Don't Trust Your Expensive Autonomous Drone to Always Be Autonomous

Everybody is super excited about affordable, portable autonomous drones this year. Well, affordable might be stretch. The badass new DJI Inspire costs $2,900, but it can fly around shooting video in 4K without any help. One problem: A bug in the firmware is making Inspire drift randomly—and crash.

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Just ask Mark Taylor. The experienced drone pilot recently bought DJI's expensive new masterpiece and was excited to use the drone's auto-takeoff feature to "do a house fly-by for real estate." (This is potentially illegal, but we won't tell.) After experiencing some "shimming and drifting," Taylor decided to film a flight so that he could send the feedback to DJI. "This happened with no operator input just in auto take off mode," he said in the video's YouTube description. What happened? The flying robot almost took out his wife!

In an email to Gizmodo, DJI confirmed that there was an issue with the Inspire's firmware. (We can only assume that this dangerous random drifting is related.) The company said that its "product support team has noted the issue and is currently taking care of it." A fix is due to be released in the next 24 to 36 hours.

Nevertheless, Mark Taylor's scary video is a great reason not to trust your supposedly autonomous drone. We've already seen how problematic human drone pilots can be—and more problems are surely to come. We've also had our own problems with DJI's earlier autonomous flight features in the past.

Your very expensive new toy may say it can fly itself, but do steer clear of those propellors. You never know when your drone will get a mind of its own. [YouTube via Daily Dot]

GIF by Michael Hession

DISCUSSION

So I just put my parts together for my own Quadcopter, and these things can be finicky. I checked motors without props on (but not for direction). Control seemed really great and the throttle response was what I expected, so I put the props on. I then checked the prop rotation. Just brought the throttle up a little, and sure enough one was going the wrong way, so I swapped a couple of the motor leeds checked again. Everything was all set and ready to go, so I quickly turned off the transmitter and was planning on going outside.

NOTE: Never turn off the transmitter before the receiver (I have known this for years, why the sudden lapse I dunno)

The Quadcopter then went full throttle straight up into the ceiling fan (Yes this was inside the house) broke all the props and then dropped to the ground from the 8 feet.. Luckily all it did was break the props (and scuff the ceiling fan)