All about drone quadcopter flyaway
Probably few of U will ask, what does it mean “flyaway“. Frankly, is one of the ugliest things that could happen with your favorite quadcopter. When flyaway occurs you totally loose the control of the drone and it will fly away from you in one direction or chaotically changing its flight path. I read somewhere that the quad also can increase its flight altitude till the battery is empty and drops out from the sky.
What can cause fly-away? Honestly I’m not an expert, but in my opinion, they are mainly caused by the pilot errors and also can be caused by:
- interruption of communication with the remote controller;
- electromagnetic interferences;
- wrong set-up of the return-to-home point;
- misconfigured flight controller;
- hardware failure (GPS, barometric sensor, receiver board, etc);
- design error.
Losing your $500 quadcopter is certainly hurtful, but other more painful things can happen like hitting someone or set fire to the woods. Damaged Li-Po batteries are highly flammable and is very important to recover them and safely dispose.
First time when I read about fly-aways was regarding with DJI Phantom quadcopters, especially in case of the Phantom 1 and Phantom 2. Hopefully this bug was eliminated by DJI and their 3rd generation Phantom 3 Advanced is totally flyaway safe.
Signal loss between the transmitter and the drone
As I previously mentioned, one of the most often factor that can cause the fly-away of your quadcopter is the signal loss between the aircraft and the remote controller. Practically, the aircraft remains by its own. This can be caused by radio interferences, accidentally power off of the transmitter or week RC battery.
Theoretically, if the drone has GPS positioning system and the return-to-home feature was set correctly, the aircraft will return to the take-off point and safely land by its on.
In case the drone does not have GPS positioning, there are several approaches. One is to cut the motors instantly (if you are lucky the aircraft will survive the crash and will not hit someone). In my opinion this is not the optimal situation because normally can be short time interruptions (caused by interferences) and the quad will drop like a stone. Extended version of this approach is to cut the motors only after 2-5 seconds. The problem is that in this time a racing quad can travel a significant distance. Second approach is to hover till the connection is restored or the battery is empty.
Drone fly-away with happy end
My readers probably already know that most of the articles on FirstQuadcotper.com are generated by personal experiences.
Because recently I lived my first fly-away with the Walkera F210 racing quadcopter, I thought that it would be helpful to give some advice how to prevent fly-away and also, if it happens, how to try to find your precious quadcopter.
That day I wanted to practice flying my Walkera F210 using FPV goggles.
Everyone who have flown a racer quad knows that are very fast and they need large open space to practice. Being lazy, I started to practice on my 50 x 70 meters backyard. Bad idea! In short time I got confident and I flow outside my backyard in the open field behind it, which is about 50-100 meters wide and located on the edge of the forest.
The 25mw 5.8G TX reached its limits and I lost the FPV connection, I quickly removed my Walkera Goggles 4 FPV glasses. The motors could still be heard from afar but I couldn’t see the quad on the sky. Being shortsighted it was very hard to focus in the distance without eyeglasses. I tried to recover the quad blindly but after short time it got totally silence. It is possible that I was already out of the control range…
That time I realized that my $ 350 racing drone crashed and I didn’t know exactly where. I was hoping that at least it didn’t crash into the forest.
I started the rescue mission with my wife and my son. Holding the transmitter in one hand and the FPV goggles in the other one. I hoped that the battery is still connected and when I’m in its range I will be able to arm the motors and bring some noise or catch the FPV signal. The grass was about half meter high and it would have been hard to find anything in that large area without having any clue where I should search.
My rescue team gave up after one hour, leaving me by my own.
When I was on the edge of the forest, I heard something similar with a very quiet beep-beep. I checked the FPV screen, nothing :(. I tried to arm the motors, nothing :(. Frankly, at this point I was about to quit but I decided to give it a last try and I entered into the forest. I went ahead about 60 meters till the noise become clear but still no FPV signal.
After I walked another 20 meters in the direction of the beeps, I saw a bright light. It was the frontal LED of my Walkera F210 :).
I was extremely lucky that the quad didn’t remained hooked into a high tree, especially that on the crash zone the forest is very dense.
It would be a total happy-ending if one of the arms were not broken and a the ESC burned out. Next day I ordered the spar parts in order to repair it, which cost me $25.
If you think that a drone GPS tracker would make it easier for you to find the quad, you are wrong. In deep forest there is probably no good GPS signal nor GSM signal. In these situations only luck can bring your quad back.
How to prevent drone flyaway
Learning from my mistake, I created a check list that could prevent fly-aways:
- Practice only on large open fields;
- If you fly using FPV goggles, ask a friend to keep his eye on the aircraft;
- Try not to fly out of the line-of-sight;
- Do not fly out of the transmitter’s range;
- Check the RC’s battery voltage prior to every flight;
- Secure firmly the flight battery;
- Don’t play with the flight controllers failsafe settings,unless you’re an expert;
- Make sure that you have the latest stable firmware;
- Never fly near high-voltage power lines;
- If required, calibrate your quad;
- Wait for strong GPS signal;
- Set correctly the return to home point;
- When you loose video, drop the throttle;
- Use timer to estimate the remaining flight time.
There are probably other things that I missed, so please leave a comment in case you have a suggestion and I will updated the anti-flyaway check list.
Things that can help to recover (find) your quadcopter drone in case of flyaway
- Loud buzzer connected to the flight controller;
- Low voltage alarm;
- Label with your phone number;
- GPS tracker;
- Record the downstream (live-video), so you know where you seen it last time.