Dragonfly takes down drone...

D

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I kid you not. Our Phantom 3 was taken down by a dragonfly. I'll post this also to the PhantomPilots group, but it should be of interest to the 3DRPilots group, and you'll see why:

Our research team is doing a study of meadows that are being restored to their former wetland condition. We are mapping the meadows using a MicaSense RedEdge 5-band camera attached to a Solo, using the Tower app for mission planning and execution. So far we've mapped four meadows, one of which is about 120 hectares (300 acres), requiring about a couple of hours of flights; with each flight limited to about 8 minutes duration, given the weight of the sensor, so about a dozen separate flights. Our altitude AGL was 80 m (260 ft). This system worked beautifully, and our imagery is outstanding. I love the Solo; the Tower app is a bit buggy, but it worked.

During landing especially, we often noticed dragonflies flying in the vicinity. Due to the meadow restoration, dragonfly habitat has been greatly increased, as has habitat for all kinds of birds, all a good thing. Of course, the sheep herders also like the restoration.

At the end of the survey, we had a bit of time to do some flight training, so I pulled out a Phantom 3 (which doesn't have an expensive sensor attached to it) to demonstrate the basic controls for flying manually. I sent it up to about 30 m (100 ft) and was demonstrating the various manual controls, when suddenly it was attacked by a dragonfly, clearly seen by the team -- it went right at it. Seconds later the aircraft went out of control as a propeller flew off and drifted to the ground. I wish I could say that the aircraft drifted down, but it instead accelerated into the ground, destroying the gimbal and camera connection at least, as well as the three remaining propellers.

After puzzling over what happened, I've come up with the following theory:

The dragonfly was going for one of the red lights at the front of the drone and ended up getting jammed into the motor, very near the red light. That froze the motor and the still moving propeller simply unscrewed from the post -- that being the direction they are turning, given the self-tightening design (unless I'm confused about how this works).

So why did this never happen to the Solo, which we flew for so long in an environment with many dragonflies? I think because (a) we weren't spending a lot of time relatively close to the ground where dragonflies hang out; and (b) Solos are black, so to the very visually-oriented dragonflies they look more like a big bird they're not likely going to want to attack, unlike the white Phantom which might blend in with the sky.

There you have it: Dragonfly takes down drone.
 
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