ABC Denver News: "Drone drifts away in skies over Denver; owner posts 'missing' flyers around city"

Worth watching the video of the ABC Denver news report of a drone flyaway (it was a Storm Drone 6 with a DJI Naza controller).  A screenshot of DIY Drones makes an appearance ;-) I can't embed the video, but you can watch it here

DENVER - We've seen flyers for lost dogs, lost cats, even lost birds, but never a lost drone -- until now.

Loyal Merrick says his $2,000 Storm Drone 6 with a $400 GoPro camera attached just floated off like a balloon.

He has posted flyers around the Denver metro area.

7NEWS has discovered that drones floating away from their operators are becoming more common with this new technology.

"This one makes it bank, this one makes it turn," said Merrick as he showed how the controls work on the transmitter.

He still has the transmitter, but as for the aircraft itself, it's gone.

"I tried to run in the direction to get closer to it, and I don't know," said Merrick. "I just lost track of it. It's that simple."

Merrick was flying the drone on Friday over the now closed Rosedale Elementary School.

"And then it got a little bit too high," he said.

So, he hit the fail-safe button on the transmitter.

"It's supposed to return to its exact take-off spot," said Merrick. "Just like a boomerang. It didn't do that. It just kept flying off in the same direction."

7NEWS discovered several drone blogs indicate this is a common problem.

Merrick invested in his drone for a possible future aerial photography business.

"If you can get a GoPro up in the air at the right place, it just can capture the beauty of Colorado," said Merrick. "I could use it to photograph real estate, especially high-end real estate, weddings, bike races, events. Right now it's just a hobby, but it could be a career."

Even though the FAA has declared you can't fly drones for commercial gain, Congress has mandated the FAA integrate drones into commercial airspace next year.

"I took a big risk, but that's what entrepreneurs do."

As for the liability of the drone flying off, Merrick says even if it crashed it wouldn't do much damage because the carbon fiber is so lightweight, and the drone itself is noisy.

"So it's not going to sneak up on people. It's not going to be hitting people. People are going to see it and get the heck out of the way," Merrick said. "For me, this was just a very expensive first mistake."

Views: 3265

Comment by Randy on March 11, 2014 at 7:17pm

Seems like we need some better tracking equipment and/or everybody needs to start using telemetry.  It's likely that his copter came down safely somewhere as the battery got low and is sitting somewhere feeling lonely.  I think a very durable device, separately powered that uses the phone network is probably a decent idea.

Comment by Brian on March 11, 2014 at 7:39pm


Been there done that. 

Comment by mdisher on March 11, 2014 at 8:36pm

That wouldn't have happened if he had PixHawk with the special safety button :)

Comment by Quadzimodo on March 11, 2014 at 9:09pm
Randy - it is rather embarrassing, but I lost one of my craft last week in a simular occurrence. A tracker or some other way of locating the craft would have been a useful bit of insurance.
If only our piloting skills were as well developed as the APM's code!

Comment by Gary Mortimer on March 11, 2014 at 9:56pm

I am getting images like this weekly now. Its normally a white job with four props ;-)

Comment by Nicholas Witham on March 11, 2014 at 10:00pm

Looks like he didn't have a throttle fail-safe enabled.

When I first entered this hobby, my skin was saved many times due to the throttle fail-safe. Now with the Geo fence, I feel even safer.

Comment by Cam Donaghey on March 12, 2014 at 2:39am

Sounds to me as though people don't know how to set a failsafe correctly. As a result it's more fuel to the "anti drone" fire due to "drones" "flying off by themselves all the time".

Comment by Gerard Toonstra on March 12, 2014 at 3:12am

Sounds like a failsafe setting failure indeed and probably mixed with out-of-range. Any word on the tx used?

At 1:07 I think I see 5.8G on the video antenna there, so rc/video were probably not mixed. Anyone know if that equipment is pretty standard and the band it's on?

Comment by John Stuart on March 12, 2014 at 3:30am

The 'quickstart' approach to drones is partially to blame for these flyaways. The hype around drones implies that you can just buy one off the shelf and start doing long distance autonomous missions with it. In my experience, if I'm not very pedantic and focussed I can still mess up a flight or a mission.

Comment by John Arne Birkeland on March 12, 2014 at 3:46am

Most likely he took of before the GPS got a lock, so it was either heading for the last place he flew and got a proper pre-takeoff lock (RTH position), or the factory default RTH GPS coordinates somewhere in Guangdong, China... 

This is a common problem with pilots not understanding the technology they use, and the products being marketed as simple "just plug in and fly" kind of devices..


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