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AR. Drone : Close to Gone

A near miss: a software glitch, light winds and low light conditions combined to result in a snafu takeoff that sent my AR drone over the tree line westward into la la MIA land.........

On its 105th flight, at Dusk on the 12th of July 2012 the AR. Drone I have been playing with for nearly 2 years was up about 95ft in the air when light winds pushed it, the drone started ascending. The wifi connection with my ipod was broken and I lost control of it. It entered it's default hover mode (protocol for connectivity loss) and unfortunately the trim balance counteracting with the wind caused it to drift westward, off towards the sunset, over the tree line and out of my line of sight. A sinking feeling set it, "there goes $335 worth of consumer electronics... will I ever recover it?...."

I ran with an adrenaline burst down the street and up the incline in the direction of where the drone drifted. Dusk was closing off quickly, only a twinkle of light remaining.

I ran down the roadway to a park where I hear a few teen guys playing basketball. "Did you guys see a drone drifting this way?"

"Yes" they responded "Your drone drifted over those tree's across the street, and landed somewhere behind that tree line, over that way" as they pointed to a line of 50ft tall pine trees bordering the street next to a corner lot home. I looked back as they guys at the park retreated for the evening, done with their basketbal game.

Dusk was setting in, I frantically looked for the drone... nothing.... it got darker and darker. I realized I could use the signal strength meter of the wifi connection on my iPod to locate it approximately, log into the drone and pull down the video feed to see what it was looking at.

Sure enough, I was looking at a tree, the drone was above the ground stuck in a tree, a pine tree. The image streaming from the drone was muddy and washed out because of the low dusk outdoor light.

Using the image feed and wifi signal meter I was able to locate the drone to one of 4 trees. Finally it was dark enough that I was able to see the 4 red lights on the drone (they activate when the drone has crash landed). It was 20ft up in the air, resting on a middle branch of one of the large tall densely packed pine trees.

I ran back to the street, my neighbor spotted me and stopped her car, she gave me a ride back so that I could grab my gear. I thanked her, and she was on her way. I grabbed the tree limbing poll tool, got in the subaru and drove back to the crash site. With a stroke of devine intervention, God helped me to correctly position the branch cutting tooling in the dense needle covered limbs of the pine, lifting upward, I was able to wiggle the drone free and safely lift it to the ground with the long poll tool. Fewwwwww.

Incredibly nothing was damaged mechanically or electrically.

One I returned home I sat down and got all of the serial numbers and purchasing information: contacted Parrot technical services and wrote them an email describing the problem I encountered. I have not yet heard back.

*Test Update* I have confirmed that the drone is still working :) It is one tough cookie !
Check out the test update video (shot at 220fps)

That was a close call. I have not flown the drone since the accident, I did power it up inside without flight to check everything: it appear mechanically fine and electrically fine: everything seems to be working.

I will flight test it when they update the software: I believe there is a problem with the firmware, software that caused a stability trim error problem. I will not fly the drone in low light conditions again.

I now realized how limited the wifi-based control range is. I knew the drone was sensitive in light winds, but now realize how sensitive it is to wide drift at high altitudes in light winds. The wifi-noisy environment near my flight was probably part of the problem. The ideal range from the wifi from the drone is 150ft, but in dense wifi zones I am sure this is more limited.

Thank you God for helping me to recover this super cool toy UAV. Thank you for helping me gently recover it without harming it or the tree with that long dangerous limb cutting tool. Thank you Lord God for giving me the strengths to run flat out for so long, for giving me the persistence and drive to actively recover it even though darkness was eclipsing. Thank you for giving me the wisdom to use the tools at my disposal. Thank you for guiding my mind and hands. I love you Lord God. Thank you for helping me.

As trivial and insignificant as this drone may seem in the grand scheme of things: I really enjoy it. I hope to get at least 1000 flights out of it to make it worth what I invested in it: in terms of net enjoyment return on investment.

I have read other reports of people loosing their drones to this ascend drift problem...... some who never recovered their drones.... I am glad that I was able to recover mine :)

These people were not so lucky:

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