CRASH: EXPLOSIONS! FIREWORKS! SCREAMS! No, my first crash was lame.

It happened! Yep, I had my first crash. I hate to admit it, too. I think about it and I want to say it’s not my fault. Yet, there is only one controller and I was holding it. Still though, it seemed like the Inspire 1 wanted to crash itself. It’s true--as if the aircraft became self-aware, realized how much of a dork I am, and tried to kill itself rather than be seen with me.

I was walking the the little guy home. Yeah--walking the drone home. Actually it was pretty cool to fly it from behind as I walked it. It really did feel like I was walking my dog. Well, before my heart-pumping crash experience on the second battery, I spent my first battery on some of the basics.

Mt. Rainier 23 miles to the east viewed 200' above the ground with an Inspire 1 drone.

I kept It Simple for My First Battery

For my first battery I wanted some aerial shots. I live surrounded by lakes. Say what you will about our Pacific Northwest weather, but it is gorgeous here! Even on an overcast day the view of Mt. Rainier is still amazing. I was able to get a few aerial shots before I had to descend. I decided to come down when I heard a Cessna that I couldn’t see, because I think he was flying above the clouds. Flying Instrument Flight Rules (IFR)? That’s strange, because the Cessna’s in the area are all from Pierce County Airport Flight School and I thought they only taught Visual Flight Rules (VFR). Regardless, I’m going to stay out of the student’s way, because his life is at risk—not mine. I descended and flew figure-8s for the rest of the first battery.

Camp Lakeview in Kapowsin WA viewed from 300' Inspire 1 Drone

I took a walk home for my second battery

I decided to walk home for the second battery. I knew it was about the right timeline for the battery life. What could go wrong?

I had trouble with the ‘max distance’ feature and that was the first indicator something was wrong. The Inspire 1 has a setting that allows you to set a max distance from your take-off point. It’s really important to understand this accurately. The max distance feature is not based on your “home” point, because that point can be adjusted to the controller. No, the max distance is strictly from where the bird first turned props.

As I started flying down the path it quickly became narrow. Soon the drone acted like it hit a force field, which caused it to dip slightly left or right. And that kind of movement isn’t normally a problem, accept I was on a narrow path. A little to the left or right are the jaws of tree branches that salivate at the opportunity to devour my happy little drone—a visual that reminds me of the Hungry Shark Evolution app. I figured out the problem, turned off the max distance feature, and re-hacked my return to home at my controller. And that was my second problem.

OK, so the path wasn't that narrow, but I was still nervous for my baby.

one must knowEth thy drone

It’s import to understand how the “Return To Home” (RTH) feature works. The Inspire 1 is great, because you can set the RTH as the controller. Previous aircraft, like the Phantom, have a RTH feature that only uses the start point (first turning props). So setting the RTH on the controller is a really smart idea, especially when you are on the move.

Let me ask you a question. Have you ever known something to be true, but still ignored it? Most likely your answer is yes. Maybe as a young driver you knew there wasn't enough room for your car, but went for it anyway. And, sure enough, you discovered there wasn't enough room as you scratched your paint. Young drivers make those type of “perception mistakes”. Well my perception mistake was to think that the Inspire 1 auto updates its home position to the controller. It does not. In other words, it's like putting a pin on a map. It does not follow the moving controller automatically. And I knew it that. But I still let it happen.

Just going for a walk with my Drone. Totally normal--nothing weird about this.

I generally ignore alarms

I was walking my Inspire 1 home as the low battery alarm sounded. I have about a minute when the alarm sounds, so I wasn't phased by it. I already had my aircraft low to the ground, with the landing gear lowered, so I could land it at a moment’s notice. I waited to the last second to land it. OK, I waited until 1 second after the last second—sooo, I was too late to land it. The bird went into return to home mode. It took a sharp right 90 and plowed into a log. The bird quickly shut itself off, which is a nice safety feature. It turned toward the point I was standing when I last set my controller as the RTH point.

Who put this log here?!

Another thing to note: once it goes into RTH mode you are no longer the pilot. In the GIF you can see that the aircraft was close by and I was watching it. I was trying to put it on the ground. But nope, it preferred to fly into the log.

Upon inspection, the only damage was one broken prop and a missing prop lock. Post-crash, now one of the other prop rotors is slightly tighter when putting a prop on or off. And that’s it! No explosions or fireworks or screams. Actually, it was kinda lame.

Front right prop busted and the prop lock is missing. It could be worse...

Back to the skies!

Then, after my love came home and the batteries were charged, I flew it again. No problems.

Honestly, I thought about not sharing this story. I kept thinking of all those internet bullies who would say awful things like, “I bet you didn’t calibrate your compass” or “are you sure your firmware is up-to-date?” or “your hat sucks” (the worst). That sort of sharp-shooting can really bring a pilot to the ground. “But you’re not a real pilot” they would reply. Oh, yeah, well, you’re not a real pilot. Unless you are.

Joking aside, we need to bond together as a drone community. We need to encourage each other to fly safe and share stories—even the bad ones. That’s how we all become better pilots. Conventional flight is as safe as it is today, because it has a culture of getting to the root of mishaps. We must do the same.

Me and my little buddy, the Inspire 1.

If you agree, then you are clearly a like-minded person. You should follow me on Twitter so I can follow you back, then we can share ideas.