Despite my vigilance, I became a statistic. I saw something of beauty, and had to have it. Despite my gut feelings, I ignored them, and reached for the big piece of candy. And then watched it fly away like a candy wrapper in the wind.
Here’s my letter to B&H Photo about my DJI Phantom 2 flyaway. a similar email was sent to DJI.
“Hello there B&H!
I’ve been working my towards flying a camera laden drone for the last two years. Starting with small, cheap quads, and practicing my flying. When the time was right, I researched what would do the best job of flying a camera, within my price range. The Phantom 2 with Zenmuse gimbal quickly jumped on my radar. I then researched the pros, cons, and feedback on the internet. The “flyaway” problem quickly caught my attention. I then contacted B&H support about this problem, and the response I got, combined with the word on the web, was that it was caused by improper calibration, and user error. This was enough to ease my concerns, and after getting a school scholarship to pay for the drone, I bought one from you (B&H).
I spend days reading the material that shipped with it and developed a checklist to go down before every flight. I felt like I was using my military heavy background once again, ensuring everything was ready to go, and procedures followed before every mission. I would check that every connector was firmly attached, props tight, compass calibrated, controller switches in the proper position, and that no less than 8 satellites were locked in. I set the Phantom 2 to fly no higher than 400 ft, and it’s max distance was also 400 ft. I would never fly in a mode other than GPS, with the Phantom 2 in Phantom mode, never NAZA-H.
And then, after almost a month of wonderful, beautiful image capturing flying, it happened. While flying about 30 ft away, the Phantom stopped responding to controls, and started to fly away. I was able to stop it from flying into nearby traffic by switching it into RTH mode. This reversed the Phantom’s direction, but proceeded to fly at full speed, out of control toward a crowd of people. Before things got nasty, I cut motor power, and let the Phantom fall to the ground.
One set of props were damaged, my GoPro is damaged, and the Zenmuse H3-3D gimbal is completely inoperative.
I knew before buying this setup that there was the chance of something happening, something user-caused. But this was not. There very clearly was a device not operating as intended.
I’ve contacted DJI, and thought it also might help to contact you. If there’s anything B&H can do to help me get this repaired, maybe inspected, I would be grateful.
Adam “Droneless” Simmons”
I’m expecting a helpful response from B&H, as any other time I’ve contacted them, they’ve bent over backwards to help. I once wrote a negative review on their site of a poorly performing product, and without a word, they refunded me for the item. And their phone support has always been impressively genuine and helpful.
Fingers crossed. Until then, I’m saving pennies to send it off to the drone shop down the road.
** Follow Up **
Here’s the letter from B&H:
“Hello Adam Simmons, my name is Ken K.:
Thank you for contacting the Customer Service Department at B&H Photo Video and Pro Audio.
I’m terribly sorry about what happened with this. At this point it would be taken care of by DJI since it’s past our return period. They will definitely help you with this as it’s covered by their warranty. I apologize for the inconvenience and aggravation.
Please let us know if you require any further assistance.
Thank you, we appreciate your business.”
Outside of the warrantee period. Fair enough. I appreciate the sympathetic tone of the response. Now to wait for DJI to respond…
“Hello Adam Simmons,
Thank you for your email.
We apologize for the inconvenience however, we can no longer offer RMA numbers through email. We will need to ask you to call our support center at 818 235 0789. We recommend contacting us Weds – Friday 2:30 PM to 4:45 PM. Our normal business hours are Mon – Friday 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM however, our queue does close at 4:30 so you must call prior to this time.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused however we are taking steps to enhance our Customer Support and reach out to them within a quicker manner. If you are unable to receive a ticket number or enter into the phone queue we will need you to keep trying as any request through email for repairs can no longer be processed.
DJI Technology Management Team.”
I’ll make the call, and report back. It’s unfortunate that I won’t have the ability to transcript the phone call to post here. I’ll try my best to accurately recap the upcoming conversation.