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Almost lost my drone today.

Shon

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I’m traveling out of state, and heard about a fantastic waterfall nearby. I scoped it out online USDA forest, seemed clear to fly.

I headed out early in the morning and hit an overlook for the falls right around golden hour. The sun was perfect, right behind me. The weather was perfect. The only concern, was that the drone was in a narrow canyon and LOS could be partially obscured by trees if I wasn’t careful. I had a great flat and open landing area, not a soul to be found, I went ahead and put the drone up in the air. I carefull navigated the drone over the tree tops, and down... down.... down.... into the canyon several hundred feet below.

The pictures and video looked fine, but I was keeping my eye on the GPS signal. I also oriented my camera down, to make sure as I was descending into the canyon, I wouldn’t descend unexpectdly into a tree. While GPS was green at the top where I was standing, it was yellow bordering on red near the falls. Given the distance, I was also very cautious about hitting any obstructions.

Actually, all in all, the flight was going rather smooth, there was only one seemingly minor but major issue. In shifting my attention between the remote and drone... I lost sight of the drone!

I knew roughly where it was, I knew which way it was oriented, but the trees on the other side of the canyon camouflaged it from my view. Try as I might, I could not locate the drone.

No problem, I thought, I will just pull up on the altitude and scan for it against the sky. My remote sounded off “maximum altitude reached”. I move the drone back and forth, I still couldn’t find it. The camera was holding steady, but the battery was slowly counting down. My drone was over a water fall and river hundreds of feet below, with a steep ravine on both sides. If I lost my drone here, there would be no retrieval.

With six minutes left on the battery, I decided to hit “return to home” and hope for the best. I was petrified that I would hit a tree or that side of the canyon, but I decided that if I failed to act, that would be the end result anyway.

The view screen showed my drone getting closer and closer to me, via the icon on the screen, but the picture did not appear to be changing, all I could see was distant trees. Due to the water fall and rushing water below, I couldn’t hear the drone either.

When the view screen showed the drone almost on top of me, I still couldn’t see or hear it. It wasn’t until the drone was on top of me via the icon, that I finally saw it. I immediately deactivated the return to home, and landed manually.

I was sweating bullets, but my drone was safe and sound.

Later, as I continued my trip, I found some other falls that were much more spectacular, and it was much easier to keep track of the drone. The second location, also had a nature trail that ended at the top of the first falls I had filmed. I flew there as well, and again, had much better view of the drone from that spot.

With the close call I had today, I couldn’t help but wish I had a spotter with me. If anything it would have at least decreased my anxiety. This experience also taught me that I don’t need to risk such dangerous shots, there are always other better places to fly.
 

Ironspear

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Well done at retrieving it mate!
The video footage would be great.
 

Hummingbird

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I enjoyed that story and the happy ending. I have always made sure I have a spotter so far (I know it won't always be practical), so just bought a couple of 2 way radios off Amazon. Hopefully if/when I'm in a similar situation, I can have a second set of eyes positioned somewhere and a voice in my ear to guide me. Look forward to seeing that film too.


There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old & bold pilots.
Hummingbird Media Productions
 

Shon

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Incidentally..I wrote my initial post before I reviewed the video footage. In the end...the footage from the incident was pretty much unusable as I had better footage from later in the day. Since I lost track of the drone, And spent much of my time trying to find it again...I didn't really film much of anything. Glad I had two additional batteries. :)
 

Ironspear

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Great video mate.
 
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Tony

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Amazing video! I am just learning how to use my Karma. What program did you use to edit your GoPro video?
 

Tony

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Shon - great video and editing. I am just learning how to use my Katma. What video editing program are you using to make those great videos?
 

James Hatch

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Great stable footage Shon. We know how stable the Karma drone is. Now here is a tip. When you want to change the camera angle, first take your fingers off the joy sticks making sure of the drones location and not drifting, then adjust your camera angle, then go back to keeping an eye on your drone once more. Try it, it works for me.
 

Shon

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Great stable footage Shon. We know how stable the Karma drone is. Now here is a tip. When you want to change the camera angle, first take your fingers off the joy sticks making sure of the drones location and not drifting, then adjust your camera angle, then go back to keeping an eye on your drone once more. Try it, it works for me.

Yeah...usually that works for me...not so in the above situation.

Today for example...I was doing a far pull away shot.... The drone was high and far away from me. As I watched it in the sky and took my fingers off the joystick, it literally disappeared before my eyes. I couldn't see it, even though I knew right where it was. Once I started it moving back to me...I easily started tracking it again.

Honestly...I'm slightly nearsighted, and typically don't wear my glasses. That might help, LOL.
 

meeshootkin

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cool story and nice video!
what was the altitude for the auto-return?
as I understand it first ascends to the altitude set and then proceeds to the start point / controller location.
I was thinking to acquire binoculars to look for the drone, not sure if that would help.
 

Shon

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cool story and nice video!
what was the altitude for the auto-return?
as I understand it first ascends to the altitude set and then proceeds to the start point / controller location.
I was thinking to acquire binoculars to look for the drone, not sure if that would help.

From "Gopro":

Karma's Return Behavior
What are you trying to do?
Understanding Karma's Return to Home/User behavior
Where does it apply?
  • Karma
How to do it
When you arm the Karma Drone, a home location is recorded. If you press the Land button on the Karma Controller during flight, you can select whether the drone returns to you or to the launch location. 

LAND BUTTON SPECIFICATIONS:


Altitude
By default the return altitude height is set to 100ft (30m) but is customizable. If you press the Land button when the drone is below the predefined altitude height, it rotates towards the home location while ascending to the set height. If you press the Land button when the drone is already above the set altitude height, the drone rotates towards the user, but stays at the current altitude and flies back to the home location.

Returning Location
After the drone reaches its altitude, it begins to fly toward the launch location. During this return flight, you can use the joysticks to nudge the drone around obstacles. Once the drone reaches the launch location it will hover in place and begins to descend.

If the drone loses connection to the controller, Karma will hover in place for ten seconds and try to reestablish a connection. Karma will return to the original launch location if a connection is not made in that time. If the drone loses both GPS and a connection to the controller, it will hover for ten seconds and then land in place if a connection cannot be made.

The maximum speed for the return flight is ten (10) meters per second. 

Landing:
Once the Karma Drone reaches the landing position, it will begin its descent towards the ground. Based on the altitude, it will automatically slow its descent as it nears the ground for a safe and soft landing. Once the drone lands, the motors will turn OFF and the Karma Controller will show the main menu.

NOTE: Holding this button down for three seconds will land the drone in place. Also, the Return to Home feature can be cancelled by the user at any time provided there is a link between the drone and controller.


Geofences are disabled when Karma is returning to you or the launch location.
 
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meeshootkin

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yes, that's why it's recommended to set the auto-return altitude higher to try to avoid trees and such.
mine is set to 100m if I remember correctly.

my rule of thumb is to take manual control of the drone whenever possible. in fact, I didn't allow Karma to fly in auto yet except a number of auto-takeoffs and some brief moments when it tried to return home when the battery was low.

here is the reason why (I know you love case studies):

obviously, the guy was too naive and forgot about the headwind (not mentioning the whole idea to fly several km over the water is a bit shaky), but the fact is he shouldn't use the auto-return function. on DJi it acts similar to GoPro in the way it limits the speed hence the flying time increases draining the battery. plus the altitude might be not ideal for the wind conditions.
 
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Shon

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Shon - great video and editing. I am just learning how to use my Katma. What video editing program are you using to make those great videos?

I use a free software called Davinci Resolve 15 (Beta). It has a steep learning curve, but Once you figure it out... most of the basic features are quite easy to use.
 

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