A story on the perils of aviation.
I’ve gotten the ol’ “low battery, returning home” signal from my drone more times than I can count. Essentially every time I fly it. I’ve even had the dreaded “low battery, landing now” message a few times, where the thing basically implies “Screw you. I’m landing whether you like it or not, chubby.” What I’ve never heard is “insufficient battery for landing.” Hearing that was new, but I was stoked it came from the drone of my friend Miles Morgan and not mine.
Miles and I had been shooting this scene of Factory Butte from the air about 2 miles from where we launched our drones. Getting two miles away happened quick, I’d never seen the thing fly so fast while merrily steaming ahead on a tail wind. The thing was almost doing 40mph. Flying back after shooting though, that was another story. My drone got back safe with 15% battery life after a long struggle with a head wind. Miles decided to stay out longer like a regular Chuck Yeager pushing the limits of aviation. With 25% battery remaining he turned the drone and headed for home... at 6mph. “Low battery, returning home” audibly alerted the controller. With one mile left we heard “low battery, landing now.” In this mode, the drone lowers itself to the ground and lands, but you can still control everything except the descent. So he went full stick forward, hoping he could at least get it close enough to land where it could easily be hiked to and found. 11% battery, still far. 8% battery, we can hear it. 5% battery, we can see it. 2% battery, it’s 30ft feet away, wow! Moments later we heard the warning we had never heard before. “Insufficient battery for landing.” With the last of it’s meek power drained, Miles reached out and the thing literally fell into his hands as it completely shut itself off. It was a better rollercoaster ride to watch than any NBA final, Suberbowl, or Formula1 race I’ve ever seen. But unfortunately I was rooting for team “Miles Spends Two Hours Looking For His Drone In The Desert.”