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Karma Flight School: GPS Loss and Crash


Well-Known Member
Mar 23, 2018
California, USA
In this thread I will be analyzing crash videos in an effort to learn more about the limitations of technology in the Karma Drone, and how to avoid such issues myself. Hopefully such analysis will help us all fly better and avoid potentially problematic flights. I'm interested in hearing from other experienced pilots regarding their observations or "tips of the trade".

1. Location, Location, Location: Look where this video start out. How many hazards can be counted in just the first few seconds of this video? Starting on a shallow deck, Power lines, Trees, small yard...The pilot hasn't even gotten off the ground, and I'm nervous for him. This drone does not have crash avoidance sensors. Even with GPS control, a small breeze/drift here or there during take off or landing, would end this drone flight pretty quickly.

2. Sensor Interference: The pilot is standing very close to a building. The drone is hovering over a crowded residential area. Where the pilot is standing, and where the drone is flying will definitely have an impact on sensor interference. The Karma drone typically does not do well in urban environments. The tighter the environment (condos and apartments vs. Suburban housing) the more electronic interference there can be. Karma shines best in rural places like forests or beaches, away from the crowds.

3. Piloting During GPS Loss: This drone does not have a positional sensor. Its position is fixed on the GPS location. The U.S. Government claims that horizontal accuracy is about 3-4 meters on average, with vertical accuracy being worse. This is why, even in the best of conditions, the Karma drone will drift a bit, sometimes up or down, sometimes side to side. Fighting against a strong wind or breeze can cause even more drifting. When this drone loses GPS connection it becomes extremely hard to control. even the slightest breeze can push it off course. When the drone is at a higher altitude, the wind velocity can be dramatically different than on the ground. The wind can "push the drone" rapidly off course and out of sensor range. An experienced pilot, quick enough on the controls, can compensate for the drift and maintain control of the drone, provided they do it quick enough. If the Karma drifts out of controller range, there is a high risk of "flyaway".

So what to do with GPS Loss? Well, while trying to maintain control and compensate for drifting, the first thing I do, is to orient the drone with the back facing me, and the camera facing away from me. This allows me to control the drone most naturally (left is left, right is right, etc). With the drone orientated in this direction, I can most easily compensate for GPS loss and control the drone.

Notice that when this drone crashes the camera is facing the pilot? This could be due to a rookie mistake. Controls are reversed when the Camera is facing the pilot (left is right, right is left, etc). The pilot is already in a stressful situation. He sees the drone drifting too close to the deck, so he compensates by pressing left on the stick in attempt to avoid a crash. When this happens, the drone veers left and directly into the object the pilot was trying to avoid.

- Fly in open spaces, away from possible hazards and sensor issues.
- Practice taking off and landing with the drone facing away from the pilot. it is much easier to react to unexpected emergencies with this orientation.

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