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DJI SPARK ERRATIC BEHAVIOUR - UNFAIRLY RULED PILOT ERROR
368 15 2-28 23:17
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TJEarsman
lvl.1
Flight distance : 15455 ft
Australia
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Has anyone else had trouble with any DJI products failing to Return To Home and instead auto-landing? I had only had my Spark for less than two weeks when it began to automatoically descend into hazardous terrain. Every piece of literature including the User Manual repeatitively mentions the highly-advanced Return To Home (RTH) feature, and that the craft could fail to exceute this much-touted safety mode under one particular condition was unknown to me, despite having read the User Manual.

The aircraft was damaged in the resulting collison, and I sent it back to DJI fully expecting them to repair it under Warranty, due to software/hardware failure. To my surpriose they attempted to instead blame me, and cited a particular badly-worded and patently ambiguous clause in their manual.

Who out there knew that if the Spark is within 20m from home point it will not RTH but rather will descdend on the spot, beyond the control of the operator?

After reading back over the clause in the User Manual (Clause 4b) this peculiar exception to the triggering RTH function was no more clear to me than the first time I read through the manual. RTH is referred to time-and-time again throughout the User Manual, and one has to look very carefully indeed and apply a heap of assumptive interpretation, in order to get any hint of there being a condition in which it does not trigger.
The following is from the DJI Spark User Manual:
RTH Procedure
1. Home Point is recorded automatically.
2. RTH procedure is triggered i.e., Smart RTH, Low-Battery RTH and Failsafe RTH.
3. Home Point is confirmed and the aircraft adjusts its orientation.
4. a. The aircraft will ascend to the pre-set RTH attitude and then fly to the Home Point when the aircraft is
further than 20 m from the home point.
b. When the aircraft is between 3 m and 20 m from the Home Point, it will land automatically with the
RTH at Current Altitude option disabled (the default setting in DJI GO 4).
The aircraft will return to the Home Point at the current altitude with the RTH at Current Altitude option enabled if flying at or above 2.5 m, and it will ascend to 2.5 m then return to home if flying lower than 2.5 m when the aircraft is between 3 m and 20 m from the Home Point.




I have labelled in red Clause 4b, which appears to be the entire thrust of DJI's argument. Reading this, it sounds like the Spark will RTH as in every single other condition however the 'At Current Altitude' function will be disabled. Let it be known that the second part of Clause 4b goes on to state that the craft will RTH at current altitude if it is more than 2.5m above the ground, which as the Flight Records prove, it most certainly was. It then goes on again to state that the Spark will RTH.
My argument is a fair one: There was no reasonable way that I could have had prior knowledge that the aircraft would not RTH, and would instead descend on the spot, resisting all attempts to control it.
Over many weeks and multiple emails, DJI have consistently failed to address my extremely well-thought-out arguments and opt instead to merely restate Clause 4b. I have read the Warranty and it states:

What is Covered

Under this Limited Warranty, DJI warrants that each DJI product that you purchase will be free from material and workmanship defects under normal use in accordance with DJI’s published product materials during the warranty period. DJI’s published product materials include, but not limited to, user manuals, safety guidelines, specifications, in-app notifications, and service communications.


What about then the 'published materials' themselves are not free from material and workmanship defects?
They have placed their User Manual as the final word on safe operation, and yet if one operates the craft under 'normal use' as per said document, the craft may very well behave totally unexpectedly and experience an unforseeable collision.

This is precicely what happened to me and yet the message I am receiving is that DJI couldn’t care less about me, or the truth of my experiences with their product. They want me to pay up and/or go away.
I will be doing neither of these things. I have made them a promise that I won’t back down until DJI waive all repair costs. I keep my promises.
If anyone has had trouble with DJI products or customer service, please, I invite you to join in the discussion.
I will be posting my email exchange with DJI in the comments as a public reference.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Sincerely,
Travis Earsman

2-28 23:17
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Rustic17
Captain
Flight distance : 450902 ft
United States
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Who knew? Anyone who has read the manual knows about the 3-20 meter RTH.  Understanding RTH is critical to the safe recovery of your drone. This is why you should always have RTH at Current Altitude selected...once inside 20m, you don't want it landing in the water or rocks if it goes into Auto RTH due to low battery.  Plus, by the time you are inside of 20m, you should easily be able to see any obstacles that might impede the RTH and immediately hit the Pause button to cancel the RTH.
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2-28 23:24
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TJEarsman
lvl.1
Flight distance : 15455 ft
Australia
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Rustic17 Posted at 2-28 23:24
Who knew? Anyone who has read the manual knows about the 3-20 meter RTH.  Understanding RTH is critical to the safe recovery of your drone. This is why you should always have RTH at Current Altitude selected...once inside 20m, you don't want it landing in the water or rocks if it goes into Auto RTH due to low battery.  Plus, by the time you are inside of 20m, you should easily be able to see any obstacles that might impede the RTH and immediately hit the Pause button to cancel the RTH.

I don't agree that anyone who has read the manual knows this. I think its is extremely unclear. Where did you get this graphic from? I wish I'd seen it before.
3-1 01:06
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Wolferl
First Officer
Flight distance : 22606 ft
Austria
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Hi Travis,

What I do not understand: why did you not pause the RTH (which was an auto-land in your case) and take over control? Sparky was near enough for the pilot to see that the landing spot will not be suitable.
Do not rely on RTH working properly every time. There are cases where Sparky goes into ATTI mode, which causes RTH and Pause to be non-functional.
You are the pilot, you must fly the Spark, not the other way round.

Cheers,
Wolferl
3-1 01:10
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TJEarsman
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Flight distance : 15455 ft
Australia
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Wolferl Posted at 3-1 01:10
Hi Travis,

What I do not understand: why did you not pause the RTH (which was an auto-land in your case) and take over control? Sparky was near enough for the pilot to see that the landing spot will not be suitable.

Hi Wolferl,

Yes the flight record shows that I attempted to pause the auto-land and I attempted to steer the craft out of danger. The drone was not in ATTI mode (also shows in the flight record) but none of my attempts to control it succeeded. I did my best to pilot it out of trouble, however the unexpected position it was in made that impossible.  
3-1 01:14
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S-e-ven
Captain
Flight distance : 3404656 ft
Thailand
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Oh, a lot people know that.
There are even videos from forum members about it.
Aside, you see you bird for sure, if that close to you (LOS ;-)
Which means, you can keep it in the air with throttle to the front, and fly it in every direction till the battery gives up.
3-1 01:15
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TJEarsman
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Flight distance : 15455 ft
Australia
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S-e-ven Posted at 3-1 01:15
Oh, a lot people know that.
There are even videos from forum members about it.
Aside, you see you bird for sure, if that close to you (LOS ;-)

Well the manual certainly isn't clear about it, and I had no idea.
3-1 01:19
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eYeSkYeYe
Captain

Croatia
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I knew rule of 3 to 20m as well.
And I don't recall I've been using RTH anytime in a year and a half.
Those who don't know how to fly and need to rely on RTH are better of reading and understanding the manual.
3-1 02:40
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DJI Susan
Administrator

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Hi Travis, we're so sorry for the unpleasant experience. I managed to get your case number via the forum information and escalated to the management for double check, they will review and contact you during the working time soon.
3-1 02:55
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Kevin8701
lvl.2
Flight distance : 167939 ft
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Sorry to read, dude! Keep learning and moving on!
3-1 03:06
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TJEarsman
lvl.1
Flight distance : 15455 ft
Australia
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eYeSkYeYe Posted at 3-1 02:40
I knew rule of 3 to 20m as well.
And I don't recall I've been using RTH anytime in a year and a half.
Those who don't know how to fly and need to rely on RTH are better of reading and understanding the manual.

It’s not that I was relying on RTH; rather I had no idea it would auto land like that.
3-1 03:16
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TJEarsman
lvl.1
Flight distance : 15455 ft
Australia
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DJI Susan Posted at 3-1 02:55
Hi Travis, we're so sorry for the unpleasant experience. I managed to get your case number via the forum information and escalated to the management for double check, they will review and contact you during the working time soon.

Thank you Susan. I have a lot of respect for DJI and frankly, I have felt like they are treating me very unfairly. I appreciate you stepping in to offer help.
There are a few experienced drone pilots here who seemed to know about the auto land function. My argument is that the manual was not sufficient to inform me of this function. It is unclear and ambiguously worded and my lack of being informed led to the accident.
3-1 03:20
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ghostrdr
First Officer
Flight distance : 1272397 ft
United States
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Painful lesson.
3-1 06:25
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DJI Susan
Administrator

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TJEarsman Posted at 3-1 03:20
Thank you Susan. I have a lot of respect for DJI and frankly, I have felt like they are treating me very unfairly. I appreciate you stepping in to offer help.
There are a few experienced drone pilots here who seemed to know about the auto land function. My argument is that the manual was not sufficient to inform me of this function. It is unclear and ambiguously worded and my lack of being informed led to the accident.

Actually the User Manuel is clear about the RTH function in different situations: When the aircraft is between 3 m and 20 m from the Home Point, it will LAND AUTOMATICALLY with the RTH at Current Altitude option disabled. The higher level team is following up your case if you still feel concernd of it, please wait patiently, thank you.
3-1 19:30
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TJEarsman
lvl.1
Flight distance : 15455 ft
Australia
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DJI Susan Posted at 3-1 19:30
Actually the User Manuel is clear about the RTH function in different situations: When the aircraft is between 3 m and 20 m from the Home Point, it will LAND AUTOMATICALLY with the RTH at Current Altitude option disabled. The higher level team is following up your case if you still feel concernd of it, please wait patiently, thank you.

Hi Susan,

You’ve added the caps on the words ‘land automatically’, and I have addressed this point in my post, as well as repetitively in my emails with DJI. The clause is far from clear in my view.

Please see my original post on this matter.
3-2 00:32
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DJI Susan
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TJEarsman Posted at 3-2 00:32
Hi Susan,

You’ve added the caps on the words ‘land automatically’, and I have addressed this point in my post, as well as repetitively in my emails with DJI. The clause is far from clear in my view.

We're sorry for the confusion caused by the language barrier. Someone from the management will keep following up your case and contact you soon.
3-2 23:21
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