It eventually happens to everyone who flies a drone. I hit a tree and crashed my DJI Mavic Mini pretty spectacularly! I was flying in Beard’s Hills getting some b-roll for my vintage lens shootout video: The Good, The Bad, And The Bokeh, but on that day I experienced The Good, The Bad, And The Broken!
The idea was to fly above the trees and hover over the road whilst I drove the Jeep Cherokee though the curves in the road. This would give me a classic Autumn driving scene, (maybe five seconds of usable footage) for the video. I launched the drone and started to fly to a good hovering position over the road. My Home-point is marked on the map with an H.
Being right next to the creek, it was a pretty low elevation. I flew well over the tree line and began to proceed toward the road and hover. I misjudged how far north I had flown the Mini. Remember I said this area is named, “Beard’s Hills?” On the other side of the road is the “Hill” part of the name. The tree line is 15-20 feet higher there. My Mini’s altitude was actually just below the tops of those trees.
It was a total panic moment when I saw the drone hit the tree top. First, there was just a quick sighting of leaves and branches. The drone jarred with the initial impact. I think it could have recovered from that, except for what I did next. I panicked and pulled back on the right stick in an attempt to reverse course. The problem was the drone had pivoted from the impact, and reverse was no longer the path I had flown. As a result, pulling back on the controller sent the Mavic Mini deeper into the tree. In disbelief, I watched it tumble toward the ground on the screen. It lost signal almost instantly, and I wasn’t sure where it had crashed. The app had lost signal with the drone and I couldn’t turn on its locater beacon or alarm. After I calmed down a bit, I realized the DJI Fly App had flight telemetry and I could use the map to find my Mini.
I can’t tell the entire tale of the recovery, but it was not an easy place to get to. I will say the app is amazingly accurate in it’s mapping of the flight. One of the arms and the camera gimbal had been broken off. The battery was out of the drone and was lying directly under it. I figured the door had popped open as the Mini tumbled to the ground. I was pretty shook up, but I went on and filmed the last segment for The Good, The Bad, And The Bokeh.
Doing research, I found a supplier for DJI refurbished drones. For about the same estimated cost as the repair, I ordered the exact model. It came as drone and battery, no controller. I paired it with my controller and I was back in business! I even managed to sell the broken drone on eBay!
The DJI Mavic Mini has no side sensors for obstacle avoidance. To assist the drone in seeing danger, I added a pair of eyes to the new aircraft. Consequently, it can now assist looking out for danger! I have heard that the eyes help ward off bird attacks. Maybe that’s why it wasn’t attacked by seagulls when I flew near a flock in my Redscale video.
By the way, I did return to the same site for a later video and flew the drone, but not over the road! It is shown in my 2022 Brownie Camera Days! video. Check it out.