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Karma Malfunction — Flew Away


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Aug 27, 2018
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After scrolling a bit through this forum, I've seen several mentions of this problem with the GoPro Karma.

I was flying my drone over an abandoned steel mill. I flew it three separate times while at this location, and the first two times it was fine. It was a sunny day and the weather was fine, and there weren't telephone wires in the direct vicinity of where I was flying (it was a pretty clear area, of course with the exception of these buildings and some trees that I was flying above).

I got the drone at the beginning of August 2018 and with it being my first one, I've been very cautious flying it anytime I take it out. During the third flight, apparently a storm I didn't see was coming in and there was a single thunder noise. Right after that happened, the drone went haywire. It said the GPS connection was lost and that I had to land the drone manually with my joysticks (the 'return to launch' and 'return to controller' features were no longer options for me). Right away, the drone started moving erratically and flew away from me. I was trying to wrestle with it at that point and get it back down, but it wasn't responding to my controls and it eventually became a speck in the sky. At the time the malfunction occurred, the drone wasn't too far from the ground... maybe 40 feet? I think it reached the top speed of 35mph (or somewhere around there) and just went soaring. I don't know the exact height it got because I was too freaked out by what was happening, but I'm guessing it went at least 300 feet in altitude while it was malfunctioning. Soon after, I got a notice on the controller that the drone was beginning to land where it was, then that changed a moment later and said it was hovering in place. That's the last notice I got.

I spoke with GoPro support throughout the day and they asked me a bunch of questions about the flight and they did say that anything like telephone wires or even that thunder I heard, which might've been followed my lightning, can interrupt the connection. I would like to point out that I do not have GoPro Care and they took care of me, and I had a pleasant experience with their customer service. Basically, after having them send me a map of its last known location from the flight logs I sent them, I still couldn't find the drone. I called and let them know, and after providing them with my receipt from Best Buy, they sent me a replacement with all the items that were on the drone when it malfunctioned.

In their confirmation email with the shipping info for replacement parts, they did say that the drone malfunctioned, which caused it to "move erratically and fly away." So, I know they know this is a problem. I'm extremely nervous about flying this drone again.

My question is this... have any of you had this happen, and have gotten a replacement from them that you kept and used? I'm trying to decide whether to return this replacement to Best Buy and get my money back while I have a few days left on the receipt or if I should just try it out and hope this doesn't happen again. Any opinions would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!
If you don't trust it, return it and get your money back. You can't put a price on peace of mind. :)

If you heard thunder, I expect there was some sort of electrical interference. The Karma seems to be more prone to these kind of issues than other drones. That said, I've seen similar things happen with other types of drone.

I've lost GPS and had many close calls. It's kind of like driving, people get in a crash and become anxious, even if the crash wasn't their fault. Being a bit nervous is actually good, and will keep senses sharp. I've learned from the close calls I have had, and from the experiences of others. Your experience is a reminder to me that I need to be cautious of the weather when I am flying. I live in an area that doesn't have sudden thunder storms, they are usually forecast well in advance. That said. In some areas, especially near local mountain ranges, this is a real possibility. Just checking the weather before I head out isn't going to be enough, I will always have to be hyper-vigilant when assessing changing weather conditions while I am flying.
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I was flying a Cessna and got caught with a thunderstorm cloud that was still 20mls away. I wrestled from 3,000 to land, nose 45° with power and loosing less than 500ft per minute. When touching down the aircraft stopped within 30ft, I almost flew backwards! Taxied back to the hanger 200 yards, got out and the there was no wind at all. The moral of the story is that A/. Forecasters get it wrong. B/. Never underestimate a Cu. Nim. cloud.
I fear that this interrupted your gps and erratic movements were as a result of micro bursts of wind. You are very lucky GoPro has supported you, there’s many stories where they haven’t and just as many dji stories in these circumstances. For me it’s a valuable lesson in not pushing boundaries and I find the app ‘Dronestart’ invaluable. It’s independent and whilst designed around dji’s, the check lists, weather, kpi levels and airspace are all relevant and there’s been a couple of times the weather looked great, but it was 5kpi or risk of storms within 20mls. Whether you keep your Karma or swap to dji, the experience will stay with you and you won’t take the risk again I am sure.

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