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This is Why We Test

Mission Starting screenshotBefore every shoot, I try to test everything to ensure a smooth operation on the day.

This is especially true if I am running pre-programmed missions using the Litchi software.  While it is great software it does have a few quirks that you have to watch out for.

Yesterday was a perfect example.  I received a last minute request for an urgent, one time only, shoot this Friday.  This is an important and very personal project and failure is not an option.  I immediately set to work and created a mission file that I thought would capture the main event and then drove to the location to test it.

At the site, I took off, loaded the mission into the trusty iPad, pressed start and watched as the file uploaded to the drone.

The message “starting mission” flashed on the screen and then…nothing!

Odd.  It should have started climbing to the altitude of the 1st waypoint.

I checked the settings.  Cruising speed – good.  Switches in the right position.  All looked OK, so I tried again.  Still nothing!

I force closed and restarted the app.  Still nothing!

Now I was starting to get worried.  I had upgraded the firmware a week ago, but I know I ran a test mission after that and it was OK.

I decided to try it out on a different device and switched to using my Android phone.

As soon as I hit start the phone said “Mission Error.  Altitude too high!”

Ah!  That was it.  I had one waypoint set at 400ft.  When I reloaded the firmware it reset my usual 500ft max altitude to the default values and now Litchi was refusing to start because one of the waypoints was above that.

Why the iPad didn’t tell me that, I don’t know.  But I switched back to the iPad, fixed the max altitude issues and away it went!

On Friday I will be under significant time pressure and this would have likely killed the shoot, or at least forced me to manually fly something and produce less than perfect results.  Not to mention I would have had a heart attack!

Having the time to troubleshoot when you are not under pressure is key.  There are always things that can go wrong on the day, but why take the chance with things that you can control beforehand?