Welcome DJI Spark Pilot!
Jump in and join our free Spark community today!
Sign up

Help! Spark Compass Malfunction; Flies Away; Still Missing

csnyphoto

New Member
Join
Nov 25, 2019
Messages
4
Age
36
Dear community any insight with this following issue would be greatly appreciated. I had an issue where upon landing the DJI Spark drone it had said “compass error” and the aircraft took off horizontally and went missing. Here is the narrative of what happened.

On November 23, 2019 I flew my DJI Spark drone over a construction site near a residential neighborhood a few towns from where I live in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. It was a normal flight and I brought it back close to the original landing point just in time for when it reached 20% battery. I initiated the return to home sequence (like I usually do to get the aircraft in the general landing area before I take over and land manually to avoid obstacles like telephone wires and tree branches). The altitude was around 170 feet and as it began to ascend it said “weak GPS signal” followed by the messages:

  • Compass error exit P-GPS mode

  • Abnormal compass function or GPS signal detected. Aircraft switched to ATTI mode

It then took off horizontally away from the launch site, towards the next street over. I went running after it through a parking lot that cut through the block, but lost visual on it because of the trees. I then received the following prompts:

  • Weak GPS signal. Positional accuracy may be compromised. Please fly with caution

  • Compass error exit P-GPS mode

  • IMU heading error. Please restart the aircraft.


The battery then said it was critically low and said only had enough power to return to home. I saw an image of a house near where I launched from but the video feed was laggy so I wasn’t sure if it was a live image or a previous image.

Due to the image, I ran back to the original street I launched from thinking it was landing there, but I still had no visual and the aircraft said it disconnected at 17 feet altitude. It has been missing ever since. I have looked for it for the last two days but have not found it. I can’t comprehend what would have went wrong or where exactly it could have ended up. I rang doorbells and checked property owners’ back yards but found nothing. There are some large evergreen shrubs, about 10 feet high by about 8 feet wide, that I can barely see inside because of the density of the branches.

Aside from the mechanical error that was out of my control, one of the other things that are confusing me is that while the aircraft stated that it hovered at around 2.5 feet from the launch point, it never recorded its veering off course that sent me running to the next block over (this is most likely because the GPS malfunctioned). Even the horizontal speed spiked for a few seconds all the way up to 17 mph yet there was no movement tracked in the flight record. It would seem that the aircraft couldn’t determine where it was so it just stated that it was 2.5 feet from the launch point because that was the last known point before it malfunctioned.

And the final observation is that while I shot a handful of videos of the flight none of them ended up getting saved in my video album. The photos only have thumbnails that when you click on them it prompts you to download the photos from the drone. What gets me the most is that I basically got nothing in return from this flight, which ended up in the loss of the drone.
 

nilanjan118

Well-Known Member
Join
Oct 31, 2018
Messages
990
Very sorry to hear about your loss. The best course of action right now would be to look at the flight record and see if it gives you any cues to help find your Spark. Please follow the link below. Once you have successfully uploaded the flight record, you can copy and paste the shareable link here for us to take a look.

 

nilanjan118

Well-Known Member
Join
Oct 31, 2018
Messages
990
Took a look into your flight record. Very much what you described above. Not sure how accurate the red path on the map is. You should be able to tell based on which way you saw it drifting. Based on what the flight record is showing, the area I highlighted below should be a good place to search. It can very easily be stuck in the trees though like you said and it will be nearly impossible to see from the ground. Good luck with the search.

キャプチャ.JPG
 
  • Like
Reactions: RotorWash

csnyphoto

New Member
Join
Nov 25, 2019
Messages
4
Age
36
Thank you for your input. I was there checking today but not luck. Lots of people weren't home so I couldn't access the back yards. I am thinking about handing out "lost drone" flyers in mailboxes.
 

Spark 317

Well-Known Member
Premium Pilot
Join
Jul 10, 2017
Messages
3,894
Loc
Indiana, USA
I think it might be on the roof of Sparkle Dentistry. 😁


The wind was blowing to the south at 3 mph around Noon on Saturday.

It could have floated down the street and landed.

We had a member here send his Spark across town on a Litchi mission, lost it, and it was found in the parking lot of a dentist office.
 

nilanjan118

Well-Known Member
Join
Oct 31, 2018
Messages
990
Thank you for your input. I was there checking today but not luck. Lots of people weren't home so I couldn't access the back yards. I am thinking about handing out "lost drone" flyers in mailboxes.
Seems like a good idea. Another thing which you can follow in the future is keep a text file inside the SD card of your drone titled LOST & FOUND containing your address and contact info.
 

jimlips

Well-Known Member
Join
Feb 12, 2019
Messages
85
Age
60
Loc
West Sacramento, CA
I must have seen HUNDREDS of similar messages where people all lost their drone due to one mistake: pressing the RTH button. To keep from losing your drone, you should only use RTH as a last resort, as it seems to cause a lot of losses.

In second place, many of the losses I've seen are related to letting the battery get too low.

I hope you find your Spark.
 

Troy

Well-Known Member
Join
Aug 17, 2018
Messages
80
Age
54
As soon as the spark jumps out of GPS mode and into Atti mode you must fly it back . In atti it will float and drift with the wind . I have gotten the atti mode a few times but had my camera view and the drone was only a couple hundred feet away . I just flew it back and landed .
Sorry for your loss
 
  • Like
Reactions: Joeinwa711

nilanjan118

Well-Known Member
Join
Oct 31, 2018
Messages
990
I must have seen HUNDREDS of similar messages where people all lost their drone due to one mistake: pressing the RTH button. To keep from losing your drone, you should only use RTH as a last resort, as it seems to cause a lot of losses.

In second place, many of the losses I've seen are related to letting the battery get too low.

I hope you find your Spark.
In this particular case, the AC was almost above home point at about 170 ft altitude when it went into Atti mode. Quite understandable that it is difficult to maintain VLOS when the AC is directly overhead at such altitude. Now since the OP had pressed RTH he must have been thinking that the AC would descend and land on its own. He was probably taken by surprise when it didn't and by the time he could react, it drifted away beyond VLOS. In hindsight, we can say that he would have stood a better chance by not running after the drone and by trying to fly it back manually instead. The flight log clearly shows that the AC was responsive to the RC stick inputs even while it was drifting away.
 

juming

Active Member
Join
Jun 5, 2018
Messages
26
Age
47
Construction site is Always big disadvantage for drone that rely on GPS, several time launch from any bridge that have steel skeleton under the concrete giving gps error Message, so launch and land from a place that free from any steel construction is most preferable since it can cause interfere with GPS.
 
  • Like
Reactions: I B Spectre

csnyphoto

New Member
Join
Nov 25, 2019
Messages
4
Age
36
Well some excellent news all, the drone was found!!! And thanks to your analysis it was recovered at the exact address you highlighted. I rang all the doorbells on the block last week and I made up fliers to leave in people's mailboxes that weren't home.

One night I got a call from the one homeowner that received my flier. He said "I found your drone on my front sidewalk," and that he saw on high surveillance cameras that it descended to about three feet and hovered until it hit the railing on his front steps and then fell to the ground. Miraculously, the only casualty to it was a broken propeller and it still powered on even though it was out in heavy rain for 24 hours! There are still good people in the world and now I can sleep at night because the mystery was solved!

However I am still concerned about flying it now because I don't want it to happen again. I don't know if it is now defective or not but I definitely wouldn't want to go thru this again. Could the aircraft now be defective? Any and all thoughts appreciated.
 
Last edited:

I B Spectre

Well-Known Member
Join
Aug 16, 2019
Messages
589
However I am still concerned about flying it now because I don't want it to happen again. I don't know if it is now defective or not but I definitely wouldn't want to go thru this again. Could the aircraft now be defective? Any and all thoughts appreciated.
So happy to hear you got her back. There are some real savvy people in here on the ways of drones and they are willing to help. I can understand your reluctance to fly it anywhere outdoors, but keep in mind all the hours of enjoyment you got from it prior to this incident. By now I'm sure you've searched the internet for possible reasons behind flyaways. Still, without a clear cause-and-effect, it's natural to be cautious to a fault. It'll take time to get your confidence back, but by starting with a thorough preflight checklist and ensuring you have done your part (sufficient number of satellites, establishing a home point prior to moving out of hover) and following a methodical flight plan beginning with short range/low altitude, then expanding the envelope as you become more confident, you'll put it behind you and pocket the wisdom gained through the experience. If at anytime it doesn't look or feel right HIT THE PAUSE BUTTON, take a moment to check things out. Even in ATTI mode you can manually fly it back to you using the screen map. Good luck!
 
  • Like
Reactions: Dragonfly Joe

ol' Sparky

Well-Known Member
Join
Mar 10, 2019
Messages
82
Age
62
Understand your reluctance. First time I lost GPS and it went into ATTI mode and started drifting away, I freaked out too. Remember that just because you lose GPS, you don't lose control using the remote. Now when I get the brief ATTI MODE warning, it doesn't affect me at all... can't remember the last one I got since I started using an OTG cable. I also quit using the RTH button most of the time. That was when I had my first "fly away". Keep flying and your confidence will increase as you do. Finally got the nerve to distance test mine in Mexico. Lost signal and control 5000+ ft out , all worked as it should and she came flying home all by herself.
 

New Threads

Members online

Forum statistics

Threads
12,023
Messages
100,649
Members
15,800
Latest member
GinkoBilobaa