A terrible silence

May 13, 2019

Each droner knows, it is not the question if your drone will crash, the question is when your drone eventually will crash. So far, I already had my moments of shock when I heard the sound of drone rotors hitting leaves, branches, rocks. Many crashes took their toll on propellers and eventually one Phantom 4 drone fatally crashed with horrible sounds when I steered it backwards into a tree branch. However, today was different.

 

To do research on promising drone locations in the Horsterwold, I used the drone-app DroneDeploy. This app automates mapping and photo flights for DJI drones: it enables you to create a map of an area by combining photos into a 3D map. Just like google maps, but far more accurate and up to date.

 

The app asks which area must be mapped, and asks for a few parameters, and then it creates a route which is loaded into the drone. The program directs the drone over a pattern of lines, while making photos of the terrain below. Since the area and resulting route was vast, I needed to use three batteries for three flights. The first two flights were uneventful: the drone would fly out, lose connection when it flew on a long leg, and reconnect when returning into range after a few minutes. But when flying on the third battery and the third leg... it didn't reconnect.

 

No crashing sounds, no warnings on the controller: not a single sound. Just me and a silent controller. And a growing realisation that when the drone did not return after 5 minutes, it never would.

 

The picture below showed the planned route of the drone on its third route (blue), the part of the route where the drone was connected to my controller (white) and the flight parameters when the last connection was made (left)

 

What could have happened: a battery fault, an angry bird? I will probably never know. I did walk through a part of the forest under the flight path, but the drone is small compared to the vast forest. Also, the forest is not very welcoming. Actually, it is an area where few people come. But it now has a treasure in the form of a beautiful drone, I think I will visit the area more often in the future.

 

Luckily, I found a new drone on the same day: this one is black.

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