argue, should I crash into something/one that I couldn't be liable, I had no control over the vehicle, that control was TAKEN AWAY from me by the manufacturers hard-coded override. You'll note there is no such systems in any professional aircraft of any kind.

    Yes, but what if you just needed that 15 more seconds of power between 1% and 0% to make it just those few more feet to safety -- at least you have the possibility as the pilot to try. DJI is taking that away and saying, Sorry, you are done when I say you are DESPITE the fact that at this moment right now you have a perfectly fine flying and safe aircraft.

    I think it's going to take them being sued to make the change :(
     
    #15 Drestin Black, Sep 19, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2016
  16. WilsonFlyer

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    And just as soon as I find a decent multi without this restriction, I'm selling out ALL of my DJI stuff which includes a P3P, a P4 and an Inspire. I'm praying GoPro Karma is it. It's looking like it just might be.

    Commies in my drones are going to be commies in somebody else's drones and real soon I hope. It's the singular thing I detest about my DJI products and I hate it enough to sell everything I've got (and will).
     
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  17. WetDog

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    You can corner case all you like. Won't help. DJI is quite within their rights to limit functionality when they feel safety is compromised. They are not obligated to be right 100% of the time. They're not Space Shuttles.

    About the only thing I can believe DJI would be legally liable for (and this is a stretch ) is to refund the price (or part of it) in the event that you could successfully argue that any new limitations fundamentally changed the value of the device. Goodluckwiththat.
     
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  18. flpholt

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    karma only goes 3280 feet in distance not good
     
  19. flpholt

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    powereye
     
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  20. WilsonFlyer

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    It's essentially a park flyer as we call it in RC circles. Park flyers have limited range with limited power RXs.

    Won't limit me hardly at all because I don't fly out of LOS anyway and that's getting very close to practical LOS for an object that size.
     
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