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Signal loss from Karma controller to Karma Drone

mwsmithjr78

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I’ve had my karma for several months now, and flew it about 20 times. Each time I’ve been in a restricted area, which is within 5 miles of a small airport. Each time Karma ask if I have permission, and I checked the box that says I do, which I never obtain permission. However, I flown the karma without issue each time. The problem started when I was down at the beach, and there’s a small designated area for agriculture landing strip. So it’s designated this area as restricted. I’ve flown previously in this area multiple times. However, this time The Karma lost connection from the controller to the drone. The karma drone does exactly what it supposed to do it flys up to altitude returns to the take off spot, and lands and never returns connection from the drone to the controller. I reached out to go pro support, and uploaded videos. Their solution was not to fly in a restricted area. My problem is this, at the beach there is no airport controller, no control tower and no one to obtain permission to fly in that restricted area. It’s just mainly a field for an agriculture airplane. How would Karma know If I in fact obtain permission to fly? And do you think this is normal behavior for the karma drone?


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Shon

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There is "Geofencing" built into the Karma that will use the GPS to determine if you are too close to restricted areas. Within 5 miles of an airport/airfield, but farther than 1.5 miles, You can tell the Karma you notified the airport and you take responsibility for the flight...but it doesn't know the difference. If you are too close to an airport or other restricted area (1-1.5 miles)...it will simply not let you fly, regardless of what you try and tell it. It will just tell you that you are too close. If you start in an area where you can obtain "permission to fly" and stray into an area that is completely restricted, you cannot fly there. This is a safety feature built into many commercial drones including DJI Drones.

It is your responsibility to follow local laws and fly responsibly. There may be certain restricted areas like Military bases that are not listed. Sometimes local areas you are typically allowed to fly in may have Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) due to an Airshow, National Sports Event, or Emergency staging area. TFRs may not show up...but you can still get in trouble and face huge fines or imprisonment if you are found in violation of them. I often use the Airmap app on my phone to review where I want to fly. If there is an airport nearby, Airmap will typically provide a phone number. I have called the number, and sometimes I have to call several people before I reach the right person...but it hasn't been too much hassle to notify the airport of my plans. Typically, they want to know where I am flying, when I am flying, and how high I plan to be flying. Airmap also lists TFRs in the area...so I can plan ahead, or avoid flying in those areas if they happen to be in place when I want to fly.

Last year I was on vacation in Mexico and didn't check Airmap. We had rented some jet skis, and I was looking forward to great arial shots. Unfortunately, When I went to start up the drone, I was too close to a local agricultural Airfield and I couldn't fly. Fortunately...my camera is still water proof...so that didn't stop me from having a good time! Versatility is one of the great things about the Karma.
 
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mwsmithjr78

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There is "Geofencing" built into the Karma that will use the GPS to determine if you are too close to restricted areas. Within 5 miles of an airport/airfield, but farther than 1.5 miles, You can tell the Karma you notified the airport and you take responsibility for the flight...but it doesn't know the difference. If you are too close to an airport or other restricted area (1-1.5 miles)...it will simply not let you fly, regardless of what you try and tell it. It will just tell you that you are too close. If you start in an area where you can obtain "permission to fly" and stray into an area that is completely restricted, you cannot fly there. This is a safety feature built into many commercial drones including DJI Drones.

It is your responsibility to follow local laws and fly responsibly. There may be certain restricted areas like Military bases that are not listed. Sometimes local areas you are typically allowed to fly in may have Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) due to an Airshow, National Sports Event, or Emergency staging area. TFRs may not show up...but you can still get in trouble and face huge fines or imprisonment if you are found in violation of them. I often use the Airmap app on my phone to review where I want to fly. If there is an airport nearby, Airmap will typically provide a phone number. I have called the number, and sometimes I have to call several people before I reach the right person...but it hasn't been too much hassle to notify the airport of my plans. Typically, they want to know where I am flying, when I am flying, and how high I plan to be flying. Airmap also lists TFRs in the area...so I can plan ahead, or avoid flying in those areas if they happen to be in place when I want to fly.

Last year I was on vacation in Mexico and didn't check Airmap. We had rented some jet skis, and I was looking forward to great arial shots. Unfortunately, When I went to start up the drone, I was too close to a local agricultural Airfield and I couldn't fly. Fortunately...my camera is still water proof...so that didn't stop me from having a good time! Versatility is one of the great things about the Karma.


Thank you for responding. So you believe that this is what's happening? I'm able to start the Karma, fly for various time frames at different altitudes and the drone inconsistently realizes I'm in a restricted zone and returns to the take off location? I really hope this is it. I do live within the restricted zone and most of my flights are done from my house. The thing that bothers me is this. When I first got the Karma, I flew it all over the restricted zone, mostly just above tree height. The "problems" started all of a sudden, and continued. I don't know if there was an update pushed to the Karma since 2.50 update that would cause this. It's just weird that up until the issue started happening I could fly with no problems.

Go Pro suggested I fly in an unrestricted area and see if the problem continues. That's where I am at now with troubleshooting this. I plan to go out of the restricted zones this weekend and see what happens.

Seems like there would be some type of warning or alert for when this happens to say " hey dummy, we are landing your drone because you are flying it where you shouldn't. " I don't get any warnings or messages other than, Karma has lost signal, and is returning to launch site, and a 3 min countdown. The Karma never regains connection to the controller, and I have to power cycle the controller and Karma to regain connectivity.

Thanks for the response. Yes, despite all the negative reception to the original launch of the Karma, I've loved flying mine. If the prices of the used ones keep dropping, i will probably pick one up for a spare.
 

Shon

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Thank you for responding. So you believe that this is what's happening? I'm able to start the Karma, fly for various time frames at different altitudes and the drone inconsistently realizes I'm in a restricted zone and returns to the take off location? I really hope this is it. I do live within the restricted zone and most of my flights are done from my house. The thing that bothers me is this. When I first got the Karma, I flew it all over the restricted zone, mostly just above tree height. The "problems" started all of a sudden, and continued. I don't know if there was an update pushed to the Karma since 2.50 update that would cause this. It's just weird that up until the issue started happening I could fly with no problems.

Go Pro suggested I fly in an unrestricted area and see if the problem continues. That's where I am at now with troubleshooting this. I plan to go out of the restricted zones this weekend and see what happens.

Seems like there would be some type of warning or alert for when this happens to say " hey dummy, we are landing your drone because you are flying it where you shouldn't. " I don't get any warnings or messages other than, Karma has lost signal, and is returning to launch site, and a 3 min countdown. The Karma never regains connection to the controller, and I have to power cycle the controller and Karma to regain connectivity.

Thanks for the response. Yes, despite all the negative reception to the original launch of the Karma, I've loved flying mine. If the prices of the used ones keep dropping, i will probably pick one up for a spare.
Speaking of dropping prices...Gopro is selling "Refurbished units" at $299 (no Camera).


Honestly...I have not experience that issue. My theory is only an educated guess based upon the Geo-fencing that is contained within drones. Personally I limit flying in restricted areas as much as possible. If you are flying outside of a restricted area, and having the same issue...you've negated this theory...so I would take it back to Gopro with an update.

Here are some other tips that can help folks that might be having similar issues:
- Always calibrate your drone before flying.

-Avoid flying in areas with electronic interference (Cell phone towers, metal, volcanic rocks, lots of possible wi-fi sources near by.. etc) Even if you have flown in a place, "many times before" This time it might just not work. The more "rural" I fly, generally speaking...the better my signal strength and range is.

- Signal interference isn't just based on where your drone is located...it is also based on where you are standing in relation to the controller. Standing next to a tall cliff...tall building...sitting in a car...not having the back of the controller directly facing the drone... can all affect performance.

There is an amazing waterfall nearby..that has a chain-link fence at the edge of it..in order to protect folks from falling off. I imagine if I tried to stand within that fenced off area, the metal in the fence would act as a Faraday cage...causing nightmarish problems. Sometimes it is the seemingly small details, if missed, that can cause problems.
 
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james shih

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Hi Shon,
I admire your expertise on drone flying.
You mentioned that we should calibrate karma drone every time before taking-off, does it mean even the controller doesn't ask .
I have had some small accidents that controller states "compass interfere" just after karma taking off (behind the scene is: karma doesn't ask for or it was a warning before but when I move to a new spot sometimes only several inches away then it says "ready to fly"), do you think we should always calibrate no matter how close these 2 spots (the right one and wrong one) are?
My experience the calibration normally can't be fulfilled at that spot which controller states "compass interfere move to a new location or re-calibrate", you have to always move to another location.
 

Shon

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Great question. I almost always recalibrate, even when the drone does’t ask. An exception would be if I am landing, changing batteries, and taking off from the same location.

Sometimes calibration fails and I have to try again. A helpfull technique for recalibration, is to move VERY slowly in a continuous circle as illustrated on your controller. If you stop, or move too quickly, you may have to start over. If you can’t re-calibrate after multiple attempts, you could be in a location with significant interference, and may want to find a new spot to fly.

Last February, I was in Hong Kong and I could not calibrate my drone after several attenpts. I decided to find a new place to fly. Eventually, as I walked farther I saw several GIANT building sized Satellite dishes that were previously obstructed from view! No wonder I was having issues!

From a new location close by, I watched a couple of other guys flying their drones. I was a bit jealous that they were able to get in the air, but I kept telling myself, it wasn’t a good place to fly, and I should respect the warnings my drone was giving me. Suddenly, the drone one of the guys was flying started going crazy and it dove straight into the ocean! Wow... so glad I wasn’t in the air!

After recalibration, if I set the drone down, and it gives me a “signal interference” warning, I will pick the drone up and try to launch it from a different spot. I’ve noticed that a concrete walkway (sidewalk) or pier ( where there is tons of metal) will cause problems, but if I launch from the grass or dirt a few feet away, I don’t have issues. In some situations, where I have reason to suspect the interference is from metal in the ground, I have hand launched after successful calibration of my drone, knowing that I am taking a risk. I have later landed on the pier or sidewalk I was having interference issues with.
 

james shih

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It is a great description.
But I am not quite understand the ending of your last paragraph, you mentioned that you have successfully landed at the spots which you suspected there might be a interference, dose it mean you still can launch even you were knowing there might be a risk after the successful re-calibration?
 

Shon

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It is a great description.
But I am not quite understand the ending of your last paragraph, you mentioned that you have successfully landed at the spots which you suspected there might be a interference, dose it mean you still can launch even you were knowing there might be a risk after the successful re-calibration?
Example #1: MAP LINK
Tai Mei Tuk, Hong Kong

The area I wanted to fly was over water, away from any hazards that I could see. The area I wanted to launch from is reclaimed land...concrete, with iron re-bar. No grass or dirt anywhere. I was successfully able to calibrate my drone...but every time I put it on the ground...it would show "compass" interference. Every time I picked the drown up, the interference would disappear and the drone would announce it was ready to fly.

I eventually hand-launched my drone, and flew it with no problem. I also landed it on the ground with no problem...once landed, the drone again showed "interference" and I would not have been able to launch again without hand-launching.

Later I moved to the dam, south of the location marked on the map. Again...the drone showed "compass interference" when trying to launch from the dam, probably due to the amount of iron re-bar in the dam. Again..I hand launched..flew and landed without issue.

There was very little risk flying in this location. I had wide open skies and unobstructed views. The main interference seemed to come from the ground. My assessment was that the risk of experiencing drone failure due to interference by flying here was low.


Example #2: MAP

Unesco World Heritage Site, Hong Kong

It is hard to see elevation on this map... but basically...I had no trouble calibrating and launching from the higher dam, to the northwest of the marker on the map. When I tried to launch from the lower dam (more of a tidal break made of giant concrete and re bar pillars) the drone would not allow me to fly due to "interference" every time I set it on the ground. I eventually hand launched the drone and successfully flew and landed it without incident.

The risk flying in this location (as I headed out over the ocean) is that the concrete pillars and iron could have caused signal interference and I risked losing my drone. I still had line of site as long as I flew my drone high enough... and a fairly good view of the sky for GPS. The dam behind me was very high and could possibly have caused interference as well. My assessment was that the risk of experiencing drone failure due to interference by flying here was moderate.

Example #3: MAP

Upper Mesa Falls in Idaho, USA

I had no trouble calibrating my drone, but when attempting to launch it from the walkway (on the right of the map if you are in Satellite view) I kept getting "compass interference". I eventually found a boulder near by, and was able to launch from there and then land on the walkway without issue.

The risk flying in this location is that I was flying in a steep and very narrow canyon. There was a real risk that GPS signal could be lost. I had a clear line of site to the drone, and experience flying without GPS, so I knew I could land the drone safely if I experienced GPS loss. I also rated the risk flying here as moderate to high.

Example #4: MAP
Tai Po Water Front Pier, Hong Kong:
This is the location I talked about in my post above. After several attempts at calibration I was not successful. There was significant signal interference, crowds of people, two kites in the air, and two drones already in the air. There were also birds nearby, and I was very close to urban and industrial areas. I did not continue my attempts to calibrate my drone, I did not fly here. I rated the risk of flying here to be very high.

Example #5: MAP
Tai Mei Tuk, Hong Kong

On a separate occasion I was flying at this location a little north of the map marker. I was standing on a short pier. I had calibrated my drone without issue, but kept getting "compass interference" when setting it down. Eventually...rather than hand-launching... I decided to set the drone down...and launch it before the warning appeared. My drone immediately signaled GPS loss, and I found myself fighting a slight breeze in order to maintain control. Being on a short pier...I wasn't sure I would have much room for error when landing. After a few minutes of "Sweating it out", The drone regained GPS, and rather than landing, I continued to fly it. I was able to land it without issue.

Risk assessment: I was flying the drone over water, in a rural area with line of site and unobstructed view. I would have rated my risk of flying here as low. My mistake was probably trying to bypass the warning.

The fact of the matter, is that GPS or signal loss can happen unexpectedly and for no apparent reason. Even in seemingly "low risk" situations.
 

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Loss of GPS and compass calibration/interference problems are two separate issues. All of your interference errors relate to the rebar in concrete. The Karma system does not like sitting on rebar. Pick it up a little, out on top of rock (no rebar in the rock) etc and you you are ok. While a street or paved area is most logical place to take off from, they are usually made with rebar inside the concrete just like a dam is. No good.

The last two examples harder to point at but suspect you were around a lot of rebar and rf interference.

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Shon

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Loss of GPS and compass calibration/interference problems are two separate issues. All of your interference errors relate to the rebar in concrete. The Karma system does not like sitting on rebar. Pick it up a little, out on top of rock (no rebar in the rock) etc and you you are ok. While a street or paved area is most logical place to take off from, they are usually made with rebar inside the concrete just like a dam is. No good.

The last two examples harder to point at but suspect you were around a lot of rebar and rf interference.

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I totally agree 100%.
 

james shih

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Thank you for the discussion, the mist of the problem seems opened at some level.
 

james shih

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I have browsed the Amazon site and found this paragraph of the introduction in an e-book "The Photographer's Guide to Drones", I think it makes sense that when everything is fine during taking-off then it will be a safe flight air boned.amazon site.jpg
 

mwsmithjr78

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I contacted support again after attempting to fly. I moved to a location free of any power lines , and well clear of any airports or restrictions . I calibrated the drone and lifted off. As soon as the drone lifts off I rise to about 15 to 20 feet. As soon as I try to move forward the Karma controller and drone problem happens. The controller screen freezes for a few seconds then starts a 3 min countdown. While saying attempting to reestablish connection. The drone auto lands and countdown completes. I power cycle the controller and drone to reestablish connection, try to fly again with same result. I relayed this to support, and was told someone would be in contact within 8 days. Tomorrow will be the 8th day and no response from GoPro support.
I did get this response from the forums “Thank you for the information shared.I am really for any troubles caused. We have flagged the team handling your case and they should be getting back to you soon.”

Hopefully some good news. I’m overly frustrated with my Karma and not being able to fly. I really enjoyed the Karma and the flexibility it offered with the grip and GoPro. Hopefully I can get a fix for this so I can get back to flying.
 

james shih

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Did you have a successful fly before or?
I can't help your situation, but I can describe the way of my fly:
  1. Have all the batteries fully charged before going.
  2. Find an open spot without obstacle nearby, normally on a piece of grass.
  3. Power on controller, waiting for the requiring karma screen, then power on karma.
  4. When connected, the controller will acquire GPS signal ( normally when at a new location), when locking the GPS it states "Ready to fly"
  5. When karma lifts about some height, checking all the control sticks functions
  6. If the weak or lost connection happened during the flight, karma will start the "auto return", I just tap the "x" sign at the left corner of the screen to stop the automation, then karma will stop and hover and I fly it back manually.
 

mwsmithjr78

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Yes to all of the above, and when the drone lifts off and while attempting to check for flight controls is when the problem happens.
 

JCLs

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Appears to be consistent in varying conditions. Suggest it is fault within the Karma.


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Shon

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I would agree, seems to be a problem with the Karma. The only way to know for certain, is to bring the matter to GoPro.
 

mwsmithjr78

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Last response from GoPro Support. They find no faults with the Karma, and that I’m flying in a restricted zone. This is defiantly not the case, I’ve driven 30 miles on different occasions to test this. Still the same thing. I’m throwing in the towel on the time. Sad. I really enjoyed flying it.
 

JCLs

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Just an honest observation but just because one drives 30 miles does not mean they are not in a restricted area.


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mwsmithjr78

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To clarify, to get clear of airports and any restricted area, I drove 30 miles.
 

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