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Karma Flight School: How to D.I.Y Crash your Drone

After Watching the video

  • Crash was due to both pilot error and Karma malfunction

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  • Crash was due to Other circumstances

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Well-Known Member
Mar 23, 2018
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California, USA

I thought it might be an interesting exercise for aspiring pilots or novice pilots to study these types of crash videos in an effort to avoid making the same type of mistakes. Perhaps his expensive loss can save others from making the same mistakes? Perhaps experienced pilots can share tips and observations?

My Analysis:

1. This is a very short video...but the first thing I notice is that he is flying next to a building. The Karma doesn't do well in urban environments. As many have pointed out on this forum, it's a good idea to stay well away from structures that might emit electronic interference. Also...if the drone is right up against a building (or cliff), the Karma may have difficulty with GPS location.

The pilot mentions in his video comments that this is his first "gig" with a Karma. I'm truly hoping it wasn't his first flight. When I got my drone, I wanted to get it up and flying as fast as possible...bad idea... better to take it out to a large open field...even if it is boring...and become very familiar with the controls before taking it out for your first "gig".

2. It's hard to tell, but it appears that the pilot either never had GPS lock or lost it shortly upon take-off. The Karma relies on GPS to hold position. Without GPS, it will drift significantly, even with the slightest breeze. The Karma is known for drifting...but the drifting in this situation is more than normal. Gopro recommends that only expert pilots fly without GPS.

In this situation some pilots will argue they "lost control". This is not true (assuming we are only talking about GPS loss and not full control loss, which can happen). With just GPS loss...they still have control of the drone. In this video, you can see the pilot's attempt to land, which demonstrates he still has "control" of the drone. I've flown without GPS. It is still possible to control the drone, but the pilot must adjust for the drifting in order to keep the drone in position. This means that perhaps pressure is being placed on the right stick in order to maintain position while the left stick is used to adjust the altitude of the Karma.

The drone appears to be drifting when the pilot attempts to land. It appears he was trying to avoid the tree that was nearby. Had he compensated for the drift using the right stick, The drone would have hovered better in place making it easier to land. I say "easier", it still would have been a challenge given the narrow landing strip he had. The more familiar with the controls and the drone, the easier this would be to accomplish without incident.

3. When landing, rotor wash is a danger that should be seriously considered. Hovering especially close to the ground can create instability causing the aircraft to drift, or in a worse case scenario to flip over uncontrollably.

Try to stay out of the danger zone (Less than four feet from the ground) unless you are taking off or landing. Don't stay too long in this zone, either land or abort. This pilot was attempting to land under poor conditions, but rotor wash can happen even under idea conditions.

The other day, I was standing near the edge of a cliff. I had a small patch of flat clear ground I was attempting to land on. As I neared the ground, a breeze came up, and it started to push my drone towards the edge of the cliff, and outside my cleared landing area. Had I continue landing, my drone likely would have continued right off the edge and into the abyss. I was anticipating that this might happen (I've had it happen before and was less prepared). I aborted the landing, and made a second attempt. On second attempt the landing went without incident.

Obviously the larger a safe landing area...the less you have to worry about possible hazards associated with drifting.

Summary: Poor location choice, loss of GPS, and lack of pilot experience probably led to this crash. I'd be interested in hearing the observations of other pilots, tips of the trade, etc.
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I had a deja-but, my drone had flipped on landing once. Thanks to your detailed explanation, I know what to avoid. At the time I had no idea why it had happened, because just a few minutes before I made a clean landing.

This is why I read these forums and look at videos.

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I had a deja-but, my drone had flipped on landing once. Thanks to your detailed explanation, I know what to avoid. At the time I had no idea why it had happened, because just a few minutes before I made a clean landing.

This is why I read these forums and look at videos.

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Thanks. I don’t claim to be an expert. I’m still learning. This thread is as much for me as anyone else. Visiting this forum and watching these videos has helped me anticipate potential hazzards and better plan my flights.
The above video reminds me of my second flight. Very close to buildings, no GPS, and almost no experience flying. This very easily could have been me.

This morning, I thought of another useful tip that has saved me on more than one occasion:

When landing, orient the drone, so it is facing away from you.

This is especially helpful for rookie pilots, because, standing behind the drone the controls respond as you would expect ( right is right, left is left, etc.). If the camera is facing you while you land, right is left, left is right. This might only seem like a minor annoyance, but I’ve seen many pilots crash because they over corrected the wrong direction.
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Shon, check out my 'Hand Land' - solved a lot of problems for me..

Thanks Phil, I did check out your post a few days ago. Do you think in the context of the video above, that hand-landing would be a good idea?

I'm thinking with loss of GPS, hand-landing might be especially dangerous, and especially difficult to pull off for a single pilot, as both hands need to be on the controls to assure stability. Even with an assistant catching the drone, I would worry about personal liability if they were injured. What are your thoughts on that?

Don't get me wrong... I'm personally not opposed to hand-landing or launching. I've hand-launched the drone myself, in situations where launching from the ground was not ideal. In the vast majority of situations, I don't see too much risk involved...but in my opinion, with GPS loss, hand-landing is too risky. Your mileage may vary. ;)

In pre-flight, pilots that plan on hand-landing their drone might consider, as a contingency plan, finding a less than ideal place to land on the ground if needed. For example....I've seen pilots that ran low on their battery before they could make it back to their launch site. Instead of pressing their luck and trying to make it all the way back, they found a place to land along the route, and were able to retrieve their drone and fly another day. It is easier to think of possible alternative landing sights before an emergency, than during one!

If someone is flying from a small boat, where hand-landing might be the only way they will land on the boat...consider some nearby areas pre-flight, where landing might be possible. Perhaps it is on a nearby beach, dock, or riverbank? That way...if something goes wrong... they can be prepared with a second option.

I recently saw a video where a pilot hand-launched his drone over a river surrounded by shrubs, trees, and a steep riverbank. His problem? He didn't consider where to land. In his case, a hand landing might have been ideal, but in attempting to find a flat piece of ground to land on...he crashed his drone.

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