The “fly away” as it’s known in the drone industry, is a terrifying and costly occurrence where your UAV unit’s GPS system(s) stop responding to transmitter control and your drone simply flies away.
This happens more than anyone wants to admit. In fact, the DJI brand received a very bad name as it became famously known for its high number of “fly away” incidents. Considering the average DJI costs approximately $1200 CAD, it’s understandable why novice and experienced pilots alike would be upset by this.
The simple truth is that 95% of these incidents are pilot error. This is a fact. There are many steps that can be taken to avoid or mitigate a fly away incident.
1. Read the manual. Most drone pilots are male. Most males don’t read manuals. You really should, especially when it comes to flying machines.
2. Compass and GPS calibration before every flight. Every drone manufacturer tells you to do this yet so many users share their stories of never needing to do so … until they experience a fly away. You see, with a static home point type of system, the drone is looking for those altitude, latitude and longitude coordinates it stores on its flight computer. If there is some type of issue and that data becomes corrupted, it could likely default to the last good saved data, which could be several dozens of kilometers away. Calibrate every time.
3. Check the solar weather. This week there have been several Class M solar flares. That means do not fly with autonomous systems for risk of heavy interference to wireless systems. I’ve also personally noticed on many drone forums that there was a high volume of fly aways this week. This is not a coincidence at all. There are many applications available for free that will tell you X-Ray Flux, Planetary K-Index, Solar Wind speed and density, Geomagnetic Field noise levels, and much more. We use one called Solar Monitor that even sends push notifications to our mobile phone to alert us of dangerous flying conditions.
4. Learn to fly. Again, many of these RTF (Ready to Fly) kits allow a user to simply buy the product, open it up, insert the pre-charged battery and go out and fly. No education. No prep work. Just unbox and go. This is one reason why drones are not toys and are actually quite dangerous in unskilled hands. To rely on the unit’s autonomous systems alone is begging for trouble. Learn how to manually pilot a drone first. Master it. Then and only then should you be working with a more complex unit.
5. Stay Clam. This ties into point four. If you experience a fly away, or any emergency condition, an experienced and educated pilot will remain calm and stand a much better chance of retrieving their unit unscathed.
There are times when systems fail. Or software runs into an error. It does happen. Some drone manufacturers are very good about taking responsibility for these issues and making customers happy. One of our partner companies, Yuneec, is the only manufacturer in the industry to offer a six month limited warranty, and has gone above and beyond countless times for many customers.
Still, no company or warranty covers pilot error. These are flying machines, not toys. Treat them with respect. Learn how to operate them.
Have fun. Fly safe.