The drone crash at the White House proved once again how easy it is for someone to both get their hands on a drone and, subsequently, crash it. The Dronelife team is very familiar with crashing drones, so we thought we would share one of our best stories and give you an idea what you can do if you lose your drone.
Several months ago, we were flying our Phantom 2 Vision+ at a golf course on a clear, but gusty, day. When we got up about 200 feet, the wind really picked up and started blowing the drone away. We tried to fly it back manually and by activating the return to home feature. We watched as the Phantom fought the wind, made a little progress, and then got blown away again. When the battery started to die, we again saw it try to make a comeback but it was not meant to be.
Now, I was all about chasing after the Phantom but, of course, it went off in the direction of a Rod and Gun Club and my desire to not get shot was stronger than my desire to retrieve the (most likely broken) drone.
So we packed up and drove to the club. There wasn’t a single person around so we donned some bright colors and dove into the forest. After a good two hours, we were losing light and had to give up.
Our next step was sending an email to the club explaining the situation. We asked the members to keep an eye out and offered a small reward should someone find it. They were very receptive and said they would let us know if it turned up.
A couple days went by and then it snowed about 4 inches, which lead us to the mindset that even if the Phantom did turn up, it would be beyond repair.
About a week later, we received an email from the club. A hunter had found our drone!
Here is the amazing part: at first glance the drone appeared to be completely undamaged. The gimbal was intact, the landing gear was unscathed… even the propellers all came back in one piece. When we charged the battery, it powered on like it was brand new!
But we were not completely in the clear. The camera was flipping out on the gimbal (literally):
We have had gimbal troubles in the past and figured we would need to send it to DJI for repair. But we took a quick look online to see if maybe we could fix it ourselves. Turns out, many other pilots had run into the same issue and we found this very helpful video on YouTube that demonstrates how to fix it:
It took a steady hand, but we managed to fix the camera. However, once we had it up and running, the image it was putting out was fuzzy, as if condensation had formed on the inside of the lens:
Once again we were very lucky and after letting it stand for a couple more days, the lens dried out and the camera worked good as new.
The drone gods were with us. Our Phantom fell at least 200 feet, was left outside for nearly two weeks, exposed to freezing temperatures and snow. We had written it off as a lost cause and yet we were up and flying again before the end of the month.
So the moral of the story is this: If you lose your drone, it doesn’t hurt to ask for help. The general public may still be apprehensive about drones but there are still good people out there who are willing to lend a hand if you ask.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com