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Old Sep 16, 2012, 12:42 PM
Graham Dyer
pardus's Avatar
Johannesburg, South Africa
Joined Jul 2003
698 Posts
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My quadcopter went down near a wild African elephant!

Quadcopter goes down near a wild elephant (2 min 58 sec)


I was on vacation in Mana Pools National Park in northern Zimbabwe with my quadcopter and FPV + camera, a Canon Ixus 220 HS.

In this game park it is legal to walk unaccompanied by a ranger or official guide in spite of 4 of the Big 5 (lion, elephant, buffalo and leopard) occurring there. I am actually a qualified trails and safari guide with more than 10 years experience so walking in the African bush is second nature to me.

My quad however, had developed a strange anomaly of losing power in one motor and landing hard and as there was no internet access within 200km I had to make do. (Jason Short has subsequently had a look at the logs and to date we still don't know what is causing it)

Anyway, generally I discovered it could fly for around 8 minutes before the problem showed up and I wanted to try get some wildlife on video so when I saw this elephant standing under a Winterthorn or Apple-ring Acacia eating the pods I set up the quad and FPV and started videoing.

I took off and flew towards the tree, you can see the baboons bailing out of the tree as the quad approaches. The elephant doesn't seem to notice as I hover a 'non-interfering' distance away. Then the worst thing happens, the "problem" appears after only a minute or two! Now the only way is down and the quad crashes about 25m from the elephant, about 150m from where I'm standing, unfortunately the camera breaks free and lands pointing skyward. Now with this “problem” the quad usually resets and can take off again so I try to do that but a small shrub hooks the quad and it flips upside down! By now the 5 ton elephant is getting interested in the noise and commotion so he starts approaching the downed quad...

I can't do anything now with the quad anyway so I just wait and watch..., thankfully he loses interest and goes back to his pods. However I now need to retrieve the quad and camera!

Well to cut a long story short the elephant would not let me approach the quad, but only because he didn't want to move away from “his” yummy pods. So I got charged twice before he started to get the idea and moved to the other side of the tree, then a little further after I “spoke nicely” and waved my hat and arms around, only then could I get to the quad. No damage, not even a broken propellor and the camera's fine too. Anyway enjoy the vid.
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Last edited by pardus; Oct 05, 2012 at 07:44 AM.
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Old Sep 17, 2012, 03:48 AM
Underwater Helicopter Badge
John141's Avatar
South Africa, WC, Cape Town
Joined Mar 2011
125 Posts
Glad you got your quad back intact. I assume your FC was an Ardupilot?
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Old Sep 17, 2012, 04:10 AM
Graham Dyer
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Johannesburg, South Africa
Joined Jul 2003
698 Posts
It was/is. Am still investigating the strange anomaly, thinking maybe an overheating ESC or undiscovered software bug. Busy with moving all the ESC's into the airflow of the props.
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Old Sep 17, 2012, 04:56 AM
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South Africa, WC, Cape Town
Joined Mar 2011
125 Posts
I struggled with my Arducopters (yes I have several) for along time. I'm afraid my experience of the system is that its just not reliable. Whether due to the continually-patched software or hardware issues on the APM2, it can't be trusted.
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Old Sep 17, 2012, 06:41 AM
Graham Dyer
pardus's Avatar
Johannesburg, South Africa
Joined Jul 2003
698 Posts
Well, I have had 200+ relatively trouble-free flights before this and so far the support has been good. Also I think it's great that the software is continually patched leading to a better product eventually, every new version has been better. However it can be frustrating not to have the system "just work" like some of the more expensive ones out there.

I used the old legacy version for a long time (in fixed wing) and while it still had a lot of potential it was abandoned in favour of APM1 which was very annoying as all support and development stopped. At least this one (APM2) looks like it'll have a bit longer lifespan and thus become more mature.
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Old Sep 20, 2012, 01:02 PM
Registered User
Belgium
Joined Aug 2010
267 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by John141 View Post
I struggled with my Arducopters (yes I have several) for along time. I'm afraid my experience of the system is that its just not reliable. Whether due to the continually-patched software or hardware issues on the APM2, it can't be trusted.
+1

That's why I bought a DJI Naza + gps.
Guess what, it flies out of the box.

I'm actually selling by Arducopter brain...
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Old Sep 22, 2012, 11:22 AM
Graham Dyer
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Johannesburg, South Africa
Joined Jul 2003
698 Posts
If anyone wants to see more of that area there's another video I posted on my YouTube channel taken from the quad (but with no crash this time )
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Old Sep 24, 2012, 03:15 PM
Registered User
Ireland, Co. Dublin, Dublin
Joined Feb 2012
312 Posts
Fantastic footage! really fascinating. I was only watching 'Ghost and the Darkness' the other night. You're pretty brave flying FPV in an open game park with Lions!

Great share
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Old Sep 25, 2012, 01:33 PM
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United States, TX, Dallas
Joined Mar 2011
606 Posts
I've run off some big critters here in N America, but I must admit I am likely to write off an aircraft that crashed near an elephant. Heck, were I to get charged without my beloved CZ550 in .375H&H or my trusty Rem 870 loaded for bear, I would definitely let the elephant win the day (and the 'copter).

Here's to you and your pachyderm spoofing! [tips hat]
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Old Oct 05, 2012, 07:43 AM
Graham Dyer
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Johannesburg, South Africa
Joined Jul 2003
698 Posts
LOL, thanks roo_ster. Once you have experience with them they are fairly predictable, clapping and shouting normally gets them to move off but they are very big and potentially lethal (don't get them mad!) so one always has to be cautious.
Quandry: next time I want to try get some lion footage BUT will make 101% sure the quad is perfect 'cos lions & especially the cubs, love to play with toys and not gently either.

*As a footnote the quad is now fine, the problem appears to have been one overheating ESC causing it to throttle itself down which caused the quad to compensate and wobble down to the ground.
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Old Oct 05, 2012, 09:49 PM
Always puts it on the numbers.
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United States, AL, Sylacauga
Joined Jul 2012
1,107 Posts
And I thought I had problems.....
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Old Oct 06, 2012, 08:54 PM
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Indonesia, Jakarta
Joined Sep 2012
462 Posts
Lol you got lucky the elephant didn't stomp at your quad
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