The Prodigal Drone Returns


This is an update on my earlier mishap.... (NOTE - For those who do not wish to subject themselves to a double helping of my long winded posts... basically, I built a really nice APM powered quad from a non working IdeaFly IFLY4 back in march, which I then promptly lost control (and possession) of.

Anyway, one Saturday evening, about a month after my drone went missing, I received a house call from the local constabulary.

Knock, knock, knock. "Police!"

"S^&t... Really?" I thought and said out loud.  Half out of surprise and half expecting it to be a mate playing silly buggers.

Upon opening the front door I was greeted by a pair of plain clothed detectives from the Local Area Command of the New South Wales Police Force.  They politely introduced themselves, promptly verified that I was indeed the individual who had reported a lost drone approximately a month earlier, then asked whether they could quiz me on the frequencies employed by my craft - sighting the issue of radio interference in the area.  A little shocked, I complied and happily started rattling on about the FPV, DATA and RC links on my little craft.

I got about as far as explaining the frequencies and power outputs before they stopped me, revealing they had no interest in the frequencies I was using and that they were simply having a lend of me.  "we simply came to return your drone, it is sitting in the boot of our squad car" they said. I followed them out to the street where they popped the boot and presented the prodigal drone.

Much to my delight (and, if I'm honest, surprise), the craft was itself completely unblemished.  No parts were damaged, missing or even out of place - including the rather loosely secured camera.  Not even the antennas were bent, or out of place.  Well, there was one thing that had been fiddled with.  My makeshift camera mount integrated an anti-vibrant solution consisting of a layer of moongel sandwiched between two pieces of black painted balsa wood which is wrapped in cling-wrap.  It appears that the police have inspected this, probably due to it's suspect appearance.


When I asked about how it came to be in their possession they had little to say, other than the fact that it was handed in to police by what is obviously a rather understanding neighbour.  They found me thanks to the fact that I filed an incident report (even though the footage on the camera would have sufficed).

Further discussion revealed the detectives were fans of the technology and keen to know more.  We chatted for a bit and I gave them a bit of a look at some of my others projects before they headed back to work.

After seeing the detectives off I went over my wayward craft with a fine toothed comb.  The only damage (other than a bit of dog slobber on the lens) was to the battery itself (an $8 Turnigy 3S 20/30C 2200mAh) which was no longer functional having been left to fully discharge beyond a serviceable level.

Next, I downloaded the media from the Mobius, which was programmed to take stills a 1/4 second intervals at the time it went missing.  The retrieved imagery clearly records the path taken by the craft between me and where it ended up. It traveled in a southerly direction for about 300m before drifting west about 30m and landing in the middle of a nearby neighbours backyard. Below is a photo taken at the moment I lost control.  Note the red circle in the bottom left hand corner of the image which shows me fruitlessly reaching my transmitter into the air.


Log shows it was in Auto Tune mode, as I had expected, which was the result of a programming failure on my behalf.  Thankfully, this episode was the result of human error and can be easily avoided in future with just a little more care. Loss of control was actually caused by me breaking the failsafe process I had set previously (RTF was on channel 8 high, which was set as failsafe in both APM and RC Receiver) - leading the craft to enter Auto Tuning mode, rather than entering RTL mode when RC link with craft was compromised.  As a result, the craft continued to fly away from it's takeoff point, until which time it hit the perimeter failsafe.

Feeling compelled to do something for the individual(s) responsible for reuniting me with my most treasured of toys, I decided to pay my neighbour the complement of a friendly visit.  To show my deep appreciation, I came armed with a rare drop of a particularly drinkable substance.


Sadly, I didn't get to speak to the bloke that found and returned my drone, I think I spoke to his grown son. While appreciative of the gesture, he made it clear that wine wasn't his poison. Frustrated by the failure of my assumption, I ripped out my wallet which unfortunately only contained a pair of $20s.  He graciously accepted the cash, I shook his hand and thanked him profusely before heading home.

I have put about 30 charges through it since getting it back, but this whole situation has 'gentled me down some'. I am now far less flippant towards flying and setup and I always test my failsafe prior to initial arming for ever flight.  Nor do I fly without droidplanner anymore.


Needless to say, I consider myself to be very lucky.

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  • Cool story.... and what a nice looking little machine to get back! And I can understand about the bottle of wine. When I was 12 one of my older brother gave me a qt of vodka and a dare. I knew nothing could affect ME except me so the bottle ended up empty in less than a minute and I ended up in the hospital. I still remember looking at my brother and saying "see" as in nothing happened.... then I just disappeared for two days. Wow.... it worked! That was my first experience with time travel;-) But I ended up having to switch fuels as after that just the smell of alcohol would make me sick ending my days of boozing it up and thinking I was a solid object.....

  • Hehe, that is quite a story, with a happy ending! I take it you don't get much rain in your area, if you lost it in england for a month, well...

  • Just wondering why do you fill the bottom half of your osd with stuff rather than the top ? 

  • 100KM

    Great to hear you got it back! After my first flyaway a few years ago I have taken to putting a sticker with my name and phone number on my aircraft as a simple semi-insurance policy that relies on honest people.

  • Next time, please "crash" in my back yard ????

    On camera interference, I recently mounted a Hobby King Wingcam on my quad, and about 30 meters out, almost lost control.

    Only by running towards the quad I managed to regain control, and as Murphy would have it, it was one of the few times I did not have the laptop running Mission Planner...

    It was mounted right next to my Spekrum receiver and satellite.

  • That's great news. Some honest blokes still left out there - and the cops not trying to squeeze a bribe. Very refreshing.

  • good job !!!

  • You met an Australian who doesn't like wine? Shocking!

  • Hi Dez. Good spot. Mobius is moving to gimbal shortly. But, yeah, I was aware of discussions about the gopro adversely affecting GPS. I have been watching my hdop like a hawk for other reasons, GPS performance appears to be rock solid though. I usually get 9-10 sats and a good HDOP quick smart and it rarely ever goes above 2.0.
  • I notice the mobius cam directly under the gps.Just a word of warning that it can leak RF that adversly affects gps.Hope this helps to prevent some more mishaps!


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