Those are not the words you want to hear from your tablet while flying your expensive DJI equipment around. But what does disconnected really mean?
I had an experience today that was very educational. That is the polite way of saying I learned something very valuable just after I needed a change of underwear.
First – what happened.
I was flying Litchi a mission today that I pre-programmed on the computer before arriving at the site. The missions was simple enough and I had set such that it stayed above the water the entire flight.
But, as anyone with experience setting up missions using the web portal will tell you, often conditions on the ground are a little more involved. In this case, the planned route dropped from 200′ down to about 50′ while hugging the coastline of a major river. This looked fine on the map but actually put the drone behind a large outcropping of trees on the hillside.
As it moved out of sight my Visual Observer (VO) and I discussed that this was a bad idea and we would need to make adjustments. Just at this point that I received the dreaded “Warning – Disconnected!” message and a large red bar at the top of the display.
I should point out that the last time this happened was almost 3 years ago and resulted in the drone ending up in Davy Jones’ Locker. As such it was a little disconcerting.
I waited for about 3 years (well it felt like that) and, with the signal not coming back, I decided I had nothing to lose. I flicked the switch to cancel the mission and pressed up on the right stick. Altitude is always your friend. I honestly didn’t expect anything to happen and was lamenting the potential loss when, suddenly, the video feed came back! The little Phantom was now at nearly 200ft, clear of the trees, and all was normal again.
What did we learn?
Even though the app was saying that I was disconnected there was clearly some connection. The log later shows that I switched to P-ATTI and it responded. So, if in doubt, CLIMB! Even if you think it will make no difference, there is still a chance that you can save your baby.
In theory, since my drone was not moving (the mission had a zero mph cruising speed) the drone would have hovered until it reached 30% battery and then initiated a return to home (RTH). I have my drone set to climb to 250′ first so it should have come back…eventually. But it would have taken a while as there was still about 15 minutes of battery left. I would have been an old man by the time that thing came home!
Any day you learn is a good day, and learning without doing it the hard way is always preferable.