Phantom 4 crash on a simple flight

Started DJI Go at home and checked for updates. Had a firmware update which I did, and everything else looked OK.
Went to a nearby lake to map it - mostly just for practice on my day off work.
Started DJI Go and let things warm up. Calibrated the compass. All looked good.
Shut down DJI Go, and turned on DroneDeploy. All looked good.
Started the mission. Take off successful.
First leg started and completed OK.
On the second leg I noticed the altitude rising. I looked up at the drone and it was for sure going higher and higher.
I pressed the Home button on my controller. Nothing happened that I could tell.
I pressed the Home button in DroneDeploy. The controller indicated the drone was returning to my coordinates. Seemed all was well.
When the drone reached my coordinates it began a rapid uncontrollable fall.
I tried pressing up on the up stick. Nothing happened, or I guess I should say it did not slow the decent.
When it impacted the ice in the lake near me I think it may have been upside down. It bounced and landed upside down for sure.

Hi Virginia,

I’m sorry to hear this. When you mentioned ice in the lake, I’m wondering if the cold weather could’ve caused the battery to lose its charge prematurely when it hit the coordinates (thus creating the fall). Either way, could you please contact with the Map ID. They can look into the exact cause of this. Sorry again.

Thanks for your reply. I don’t really think it was weather related. It’s been quite cold here, and that’s why the lake is frozen, but the day had warmed up into the mid 40s. Seems that should be warm enough to not have problems.
That’s for the time on the Map ID.

Good to know, I always get nervous when flying in cold weather but if that’s not the case, Support can definitely look into what happened.

Did the firmware upgrade also include battery upgrades? And did you upgrade the battery before taking off. I lost a Phantom 3 once right after an upgrade… I can’t prove it, but I think that the aircraft decided to upgrade the battery firmware during flight, and rebooted the battery from 400 feet. This was a Dec 2015 version of software.

Sounds as if you may have forgot to switch the controller back to ATTI in order to regain control over flight functions with the stick. Last summer I spent using DD in the back country on narrow dirt roads and almost always having to assume command upon completion of mission to keep from landing in the weeds next to the road…

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You know, I couldn’t say whether the battery upgraded or not. I’ve already sent the drone back to DJI so I can’t check now.

I didn’t switch anything back, so you probably have a point there. I pressed the home button and all looked OK until it got back to my approximate coordinates, then dropped like a rock. I grabbed for the controls when I realized what was happening, but it was too late to do anything meaningful.

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Very helpful info, David. Thank you for sharing.

I thought some more about what might have happened. Sometimes GPS satellite services are turned off for maintenance or testing or some thing outside the aircraft affects reception of the GPS signal like a large metal object like an airplane passing over, large truck or large metal things buried or under a body of water. In the case of GPS loss while under DD control it begins to return home by climbing up to a predetermined altitude. Upon reaching that altitude it begins coming home, when it reaches a place over the takeoff point it begins to descend until it reaches a point where the single on board barometer thinks its landed on the ground and kills the engines even though its still high in the sky. Because it lost GPS it no longer knows precisely where it is and uses the single barometer to determine its altitude. You would have had to take control while on descent to avoid an engine shutdown do to barometric errors. A procedure you could have only done by switching the transmitter back to stick input. The inspire 2 features two barometers for more accurate vertical positioning possibly eliminating the scenario you experienced. I’m not an expert but other opinions would help us all flush out the proper operating procedures to follow in case of a flight anomaly while under DD control.

This makes a lot of sense. The drone did come back to my approximate lat/log before descending, then it dropped like a rock. I was watching the display to verify the progress towards my location, but when I realized it had started to fall all I had time to do was to look up and grab for the controls too late. Amazing how fast one of these things can come down!
An Inspire 2 is on my wish list, but it sounds like NDVI may not be available on any of the cameras for a while.