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Fly away, recovery, lessons learned

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by syotr, Nov 23, 2013.

  1. syotr

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    Had a fly away with the Phantom today. Have to say it was pilot error. I was planning to shoot some video at some nearby falls. There was a power generating station at one end of the falls that has been inactive for years. I found out today that they are running it again.
    I had the Phantom set up with the GoPro attached in it's underwater housing. I had my floats attached to the Phantom in case of a water landing. I went through the normal checklist and did the compass dance but it did not seem to finish correctly. Could not get all satellites as there was a mountain to one side of me.
    I moved to a different location and tried again. All seemed well. Got the compass calibrated and all green lights for takeoff. The wind had picked up a bit and the craft seemed a bit wonky at launch. I should have landed immediately but I kept it in the air thinking it was just the wind and that it would settle down in a few seconds. As I raised it up a bit and move out over the water, it started to ignore my commands. I managed to steer it back over land behind me and tried get it to come down. Just as I nearly had it on the ground, it took off completely out of control. It flew across the water, over a road and crashed into a tree part way up the mountain. Then it flew back across the road and hit a pole on top of a building and I lost sight of it.
    I quickly drove to the area where it had likely gone down expecting to find it crashed in the road but it was nowhere to be seen.
    The building was the old power generating station. It was surrounded by chain link fence, barbed wire and "No Trespassing" signs. I looked through the fence but was unable to find the Phantom. I was surprised to see two vehicles parked inside. This placed had been shut down and overgrown with vines for as long as I can remember. Now it looked all spruced up and there were lights on inside.
    I crossed the road and climbed up to the railroad tracks above but was still unable to see anything. The building had a flat roof with a short wall around it. I then scaled the side of the cliff by climbing up the old dead vines that had been growing there. It was very steep but I finally managed to get about 100 feet up where I could see the roof on the building. There in one corner was my Phantom sitting upright.
    I climbed back down and found an entrance to the facility, went inside and located some workers there. I explained my situation and they were happy to help. They got a maintenance guy to go up on the roof and retrieve the Phantom. It was in pretty good condition but missing two of the pill bottles I had attached for floatation. One was on the roof. The other had fallen in the road. The battery was also missing. At some point, the door had come open and the battery fell out disconnecting itself. I never found it.
    After I got home, I fired up the bird and it seems to be OK. It was very windy and getting dark, so I did not fly it. I will want to do some more testing before putting it in the air again. For the record, I am still using 3.14 firmware.
    Lessons learned:
    Never fly near power lines even if you think they are not energized.
    If anything seems wonky, don't fly.
    The pill bottles I had attached for floataion were not anchored well enough to survive a crash, and might likely have come off during a rough water landing. I had wrapped tape around the connection in addition to snapping then onto the lids. One unsnapped from the lid. The other actually broke the lid. The other styrofoam blocks remained attached and may have even protected the GoPro. It survived without a scratch.
    I need to learn to fly in manual mode as this might have helped gain control.
    I will try to post the video later.
     
  2. Dave Pitman

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    syotr,

    Glad you were able to recover your bird. I have had a partial fly away. When they happen, things go so dam fast, don' they? I'm still not sure if mine was pilot error, or a true escaping Phantom. I would rather not to try again!
     
  3. syotr

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  4. cptdarel

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    DANG!! hate when that happens, lucky to get er back.
     
  5. ericty

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    Wow! Super glad you got it back. I lost control during my 3rd flight up and although at first I thought it was a flyaway, I'm thinking more that once it got up as high as it did (about 150' ) and away from me (about 200 yds.) I could not tell which direction it was flying. I pulled on the right lever but it was so far away that I couldn't tell if it was coming back at all and panicked after 7-9 seconds. It was kind of windy too so that didn't help. I was in full GPS mode, so essentially it should have just remained where it was when I let go of the controls, but as I said, I panicked. So...I just shut off the radio controller and prayed. Thankfully, the Failsafe Return To Home kicked in and it slowly started making it's way back to me and landed about 1 foot away from the takeoff point.

    Lessons learned: (1) Make sure to activate the 'Home Lock' mode (mine was not activated) so no matter how far it gets away I can control it without knowing how it is oriented, (2) Don't take it up too high on a windy day :)

    http://youtu.be/R9FTzwYzxeM
     
  6. ToddSmi

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    Thanks for sharing your experience so we can all try and learn from it. And you got me to thinking about learning the manual flight mode as well. If I understand correctly, that would at least take the GPS completely out of play and thus give you a fighting chance if the compass was the problem.
     
  7. syotr

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    I was flying in GPS mode. I have home lock mode activated on mine but did not think to switch to it in the few seconds I had.
    It is obvious from my video that the Phantom clipped a branch as I was trying to land it. This caused it to spin around so that it was facing me as it flew off. If it was responding at all to my command, I may have been sending the wrong signals as I did not realize it had turned around to face me.
    As it flew off, I tried to give it some more throttle to gain some altitude, and it seemed to respond. I did not try shutting off the transmitter. I have never had the nerve to test the RTH feature. Glad it worked for you.
    I may have been lucky that the battery fell out when it did. Otherwise it may have continued flying father away, up into the woods or into the water.
     
  8. PhantomFan

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    I think your assessment is accurate. I'm VERY glad you got your Phantom back. Remember, in GPS mode that puppy will hover within a handful of feet even in a brisk wind. I know it's hard not to panic, but if you are not in imminent danger of crashing into a person or object and have sufficient altitude, just take your hands off both sticks. The Phantom will stop and maintain its altitude and attitude in GPS mode. NOW you have a chance to compose yourself (take as long as you need!). Orient yourself to the copter, and bring it back to a landing using Home Lock if need be, or just fly her back if your panic has subsided.

    I hope there is not a "next time" for you, but if there is, remember the above. The Phantom is a brilliant machine. It has electronics inside that give it the potential to come back to you safe and sound...if you help it just a tiny bit! :lol:

    Look on the bright side. You have a way cool video of the whole thing! :p

    PF
     
  9. syotr

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    I have had over a hundred flights without any real problems. This was obviously something different from the start. It would not hover in place. It was trying to fly hard to the left when I was pulling the stick to the right. I managed to bring it back away from the water and tried to land it but it clipped a branch and then suddenly went full throttle away from me. I did lose orientation then and may have made matters worse.
    I am convinced that the GPS, compass or radio signal were confused by the proximity to the power station (which I thought was not operational.)
    I was very lucky to get it back and with minimal damage. I only lost the battery and a couple of pill bottles I used for floats.
     
  10. PhantomFan

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    Yeah, your motors sounded wonky right from the get-go in the video. Still...if you think there is an element of pilot error in a fly away situation, and the conditions are right (GPS mode, sufficient altitude, no imminent impact with ANYTHING) just do a hands-off the Tx. I do it when I get confused, and I'm not ashamed to say so.

    For the record, I'm age 60, and chronically confused! :lol: :lol:

    PF
     
  11. syotr

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    Flew the Phantom at the house today and it seems to be acting pretty normal, so I hope this was just a one time glitch caused by proximity to the power station. I plan to upgrade to the latest firmware today and recalibrate everything.
    I have ordered a Dex frame which should be more durable and completely waterproof. I plan to transfer the Phantom components to it.
     
  12. Brien

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    It looks like you were flying under power lines. Have you flown at that location before?
     
  13. syotr

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    Several times I have flown beyond where I can see the Phantom's orientation. The Homelock mode has worked great to allow me to bring it back within view to get oriented and land safely. I don't think it would have helped here since there was something clearly confused in the GPS, compass or radio signal. Since it flys fine this morning at home, I am convinced it was the proximity to the power station that was causing the initial problem. If I were experienced in flying in manual mode, I may have been able to bring it back in spite of GPS or compass problems, but if the radio signal was the problem, then even manual would not have worked.
    I am also not ashamed to admit that I can get confused flying this thing. I am older than you :)
     
  14. Daninho

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    To me it looked like the phantom was not stable in the air, maybe cause of the power lines influenced the compass but the reason for the real fly away was the first hit, maybe a sensor got mad cause of the little hit. Remember that error message in the Naza Software when you have to "massage" the Naza flight controller with your fist a bit :D Such a little impact is enough to cause this problem
     
  15. syotr

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    No, I have not flown there before. The power lines are connected to a small power generating station at the falls which has been shutdown for years. I was not aware that they had started it back up until after the flyaway.
     
  16. syotr

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    That's a possibility. I'm sure it didn't help matters.
    I upgraded to the latest firmware today and it is flying perfectly now.
     
  17. ElGuano

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    Thanks for posting the video, it's rare to have a successful recovery AND a record of the flight. At what point does it lose control? It seems you take off and hover for a few seconds, and immediately before it shoots off over the water at 0:39 there appears to be an impact--did it strike a branch or a pole?

    I've had a similar event happen (GPS mode, no control, switched to ATTI, still no control). Manual mode saved it. I have no idea why/when these things happen, but IMO the only real failsafe is manual.
     
  18. syotr

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    It was not behaving well as soon as I put it in the air. It would not hover in place but tried to fly to my left. I struggled to bring it back away from the water and tried to land it. It clipped a branch and then took off out of control.
     
  19. ElGuano

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    Ah thanks for that. A strike like that could very well throw the attitude sensors off and result I the flyaway (perhaps independent of the wonky takeoff behavior, or in conjunction with it). That's probably the point when you want to immediate take manual control, you can ascend to a safe height above the lake, regain position, and see if ATTI or gps recovers, or being it home slowly.