How To Prevent Drones From Flyaway

How to prevent drones from flyaway - featured image

Table of Contents

Many drone pilots have lost their drones due to flyaway. And do you know what is worse than having a flyaway? It is not knowing what to do correctly in these situations. So, if that happened to you, most chances you will lose your drone. So, if you want to avoid losing your drone due to a flyaway, keep reading this post on how to prevent drones from flyaway. But first, let me explain to you what is a flyaway, and why it happens.

What is a drone flyaway?

A drone’s flyaway is when a drone is losing the ability to hold the position you are instructing it. In these situations a manual intervention is required by the operator to maintain the control and fix the positioning, counteracting wind drift. Failing to handle this correctly will cause the drone to continually fly away from you until it will hit something, or worse until it runs out of battery. Which unless you will take immediate control, you will lose your drone.

Flyaway – Who’s Fault Is It?

Most chances that if you ask the pilot, the one to blame is the drone. While in some of the cases it is actually true, still most people will blame the done even if it is not true. This can be due to pride, or even since they are ashamed to admit they lost the drone- especially if that happened while flying a friend’s drone. And after speaking with people that experienced a drone fly away, and after investigating the whole situation, I have to say it is definitely not always the drone’s fault.

So let’s get things in order, drone flyaway happens due to two main reasons. The first reason is due to a pilot error. And the second one is due to a drone error.   And when comparing the two reasons, I will say that most of the time it’s due to a pilot error, something like 90% of cases. Sounds like a lot, right? well, the good news about this is that if you will learn how to handle this scenario, you have a chance of 90% saving your drone. But a flyaway that is caused due to a drone’s error, chances are you will lose your drone – unless you follow my instructions.

So, In this post on how to prevent drones from flyaway, I will split the explanation into these two main reasons. First, I will make sure to keep everything simple. This way, it will be simple for you to prevent it. Secondly, it will be up to you to learn, practice, and understand the situations in order that you respond fast and calm. Remember, reading is not enough here.

Let’s Begin With Drones Error

When a drone starts to fly away due to internal error, it is more likely for you to lose your drone. This is because the drone does not listen to you properly. And no matter how you instruct it to fly, it just won’t respond correctly. Only experienced pilots will know how to safely return and land the drone.

What causes the drone to flyaway?

A few years ago, the reason for drones flying away was not clear. However, by now it is known that the main reason for a flyaway is related to the drone’s compass. While we all know what is a compass. lots of people don’t really know why there is a compass within a drone. And the answer to that is simple. The drone is using the compass in order to know where it is pointing to, and not in order to know where specific access is. And the compass, like other sensors, needs calibration. The calibration will make sure that whenever the drone is pointing north, it will point north indeed. But, if you fail to calibrate the drone’s compass, the drone will not respond correctly, which will result in a flyaway.

So, if we know why it happens, did DJI resolve it?

Is there a Solution?

Basically yes, but not completely. Well, you see, since we know that the compass is the source of the problem, DJI placed dual compasses in its Mavic 2. So both compasses compare the data between them, and detect errors and fix them during flight. However, on other models, even newer, there is still only one compass. And without that second compass, your drone can fly away.

But wait, that’s not over it. DJI placed on its drones sensors at its bottom. These sensors work in order to measure the distance between the drone and the ground. It is being used in their Visual Positioning System (also called VPS). So, by using these sensors, the drone can check that it maintains its position even when the compass fails. However, if you fly your drone high above the ground it won’t help. In addition, these sensors can fail as well ending up with a flyaway. And if that is not enough, most anglers turn off the VPS when flying over water. So, basically, we turn off the system that can help prevent it. And when flying over water it is better to turn VPS off. The problem becomes even bigger when flying at the beach, and I will explain it later in this post.

But hold on to your disappointment, there is still something you can do.

Drone’s Error – The Solution

Well, as I promised you in the beginning, this guide will teach you how to prevent drones from flyaway. So, what is the solution you ask… Well, the solution is simple, and it is literally in our hands. And that is called compass calibration. But before you think you got the idea, hold your breath, and keep reading.

How to prevent drones from Flyaway - Compass Calibration

A lot of DJI pilots calibrate the drone’s compass whenever the app is instructing them to do so. But, that is actually not enough. Sometimes you will need to calibrate the compass even when the app is not instructing you to do so. The reason for that is simple, the drone is using thresholds.  And according to these thresholds, whenever the compass is nearing that threshold, it will indicate that calibration is needed.

How to prevent drones from Flyaway - Compass Threshold

However, that threshold can break during a flight, and in this situation, if the drone is far away from you, most chances you will lose your drone. So, as a rule of thumb, always calibrate your compass before the first flight on each day. This ensures the drone thresholds are far away, and you won’t experience a flyaway due to a compass failure.

How To Prevent Drones From Flyaway – Pilot Errors

When dealing with pilot errors this is getting a bit complicated. But, as I promised you earlier, I will make sure things will be simple. So for that, I will divide the reasons for flyaways due to pilot errors into 2 sections, which are winds and terrain. Both affect the drone dramatically, and without a clear understanding, you will face scary times in the sky. So, in this section, I will give you some tips on how to avoid flyaways, and in addition, in case you ignored some tips, I will teach you what you can do in order to rescue your drone during a flyaway.

Flyaway due to Winds

When speaking about flyaways, winds are the first thing you should consider. And when talking about drone fishing, winds become even a bigger factor. And in fact, 50% of the flyaways happened at beaches, especially beaches with bays. You see, winds interact with your drone constantly, and the drone reacts according to it. Hence, this is the main cause of a drone’ flyaway. So, for you, as the pilot, you should be aware of the drone’s wind resistance and its ground speed.

Wind Resistance

So, if the winds are stronger than what your drone can resist, it will fly away. So, it is your responsibility to recognize when it happens and fix it as soon as possible. Taking Mavic Pro as an example, it can resist winds of up to 24 miles per hour. So, flying on a beach where the winds are 30 miles per hour, your drone won’t be able to hold its position and it will fly away from you at speed of 6 miles per hour.

Now, as much as this is clear, it is not promised that you will understand it. Cause, imagine this situation, you arrived at the beach, there are winds, and “thanks” to the tailwinds, you arrived at your drop zone very fast, assuming the flight was a piece of cake. But, when you decide to fly your drone back, well, this is exactly where the problem begins. Since the winds are too strong, the drone will fight its way back, and not sure it will be capable of doing so.

Ground Speed

Ground speed means how fast the drone can fly in normal conditions, i.e. no winds. So again, flying your drone at winds that are stronger than whatever the drone can fly is very dangerous, and you will face a flyaway. Moreover, it is highly important for you to understand that the battery will drain faster.

Flyaway due to Winds – The Solution

If you want to know how to prevent your drone from having a flyaway, practicing will be an important role here.

If you are facing a flyaway due to winds, whether you are fighting your way back, or the winds are taking your drone away from you, you must get calm and not panic. What you will need to do is simple, flip the camera down, verifying there are no trees or other obstacles the drone can hit, and lower your elevation. By lowering the elevation, it means that there will be weaker winds, meaning, it will be easier for the drone to fight the winds. It also means that the battery will drain slower. So, get down by 20, 30 feet if possible. These 30 feet can make a huge difference. Don’t lower it too much, as that can cause a different problem – I will explain it later on. Verify at that specific elevation that the drone can make its way back easier. If you can lower the drone more, do it, but be careful when you do it. This will increase the chances for the drone to reach the take-off point faster and safer.

No Matter What – Don’t Hit Return To Home Button

When most people face a flyaway, they panic, and under these circumstances they hit the “Return To Home” button, thinking that the drone will handle this situation better. But, in fact, hitting the RTH button will put the drone back again at a high elevation, putting it back in a place where the drone cannot fight its way back. So no matter what happens, don’t panic and don’t hit that RTH button. This is why practice is super important here.

Another option you might have, this is less relevant in drone fishing, but I will mention it anyway, is instead of trying to return the drone to you, look for a safe place to land the drone. A place where you can reach and take it from there. This is better than trying to fight your way back, not knowing if the drone will make it or not. Again, this is less relevant in drone fishing but more relevant in practicing or on other tasks.

Flyaway due to Terrain

I guess that up till now, you could understand how winds and the compass can cause a flyaway. But when thinking about the terrain… the terrain can not only cause a fly away, it can also cause your drone to crash. The reason for that is related to the technology the drone is using. Do you remember I spoke earlier about the GPS and the VPS, in the drone’s error section? Well, both systems are being used in order to let the drone maintain its position. While the GPS has an accuracy of 20 inches, the optical sensors are having an accuracy of 4 inches. Meaning, they are more accurate than GPS. Hence, the sensors will have the last word when trying to maintain the drone’s position.

VIO – Visual Inertial Odometry

If you want to learn how to prevent drones from flyaway, you have to understand what is VIO and how it works. And don’t panic, this is simple. VIO is the 2 optical sensors at the bottom of your drone. The way these sensors work is by trying to identify a pattern in the terrain, this way it knows if the drone moved or not. This VIO system is very handy, for example, it allows us to fly the drone indoors where no GPS signal is available. However, as I said, in order for the VIO to be accurate, the terrain needs to have a kind of a pattern. This way VIO detects a move.

Having that said, keep in mind that VIO is effective only when the drone is below 20 feet. So, if you fly the drone 20 feet above the ground, the drone is flying according to the GPS only. But when you fly below 20 feet, and the GPS wants to take control, this is where the VIO gets into action and try to take control instead of the GPS.

While normally it is completely okay, the issue begins when you fly the drone over a surface that does not have different patterns in it. And when talking about drone fishing, water is one of those surfaces that does not have different patterns. So when you fly below that 20 feet and over the water, an “argument”‘ between the GPS and the VIO begins. During this “argument” the drone keeps flying, the VIO goes crazy, and if it wins the GPS, the drone will dive into the water. 

Flyaway due to Terrain – The Solution

So, I highly recommend you, when flying over water, fly your drone higher than 20 feet. I would say around 30 feet will be great. But, if you insist, for some reason to fly lower than 20 feet pay close attention to the drone, so in case you see it is struggling to maintain its elevation, take the drone higher in the sky right away.

By the way, VIO responds to snow the same as for water – since there are not too many differences in patterns, snow will make VIO goes crazy as well. So keep that in mind when flying over snow.

How To Prevent Drones From Flyaway – Conclusion

Wow, it wasn’t that long, but I made it. I honestly thought that this post will be much longer. There were lots of info I needed to share with you, so you will know how to prevent drones from flyaways. There are other reasons that cause a flyaway, however, I shared with you the most known reasons.

So let’s sum up everything that we learned:

  1. Calibrate your compass before each first flight on each day.
  2. Don’t fly your drone when the winds are too strong for it.
  3. If the drone struggles to make its way back, fly lower, hoping the winds will be less strong. And don’t hit the “Return to Home” button.
  4. Fly above 20 feet, when flying over water.
  5. Practice. This will help you create a muscle memory once you really facing a flyaway.
  6. Before each flight, know your environment, and be responsible for the entire time you fly.

I highly recommend you to read our post about how to fly your drone safely over water, this will give you the whole picture when drone fishing. Let me know what you think about this post on how to prevent drones from flyaway. And if you still have questions, feel free to contact us, and we will do the best to help you.

I hope this post will help you out, so you will never face a flyaway. But if you do, try to stay calm, and do what you have practiced. Like always, tight lines and fly safely.

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