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Water Damage Tips & Process

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by MAskinut, Sep 21, 2015.

  1. MAskinut

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    I've been flying almost exclusively over water for the last several months filming some boat races & wakeboarding among other things. There have been two incidents worth sharing.

    Once into fresh water in New Zealand. In this case, it the Phantom off 18 seconds into a flight during a takeoff at 84 feet and landed in 20-25 inches of water in a freshwater lake. There is no clear explanation for this other than a major battery failure which seems the most likely. It was underwater for about 2-3minutes. I took my ski pants off and went in after it in about 40-degree water. In this case landing in shallow water was preferable to landing on the rocky beach IMHO. There was no damage to rotors or body. I removed the battery asap.

    The second incident occurred in California while attempting to fly under a rock arch/causeway on the pacific coast. This was a high-risk move and ultimately a result of pilot error, drift and winds. I nicked something while in close proximity to a rock cliff wal or a pebble fell on me and it dropped into the pacific. (Also cold water) I was struggling to keep the drone from drifting in a tight space. The wind wasn't strong enough IMHO to cause it to drift like that. I suspect there may have been some interference from the water and visual sensors. The water was very foamy and white in parts and very smooth in other parts. Together the water was moving in and out with the waves which were a few hundred yards away and I wonder if the viual sensore was tryng to lock in on the moving object. I was able to fish it out from the top of a 60-foot cliff using a fish hook in about 6 feet of water (It hooked onto some kelp on the rocks and didn't sink further.) It was under water for 10-15 minutes.


    Here are some takeaways for the community.
    1. Flying over water comes with many, many risks and eventually you will lose it.
    2. Water isn't death.
    3. Fresh water is preferable to salt if you need to choose. Wash salt water off with fresh ASAP.
    4. Find your drone if it goes into the water.
    5. Water can cause some strange behavior.
    6. Drones drop, sometimes for no reason. The jury is out IMHO over whether it is better to land on something hard or fresh water. Salt water is bad news, period.
    7. Take your battery out asap.
    8. Beware of your battery, it might react.
    9. Have a plan to deal with the battery. Fresh Water: The one that went in freshwater seemed stable and still blinked after the incident. It doesn't work, but it didn't react. Salt Water: The one that went in saltwater started smoking and smoldering in my car. I had it in my cupholder so I could keep an eye on it while I drove home. In the middle of a very dry section of the Redwood forest it started to smoke and heat up. This was concerning for a few reasons: I didn't want it to explode or burn my car. I couldn't put it outside the car or risk a fire in the redwoods. I was able to put it on my bike rack and drove to a river where I checked on it. As quickly as it reacted, it stopped and I was able to put it back in the car to get home.
    10. Buy the highest % rubbing alcohol you can find.
    11. Buy 10-15 LBS rice
    12. Buy distilled water
    13. Buy some canned air
    14. Make sure you have a full kit of computer screwdrivers and pry bars on hand. These are hard to find at Home Depot/Ace Hardware. Amazon has them. But them now.
    In both cases I was able to get my drone back up and running. In fresh water, it worked 100% in short order and all I needed to do was put in in a very hot room for about 5 hours. (Like a cool sauna)

    However, the salt water recovery is a bit more complex.

    1.) Get the cover off, and open up the camera if it leaked and soak it in distilled water. I did this for about 5-8 minutes.
    2.) Let it dry for a few minutes and then flood with rubbing alcohol. This drives out water. I soaked the motors and flooded all the electronics. I put the GPS module in the refrigerator to dry that out.
    3.) I also hit it with a circuit board anti-water electronics spray, but I was cautious about using this in case it reacted with anything else on the drone.
    4.) I then carefully sprayed it with compressed air and buried it in a rice bath for about 20 hours. I'd recommend longer but I was pretty sure my drone was dead so I tried with a fresh battery and it started up.
    5.) Everything powers up and the motors are running smoothly. The gimbal need to be reassembled and based on the current movements that may be a bit of an issue.

    I'm still not sure this will fly again and I won't trust it as a primary drone. But, it will be a good backup/parts/practice drone and a good test for repairing parts. I won't every fly this over something that could be damaged or hurt. I just don't trust it. Some pictures below. I'll add more of the recovery when I can. Linked is a video of the power up.

     

    Attached Files:

    aljca.zulueta and scodrone like this.
  2. MAskinut

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    Update on this. Just flew it. Flight seems fine. Gimbal boots up and runs through articulations but doesn't send video. Looks like I've got some troubleshooting to do. I'm pretty amazed it came back to life after salt water.
     
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  3. grrquadman

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    I had no idea that there was that much electronics inside our batteries. I knew they were "smart batteries", but not THAT smart!
     
  4. Fplvert

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    Welcome to the Forum, MA! Sorry about your crash, but great post, it may help the next wet Phantom. I do hope you get back in the air soon, course I'm addicted!;)
     
  5. MAskinut

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    The whole top section is a circuit board. Lots of brains. Except when they go in the ocean. Then they get weird.
     
  6. Lilyspike

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    How do you rinse the salt water off, do you have to take it apart??
     
  7. Lilyspike

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    Horrible luck our drone was hovering when a wave splashed against a rock, the water hit the drone just right causing it to fall it was never "submerged" we instantly took out the battery and dried it the best we could. It has been about 2 hours and it won't do anything. I read to rinse it with fresh water how would we go about that? Any tips at all would be great
     
  8. Fplvert

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    If you land in salt water.
    I hope this helps!
     
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  9. aljca.zulueta

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    My Phantom 3 Advanced went into salt water in Maldives for about 10-15 secs. fully submerged. I was able to recover it right away because it was only on shallow water. I have combined all the instructions from different posts and forums and helped me a lot.

    1. I rinsed it thoroughly with tap water - that was the only water accessible at that time. No distilled water. And left it to dry. It had to wait for 2 more days for me to go back to my place in UAE.
    2. When I got back, I was not able to disassemble the drone because I didn't have the precision screws to dismantle it so it had to wait another day for me to purchase the tools.
    3. When I got the screws, I dismantled the drone the best I can and put it in drinking water with 0 sodium. We don't have distilled water available in supermarkets here in UAE. It sat on the water for about 2 hours. I also heated some of the water so that it can easily dilute the salt water from the drone.
    4. I dried it off for a couple of minutes with a hair drier. But be careful not to melt the parts.
    5. I then opened the whole gimbal assembly with the cam and the Vision Positioning module and soaked it in 70% alcohol for 20 mins. Sprayed the other parts with Alcohol as well.
    4. I dried it off for a couple of hours and then got a Contact Cleaner spray and soaked the cam and vision positioning module, the motors in the solution for about 30 mins or so.
    5. I let it dry by itself for a couple of hours because the solution evaporates easily.
    6. I got rice and put all the parts, disassembled and all on top of the rice in a garbage bag and sealed it off for 3 days.
    7. Got it to an RC shop that had tester batteries and powered it up.
    8. Everything was working properly!

    Quick response is the thing that saved my Phantom 3. I quickly googled "Salt Water damage phantom 3" and followed the initial steps at the hotel, which is to rinse it with tap or bottled drinking water. Thank you for the people who posted these tips. It helped me a lot.

    I will be regularly flying the drone to make sure that everything works properly.

    Note: There was already rust building up on the screws and on the motors when I was disassembling it. Get rid of the battery right away because it is going to explode or catch on fire.
     
  10. With The Birds

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    Some great advice here. Rice is actually only marginally more effective at drying than natural unaided evaporation, it is hygroscopic but less so than many other grains and way behind commercial moisture absorption products.
     
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