All Across America, It’s Raining Drones

By Kevin Eck 

Valleywag reports some drone owners are discovering their unmanned aerial vehicles are more HAL 9000 than DJI Phantom.

All across America, drones are crashing into trees and rooftops. The $500-plus dollar skytoys are frequently flying away from their owners, landing in lakes and marshes and urban neighborhoods, never to be found again. Lost drone posters line residential neighborhoods like the missing dog fliers of yore.

Have you seen America’s drones? “People complain about ‘flyaways’ on the forums all the time,” one drone owner tells Valleywag. Flyaways happen when drones either lose contact with its remote or simply fly away inexplicably, with the failsafe, which is supposed to return the drone “home” in case of failure, also malfunctioning.

Manufacturers say it’s user error, drone-owners usually say it’s a manufacturer defect. Others blame it on “noobs” not knowing how to fly the damn things. But no matter what the reason, drones frequently do their own piloting.

Here’s one forum member describing their bummer sitch:

It took off and started to climb, soon I realize that the Phantom was not responding to my control inputs. It seem to respond only to up and down, but it was drifting away from me. I was in the jungle, so it drifted and then descended into the trees in the distance. I lost my GoPro Black and my video transmitter. We searched and searched but never found it.

Photography Bay mentions that some drones come equipped with GPS to “Go Home” when remote signals are lost. Even so, hapless dronewners are watching their $500 sky cameras drift away:

Even with all of these safeguards, several experienced users have found out that the DJI Phantom can still flyaway on its own and completely fail to respond to control inputs. Photography Bay reader Darren Kelly recently sent me the below videodescribing the flyaway problem that resulted in the loss of one DJI Phantom and GoPro into a lake. He purchased a second DJI Phantom to replace the one he lost and experienced the same flyaway issue, although this time he steered clear of bodies of water during his trial run with the new unit.

In San Francisco’s Mission District, where drones can be regularly heard buzzing about during events and weekends, two drones have been lost in the last week just within a few blocks of each other.

SFist reports one of its staffers tried to help her brother find his missing drone.