A Scary Flight With My DJI Phantom


A few days ago, I took my DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ out for what I thought would be a routine flight. I went to one of my regular flight sites, the Field of Dreams in San Pedro, CA.

Other than just to fly, my main goal was to use the FPV Booster app with my iPhone 6. I normally fly with the DJI Vision app, but FPV Booster has several features that are attractive to me. One is its Flight Tracker, and another is the ability to capture the screen with a finger swipe.

I started out with the battery registering about a 94% charge level. With that level, I expected 15+ minutes of flight time. I had plenty of satellites and began my flight.

I call myself a park flyer in that I generally stay within the confines of the area where I am flying. Fortunately that was the case this time as well.

Everything went well for the first 7 minutes of the flight or so. Because I am still learning about FPV Booster, I did not go very high – actually I seldom go above 150 feet. That is sufficient to capture the videos and still images I take with my Phantom. Below is a screen capture I took of my iPhone during this flight. By the way, that is the Target store on Gaffey.

High point 5-29-15

A little over 7 min into the flight, my battery level was a little above 50%, which was on-track for a fifteen minute flight. I monitor the percentage closely. My Phantom is set to return to its takeoff point or do what’s called an RTH maneuver at 30%, and I want to land before that occurs.

All of a sudden, my battery’s charge began to fall rapidly. I did not notice this immediately. The level sunk to below 30% in a matter of a few seconds, and the Phantom initiated the RTH maneuver. What it was trying to do is to return to the place where it had taken off.

But, the battery charge was falling so rapidly, the Phantom landed automatically by itself. It was smart enough to know that it would not make it home. This is another great feature of the Phantom.  The problem was that the it landed about 150 feet from the takeoff point. No problem. But what if I had been flying off the rocks at PV or over some other area that was not a great landing site or accessible by me to retrieve it?

The video below shows the ground track and telemetry data for the last minute or so of the flight from the FPV Booster’s Flight Tracker module.

FPV_Tracker_5-29-15_First_Frame

Checking with the online community of quadcopter flyers, I found there were some earlier signs that I had missed that pointed to why the battery lost its charge so rapidly. There are also steps you can take to ensure you get maximum battery life. As I learn more and more about this hobby, I find that there is still so much I don’t know.

Let me know in the comments below if you have had similar experiences and what you learned from them.

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