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MAYDAY, MAYDAY: Phantom lost

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by PetePerrim, Mar 3, 2014.

  1. PetePerrim

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    Last Friday evening I lost my lovely Phantom 2. It had lots of goodies on it and I still feel sick to the stomach when I think of the smashed up debris lying unnoticed in a field or the long grass behind someone's shed who will never discover it.

    I have obviously given it a whole lot of thought about how and why it may have happened and I decided to share those insights with you guys to possibly help prevent this from happening to someone else.

    It was around 7pm, still moderately light outside but it had been raining all afternoon with gusty cold winds. There was a break in the weather for a half hour and I had been itching to have a fly so I took the opportunity.

    I had (only 2 days prior) tidied up the appearance of my Phantom by removing some stickers from it. It had a Gopro sticker and a FatShark sticker and tragically my name and phone number on a Dymo label. I had meant to reprint my name label but just didn't get around to it.

    On Friday evening I flew it around for a bit at around 50 metres altitude but then inexplicably decided to send it up high. It got to an altitude of 600 metres when very suddenly it just flipped over and then started tumbling downward. I was FPVing through the FatShark goggles so all I could see was the horizon flipping around and around. I tried desperately to initiate a motor restart in the unlikely event that this was the issue. Because of the BVR altitude and the gusting wind (about 8-10kph at ground level) the falling Phantom was probably blown quite some distance as it fell. The view from the goggles gave no indication of ground proximity as it was tumbling and flipping so quickly. After several seconds the screen lit up with static which indicated a heavy crash.

    Over the next few days (it is only 4 days after the fact today) I have spent several hours searching open tracts of land down wind from where it had been flying. I have placed reward notices in over 100 letter boxes in the area and I have left my contact details with the park ranger at a local park area.

    Inboard my Phantom was the H2-3d gimbal, Gopro Hero 3 silver, iOSD mini, Immersion 5.8 ghz transmitter and a really expensive mini SD card.

    My conclusions and advice are as follows.

    Flying at altitude after rain may have forced atmospheric moisture into the motor or ESC, killing one corner, causing the mechanical or electrical failure in the first place. First lesson, don't fly after or during inclement weather.

    Always keep your return contact details on the bird.

    Never fly BVR during moderate / strong winds, especially at altitude. If it goes down, your chances of recovery are very slim.

    I was probably getting too confident with my Phantom. I had flown it in some amazing areas and was learning to trust its reliability and with this probably came an over confidence in its indestructability.

    I hope that any of you out there who may be feeling you know your machine too well to let this kind of thing happen take heed of my story. Just last Friday I read and commented on another post here titled "After the crash: what now?" Less than 4 hours later I had lost my own machine!

    Believe me, this can and will happen to anyone. The quip that each flight could be your last is so painfully true. It feels like I've lost a favourite pet, there is no closure (a mangled wreck to dissect for parts) and a sizeable hole in my wallet. This is no hobby for the faint hearted or tight-of-wallet.

    Such is the enjoyment I get from flying these things and also the financial investment I had made in spare batteries, case, spare parts etc that it was going to cost me as much to walk away from this hobby as it was to stay with it. I have already ordered a new Phantom 2 with new Zenmuse gimbal, I have ordered a new Immersion Tx (this time a 600mw) and a new Gopro. This time though I also ordered a new F550 RTF with iOSD etc. The Phantom is great for portability so I'll use that for filming when I take the family away on trips but I want to use the larger and more stable 550 around home. I also like the idea of being able to upgrade components more easily with the 550s more open structure.

    If anyone is reading this who is considering getting into this hobby, it is probably cheaper to get hooked on cocaine. My money tally so far this year has been as follows (in New Zealand dollars ((1 Nz$ equals 90 cents US))

    Walkera QRX-350. $1000. Written off/ total loss
    Phantom 2 with kit. $1,600. Total loss
    Phantom 2 $1,600. On its way
    DJI 550 RTF. $1,300. On its way

    Luckily for me, my income supports this hobby and I don't have any other expensive pass times so my wife is OK about my expenditure. Also, as part of my job as a property design consultant I can charge clients for aerial videography so every time I lose a bird I can claim most of it back in tax rebates.

    I hope my story helps just one of you out there reconsider flying on a day when your instinct tells you that you really shouldn't. Good luck.
     
  2. saltire

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    Sorry to hear about your loss and your are lucky you can afford such a loss. Small tracking devices would help and if you can have a tiny chip in a smartphone then the same device fitted to a phantom could save the day.
     
  3. Seahorse

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    There seems to be a pattern emerging with your losses, perhaps a lesson to be drawn... :?:
     
  4. Shrimpfarmer

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    Your so right when you say every flight could be your last and we all have to embrace that and just get on and enjoy the flight. Your observations on what might have happened are useful and its good of you to post up the details for the benefit of others. I think adverse weather could well have caused the crash as the tumbling indicates one or more motors stopped. If they had all failed it would have just dropped like a brick.

    Luckily for me the novelty factor of flying an RC model has worn off long ago so I don't get the burning desire to fly that I used to. I am really choosy now about my flying conditions but I also realise many people don't get that many opportunities to fly. You describe how you grabbed a half hour window in the weather. Your misfortune demonstrates that it might well be dry where your standing but things can be very different at altitude and you were very high.

    Good to hear that you can afford your loss and are going to stay with the hobby. Fingers crossed this loss is your last.

    Shrimpy
     
  5. saltire

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  6. Channel One

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    Sounds like you lost a prop.

    Wayne
     
  7. jodaddy23

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    i'll wait till those come out and actually work for awhile .

    sorry for your lose , how high did you go ?
     
  8. saltire

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    I bought one for my m/cycle keys but its a no brainer if you have over 1k in a quad and they are cheap .Ill wait and see if it works but i thought it was worth a punt .
     
  9. tawd77

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    I dont think taking the Phantom out in a half hour weather break that involved really gusty winds and moisture is a good idea ;) . At 1800 feet, the moisture and winds/turbulance will be completely different than at ground level, especially when there has recently been a storm system in the area.

    Very sorry to hear that you lost your Phantom. Its great that you thought out the cause of the crash, before blaming DJI for being at fault for it, as most seem to do.

    If losing $1600 is a drop in the bucket, is the company you work for hiring? I could really use a job like that! :D

    Good luck with the new Phantom and Hex. My buddy has a 550 and it flies like a dream!
     
  10. DanCH

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    Sorry for your loss.

    I don't ever fly now without my GPS tracker onboard. It probably costs me a minute of flight time, but I don't care about that. One day a £20 tracker could save me £1000.

    This is the one I use:
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Global-Tracker- ... PS+tracker
     
  11. BruceTS

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    I doubt the moisture was an issue, was just flying mine yesterday in a light drizzle. Sounds like you lost a prop...

    Did the video feed stop after in crashed? Just for future reference you could use a Yagi type antenna or another directional to pinpoint it's location before it stops transmitting. Having a lost model beeper helps too.
     
  12. tawd77

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    Your Phantom may have flown ok in drizzle, but that doesnt mean anything other than you are extremely lucky that you still have a Phantom. Unless I missed something (As I often do... Very often. :D ), I think its a REALLY bad idea to fly the Phantom in drizzle/dense fog. I could be wrong, but I wouldn't ever think of intentionally flying my Phantom in any precipitation.
     
  13. gavinski

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    First I just want to say that I am sorry to hear about your lost Phantom. That sucks - it really does. I know how you feel as I was the one who posted the "After the crash" story. Like you I considered dropping the hobby altogether, but I am also similarly invested (and hooked on the fun it offers). So I decided to buy a new P2 AND rebuild the original. If all goes well I will end up with two.

    I can also appreciate the impulse to seize a window of opportunity to go flying. I am in Seattle, and it can rain for days and days at a time. As frustrating as it can be, I think it is important to be patient, so you don't rush through pre-flight checks or start doing things you would not normally do.

    You say that you flew up to 600m, which is close to 2,000ft. I know there is a general guidance about a flying ceiling of 400ft, though it is not an actual law as far as I can tell. Honestly, I'd be worried about aircraft traffic at that altitude, and a potential collision. That's kind of a scary thought, no?

    Anyway, thanks for posting this. I think we can all learn from other people's experiences. Especially the catastrophic ones. :|

    - g
     
  14. Lostknight

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    Sorry to hear about the loss of your equipment. I hope you are able to find it.
     
  15. ericdes

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    I know you didn't see it in the goggles, but a bird may have it you if it was smoggy way up there.

    Did you have standard props on it.
     
  16. PetePerrim

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    Yes, it had the self tightening DJI props, the only ones I trusted on it.
     
  17. PetePerrim

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    It had the factory self tightening props, Im quietly confident it was a motor failure.
     
  18. LuvMyTJ

    LuvMyTJ ADMINISTRATOR
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    The Tile has a max range of 150 feet, not much use for a lost quad that may bee 100's or 1000's of feet from you. I am looking into this... http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/retrievor-self-charging-gps-tracking-retrieving solar powered GPS tracker.

    Also, RC motors are usually waterproof, in fact some RC motors are broken in by running them under water (brushed).
     
  19. mikeydaddio

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    Sorry for the loss. Sad thing is, without finding it, you'll never know. Could have been a motor. Could have been a piece of hail or even a migratory bird flying at that level hit and broke the prop! Hope you find it so you'll at least have some closure.

    Mike
     
  20. Magnumb

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    It sounds like he actually had a break in the weather vs. Flying into bad weather people. He sounds like a sharp chap, so I'm sure he could figure out if he was in moisture aloft. So let's give the man some credit!

    If it wasn't raining at the time and your FPV image was clear, then I agree that it sounds like you lost a motor/prop. Hell of a thing the weather and so sorry to hear of your loss! :cry:

    I can also say it rarely helps to get free advice after the fact (you know who you are) so I applaude you on taking any commentary politely. That said there have been some great ideas to prevent total loss in the future.

    Despite our best efforts though, this kind of thing will always be a real possibility. More than anything, its very instructional to hear about it. It takes guts to even mention it here, no one wants to be "that guy", so I applaude once again your willingness to share as it helps us all out as a community.

    Short of losing a prop, likely the only issue would have been winds aloft and it blowing you downwind in an unexpected direction. Not a major issue in GPS mode.

    I do have an idea to help you look in the right direction for the crash site. Wind backs or veers as you go up in altitude. You likely had a low in the area at the time of the crash, so I would suggest looking 90deg left of downwind. Windspeed increases and backs counter clockwise in or around a low, or in cool unstable air behind a cold front for example. So, likely you should widen your search left of downwind as I suggested before. You would be stunned how much the wind will back or veer as it frees itself from ground based turbulance. Especially at 2k feet. About 200' agl will be high enough to make a difference depending on local terrain, trees and vegetation.

    1 hope that helps you in your search.