The sad truth is that some people have experienced their AR Drone seemingly having a mind of its own, turning all SkyNet on its owners, and heading off into the wild blue yonder to, most likely, hook up with other rouge AR Drones to create a Borg-like conscience so that they can return and make us their slaves. All kidding aside, losing a $300 drone is not a happy moment for anyone. Let’s take a look at why these occur and how can we prevent them,
The most common situation is with the altitude limiter turned off, your drone gets somewhere around 15-30 feet off the ground and decides to race for the clouds.This happens when the drone’s ultrasonic altitude sensor can no longer sense the ground and is transitioning from its guided mode to blind-flight mode. The exact height that this occurs will vary based on the ground the drone is over. Grass and soft surfaces will usually cause it to occur lower while harder surfaces like asphalt will generally have it occur higher.
If you see your drone start accelerating towards outer space, the important thing is to not panic. Stop all other controls and except for DOWN. Press and hold down and after a few seconds it SHOULD calm down and begin to descend. Unless you are over some exceptionally soft surface, I would not suggest hitting the emergency button as you usually do not end up with an optimal landing from 40-50′ above the ground and shutting the engines off. The AR Drone will drop like a rock as it has zero glide path, hitting the emergency button is all but a last ditch effort.
How to minimize risk of a fly-away
John over at Drone-Apps has written up a piece on this recently with the following suggestions:
- Don’t fly in Wi-Fi saturated areas. Try to be the only network around if possible.
- Don’t fly in the dark. (the bottom camera can’t track anything)
- Don’t fly over large solid colored surfaces, like a clean well-groomed grass yard or a giant piece of unmarked asphalt.
- Give your drone a break between flights, let it cool off.
- Set your altitude limit at around three meters or below. (above this altitude, the drone doesn’t know how high it is)
- Switch your ultrasound sensor to a different one when flying around other drones.
- Don’t test the range. If flying from the iPhone or iPad, stay within about 20 meters.
Note – there has been some improvement in the new 2.0 AR Drone model and fly aways may be easier to avoid. If you are just buying your first AR Drone, don’t get tricked into buying a 1.0 model at a discount of refurbished! This model is far inferior to the newer one.
The new AR Drone models have an accessory GPS which would seem to solve a lot of these problems when coupled with the proper additional software. This GPS allows your drone to follow a pre-programmed flight path which could, of course, include a return to base!
Below is a photo snapped from an AR Drone 1.0 which it was in flyaway mode – way out of range of the iphone! Luckily, it was retrieved, but yours may not be – so follow the guidelines above!
Note – if you want to fly your AR Drone this far away and NOT have it be out of control, consider one of the R/C Mods (MiruMod) listed on our Modifications Page.