Scary moments - Lost connection - drone disappears into clouds

I just had a scary mission. The drone lost connection and began to climb. Based on exif data it reached a max AGL of 463M (1519ft!) even though it is set not to rise above 400’. It disappeared directly above me - I could not see it or hear it - not sure where it went.

This was the 2nd mission of the same flight, minutes apart. The 1st flight went perfectly. Just 4 waypoints to test a new camera.
Test 1 - Stock drone, completed flight, returned home, all fine. Shut down drone and RC.
Test 2 - Re-fly exact same route, no changes to path or any parameters.
-Snapped on additional GoPro camera to landing gear (no electronic connections - just physical camera auto-snapping picture at 5s intervals).
- launched flight - drone ascended to 150’, began flying route, looked good
-just passed 2nd way point it began to ascend. I looked down at DD and it said the drone was at 600’
-I hit the home button on the App, but nothing happened - I hit the home button on the RC - no response
- then I noticed the App saying connection lost & I saw the red light on the RC showing a broken connection as well.

  • It quickly was out of site - wasn’t sure if it was still overhead or flown away. I began holding the stick down hoping it was directly overhead and would descend… It took for ever, but it finally came back into view. The mission was still trying to run so it was a bit of a challenge to force it back home - but I did force it home and all is OK.

What caused this??? Any ideas? Freaked me out!

DJI Phantom 4
Nexus 9 Android tablet running 6.0.1
DJI Go showed no problems after the fact (calibration, firmware, etc).
The battery was low (at 17%) but I’m not too surprised… it was out of site for a while.

The flight path was created on the desktop then synced to the tablet. The path on the desktop was slightly different than the synced path on the tablet. The tablet route was followed.

Thanks
Eric–

Sorry to hear this happened to you, Eric. I’ve heard this from two other customers flying a Phantom 4, but none on any other aircraft, which makes me think this is unique to this model. Does your drone show any unusual behavior if you try to fly a waypoint mission in DJI GO? It sounds like something is off with mechanically.

Thanks again for the info, Neema.

Can you briefly explain, or point me to a little more detailed info on how the the waypoints are loaded and used?
Are they loaded to the RC unit and therefore require a constant uplink in order to fly the mission? Or are they uploaded to the drone computer before launch and therefore should be able to complete the mission whether the RC unit has a good connection or not? If the uplink is broken, should the onboard computer continue the mission or default to the RTH function?

If you can answer or point me to answers it will help me troubleshoot… Thanks!
Eric–

Hi Eric,

The waypoints are loaded into the drone during the checklist. Once you see the little airplane icon, the waypoints are stored on the DJI autopilot. We tell the drone to follow the waypoints, and it should do this regardless of the connection to our app. It will also respect RTH settings (30% battery warning, etc)

That said, good performance on our app is dependent on good conditions on the drone- we have some suggestions on this here:

One other thing some of our customers have experimented with is a range extender, which may also help.

Thanks for the additional information. I will review and test.
cheers
Eric–

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Double check that your RTH Altitude is indeed 400’ and not 400m. Because 400m would have brought about the issue that you are referring too.

Also, in the even that this happens again, Do not try the return to home buttons. Something is already wrong. Immediately switch to manual control and hand fly the drone back to home location.

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Great tips. Thanks Gregory.

I’m heading out to a friends farm tomorrow and will test several options.

Thanks for the help.

cheers
Eric–

UPDATE:
In case anyone is interested… I had the same issue occur again yesterday out at a friends farm, far from power lines, etc.

Thanks to the tips from Neema & Gregory I was prepared, popped the drone into manual and brought it home easily.

BIG DIFFERENCE this time… I was testing Precisionhawk’s Inflight app, not Drone Deploy. Safe to say it’s not an app problem, but a drone problem (brand new P4, no mods, no crashes, all stock…???).

It happened in the same way as before. I ran one flight plan successfully, Brought the drone back, snapped on an external camera to the landing gear and re-ran the same flight plan. It flew the 1st and 2nd waypoints just fine, then after wp2 it stopped moving forward and just began to ascend…

The camera on the landing gear is the only difference between the two flights each time this happened.
Is the little GoPro creating interference somehow??? It is simply strapped onto the legs of the drone
and set to snap a picture every 3 seconds…

Anyway, thanks again for the advice - If I figure it out I will share what I learn
Cheers
Eric–

Hello Eric,

the early Phantoms had a big problem with the GoPro WIFI…

It looks like you fund a bug in the system.

Try the following:

  1. Fly a mission just you did before.
  2. Mount your go pro, but do not switch it on !!!
  3. Fly the mission again and see.

Note : make sure you have the finger on the F switch so that you can take over any time.

if this works and you do not have a problem that might point to the GoPro WIFI or something like
that.

Werner

Thanks sfdroneschool.

I’m using the term gopro generically. Technically it is an SJ4000. It does not have wifi, however your
test suggestion is a good one. I will give it a try.

Thanks!
Eric

Hello Neema. I have read your post. There is a chance that the phantom 3 standard will not return home when batery is lower than 30%? I flow a 100 ha a few days ago. I lost conection between p3s and rc, so far everyrhing was ok the drone keep on flying the route and taking pictures. But when it was about 18 minutes flying and was near (about 60 m) from my position I did turn on the rc again and the batery was lower than 20% and the drone was ready to keep flying the last line without doing rth. I cancel the route and order a rth. I was surprised it did not made the rth by itself. One more question, Is it normal that when rc lost conection to the drone during a DD mission at the reconection it stop to take pictures? Thanks for you time. Carlos.

Hi @cidcarlos - is it possible you have a lower return to home set in DJI GO?

It should continue taking photos if it disconnects.

Thanks,

Thanks for your replay @neema. Yes my rth was 70m and was flying a route on DD at 100m. So if the rth altitude is higher than the flying route it will continue to take picture after the reconection?? Or should I keep my rc off until the end of the route? Carlos.

@cidcarlos you should DEFINITELY keep your remote control on for the duration of any flight with or without our app. If you’re a new pilot, I’d recommend checking out some safety videos on Youtube and flying with a friend a few times to get comfortable. Please also see here for our tips on flying safely.

Safety Considerations and Avoiding Flyaways

Please never turn off your remote control while flying. That would be very unsafe. Your RC is the communication system for your drone.

Thanks again @neema. I did try today to made a flight with rth altitude higher than the flying altitude set up in DD. When the drone lost connection to rc and then reconect it stopped to take pictures. If there any way I could set up the DD in order to the drone keep on taking pictures after it reconect?