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Spark flew erratically and disappeared. What to do next?
354 17 2-3 20:06
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Umudugudu
lvl.1

United States
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Hey everyone,
I was flying our Spark over a frozen lake and it was spitting out various error messages like crazy, would not return to home and eventually ran out the battery out of sight and was never found. The details that I can think to mention:
  • The previous flight had led to a crash. RTH was triggered and the drone flew itself into a tree as it returned to home. I petitioned DJI to acknowledge that RTH should have avoided the tree, but they refused to relent and offered only a discount in repair.
  • This flight was the first post-repair. I don't know what portions of the original Spark remained, or whether they issued a refurb device or what. The drone was flying much faster than before, and didn't respond to controls very reliably (I was using the iPhone app to control).
  • I have uploaded the flight records to Airdata. You can see them here: https://app.airdata.com/share/kMHUZY.
  • You can see that we had a string signal for the bulk of the flight
  • No wind, great visibility
  • The device spit out a ton of errors, many of which I had never seen before. Pretty much as soon as they started, I tried to bring the device closer to me, and then as they continued, tried triggering RTH, but it would not respond to RTH.
  • Eventually, my hope was to at least get a visual on the drone and be able to direct it back to myself manually. I scanned the area DJI Go indicated it was in, but never found it. We walked out to that area and looked a ton and never found it.
  • Now compare that flight pattern with what I see from the DJI app: , Note that DJI Go app had me looking in a very different location from where the drone actually was. No wonder we never found it:
  • dji.jpg

Here are my questions:
  • What do all of those errors mean? What caused them and were they due to faulty equipment or user error?
  • Why does the flight map differ so much between what DJI was telling me and what the Airdata map tells me?
  • Given what you folks can see in the errors, flight records, etc. do I have a chance at convincing DJI to replace the lost Spark? If so, what should I point out to make my case?
Thanks so much in advance for any help I can get. I am happy to provide any additional info that can help; first time posting here, so not sure what else is useful.







2-3 20:06
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MccloudSpark
Second Officer
Flight distance : 23547 ft

United States
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The Airdata link says "file not found".
2-3 21:20
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DJI Thor
Administrator
Flight distance : 13599 ft
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I am terribly sorry for the accident of your drone. Please kindly provide me with your case number,  I will check the details of your case.
2-3 22:21
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JJB*
Captain
Flight distance : 860964 ft
Netherlands
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Hi

If you like post your flightlog using this link

https://www.phantomhelp.com/LogViewer/Upload/

post the link, so members of this forum can mayby explain what happend.

cheers
JJB
2-4 00:38
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MKPSG12
Second Officer
Flight distance : 303954 ft
United Kingdom
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This is a recurring problem with the Spark, i've personally experienced it twice in about 350 flights but fortunately was able to wrestle it to the ground both times as i was fortunate enough not to lose connection between my RC/AC. You will get people telling you that you did something wrong/it was 'wind drift' and that you should've "landed immediately" all from people who have never experienced it and somehow don't understand that the AC is virtually completely out of control before the first error even appears on screen.

If your error was the Yaw Error/GPS-IMU cascade type failure that I and many others have experienced, you SHOULD hopefully get a full refund/voucher for new drone. You should open a case with DJI and post the data files on here to see if some of the more constructive members can offer any suggestions as to what might have happened.
2-4 01:03
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Wolferl
First Officer
Flight distance : 19956 ft
Austria
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MccloudSpark Posted at 2-3 21:20
The Airdata link says "file not found".

Hi here's the correct link:
https://app.airdata.com/share/kMHUZY

The dot at the end was the problem.

Cheers,
Wolferl
2-4 01:23
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Wolferl
First Officer
Flight distance : 19956 ft
Austria
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Hi,

Like MKPSG12 already stated, it's a general problem that can happen with DJI drones.
Because the IMU malfunctioned, you were flying in ATTI mode most of the time.
In ATTI mode, the Spark flies much more aggressive, that's what you noticed.

Open a case with DJI, as far as I can see you deserve a replacement.
When you get the new Spark, please do yourself a favour and do some ATTI mode training, see this thread so you are prepared when it happens next time.

Cheers,
Wolferl
2-4 01:30
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JJB*
Captain
Flight distance : 860964 ft
Netherlands
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Hi,

I fully agree with text in post #5 !

But my advice to all SPARK flyers, do stop if the first error is there!!

In this flight after 11 seconds this error pops-up "IMU heading error. Please restart the aircraft.""OPTI mode for few seconds as well.
ATTI mode at some height but still 1.5 meters away from home.

If only this flight was stopped OP would have had his SPARK. (agree, wih lots of errors but still...)

We al like to fly and keep on flying (its my plan to fly so i will fly) but my mental note in my head is : STOP To FLY when an errror is there!

Ofcourse sorry for the loss of another SPARK!!

cheers
JJB

analysis1.png
analysis2.png
2-4 02:00
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DJI Diana
Administrator

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Hi Adam, we apologize for the experience you had with our product. I sent you an email for case creation so we can conduct further investigations on what happened why the unit crash. I will be waiting for your response. Thank you.
2-4 09:38
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StetsonWatkins
lvl.4
Flight distance : 1029730 ft
United States
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Dang, sorry about your loss. Hopefully you will get it figured out quickly. Good luck!
2-4 12:00
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Umudugudu
lvl.1

United States
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Corrected link: https://app.airdata.com/share/kMHUZY
2-4 15:56
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S.J
Captain
Flight distance : 186215 ft
Kuwait
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Umudugudu Posted at 2-4 15:56
Corrected link: https://app.airdata.com/share/kMHUZY

From what i gather immediately from Air data is that your flying height was very very low for a SPARK .I don''t know why DJI doesn't recommend flying the SPARK at a minimum height of 30 - 50 meters especially in beach areas where lime stone, marbles  can be key interference factor for the compass / IMU .

2-4 21:20
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Nidge
First Officer

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S.J Posted at 2-4 21:20
From what i gather immediately from Air data is that your flying height was very very low for a SPARK .I don''t know why DJI doesn't recommend flying the SPARK at a minimum height of 30 - 50 meters especially in beach areas where lime stone, marbles  can be key interference factor for the compass / IMU .

Serious question: How do Limsestone and Marble cause magnetic interference?

Limestone is a sedimentary rock and Marble is a Metamorphic Rock, or Metamorphosed Limestone. For these to affect a compass there needs to be large concentrations of Iron, Nickel, or Cobolt contained within them, which there is not. By your logic my GPS equipped  Autopilot on my boat should not work unless I fly my boat at 50metres altitude. 90% of my flights with the Spark have been madeat at altitudes less than 10metres and to date I’ve not experienced a single IMU or Compass error, even when flying in areas that some would consider high electromagnetic activity.
2-5 00:04
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bugalugs22
lvl.3
Flight distance : 39111 ft
Australia
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Agree I've flown right under high voltage power lines with no issue.

The only thing I have to say is that for some of the errors it's easy to miss them. Especially if you are concentrated on filming etc
2-5 05:04
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Outlier22
lvl.4
Flight distance : 228688 ft
United States
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My first Spark was flawless and didn't have any of these issue people are complaining about... Until I did!  After about 6-9 months I started getting GPS errors and compass errors on every flight and the Spark would go to ATTI mode.  I guess because I used to fly an RC helicopter I never had an issue bringing the drone back but I was petrified that I would lose connection to the controller during GPS or compass error and the Spark would take off and return to China or something.  

I finally returned it under DJI care and they quickly replaced my spark w a refurb one.  (serial number no longer under battery)  The paperwork indicated it needed a new GPS, new main board, etc...  They may have fixed it, but they sent me a referb.  **However, I only flew the replacement twice because on the first flight the controller disconnected multiple times and would not reconnect.  Thankfully this spark had a good GPS signal and returned right to the spot I took off from.  and thankfully I wasn't flying under tree cover which I often do when filming mountain biking .  ...On the 2nd flight it disconnected again several times and the gimbal stopped working.   So I returned this Spark back to DJI as my second replacement under DJI Care with only about 15 days to go on my warranty.  This time I sent my spark and controller back and they replaced both.

I may have complained that they sent me back a malfunctioning replacement and the 2nd Spark should not count against my 2 max replacements, but since I only had 15 days left on my DJI care, I just used my 2nd and final replacement.  Although I did of course purchase DJI Care refresh to get a 2nd year of coverage.

So far, the 3rd Spark is working well.  I've only flown it twice due to weather though.  On first flight before taking off I saw the message to calibrate the compass but it went away so I took off without doing so.  I then got all sorts of GPS errors during this flight and brought it back in ATTI mode again.  Then I calibrated the compass and haven't seen any error messages sense nor have I had any controller disconnections yet - and I flew it pretty far out to test.  (but I've only flown it twice so we'll see.)

I guess the point of all this is to say that the errors you saw on your flight are pretty common with the Spark and not your fault.  Also the replacement you got back from DJI may have been faulty like the 1st replacement I got.  Also not your fault.  The only think anyone can blame you for is ignoring the error messages and not bringing it back right away.   In my opinion that comes with experience.  When I first started flying my original Spark I put near full concentration on watching the drone direct line of site so I wouldn't crash into anything.  I only looked through the phone screen really when filming so I would either miss any error messages or ignore them as I was putting my concentration on the shot or outside of the phone.  With more experience i'm more comfortable with flying and pay attention more to messages coming up on the screen.

So I hope they will replace this one for you as the replacement seems to be faulty.  If they do I would see about buying the DJI Care or Care refresh on it.  I expect I'll have to use mine again at some point.   
2-5 07:21
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Umudugudu
lvl.1

United States
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Update after speaking with DJI: they say that since the original device was purchased in Dec 2017, the repaired version was sent to me in October 2018, but we didn't have reason to fly until December 2018, the device is out of warranty and they will not open a case for me. They expect that the device be tested within 30 days of repair, which we didn't have time/reason to do, nor were we informed. How about that for service?
Anyone have any additional constructive ideas? I really have little faith in this company standing behind their products at this point
2-6 09:06
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Nidge
First Officer

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Umudugudu Posted at 2-6 09:06
Update after speaking with DJI: they say that since the original device was purchased in Dec 2017, the repaired version was sent to me in October 2018, but we didn't have reason to fly until December 2018, the device is out of warranty and they will not open a case for me. They expect that the device be tested within 30 days of repair, which we didn't have time/reason to do, nor were we informed. How about that for service?
Anyone have any additional constructive ideas? I really have little faith in this company standing behind their products at this point

That is a dreadfully poor response from DJI when all things have been considered.

I don’t have knowledge of consumer law in the USA but here in the UK your example falls within a bit of a grey area.  A manufacturers warranty, in this case twelve months, is effective starting at the point of delivery of the original item. If during that twelve month period that item, due to defect, has to be replaced the warranty is still only valid for the original twelve month period.  However if, for arguments sake, the original item fails in the eleventh month of the original warranty period and the replacement fails a month or two after the warranty period there are grounds to claim that the replacement, due to its  unacceptable early failure, was not fit for purpose to begin with.

In such a case as yours I think it would be beneficial for both parties if DJI were to, at the very least, make some sort of gesture, e.g. offer a replacement at a discounted price, rather than to just simply wash their hands of the matter.

Regards

Nidge.
2-6 10:38
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Umudugudu
lvl.1

United States
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Here's the resolution. Short version: DJI does not stand by their products, and when they are faulty, you will be on the hook for the consequences. They have officially lost us as customers.

Why? Even after escalating to a second tier of customer support (this guy claims he is the highest level of support) they were unwilling to budge on the notion that the device was out of warranty when it was lost. It doesn't matter that it was the first flight after their repair. It doesn't matter that we were unable to fly before this flight and during the warranty because when they sent us the repaired unit it was actually a different unit and my girlfriend didn't have the patience or experience to reconfigure so that she could fly it. It didn't matter that the very first flight after their repair is the one that you see above,  where their equipment threw the errors that made it impossible to control and then flew to a different location than indicated in their software, thus causing us to lose the drone. No sympathy, no willingness to understand our case, just "sorry, it's out of warranty."

I wish I could warn every potential user not to go with DJI, or if they do, to insure the hell out of their gear because they can't count on DJI helping them.
2-11 16:14
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