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My Phantom Took Its Last Flight

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by walstib, Apr 21, 2014.

  1. walstib

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    My Phantom Vision 2 was about 20 feet above the ground and coming in for a landing in “return home” mode Friday when it suddenly took off and headed north. It started to climb, then began circling as if it was going into toilet-bowl swirl mode, and then it nose dived behind a hill.

    About 30 minutes later I located what was left of my beloved Phantom — the shattered top and bottom shells and the landing gear — about 100 feet apart along the shoulder of U.S. Highway 101 near Emma Wood State Beach in Ventura County, California. The motors and camera were gone, although I spotted shredded propeller pieces along the side of the four southbound lanes.

    This is the story of my month as a Phantom Vision 2 owner and pilot.

    My Phantom, with red and blue stripes, worked fine out of the box. It flew where I directed it to, transmitted camera images to my iPhone, and otherwise performed well as I began using it to take train pictures along the scenic California coast.

    The first sign of trouble came about 10 days into it when my copter began flying erratically. It had a mind of its own and didn’t respond to command signals. Instead of going where I wanted it to, it climbed and circled like a toilet bowl. Somehow, I was able to regain control and brought it in for a landing. Its first rough touchdown.

    I re-calibrated the compass, making sure I didn’t have anything metal in my pockets, and tried flying again. Everything seemed OK. But then a few days later I had another flyaway, this time it went higher and out of my sight. It didn’t respond to control signals. I thought for sure it had crashed, but I noticed it was still sending aerial pictures to my phone, so it was still in the air.

    I shut down my flight controller and it went into return home mode. It worked as advertised and a few minutes later my Phantom landed right next to me, where its journey began.

    But I was starting to lose confidence in my bird.

    I flew every day in the next week with no significant flyaways. But now I was having problems with the wi-fi signal. For no apparent reason, the picture transmitted to the Phantom app on my iPhone would go dark, showing just a black screen. This began happening with some regularity and the only way to get the picture back was to bring the bird to the ground and turn it off and then on again.

    Now I was really starting to lose confidence in my bird.

    I have taken dozens of great pictures with my Phantom, and I was excited on Friday to get a couple of trains running south along the ocean just before sunset. I went out to the Pacific Coast Highway just north of Emma Wood State Beach and started with a quick test flight.

    It went well and I returned to the ground to wait for the train to approach. A few minutes later the train approached so I took flight, went out over the ocean and snapped a few pictures.

    Then I tried to bring my bird in for a landing, but it took off south, climbed and began circling over the ocean. I tried moving the levers on my controller, but my bird wasn’t responding. Then, the app displayed the message that the control signal was lost. I turned my controller off and I got the message that my bird was returning home.

    This was the third time I had gone into return home mode. The first two times it returned home flawlessly, so I was hopeful it would again. As it was coming in for a landing it suddenly took off without warning, went north, started circling and then nose dived to earth.

    It went down behind a hill, so I didn’t see the crash, but I knew it was near Highway 101. I checked the northbound lanes first. Seeing nothing, I circled back and checked the southbound lanes. After spending about 20 minutes in the weeds, I gave up. As I was driving away, I came across the smashed top shell and one landing gear nearby. About 100 feet further south I found the bottom of the shell, with the other landing gear still attached.

    There was no sign of the camera or the memory card with the last image my beloved Phantom captured.

    I don’t really know what went wrong, but I don’t think it was pilot error.

    I calibrated my compass, flew only after I had at least 8 GPS satellite connections, and the indicator lights said I was in GPS mode. It wasn’t especially windy. I didn’t try to fly more than 200 feet from where I was standing. And I don’t understand why, when my bird was in return home mode, that it instead took off with a mind of its own.

    One thing is certain. My DJI Phantom Vision 2 did not perform as advertised.
     

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  2. EMCSQUAR

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    Sorry about your loss, I cringe everytime I hear one of these stories and hopefully this isn't your last endeavor with a Phantom or any other type of quad.

    Re: what happened - you said you did compass calibration(s) - did you ever perform advanced IMU & stick calibrations? I know, a little late for the discussion but advanced IMU calibration is the equivilant of a software reset.
     
  3. Noël

    Noël Guest

    Wow..... It looks like someone drove over it!

    What version of software was running on it?
     
  4. Gizmo3000

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    Ouch, that really sucks.

    but on the bright side, at least you have closure, some flyways never come home (like mine :( )
     
  5. walstib

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    I suspect it did get run over on the freeway, or at the least bounced around until the pieces ended up on the right shoulder.

    Not sure which version of the software I was running, but I think it was whatever was current in the early part of March. I did not perform the firmware upgrade that was released toward the end of March. And no, I did not perform the advanced IMU and stick calibrations.

    The frustrating thing is that there was really no indication of a problem until, on a few flights, my bird started going crazy, circling and otherwise not responding to commands. I had dozens of trouble-free flights. But three or four times it just went bad for no apparent reason.

    There was one day when I had four great flights, including a nice long flight out over the ocean, with no problem whatsoever. But then on the fifth flight it went up and started doing its own thing right away, did the toilet bowl swirl and eventually crashed into a creek after one of the propellers clipped a sign post on the way down.

    I don't understand why the control problem is so intermittent.
     
  6. DaWife

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    I have absolutely NO experience with these quads but am ordering one for my hubby as a b'day present. Any of these fly away stories worry me so I wanted to know if there could be interference from mobile WiFi signals? We travel some via a motorhome and I always take my Verizon Jetpac for internet connection and it's usually on. Could a signal from a passing Wifi in a car or other vehicle (train/boat/whatever) cause the quad to take off?

    DaWife
     
  7. bobg

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    I feel your pain. lost mine as well yesterday. Had it about a month and did maybe 40 or more uneventful flights. A P2 with Gopro nand FPV setup. Over $2000.00 gone.
    I had gone out over 1700 meters when RTH kicked in. I retook control at 800m but then a few seconds later it went back into failsafe and I lost the video feed. i think there was a catastrophic failure rather than a flyaway. Maybe loss of power or a bad engine. At any rate she's gone. Went down in a heavily wooded area on private land so not much chance of retrieving her.
    At any rate, I bought a new one. This one a P2V+, and I have ordered a tracker - a TAGG. Raises the question about how common are total losses, either ny crashes or flyaways. I'm starting to believe that it's just a matter of time before something bad happens.
    You know this hobby is like drugs. Its expensive and addicting, but you just gotta have your next fix!
     
  8. Marc70

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    Sorry about your loss.
    I went through the same thing, and despite what MANY say, it was DJI error.
    I found mine after three days, and the video shows it suddenly going full throttle (faster than I've ever had it going) backwards till it crashed in trees.
    Got it repaired, but I'm really nervous every time I fly it.
    I no longer promote this product, would not recommend anyone buying one, they can suddenly be faulty.
     
  9. jodaddy23

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    sorry for the loss , these story just keep coming in . i don't think i'd buy another phantom if i lose this one . there are a lot of other choices out there that are not entry level stuff .
     
  10. DanCH

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    I agree. I've wanted start a Discoverer build, and losing my phantom would accelerate that.

    That being said, I feel that some people aren't helping themselves very much. If my phantom started flying with any problems in movement or control I would research the problem and fix it before doing any further real flying. Failing to do an IMU calibration is really asking for trouble. If I couldn't fix it, I'd take I back to the retailer to let professionals investigate it. To much money (and risk to others) to just hope for the best.

    Also, all RTF GPS quads should come with a tracker, that was a very early mod of mine. I guess DJI don't want to push the price up to include one, but it seems a little irresponsible not to include a tracker by default.
     
  11. XL-Studios

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    Sorry about your loss Walstib!
    Regarding Wifi and cell-phone interference etc. From my extensive tests it seem to be a NO issue as this short video also suggests: http://youtu.be/62hvCDQ5Lmo
     
  12. ElGuano

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    Control frequency of the Vision is 5.8ghz, and it frequency-hops as well, so it's extremely unlikely to be wifi interference. After the first unexplained TBE and RTH, I would have stopped flying it and tried to get to the bottom of what caused this error. An advanced IMU calibration would have been one of the first steps.
     
  13. FangsCPO

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    I'm with ElGuano, you were given 3 seperate incidents to not fly and you still chose to fly. I know it's fun and exciting to fly but after two scares......I would have sent the NAZA back to DJI to have them look at it. You are very luck it didn't cause a major car accident or worse....hit someone.
     
  14. Great Pumpkin

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    Here is what Wikipedia has to say about IMU's as a possible explanation for why a P2V may fly well for weeks and then go sour:

    "A major disadvantage of using IMUs for navigation is that they typically suffer from accumulated error, including Abbe error. Because the guidance system is continually adding detected changes to its previously-calculated positions (see dead reckoning), any errors in measurement, however small, are accumulated from point to point. This leads to 'drift', or an ever-increasing difference between where the system thinks it is located, and the actual location.

    "Because the devices are only able to collect data in a finite time interval, IMUs are always working with averages. So if an accelerometer is able to retrieve the acceleration once per second, the device will have to work as if that had been the acceleration throughout that whole second, although the acceleration could have varied drastically in that time period. Of course modern devices are able to collect data much faster than once per second, but over time that error increases exponentially.[citation needed]

    "For example, if an individual were blindfolded, moved in a series of directions, and then asked where they think they are, they would only be able to estimate their final position. The more a person were moved while blindfolded, the more inaccurate their guess of where they have ended up. IMUs work in a manner similar to that which human beings use to detect motion, and although they yield considerably more accurate motion sensing than a human being is able to perform, they are still not perfect, and their errors can accumulate in a similar way.

    "IMUs are normally only one component of a navigation system. Other systems are used to correct the inaccuracies that IMUs inevitably suffer, such as GPS, gravity sensors (for local vertical), external speed sensors (to compensate for velocity drift), a barometric system for altitude correction, and a magnetic compass."

    Sounds to me like it would be a good idea to recalibrate a Phantom's IMU after every 10-15 flights or so.
     
  15. EMCSQUAR

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    You might have inspected a cell tower but fly by or near a GoPro wifi remote unit or a Shure wireless microphone once - you'll see your Phantom doing "Triple Lindys" without you having ANY control. (If it's a Phantom 1 or Phantom 2 non vision)
     
  16. ElGuano

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    The Phantom doesn't use the IMU for navigation, only for attitude and orientation management. It also doesn't accumulate this type of error between flights (reboots). The IMU calibration may start to drift, which is why the basic and advanced calibration procedures in Assistant exist, and it's generally a good idea to occasionally perform the calibration. But the Wikipedia article is largely irrelevant to how the Naza systems operate.
     
  17. Great Pumpkin

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    Thanks ElGuano! your correction certainly relieves me. But I have to ask - do UAV pilots using NAZA have the aging problem that Wikipedia describes?
     
  18. ElGuano

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    ...um...well...

    Speaking for myself, I certainly do, and nowadays no amount of makeup can hide it!
     
  19. onetech

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    It is a matter of time someone will get hurt. It will not be: "OMG I lost my $2000 drone". It will be OMG: " it fell and hit a person in the head who is in a comma/dead". Once deadly accident happens it will be illegal. Those NAZA chips go crazy sometimes..a lot of them.. and you can not fly these things in populated areas. I agree it lots of fun, I just don't know if it is worth it.
     
  20. BruceTS

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    The key here is TRAIN

    along the tracks are switching stations that use 2.4Ghz signaling, it's been known to interfere with radios, I'll bet this is what caused your issues.