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The Ugly Truth: Without a Radio Controlled UAV Failsafe

The Ugly Truth: Without a Radio Controlled UAV Failsafe

A radio controlled UAV – one with a controller that uses radio frequencies instead of Wi-Fi to communicate – is a really powerful tool that is helping revolutionize aerial photography. In order to safely operate such a UAV and to avoid potential catastrophe, a backup system must be in place. Such a system is known

A radio controlled UAV – one with a controller that uses radio frequencies instead of Wi-Fi to communicate – is a really powerful tool that is helping revolutionize aerial photography. In order to safely operate such a UAV and to avoid potential catastrophe, a backup system must be in place. Such a system is known as a failsafe and without it, your investment is in constant danger of being lost.

How a Failsafe Prevents Disaster Due to a Bad UAV Data Link

A failsafe is extremely helpful when a bad data link causes you to lose control of your UAV. A bad data link may occur if the UAV goes out of range of the transmitter or the remote’s battery is depleted. If a failsafe is not present in such a case, the UAV will keep moving away from you, leading to a fly away, as seen in this video. A failsafe would prevent a fly away by either shutting down the motors or using the GPS (if it is present) to guide the UAV back to its launch site.

In most DIY drones, the radio control transmitter and receiver are purchased as discrete components. A major problem for a new builder, who may not understand its importance, is that many companies do not point out whether or not their controller lacks a failsafe. Most popular 6-channel radio systems, such as the Flysky FS-T6, do not feature a failsafe but almost all 9-channel and above systems do have a failsafe and hence are more highly recommended.

So how do you prevent a disaster with your DIY drone? Invest in a good receiver. A $50 version may save you money, but it may also cause you to lose your expensive drone forever.

Do Ready-Made Radio Controlled UAV Systems Have Failsafes?

Most consumer-grade drones which use RF controllers, such as the DJI Phantom or the AEE AP10, have a failsafe setup built-in but require proper setup before the drone can be used. However, Parrot’s products, such as the AR Drone and the Bebop, do not have radio setups and are controlled using your smartphone over the Wi-Fi. Hence, they lack any failsafe features which is the main reason professionals won’t have anything to do with them.

Although both the AEE AP10 and the DJI Phantom have failsafe setups built-in, the way they handle emergencies is quite different. The AP10 needs minimal initial setup (as can be seen in this video) and takes a simple yet effective approach to failsafe design. If the UAV data link is lost at any time, the drone will simply return to the place from where it was launched through the use of GPS.

The Phantom takes a different approach to AEE’s and offers more advanced failsafe settings that can be changed according to a user’s preferences. This page gives a brief introduction about the settings and how users can adjust them. A trick that the DJI can perform is that it can change the landing position on the go if needed, which isn’t possible with the AEE AP10. However, the DJI does require extensive initial setup and testing before the failsafe can be relied upon.

A failsafe is extremely important for all radio controlled UAV owners as it can make the difference between recovering from a fault and losing your UAV forever. You should always choose a system that at least has return to launch (RTL) to bring your UAV home when in trouble. Additional features, such as DJI’s landing position changer are also helpful, provided you are ready to invest the time to set them up initially.

If you’re an enthusiast who has lost a UAV due to lack of failsafe, share your story with us! Has your failsafe ever prevented certain disaster? Please let us know by commenting below!

Image via Flickr: SFU Drone

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Naveed
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  • Dan
    November 8, 2016, 1:19 am

    I got my AEE 10 pro in July and it was flying great with know issues . I tested it by turning off the remote and it can right back to where I had taken off from . Yesterday November 6th I wanted to get some nice fall pictures so I put in new batteries in the remote , had my GPS charged and battery all charged . I go and take off and it just kept going so I quick shut my remote off and it still kept going up until I couldn’t see it any longer . It’s gone !!!!! Hopefully I can get a replacement since I took out the extra insurance . Horrible feeling for sure . So we will see how this is handled .

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