Technical Failure or Unrealistic Expectations? Report Shows …

DJI Matrice 200

Whether technical failure or simply unrealistic expectations, a new report published in the U.K. indicates that the DJI Matrice Series drones fall during heavy rains.

As reported by CNN, the U.K.’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) found that 16 DJI Matrice 200 series drones crashed due to “technical failures” while flying in the rain.

This month’s AAIB bulletin reports on one specific incident that took place in a flight over a sporting event:

The DJI Matrice 210 small unmanned aircraft was being operated commercially to record video footage of an outdoor athletics event. The pilot started to position the aircraft back towards the landing site due to an increase in the rainfall. The pilot then saw the aircraft“wobble” slightly and as it neared the landing site it flipped over before descending rapidly to the ground from a height of about 3 m (10 ft). No one was injured. During the accident flightthe aircraft had been operating at heights of up to about 30 m (100 ft) near to, and above people on the ground. This investigation reviewed other similar accidents and the risk of injury to people on the ground.

It’s important to note that the professional pilot handled the situation correctly and according to protocol – and as a result, his aircraft was damaged but there were no injuries or issues with the spectators or participants in the event.  The event began in light rain, but, as can happen in the U.K., a drizzle became a downpour.

In a statement to CNN, DJI reiterated that safety is a priority:

“The DJI Matrice 200 Series has been independently certified by a third party that it has an IP43 rating,” it said. “This certifies that ‘water falling as a spray at any angle up to 60° from the vertical shall have no harmful effect’. However, the M200 is not suitable, and should not, be operated in conditions or precipitation greater than those stated by the certification.

“All users of M200 series drones should refer to our current maintenance guidelines and safety information here to help manage their aircraft and maximise flight safety.”

The problem may not be as much about a “failure,” which implies the unexpected, as it is one of unrealistic expectations.  Much of the advantage of an sUAS is in its small form factor.  While the technical capabilities of drones have increased over the last several years, and commercial drones can now maintain stability in a wider range of environments, they aren’t airplanes and they aren’t designed to be flown in all weather conditions – including a downpour.

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