Flight Safety - Check the Plan

Just wanted to share some experience that will hopefully save a few drones out there. We all know that DroneDeploy initiated a dynamic drone selection to the program which detects the model of drone once it is connected and sets the overlaps accordingly. The major problem with this system is that in flight planning it defaults to a Mavic 2 Pro so the first thing you have to do is change that (if needed) before you start configuring. This is normal process now but yesterday we had something happened that lost us a drone.

I was at a large concrete plant yesterday and the first thing I notice was a huge tower right in the middle of the site so I sent the drone up to do some manual inspection and document the elevations of all the towers. The tallest one was 410-415ft above home! I could only go to 400ft with the way I have the drone configured but it was obviously slightly taller than that. One caveat was that highest point was just the stack and the main structure was down to about 385ft. Setting the mission at 395ft was done with care making sure that the overlap/altitude configuration would create flight lines on either side of the main tower. I didn’t have a problem with this as there was a good 50ft clearance on either side and I should have been 10ft above the structure even if it did fly over.

Now the problem. @Andrew_Fraser @Jamespipe Even after verifying all flight settings and then having an observer take a look we were both comfortable with what was about to happen. What we didn’t realize was that after the drone was connected DroneDeploy decided to change the flight lines. Even though we planned with a Phantom 4 Pro camera the app decided it had made a miscalculation, I guess. Point is that it threw the flight line right in the middle of the tower (at least according to the map) and we ended up crashing into it.

Moral to the story is that I should have stuck with my gut feeling and made two flight plans. SINCE DRONEDEPLOY DOESN’T HAVE EXCLUSION AREAS, you know who you are. My other fault was not putting more thought on the accuracy of the map. Google Earth can be deceiving at times because it is capturing oblique imagery so the taller something gets the more the top of the structure will be out of line. This is why it is better to look at the base of a structure than planning by the top.

While I can’t be mad at DroneDeploy it was definitely partly at fault. I hope this at least keeps these factors in everybody’s thoughts a little better.

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Hi @MichaelL Very sorry to hear of the crash. Please feel free to check in with your account team if you’d like to discuss further.

You may set a flight altitude higher than 400ft in user preferences (know it’s a bit hidden), though we of course recommend following local airspace regulation above all else. For route planning, differences can occur depending on your starting location as there is a final flight optimization prior to takeoff. We recommend reviewing the flight path during the preflight checklist to ensure it matches expectation.

Once again sorry this happened, and let us know if we can help in any way.

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Thanks Andrew. Never thought about this before but we hardly ever have this scenario so it is what it is. All the more reason to keep a backup. This is the way. :slight_smile:

I have had this problem when using android for a year and I have told them how dangerous this bug is and their response has always been it isn’t a high enough priority and it will be fixed with a new release of the android product .which always gets placed out 3 months from the time of my reporting the problem. My fix has been to borrow an apple phone from my grandson. Where you using an android device to fly?..

No, I was using an iPad. Started planning, changed the camera, finalized planning and then apparently DroneDeploy’s “final flight optimization” decided it needed to intervene.

Too bad about the aircraft, good idea to verify the flight plan before launch including the flight lines, as well as altitudes etc. Have not run into (pun not intended) exact situation you encountered, however have seen altitude get adjusted upwards, as well as other strange flight lines. One odd one have seen is on a map mission have 2D selected, then once connected to aircraft select 3D, see the additional lines, then select 2D, back to expected, then select 3D again, get a different flight plan with fewer lines then initial 3D, more than 2D. Bottom line, check the flight plan and settings once connected and before hitting the green go/launch button.

You’ve had altitude change by itself? Or are you talking about Terrain Awareness? Altitude is a static value and should never change. There is a bug about 3D settings maintaining in Advanced Settings even when Enhanced 3D is turned off. In our experience this has never caused the mission to fly with Enhanced 3D characteristics.

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Yes, have had alt change on its own, and not referring to the alt variations as you fly over rolling terrain. Was able to quickly stop the mission, adjust to correct alt and then flew mission. Ever since then I now double check the alt vs. what the mission plan is and what the app/controller/aircraft thinks, or wants to fly.

Likewise double check the flight lines and coverage of what is about to be flown vs. what the mission plan is. Not uncommon to the see the number of flight lines, adjust (e.g. as it corrects for example from a Mavic to P4P etc).

Regarding 3D, if you have not tried, when get a chance, select 3D and see what flight lines it wants on the app/controller once connected to aircraft. Then turn 3D off, then turn 3D back on again and see what flight lines or difference you get.

You might want to ground the aircraft and contact support about that. While we already know that the flight planning software defaults to a Mavic 2 Pro this instance was planned as a P4Pv2 and it still changed again after connecting. We’ve asked several times to set a default in the Organization but no dice. I just tried the toggling of 3D and nothing changed after reinstating 3D.

Good points, otoh, was more tempted to ground the app/sw that told the aircraft to go higher than it was supposed to ;). Interesting about the 3D toggling, thks for checking.


Michael I recently sent in a pretty lengthy request to them for creating “Local No Fly Zones”. That feature is needed for many different situations and this is one of them. If you were allowed to draw out areas that can’t be flown over, then the DD app would have to create a few extra waypoints to go around it. Ideally we can draw a circle or polygon. For cell towers we need to be able to draw cone shaped zones (for towers with guidewires).

The second feature was adding the ability to specify the travel AGL when going from one mission to another on Chaining missions. Hopefully they will implement these two features as they are needed and will add a tremendous value to the app. Sorry ya’ll lost a drone. That is never any fun :frowning:


My thoughts exactly. Being able to draw a rectangle would be the easiest as far as additional waypoints are concerned but it could hit that boundary travel three additional waypoints and then continue on the other side.

It wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last which most of us know if you’ve been doing this for long enough. At least it was just a Phantom 4.